Biblical prophets have often been cited as predicting future events, but often, the harsh words and dismal forecasts were intended as warnings: if you don’t change your ways, the prophets told the nation of Israel, the outcome will be bleak.
On the other side of every warning was also a promise of hope. The consequences of your actions may be hard, but “I will never forsake you,” the Lord says. Hope and restoration are powerful promises of Christianity that find their roots in the language of the prophets.
If My People Will Humble Themselves…
Back in the early 1970s, a group of American chemists sounded a similar alarm that reverberated around the globe. These modern-day prophets posited that chemical compounds we were releasing into the atmosphere were damaging our planet’s ozone layer. If something doesn’t change, they argued, these chemicals will continue to damage the ozone, making humans and the environment vulnerable to harmful levels of UV rays emitted by the sun. Exposure to these increased levels of radiation increases rates of skin cancer and cataracts, compromises our immune systems, and damages our land, destroying crops and causing food shortages.
The world could have dismissed and ignored the prophetic warnings of those American scientists and others whose research pointed to potential doom. Instead, like Nineveh after Jonah’s warning, the people responded.
In a rare moment of international cooperation, countries and governments around the globe adopted what is known as the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an agreement to regulate “the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).” Today, the treaty has nearly 200 signatories.
The protocol for reducing the production and use of these harmful chemicals went into effect at the beginning of 1989. Thirty-five years later, that worldwide effort has paid off.
…I Will Heal Their Land… and Ozone Layer
On Monday, January 9, a panel of experts announced that “the Earth’s protective ozone layer is on track to recover within four decades.” This recovery is anticipated to gradually close the massive ozone hole over Antarctica. If the policies of the Montreal Protocol remain in place, our ozone is expected to recover to 1980 levels by 2040 (news.un.org).
That’s within a generation’s time.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God spoke to Solomon about how intricately connected we are to both the Lord and our environment. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
About forty years ago, people noticed the harm we were causing to our own environment, and they humbled themselves. They turned from their wicked ways. And look, there is healing! There is hope! Our survival depends upon turning toward the light, humbling ourselves, and seeking the good, for ourselves and for the planet. God is making all things new, and we get to participate in that healing.
Other modern prophets see the rising tides, the vicious floods, the roaring storms, the violent earthquakes, the growing deserts, the long droughts, the withering crops, and they echo the same warnings and promises of the prophets of old. Will we humble ourselves? Will we pray and seek God’s face and turn? If we do, there will be healing. There will be forgiveness..
It is up to us, in intimate partnership with the Lord of the universe. So “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV)