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Foreshadowing in The Lottery


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In 1948 the New Yorker Magazine published one of the most famous short stories in American literature. Titled “The Lottery”, and written by Shirley Jackson, it’s about a small town that held an annual drawing in which every family picked a slip of paper out of a black box. As town people look at one another and hold their small pieces of paper in their hands, there is growing suspense but no clear sense of danger. When Billy Martin and his friends fill their pockets with the smoothest and roundest rocks they can find, their actions seem harmless. Only at the end does it become apparent that these neighbors have come together not to hand out money but to see who will die in the town’s annual stoning ritual.

The Bible uses a similar technique of foreshadowing. Only in the end does it become apparent that every detail is helping to anticipate a turn of events that becomes clear in the end. Only after God shows up in person like us, to die— in the rage and hands of those he has created, do countless foreshadowing details begin to make sense. Only as Jesus defeats our last and ultimate enemy does it become clear that he suffered a dark and tragic death to bear the guilt of our sin, and to show us how much God loves us.

But— isn’t it just as true that  from the beginning the longest Story ever told makes it evident that our God is a mysteriously generous, infinitely powerful, undeniably personal, purposeful, patient, good, loving, and gentle Spirit who is trusted to our joy, and distrusted to a harm— a revelation designed to show that even the justice of our God tells the story of our Savior and his mercy.

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