Have you heard about the volcanic eruption in Iceland? About three weeks ago I saw an article on line about a huge swarm of earthquakes that was shaking a peninsula in southwest Iceland. At that point there had been about 17,000 earthquakes in a one week period. The largest and first was about 5.7 in magnitude and was felt in the capital Reykjavik about 20 miles away. It was speculated that there might be magma moving underground, possibly leading to a volcanic eruption. Then I didn’t hear anything more about the situation. When I finally got curious and looked it up, I found that the earthquakes had continued to about 50,000 over a four week period. It turns out there had been a swarm of earthquakes, and rising land levels further southwest on the peninsula in late 2019, but apparently the magma cooled and hardened, never breaking the surface. That swarm petered out. Geologists suspected that something similar might happen with this swarm. Then on March 19 there was a marked decline in the number of earthquakes. A geologist spoke on the news saying this might mean an end to the swarm with no volcanic activity. A few hours later the magma erupted, not an explosive eruption with lots of ash, though the international airport near Reykjavik has been closed as a precaution. Many experts thought it would be a short lived flow of magma, hours to a day at most. Five days later it is still going.
This started me thinking about predictions and prophecies. People make predictions all the time, and like the geologists in Iceland, these often prove wrong. Think about weather forecasts. Think about what the health experts said a year ago about the corona virus. The most dire predictions said the death toll in the US might reach 60,000 people, and this was regarded as alarmist by most of the news media. Sadly it was far below what has been our actual experience. Or take a mass shooting, or bombing attack or a murder. When interviewed friends and neighbors often say about the perpetrator, “I never would have expected him (or her) to do something like that.” Our predictions are based on what information we have, and that is always incomplete and imperfect.
Most people think of a prophet as someone who predicts the future. That is not necessarily the case. Thank about Nathan, the prophet, going to David to confront him about Bathsheba and Uriah. The prophecy was a call for David to repent and confess his sin. As a proof that the prophecy was from God he is told their child will not live. That came to pass. In fact the bible tells us that accurate predictions are a test of God’s presence with the prophet. In fact the basic message of most of the prophets is a call for people to repent, or to face the consequences of invasion or defeat or famine.
But what about the biblical predictions that have not happened? Some of them we are still waiting for. Jesus taught his disciples about the prophecies of the coming Messiah that said he would suffer and die on behalf of God’s people. He lived out these promises. But most people at the time preferred prophecies of the Messiah that spoke of him coming in victory over the enemies of Gods people (not just in the spiritual sense of victory over Satan). It is true we are still waiting for this, and know it will happen when God’s timing is right. Then Jesus will return in victory and judgment. We are still waiting.
But like predictions of volcanic eruption, the experts on prophecy often get it wrong. People think they see all the signs and announce that Christ will return on a certain day or time. This has been happening since the 4th century when a man named Montanus announced that Christ would return on a certain day at a certain place. He was wrong. A man named William Miller announced it would happen in 1834 or 1835. Many people expected it at the turn of the 2nd millennium. I’ve heard speculation that Covid may be a sign Christ will return soon.
We have to trust that Jesus will return, but in God’s timing, not in ours. He himself said as much when He said that even He didn’t know the timing, only God. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, only that it will happen in a time and way we least expect. So long as we are living in fellowship with God, and daily seeking to renew that relationship, God’s love will see us through. All God asks of us is that we remain as faithful to our Lord as we are able.