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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where Are All the Miracles?

“. . . And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about . . .” – Judges 6:13

Where are all the miracles? We look at the Bible and see miracles. Where are the miracles today? Miracles are happening today. Miracles can happen today. God is no different now than He was in Biblical times. God is immutable; unchanging. Miracles attest to the reality of God (e.g. Acts 2:22). But it seems the miracles that are happening today are happening in faraway places in underdeveloped parts of the world. Is there a connection? Has our science and technology, our modernity, gotten in the way of miracles? Perhaps, but I think there may be a more rudimentary explanation.

In the Old Testament a man named Gideon asked the same question. When the Angel of the Lord called on him to deliver God’s people Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13). In other words, “Where are all the miracles?”

It’s interesting that the LORD doesn’t respond to Gideon’s question. Instead it states, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14). The LORD put His finger on a pressure point of Gideon. The truth of the matter was that Gideon had nothing in himself that could be associate with “might.” Gideon was quick to react, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15). Gideon was weak. God knew it. But God works through weakness. “And the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16).

God was going to teach Gideon a major life truth. All we need is God. All Gideon had was God. And all Gideon needed was God. You may not be in agreement with all that Martin Luther the Reformer did, but some words he uttered captures the sense of the Lord’s conversation with Gideon. Luther, when under persecution, said, “One with God is a majority.” That’s the truth!

But where are the miracles? Well God would deliver His people from the Midianites. He would use only 300 men led by Gideon to defeat an army described “as the sand of the seashore in multitude” (Judges 7:12). That was certainly a miracle. But Gideon’s initial response to the Angel of the LORD indicates this was a time when miracles had stopped. And today we look around us and miracles aren’t that common. Have you ever seen a miracle? Some have, but most today would probably say they have not. Why is that?

We see many miracles in scripture. But we have to understand that the Bible does not contain every detail of history. For instance the Book of Acts contains many accounts of miracles, but we need to remember that those miracles occurred over a period of about 30 years of history in the early church. In light of that duration we get a better perspective on the occurrence of miracles.

A “miracle” is defined as an extraordinary unusual event manifesting Divine intervention in human affairs. Something that is extraordinary and unusual is by definition not common. But sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any miracles happening around us. Still we ask, “Where are the miracles?”

If we go back to Gideon and look at the context in which he asked why there weren’t any miracles happening, we see it stated, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1). Maybe there were no miracles happening then and maybe there are few miracles today because of the sin of God’s people. Maybe it was a way of God to get the attention of His people. Much of the world and our own nation is steeped in sin. There is a globalization of immorality. And the church is not immune to it! There is sin everywhere.

The Midianites were so oppressive of God’s people that they moved into caves for protection. Today too many Christians are isolating themselves from the world for protection. Isolation is not the answer. Jesus called His followers to be salt and light; to purify in order to preserve the world and to shine light into the sinful darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). You can’t do that by isolating yourself from the world.

The Midianites were destroying “the produce of the earth,” the crops of the people. God’s people were “greatly impoverished” by the Midianites (Judges 6:2-6). Today the Midianites take the form of deficit spending, war costs, public school indoctrination and a host of other parasitic vermin that is sapping not only our secular resources but the resources of our spiritual heritage.

Finally the people called out to God. Finally they had enough. Finally they came to the end of themselves. Finally they realized they could only turn to God. When will we get to that point? When we do finally God will answer. What did God say? What will He say?

It states, “the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; 9 and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ” (Judges 6:8-10). God points His people to the Exodus, a time of incredible miraculous manifestations. He also recalls how God had cleared out the Promised Land for them. But then He adds, “But you have not obeyed My voice.”

Miracles, even the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land, didn’t lead God’s people to obey God. Jesus recounted the story of a rich man in hell who upon seeing the consequence of his life of luxury begs Abraham to get word to his five brothers so they won’t have to follow his eternal destiny. Abraham’s response was, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded through one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The reason we don’t see miracles today is because our motive for wanting them is wrong. We think if God would just perform a miracle it would so impress people that they would fall on their knees and repent. But scriptural history tells us different. God’s own people saw Egypt, the mightiest empire of their time defeated by the miracles of God. They saw the Red Sea parted and then closed up on the Egyptian army. They saw water from the rock. They ate manna from heaven and quail dinners provided by God. God parted the Jordan River. He brought the walls of Jericho down. He made the sun stop in the sky. He defeated enemy after enemy for His people. He did countless other miracles. And still they disobeyed Him!

In the Gospels we see Jesus turn water to wine, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, lepers healed and our Savior rise from the grave. We see the disciples follow in the steps of their Master healing and delivering people from demons. We see numerous miracles and still so many stray.

Why no miracles? There are no miracles because, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The hypocritical Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus and Jesus didn’t grant their request. In fact Jesus said it was an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:38-39). Herod was eager to see Jesus so that he might see Jesus do a miracle (Luke 23:8). Simon the sorcerer was rebuked by Peter for wanting to purchase the ability to perform miracles (Acts 8:14-25). Miracles sought with wrong motives are not granted.

But not everyone asks amiss. Who is to say our motives aren’t pure when we see a suffering child or adult and ask God for a miraculous intervention? But go deeper. What is so bad about going to be with the Lord? To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When our loved ones are hurting and we are begging the Lord for help, our emotions are so upset it’s hard to wade through and know our motives. If a miracle is to occur it must be according to God’s will and for His glory. That is the criteria we must bow to.

Why no miracles? Gideon’s weakness and lack of faith was evidently representative of the lack of faith amongst God’s people at that time. The Gospels indicate that the lack of faith hinders the manifestation of the miraculous (Mark 6:1-6)

If we follow the pattern of Gideon, he asked for a confirming sign to authenticate it was indeed the Angel of the LORD he was talking to (6:17), he prayed for the Angel of the LORD to wait for him to bring an offering to him (6:18), and we see that it was in the sacrificial offering that the Angel of the LORD confirmed who He was through a sign of igniting the sacrifice into a fire (6:19-21). Then Gideon encountered peace in the presence of the Lord (6:22-24). Gideon named the place YHWH Shalom, or The-LORD-Is-Peace.

After this Gideon was sent on a mission to overturn and destroy a pagan altar of Baal (6:25-35). This was to build Gideon’s trust in God. God mercifully further confirmed to Gideon that He would deliver Israel through him (6:36-40). And then God miraculously delivered His people from the Midianites with only three hundred men (Judges 7).

So what is the pattern? First confirm that it is the LORD that is talking to you about the miracle you seek. Second, through prayer and worship wait for the LORD to confirm His will. Third, let God’s peace guide you (cf. also Col. 3:15). Then let God direct you to strengthen your faith in preparation for the miracle He will do. Then follow the leading of the LORD and be ready for Him to do a miracle.









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