Partially as a result of the issues related to the computing industry recruitment problems (1 July 2010) and reading the book of Isaiah, I have been thinking about the nature of prophecy. My conclusion is that prophecy isn't about some longer term prediction but rather reading the “signs of the times” and seeing the consistency and trends that have occurred over time. As such the message carries importance for the time in which it is spoken and possibly for future generations.
With respect to the computer industry, I would contend that the predicted shortage will get worse simply because of the reports on the difficulty of students finding work (17% of graduates in the UK). Regardless of the accuracy or the way that this figures are calculated, the message to potential students is that even if you graduate, a reasonable percentage of you will not find work. Previous trends would suggest that students will migrate to subject areas where there is a greater likelihood of finding work. Link that with reports of experienced people being released from the industry supposedly because they lack the ability to adapt to the new technologies, and the message isn't positive for potential new recruits. Despite the industries claim of a shortage of skilled people, the overwhelming message that students are seeing and discussing is the difficulty of finding work. That same message travels down to potential new recruits. Provided all this information is correct then it isn't that difficult to prophecy future problems for the industry. This prediction applies now and to the future situations and to any industry that rejects people while claiming there is a shortage of new recruits.
The same applies for the economic system where even financial gurus have predicted that “recession will happen again” (see 9 September 2009 blog). If you don't actually change the way the system works and address the issues that brought the circumstances that led to the recession then why should we expect it not to happen again. This isn't a miraculous prophecy. It is simply observing what is happening now and that the underlying issues that led to recession are not being addressed.
It would be easy to turn such prophecies into judgements from God but if the systems collapse and the people rebel then the observation is simply based on the actions of people and the use of systems that are not sustainable. The computer industry by not utilising the resources that it already has available compounds it skill shortage. The financial system through debt financing of growth leads to periods of recession as imbalances are addressed. The west's desire to retain advantage and its stripping of resources of developing countries, inevitably leads to anger from those who feel left out from the path of progress. The natural end of an arms race is the destruction of the planet. These are inevitable outcomes of the human race for progress that ignores sustainability and the principles of justice.
God doesn't need to judge in the sense of destroying. Destruction is the inevitable outcome of the path mankind has chosen. God needs to redeem and restore justice and peace for the cosmos. Sustainability as promoted by environmentalists is really only a scratch on the surface of what is required to change. The principles of fairness and equality need to be restored to economic life and a focus on providing shalom for all needs to be the focus of all aspects of life. Wholeness and fullness for the cosmos has to be our goal. Individual desires and goals need to be secondary.
Is any of this prophecy unexpected? It is as much about reading the “signs of the times” as it is about understanding the heart of God. Prophecy isn't speculation about God's activity. Rather it is about observing what is happening and understanding the heart of God. On that basis, the prophet speaks warning of the possible outcomes and possibly providing proposals to avoid what seems inevitable. The prophet could simply say “Look and observe. See what is not working and change the direction in which you are moving.”