Prophecy is a seriously misunderstood word. Too often it is assumed to refer to a divine revelation of some future event, but in the Bible, prophecy is not so much foretelling the future, but forthtelling the present, i.e., telling it like it is.
At one level, the biblical prophets were like today’s commentators, taking current political, economic and social situations and, with a mix of insight, knowledge and imagination, drawing conclusions about how the situation will evolve. When one sees a problem brewing, and correctly deduces the consequences, neither is it surprising when the predicted events come to pass, nor does it depend upon some divine intervention. There is no ‘second sight’ or ‘sixth sense’, merely insightful common sense.
At another level, the work of prophet is assisted when one is in touch with that part of themselves that is connected to the Divine, for when one is that self-aware, there is less likelihood of distortions from one’s own personality interfering in the reasoning process.
The Johari Window (shown below) is used to represent a human personality. Note that there is a significant part of you of which you are not aware. Some of this unknown part can be seen by others, but some is unknown to everyone. This unknown part shrinks as the person develops self-awareness. A similar situation characterises a society; i.e., there are aspects of any society that are not readily visible to members of this society. However, these aspects are available to some who are particularly aware, as well as many people outside the society. From these groups come the prophets.
In today’s society, the prophets are often the artists, who have a different way of looking at things. Of particular note are some of the cartoonists (Michael Leunig comes to mind). In the Bible, the prophets who have managed to be ‘published’ are the ones who correctly deduced the consequences resulting from the signs of their times. There were probably many more prophets at the time, but as many got it wrong, there was no reason to record all their prophecies.
The signs of times 2500 years ago seem threateningly familiar to modern day people: injustice, irreverence, moral decay, political impropriety, inequitable distribution of wealth and power, environmental degradation. The words of the prophets are words to us; warnings to modern society. There is no reason to think the consequences will be any less dire.