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Most of the words that we get from the Lord are "now" words--e.g., words that are relevant to our present day circumstances, desires, or needs. It is usually easy to recognize a "now" word as being from God and receive it. That is because the word speaks to us where we are at. "Now" words make sense to us, we can relate to them because we are living the things that the word talks about.
But God is not limited to current events. There are times when He chooses to talk about our past or about our future. Let's look briefly at both of these.
A "past tense" word is a word that talks about something that happened previously in our life. Most of the time when God does this, He uses someone who doesn't have natural knowledge about these past events. God can do this for a variety of reasons. The three most common ones are:
2. faith building
3. inner healing
Let's talk briefly about each of those three.
There are times when God tells us details from our past that the person giving the word could not possibly know in the natural. God does this to get our attention, and to assure us that this word is really coming from Him. Then He goes on to tell us something important in the next part of the word. We are able to believe the important thing He says because of the accurate words of knowledge that He first gave us about our past.
A Bible example of this is Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus had an important message that He wanted to share with her, that He was the Messiah and He would give eternal life to all who asked Him for it. He used a word of knowledge about her past (the number of previous husbands) to convince her that His message about being the Messiah was credible. She was able to believe His message because of the word of knowledge that He gave her. Her response (recorded in John 4:29-30) was that she told everyone in her city about Jesus.
There are times when God reminds us of things that happened in the past and of how He came through for us during those times. In fact, the Bible is full of those kind of "Remember When" words. Over and over again in the Bible, God kept reminding His people of the mighty works He did for them: delivering them from Egypt via the ten plagues, parting the Red Sea, giving them manna in the wilderness, defeating their enemies in the promised land, etc.
The reason God gives us that type of "remember when I did this for you" word is to build our faith and our ability to trust Him. He reminds us of His faithfulness and His ability to take care of us in our past situations, so that we can trust Him in our current situation.
Let me give an example to illustrate this. Jesus had a confrontation with the Pharisees and then got in a boat with His disciples. In Matthew 6:16, He tried to warn the disciples to beware of the false/bad doctrine of the Pharisees by saying "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." The disciples completely misunderstood Him, and thought that He was bawling them out for not bringing some bread (e.g., food) for the journey. Their misunderstanding came because they were still thinking in terms of natural limitations and of providing for themselves instead of trusting God to provide for them. Jesus wanted to increase their faith in God and His ability to provide for them. He did it by reminding them of the times that He had multiplied bread. Look at verses 8-11:
8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?"
There are times when we struggle with doubt. It is not uncommon for God to address our doubts by reminding us of how He has taken care of us in the past.
There are times when God talks to us about our past because it negatively effects our present. Past Hurts and offences of the past get buried in our hearts and cause us to react to present day situations in ways that we don't want to behave. Certain things push buttons for us because of unresolved issues in our past; they control us in ways that God does not want us controlled. It is a type of bondage or oppression.
Jesus said in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me Because He has anointed Me....He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives...to set at liberty those who are oppressed."
God doesn't want us to be captives to these past things, so at times He brings them up in words. He does that so He can address them, so He can heal the pain of the past.
Sometimes God's words don't make sense to us because He is speaking to us about something that hasn't happened yet. There are times when God knows that something that is going to come at us could "take us out," and He sometimes speaks into that situation before it happens, so that when it happens we can fall back on His word. It is one of the ways that He strengthens us. Jesus did it with the disciples. He told Peter that he would deny Him before it happened, but He also promised that he would be restored. When Peter realized that he betrayed Jesus, he was able to fall back on Jesus' promise of restoration, or the situation might have been too overwhelming for him.
In John 14:29, Jesus told His disciples, "And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe."
I use the term "future words" to refer to those times when God gives you a word about something before it happens. It doesn't make sense to you when He gives it to you, because you don't have the context yet. But when the even takes place, then you recall the word and it makes a lot of sense to you. And the word can be an encouragement at a time when you might despair if God hadn't discussed it in advance.
I will share a real-life example of this in next week's "Thoughts."