Grandad told me (aged about 6, I think) about the “red sky at night” being a sign of good weather next day. It mattered- he was a specialist grower of fruit and vegetables. His work, and his livelihood, depended on knowing what was coming next. I’ve always remembered what my lovely Grandad told me as he pointed to the sunset.
It was only later that I discovered Jesus used the same saying.
Any weather experts reading this? Can you read the weather from this photo? I’ve been deliberately mean here. My photograph is from an unknown (to you!) location. So when I challenge you to forecast the weather for the next day from the photo, you can’t! First you have to decide is this morning or evening. Is the storm arriving, leaving, or passing by? You can only guess. Is the coloured sky a good or bad sign?
Clues: it was taken at low tide on a south coast beach. In England. Does that help? Not really- because the rising and setting of the sun over the sea comes at different bearings at different times of the year. It narrows it down a bit, if you know southern England and assume the location is roughly central, then it was probably taken between October and April…
To be able to read the weather, you have to know your bearings AND know a bit about the physical location- then make your best guess based on experience and the wisdom of others. Even the modern Met Office can’t give a foolproof forecast despite their satellites, computers and radar.
So- if we can’t even read the weather, how can anyone read the “signs of the times”?
Politically and economically, the world has struggled to interpret events that literally change the future. More changed between 1900 and 1999 than in all previous centuries. Sixty years from the Wright Brothers first flight to landing Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Radio, TV, computers, the internet, mobile phones- the list goes on. Theologically, Christians and Jews have been trying FOREVER to make sense of history in order to anticipate the future interventions of God. (Unless you believe that God wound the universe up like a clockwork toy and has no interest in it any more… or that there is no “God” in which case it’s all pretty meaningless.)
International pandemics. Disinformation and conspiracy theories. Famines, flood, fires, earthquakes, wars, racism, trafficking, economic crises, billions of poor and exploited humans. There must surely be a solution, a just end?
Jesus quoted the weather proverb to religious people who demanded special signs and proofs. The only sign they were given was the mysterious “sign of Jonah” – death and resurrection. When we try and forecast the future, we can try to be a futurologist and interpret the evidence and trends. We can guess. We can despair or delight- the signs of the times are frustratingly enticing yet ambiguous.
Yet the fulcrum of history still is the birth, teaching, death and Resurrection of Jesus, God Incarnate- and long-awaited King of Kings who will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God. Matthew recorded the teaching of Jesus which tell us something of the “signs” to look out for. May God help us be ready- or we will be surprised.
Matthew 16:1-4 (Message) Some Pharisees and Sadducees were on at him again, pressing him to prove himself to them. He told them, “You have a saying that goes, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.’ You find it easy enough to forecast the weather—why can’t you read the signs of the times? An evil and wanton generation is always wanting signs and wonders. The only sign you’ll get is the Jonah sign.” Then he turned on his heel and walked away.
The Arrival of the Son of Man isn’t something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you!
“Then, the Arrival of the Son of Man! It will fill the skies—no one will miss it. Unready people all over the world, outsiders to the splendour and power, will raise a huge lament as they watch the Son of Man blazing out of heaven.
Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out. “But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. “The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away. “The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that…”
Read the signs.