Natural disasters and prophecy isn’t a topic I usually write on. I originally wrote this on my first blog after having received e-mail newsletters and read various prophetically-gifted ministries’ websites concerning natural disasters that had happened. Most notably the Tsuanami in Asia back in 2004 and then Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I’ve had this bubbling in me again ever since last year when some men proclaimed the earthquake in Japan was the precursor to some other catastrophic earthquake that was to happen in California within six months. It still hasn’t happened nearly a year later, but that’s not the point of my post today.
I did my research paper for a World Issues class in high school on the Y2K crisis. With all the research I was compiling, I was finding that it was a legitimate problem, and not propaganda at all as some now believe all these years after the fact. It was a very real problem, but many people were preparing for it. The potential for disaster if it were to have been ignored was very likely, but nobody did, and the rest is history.
“I Think I Missed It”
A man I look up to in the Lord came up to me the following Sunday after we passed the New Year’s into the new millennium without major incident. He was really distraught because he’d been telling people the Lord was sending judgment using this whole situation. Now nothing but a few glitches here and there had actually occurred, making him worried he spoke presumptuously or fell for propaganda himself.
I reminded him that we would have had a lot of problems on our hands if we had not prepared for it. Companies fixed their software. People who make cars and elevators had run tests to make sure internal clocks wouldn’t mistakenly believe it was 1900, resulting in eventual malfunctions during the months ahead. Untold billions of dollars were spent in North America alone to remedy and avoid this problem.
Prophelying or Changing The Outcomes?
We have this sacred cow in evangelical circles that prophesying is the same as speaking what should be “canonized” like what popes think they do. Since we believe Scripture is complete, nobody prophesies on the level that we mistakenly think ‘prophesying’ is. But that is a limited understanding of it. Prophesying is more accurately speaking forth what the Lord would say if He were physically present, and it can be futuristic and predicting events to come.
A great Scriptural example of an outcome differing from what a prophet prophesied would be with the story of Jonah.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2, English Standard Version)
- Fact: The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh
- Fact: The Lord told Jonah to call out against the city, because of their evil.
It should be observed nothing is said here whatsoever about this word from God being conditional and that if they repent, that judgment would be averted. All Jonah was told was to deliver a message, which as we know from the story, he initially avoided doing. All that was required of Jonah was to deliver the message, and I believe just as it says in Isaiah 55:11,
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”.
It wasn’t Jonah’s responsibility to tell them if they had an option to repent or not, or to stipulate the possibility that if they repented the judgment would be averted.
When the Lord puts it on our hearts to share something with someone else, it might not be our job to interpret its meaning either, or provide the receiver conditions upon which the Word of the Lord to them through you can be changed or averted.
After Jonah’s ordeal with being tossed into the sea, swallowed by a big fish, the Lord instructs him a second time:
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:1-2, emphasis mine)
Notice the instructions to Jonah do not change, nor does the content of the message.
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:3-10, ESV emphasis mine)
- Jonah delivered the Word given to Him by God, and now there was a forty day window before it would come to pass.
- Of the two times that record the Lord speaking to Jonah about the message he’s to deliver to Nineveh, our Scriptures don’t document more than the general content of the message to be delivered.
- The people reacted and responded in humility to Jonah’s message. (v. 5)
- Laws and decrees were issued by the king, and everyone repented. (v. 6-8)
- The king somehow knew instinctively to appeal to the Lord’s mercy (v.9), because it doesn’t document here that Jonah or anybody else told him to even try repenting.
It’s a fact; God saw what they did, and did not allow the disaster to happen that He said He would.
These observations demonstrate some things about the character and personality of God.
- He’s not “judgment happy”, and is merciful
- God can and does change His mind, whether that fits our theology or not.
- Prayer, fasting, and humility affect things from happening that God, even in His “sovereignty”, says will happen.
Clearly one is not a false prophet necessarily if the things he speaks don’t come about. A prophet is not one exclusively because he predicts future events accurately, although it’s necessary he predicts them accurately if he does predict future things, but if he accurately speaks forth from the Lord’s heart, which surely Jonah did. Please don’t confuse some of my thoughts in today’s post with the things I mentioned in A Humble Plea For Leaders To Admit When They’re Wrong. If you say something in the name of the Lord or give a time frame and it doesn’t come to pass, you should be able to answer questions about it.
To put a practical application to this, there were many warnings prior to Y2K, and they were heeded. Heeding the warnings so as to prevent the predicted disasters does not invalidate the initial threat nor does it invalidate the original warning.