Truth, Understanding, Insight


22nd June 2008, mgh


5) Miracles as Extension of what is Familiar

If we are prepared to accept that like the fish, which know nothing of the power of the higher creation on land, that we are ignorant of the powers that exist beyond our world, Biblical miracles can be seen as an extension of what is natural and familiar.

The plagues brought by God on Ancient Egypt are extensions of the natural world. Flies, lice, locusts, frogs, disease, darkness, wind and storm are all natural occurrences and often occur in plague proportions. The dividing of the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass over when pursued by the Egyptians can be explained by the superhuman power of God to control the tides and waters, which we earthly beings cannot control.

In the same way the fury of the storm on the Sea of Galilee could be arrested instantaneously. In the case of Jesus turning water into wine, without water grapes don't grow and so in the natural world water turns into grapes, which in turn become wine.

If the prophets were given visions and heard the voice of God, is it any more remarkable than the images and sounds we hear and see through the medium of television, telephone and radio? What is remarkable in this case is the message of the prophets that show us the future and God's promises to man, so that we don't live our life without hope.

When Jesus performed miracles of healing, he was displaying the great power of God and that he was the promised Messiah of Israel. If a doctor today can restore a person's sight it is not regarded as a miracle but as a result of man's use of natural resources and training in surgical skills aided by technology. How much more power would the creator of man have?

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD has made even both of them. (Proverbs 20:12)

Miracles to Build Faith

Humans need some tangible reason for trust and the building of faith. We need the visible to give us faith in the invisible. It is the visible things in the past that laid the foundation for faith in the invisible and the future. This lays the ground for a belief in God's continued operation in the affairs of men and nations. A well known case of a demonstration of God's power was the collapsing of the walls of Jericho, the account of which is found in Joshua 6.

And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shall you do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram' horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him...
So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city... And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.(Joshua 6: 3-5. 20,24)

The account explains that the walls fell down flat and the Israelites took the city. This was the demonstration of God's power to the people of Israel. It was visible evidence of an all powerful Mighty One. The people saw the miracle which was a manifestation of the invisible. Modern man might say that is all very well, but how do we know that this actually happened and was not just a myth? For the sceptics and doubters, archaeology has provided proof of the event, so that we too have visible evidence that the event did occur.

Jericho was of strategic importance at the entrance to Canaan from the east. The people of Israel had been promised the land of Canaan as their homeland, through the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The people of Canaan were idolaters and the nation of Israel were commanded to destroy and drive out the people from the land. Jericho was to be destroyed to facilitate their entry into the land of Canaan.

Excavation of the site of Jericho, the mound known as Kom el-Sultan, commenced in 1907-1909. The work of John Garstang 1930-1936 particularly gave evidence of the occupation of this ancient city. The city was founded about 4000BC and a series of successive cities had stood on that site.

It was estimated that the city taken by Joshua was constructed about 1500BC. A massive six-foot thick wall had been erected on the edge of the mound. An inner wall was separated from it by about twelve feet and was about twelve feet thick. The city was small and houses had been erected over the space between the inner and outer walls. It was found that Jericho's walls showed evidence of violent destruction. The outer wall had tumbled forward down the slope of the mound, and the inner wall with the houses erected on it, had fallen into the space between the walls. Reddened masses of stone and brick, together with ashes and tarred timber showed that fire had accompanied the fall of the city.

This identifies Joshua 6 with its destruction. After this destruction the city lay in ruins and was not rebuilt until the time of Ahab in approximately 850BC, when Hiel rebuilt the city.

And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.(1Kings 16:33-34)

Garstang originally thought that he would be able to disprove the Bible record related to Joshua 6, but his excavation showed that the walls had fallen down as recorded by Joshua. Summing up the evidence he stated that, “One conclusion indeed seems certain: the power that could dislodge hundreds of tons of masonry must have been superhuman.” Some believe that God could have interposed at the right time with earthquake. The Psalmist writing of Israel's experiences expressed his belief in the mighty power of God to control the forces of nature.

These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: (Deuteronomy 29:1-3)

Moses reminded the Israelites of the “great miracles” that they had been shown. These were “signs” for the people to remember and to pass on to their children and future generations. They would lay the foundation upon which their faith in God could be built.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about the moral responsibilities of those who rejected him.

"If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. "(John 15:24)

Jesus had shown miraculous signs to his generation, just as there had been signs and miracles given to Moses' generation. What both Moses and Jesus said constitute what is the basis of faith, which is really confidence for a reason.

Many have repudiated miracles but Jesus clearly taught that they were a necessity. The miracles performed by Jesus were the sign and “witness” of his authority and Messiahship.

"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. " (John 5:36)
"If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. " (John 10: 37-38)

John the Baptist, who no doubt knew that his life would be cut short by Herod, sent two of his followers to seek out Jesus to witness the miracles that confirmed that Jesus was indeed the redeemer of Israel.

When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, "Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Luke 7:20-23)