A common error among most folks is to see Prophets as people who 'predict' the future. Christians often times expand that predictive ability to include "predictions of the Messiah" and seem to think that the reason for the "Old Testament" is simply to provide a series of "predictions"--sort of a check list--which should then be reviewed to determine when the Messiah has shown up. In such a system, the unbelief of the Jews is incomprehensibe because, after all, they have the dang check list don't they????
The rabbi, on his recent visit, said what I have come to understand myself over the years: Prophets are forth-tellers more than fore-tellers. [Does this mean that the future is not all neatly laid out with a plan operating every moving part to precise specifications, sort of like a mechanized village one might see at the museum (only on a global scale of imaginable numbers of moving parts)? Perhaps. I will allow greater minds then mine to speculate on the mystery of freedom and necessity and Divine causation.] Most of the future "predictions" (and there are some) have to do with pending doom (turn from your sin or Assyria or Babylon will destroy you) or promise of salvation (exodus, return to the land) and of course there is The Promise of God's Messiah (which is actually understood in a variety of ways in different times and places). God's consistent way of acting is a template for understanding the future as well. That is why the 'cyclical' stories of grace-covenant-sin-forgiveness-sin-wrath-death-renewal are seen over and over again: people are the same and God is the same in each generation!
Whatever the case is for all and everything, clearly the Bible (Jewish and Christian covenants) teaches that God does have a plan, and if He is not micromanaging every detail, He is at least intervening and making sure that His Plan will come to fruition. Such interventions (most notably Jesus) are not accidents and are aimed strategically toward a final goal (call it salvation, or maybe re-creation/renewal). Reconciliation of God and Humanity (and with it all creation) is the ultimate goal. The success of the Plan is sure, because God is faithful and He is God.
So what of the "FULFILLMENT" of Scripture (see especially Matthew)? As I have written on this topic frequently over the years I will only re-state the conclusion: the Greek word says "fill up." To fill up refers to Jesus in the context of typology. Typology, or types, is seeing a later event as perfecting a previous one, or one person being a metaphor for another. The easiest example, Moses was followed by Joshua. Joshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. Stories of Joshua are filled up in Jesus (the TRUE successor of Moses). Often times, Jewish Scriptures are taken and connected to the Jesus story to show how He fills up Scripture. In most cases, the actual verses are not (primarily) predicting Messiah, in fact it works the other way, Messiah completes the verses! (leaving aside the obvious issue of divine omniscience and the unfathomable mystery Who is Who He is)
Last week we read the Bible at our Friday reflections (if you are free pop in for Morning Prayer and an hour of prayer and reflection). On Thursday and Friday we were reading the story of Joseph. On a plain reading of the narrative (Genesis 39-40) Joseph was sold into slavery, God was with him and prospered him, Potipher grew rich by Joseph who shared in the success, Potipher's wife wanted to sleep with Joseph which he refused, so she accused him of attempted rape, Joseph goes to jail, there God is with him and soon he is the trustee running the show and their is blessing and success, Joseph interprets the dreams of two other inmates (cup bearer and baker of Pharaoh). He says dreams belong to God so the interpretation shows God is with him. As Joseph says, one man is raised up to his previous position, while the other is raised up on a pole in death (Hebrew punning on their crestfallen state). So we see God's hand at work on Joseph's life as He moves the pieces toward salvation (saving them from starvation in the coming famine).
In the early church one would ask the text to provide theological (who is God) and ethical (what should we do/how shall we live?) insight. Theologically, God is the God "with" His chosen ones. Joseph is a frequent name for God's people in the psalms (the people are the founding father; see Essau-Edom, etc.). No doubt the readers of this narrative have long taken solace in knowing that God is there for them, watching over to protect them. God will not be thwarted! On the moral level, Joseph reminds us of King David. Each man was chosen of God and each was blessed by God Who was with them. However, Joseph, confronted with the opportunity to stray, refuses, while David pursues Bathsheba. David's misfortunes increase and his power diminishes afterward, while Joseph, though he suffers as an innocent, is eventually raised up higher. We are challenged to receive the grace of God and to be faithful! Those who do not stray do not "leave God's presence" or "pollute the land and drive God away" or "call down wrath by their sin" (three Biblical images for what happens when we break the covenant commandments). In this reading, Joseph is a model of the true King (Jesus) and a template for Israel's (future) Leaders. It is an example of trust in the face of disaster (repeated cycles of disaster) and it reminds us that the innocent suffer (and it may in the end save the guilty, i.e., his brothers). Innocent suffering???
However, and we will see that tomorrow, Jesus is also present in the text, if one makes a Patristic turn and reads spiritually/metaphorically. In that I will illustrate how Jesus "fills" this Scripture and it can be seen as a preparation for Jesus' passion.