Today’s weather forecast was for a cloudy but dry day. As I look out of the window it’s raining and has been all day. Billions of pounds are spent in the meteorological industry using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers but they get it wrong, often. In fairness, they’re more accurate than they used to be when predicting the weather but, as school reports often say, they could do better.
Making predictions, which involves foretelling the future is a fool’s errand. Ask anyone who’s gambled away a fortune betting on horses or in casinos, always looking for the big win. Ask any football pundit whose expert knowledge has not stopped them eating humble pie when their favoured team loses. Ask any weather forecaster. Remember poor Michael Fish who failed to predict the great storm of 1987? Ask any fortune teller who makes outrageous claims about the future when they have no greater knowledge than me.
You could argue therefore that writers of Bible books should keep away from predicting the future but the Bible is full of prophecies. God continually tells us what will happen in the future, a direct way of asserting that he is the God who created this world and has complete control over it. We are led to believe that this world is in some sort of free-fall heading towards disaster, but when you read what God says will happen and then it happens you know he is keeping a careful watch over everything, and all things happen only as he allows them to do so.
Let’s look at some examples from history. The nation of Israel was defeated by the Babylonians and many Jews were taken away from Jerusalem and resettled in Babylonia. Jerusalem itself was destroyed. In the book of Isaiah we have an amazing prophecy, “This is what the LORD says— … I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, … who carries out the words of his servants and fulfils the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” (1) You’ll notice that God specifically mentions a man called Cyrus who is a king of the Medea-Persian empire, son of Cambyses 1. He came to the Persian throne in 559 BC and conquered the Medes nine years later. Nothing fascinating in this so far. You might assume that Isaiah is just explaining a well-attested historical fact that Cyrus made a proclamation allowing the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem. Nothing fascinating until you realise that Isaiah’s ministry took place between 740-701 BC, in other words, about 150 years before it happened and before this man, Cyrus was born. God’s word came true without using supercomputers or relying on form books, including the name of the king he would use to fulfil his purposes.
One more example. We know from history that Jesus was crucified i.e. he was nailed to a cross of wood by his hands and feet. We read about this in the four gospels of the Bible. Crucifixion was originally devised by the Persians in 300-400 BC and later ‘refined’ by the Romans who made it an even more cruel form of execution. We read these words in the Old Testament, “They pierce my hands and my feet.” (2), just one phrase from a Psalm that speaks about the suffering Jesus would endure. The Psalm was written by King David who lived from 1035-970 BC, so about 1000 years before Jesus died and hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented. Jews didn’t practice crucifixion, it was never a form of execution they adopted, it was a Roman practice. Jesus could only have his hands and feet pierced by crucifixion if the Romans were in control of Israel at the time of Jesus and if he was handed over to them to die. That is exactly what happened.
When God speaks his word always comes true. There are hundreds of prophecies in the Bible that have all been fulfilled. God has told us that Jesus is returning to earth to reign as king. It’s going to happen so you’d better make sure you’re ready.
- Isaiah 44:24-28
- Psalm 22:16