Making sense of prophetic timing

October 18th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Relationship with God

The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. 2 Peter 3:9 (God’s Word Translation)

There are two things that are often stumbling blocks when it comes to processing personal prophecies and promises from the Lord.   They have to do with the timing of their fulfillment and the means by which they ultimately come to pass.  Because we are working from a limited understanding, our script of when and how God intends to do something often leaves us scratching our heads.  Invariably God’s timing and way of doing something do not match ours.  (Isaiah 55:9) 

We have only to consider those devout Jews who even though they had a thorough understanding of the Scriptures failed to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Their timetable and plans for how the Messiah would come was different than God’s.   

And, is it any wonder that wise theologians today differ as to their interpretation of the end time prophecies from books like Daniel and Revelation.  Some make the case that many predictions have already taken place while others would contend that they are yet to be

The timing and means of prophetic pronouncements are often cloaked in mystery.  And here is why.  Prophecy lifts us into the realm of the Spirit which transcends time and space as we know it.  Time for God is different than time for us.  “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)  Past, present and future for us is simply “now” for God. 

Keeping this in mind is helpful in interpreting words given through prophetic ministry which seem to blur the past and future.  I have seen people receive a prophecy which appears to be predicting something yet to be, but in fact is simply identifying by word of knowledge what has already taken place.  The person giving the prophecy may even think it is a predictive word.  But the Holy Spirit, who sees everything in the now, is actually revealing a perspective on the past.  Since, as the Bible tells us, we prophecy in part, it should not be surprising that the actual timing of things usually does not match our initial understanding. (1 Corinthians 13:9)

When we first became believers, Susan and I had a desire to join a ministry located on Great Barrier Island, New Zealand called Orama Christian Fellowship.  We had received a clear prophetic word confirming a calling to the “islands of the South Pacific” and had set our hearts to move in that direction.  However, a closed door to our enrollment in a Bible school to prepare for that calling because of the birth of our first child put all that on hold.  Long story short, we never went.  Instead we ended up working in youth ministry at the church where we first became Christians.  As the years passed we totally forgot about the South Pacific and the prophecy about Orama. 

But here is the amazing outcome of that word.  Independently of one another our two oldest children, Jonathan and Sarah, spent time in the South Pacific.  And surprisingly, they both found their way to Orama and spent several months in ministry there.  It seemed like an unusual coincidence to us that our son and daughter should end up at the very place we had longed to go, but never did.  And then the Lord revealed to us that their ministry there was a fulfillment to the prophecy we had received twenty five years earlier.  As our seed, so to speak, we were there with them in the Spirit.  When we realized this we found ourselves bowing in worship, acknowledging again that God’s ways are certainly not our ways. 

It taught us a valuable lesson.  The fulfillment of prophetic promises spoken over us can span our life and may even extend beyond our lifetime.  When Elijah fled for his life from Jezebel after his great victory on Mt. Carmel he found himself on Mt. Horeb in the wilderness.  God appeared to him there and spoke sovereignly into his life that his ministry days were not over.  He was to return and appoint three future leaders. He was to anoint Hazael king of Aram, Jehu king over Israel and Elisha to succeed him as prophet.

Now it is instructive as to how that prophetic word played itself out in Elijah’s life.  The first thing he did was seek out Elisha and cast his cloak upon him calling him to be his attendant and eventual successor. (1 Kings 19:19-21)  Elijah never did anoint Hazael or Jehu to their respective offices.  It was Elisha, after Elijah was gone, that eventually anointed Hazel king of Aram. (2 Kings 8:7-15)  And it was a man from Elisha’s school of the prophets who ended up anointing Jehu king of Israel. (2 Kings 9:1-16)

The next time you receive a word from God, hold lightly your understanding of when and how it will come to pass.  “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think.” (2 Peter 3:9)  He operates outside our realm of time and space where His timetable is totally different than ours.

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3 Responses to “Making sense of prophetic timing”

  1. Good insight! If God said it, He will bring it to pass. Too often, we will hear a “word” from the Lord and then without the knowledge of His timing and plans, try to bring it to pass in our own understanding and strength. Then we wonder why we missed God.

  2. Phil McCarthy June 10, 2014 at 4:55 am

    Thanks for your insight. I have made the mistake of allowing current circumstances to cloud my understanding of a prophetic word, just because it seems to fit my need. Getting a good handle on Father’s timing is often where I have gone wrong.

  3. Thank you for your comment. I have found that faith and patience are the byword when it comes to prophecy. (Hebrews 6:12)

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