Divine Pronouncements that Never Materialized

Genuine Prophecies that Fizzled

* * *

If anyone understood the nature of divine prophecy, it should be David. The Bible is emphatic that he himself was a powerful prophet; through the Spirit of God prophesying of the Messiah in many of his psalms (Proof) and he had several prophets among his key advisors. One of these prophets was Nathan, who declared that Bathsheba’s baby “will surely die” (2 Samuel 12:14) because of David’s sin.

Despite this prophecy (perhaps even because of it) David prayed and fasted for days for the baby to live (2 Samuel 12:16-18).

Clearly, this man who understood prophecy believed it possible to change God’s mind, despite the Lord making a divine decree. It was by no means certain. David’s attempt failed and the Bible records other instances (see When God Doesn’t Budge) of God refusing to change his mind. (Regardless of how much it might boost our egos to think otherwise, God remains God, no matter how much faith and tears we muster.) Persuading the Almighty to change his mind remains theoretically possible, however. Let’s look at another king to prove it:

    Isaiah 38:1-5 In those days was Hezekiah sick and near death. Isaiah the prophet . . . said to him, “The Lord says, ‘Set your house in order, for you will die, and not live.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord . . . Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the Lord’s word came to Isaiah: “Go, and tell Hezekiah, ‘The Lord says . . . “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. . . .’ ”

We have seen how Jonah prophesied disaster for Nineveh and it never materialized. The Lord affirmed this principle to another prophet:

    Jeremiah 18:7-8 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation . . . turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them.

The Lord told another prophet the same thing:

    Ezekiel 33:14-16  . . . when I say to the wicked, You shall surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right . . . None of his sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him: he has done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

Again, the Lord told Jeremiah:

    Jeremiah 26:3 It may be they will listen, and turn every man from his evil way; that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do to them because of the evil of their doings.

    Jeremiah 36:3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do to them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

And despite pronouncing disaster upon them, the Lord also spoke through the prophet, saying:

    Jeremiah 26:13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the Lord your God’s voice; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he has pronounced against you

Jeremiah spoke of another prophet, Micah:

    Jeremiah 26:18 Micah . . . prophesied in the days of Hezekiah . . . and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, “The Lord of Armies says: ‘Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.’ ”

Here, yet again, we have a prophecy of doom, offering no hope. Let’s read the next verse to see how it turned out:

    Jeremiah 26:19  . . . Didn’t he fear the Lord, and entreat the favor of the Lord, and the Lord relented of the disaster which he had pronounced against them? . . .

Let’s examine Micah’s prophecy to see how emphatic it had really been:

    Micah 1:1, 3:9-12 The Lord’s word that came to Micah . . . which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. . . . Please listen to this, you . . . who abhor justice, and pervert all equity . . . Therefore Zion for your sake will be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble, and the mountain of the temple like the high places of a forest.

Here’s another example of intercession changing God’s mind:

    Exodus 32:9-11, 14 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen these people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked people. Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
    Moses begged the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, that you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? . . . So the Lord turned away from the evil which he said he would do to his people.

In Amos 7:1-3 the prophet is shown in a vision a swarm of locusts that devastates the entire land. Amos intercedes, asking the Lord’s forgiveness, and the Lord relents, promising it will not happen. Then in the next verses we read:

    Amos 7:4-6 Thus the Lord showed me and behold, the Lord called for judgment by fire; and it dried up the great deep, and would have devoured the land. Then I said, “Lord, stop, I beg you! How could Jacob stand? For he is small.” The Lord relented concerning this. “This also shall not be,” says the Lord.

Likewise, with prophecies of blessings, Scripture is clear that the same principle applies: a change of heart – this time a change for the worse – can also nullify prophecies of blessings:

    1 Samuel 2:30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father should walk before me forever.’ But now the Lord says, ‘Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me will be cursed.’

    Ezekiel 33:13 When I tell the righteous that he will surely live; if he trusts in his righteousness, and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but he will die in his iniquity that he has committed.

Look at this:

    Matthew 15:22-26 a Canaanite woman . . . cried, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely possessed by a demon!”
    But he answered her not a word.
    His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away; for she cries after us.”
    But he answered, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
    But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
    But he answered, “It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

That sounds painfully close to a divine pronouncement that what this woman was asking was outside God’s plan. Nevertheless, she received what she asked.

The Canaanite woman’s experience was not an isolated case. Consider another woman: Ruth was not just a Gentile; she was a Moabite, and as such she was singled out for special rejection from God.

    Deuteronomy 23:3-6 An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the Lord’s assembly; even to the tenth generation shall no one belonging to them enter into the Lord’s assembly forever . . . You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.

How’s that for an emphatic decree! In contrast, this Scripture immediately goes on to mention other Gentiles, saying there was more hope even for them than for anyone with Ruth’s ancestry:

    Deuteronomy 23:7-8 You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land. The children of the third generation who are born to them may enter into the Lord’s assembly.

Ruth wanted to join the Israelites, but every indication was that God did not want her. Her only contact with God’s people had been with a family who seemed cursed. They had arrived in her country as economic refugees – hardly a sign of God’s blessing. Moreover, their impoverishment – due to God withholding rain – had forced them out of the land of God’s people. Then, one by one, every male member of the family died, including Ruth’s own husband. Then the surviving family member said:

    Ruth 1:12-13 . . . “. . . Go back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. . . . No, my daughters, for it grieves me seriously for your sakes, for the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.”

Over and over, Naomi kept insisting that it was unwise for her daughters-in-law to go with her to the land of God’s people. They would be better off where they were. Eventually, Ruth’s sister-in-law gave in to Naomi’s pleas. Ruth, however, kept pushing through all the objections and rejections. The result? God chose her over all her contemporaries in Israel as ancestress of King David and of the Messiah.

Consider yet another woman: Rahab. Not only was she a harlot, her ancestry not merely prevented her from joining God’s people; it meant by repeated divine commandment that she should die (Scriptures). Despite everything, however, she not only lived, she was divinely chosen as an ancestress of the Messiah (Matthew 1:1, 5).


Bible Versions Used
(Unless otherwise specified)

King James Version

Place mouse or equivalent over a Bible reference on-line

World English Bible
(Slightly Modified)

Appears in the text

For more information, see Bible Version Dilemmas