It has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina struck the US. I was living in the Florida Keys when it hit. The storm track had it going up into the Atlantic Ocean, so my family and I went to bed that night. When we woke up the next morning, Katrina was passing right over us. That was one of the first unexpected events of that hurricane. I also remember after it had made landfall, and after the world began seeing the aftermath of the storm, I remember so many preachers saying that Katrina was “God’s punishment on New Orleans and the gambling boats in Mississippi.”
I have a problem with this statement. This passage from Isaiah shows why:
This is the word that the Lord had spoken concerning Moab long ago. But now the Lord has said: In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab, with all its great multitude, will dwindle. The small remnant will be few and feeble.
Notice when a prophecy of God’s judgment comes–Before the event. Even with a general prophecy of coming destruction, there was still a very direct statement of when this would take place in the future, namely within three years.
The problem with all of the armchair prophets that saw God’s righteous judgment in Katrina is that they said so after the fact. It is easy to declare something after it has happened, but if God is going to do something and receive credit for it, he will pronounce it before it happens. He will use a chosen vessel, like Isaiah, to let everyone who will be affected know that judgment is coming. In this way people will have time to repent and avert the judgment.
As events continue to happen (because we are still living and life can be adventurous), there will be people who will try to declare that a disaster was God’s judgment after it happened. Do not listen to those people. They are not prophets; they are people who are trying to capitalize on the sadness and terror of others to prove a point. There will be other people who will try to predict events. Just think of all the books in the vein of The Late Great Planet Earth or Eighty-eight Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 or Ninety-nine Reasons the World Will End in 1999 or Four Blood Moons or the like. When these prophecies do not come true, that leaves the self-proclaimed prophet in only one category–false prophet. Do not listen to those people, either.
If God has a prophetic message for people, it will be unambiguous, direct, meaningful, and with enough time for people to repent. This was the pattern here in Isaiah. It will also be the pattern for all of the other prophets. It is still true today.