The Purpose of Miracles
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday, 21 May 2005
I welcome you in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name to this Sabbath assembly and pray that all of you will find ministry here, and by special request of one of my daughters I am going to talk to you today about miracles.
Now I am quite sure there isn't a single person in this room who at some time hasn't fervently prayed for a miracle. And when we have done that, we have usually done so because in the back of our minds is one or more memories about other miracles we have heard about or witnessed. Moreover, when you think about a 'miracle', it is usually something both dramatic and out of the ordinary - in a word, something supernatural that apparently defies the natural laws which are operative in the physical world around us. Every child has heard of the miracles told and retold in the Bible - of distinctive, wonderful things that Yahweh has done for His people to deliver them out of the hands of evil men and women. When we speak of miracles we are often thinking about those activities of God that are 'different' from the things we usually experience in life, and this is indeed one sense in which the Bible speaks of miracles. But there are two other equally important ones: not only are miracles 'different' from the ordinary, but they are also 'mighty' and 'powerful'. Yes, miracles are 'different' and 'powerful' to be sure, but unless they have some significance, then they are not true miracles of Yahweh: for that which comes from Yahweh also has meaning.
These, then, are the three keys to divine miracles: they are different (e.g. Ex.15:11; Josh.3:5; Dan.4:2-3; 6:27; Ac.4:30; Rom.15:19), they are powerful or mighty (e.g. Ps.106:2; 145:4; Mt.11:20; 1 Cor.12:10; Gal.3:5), and they have meaning (e.g. Num.14:11; Neh.9:10; Dan.4:2-3; 6:27; Jn.2:11; 3:2; Ac.8:6). The parting of the Red Sea is good example of all three - no-one had ever experienced this before, it involved tremendous supernatural power, and it had tremendous spiritual meaning as it symbolises a step in our own individual exodus out of slavery and into the freedom of deliverance. Moreover, it has a modern symbolic counterpart, namely, baptism which likewise depicts a departure from sin through burial and rebirth in the resurrection power of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
If miracles are different, powerful and have spiritual meaning, how are we to know where miracles begin and end? One man's miracle may be quite common place, of no particular significance and involving no extraordinary forces. Today we use cell phones and think nothing of them. But I guarantee that were you to go back in time, say, two hundred years or before, people would look at that cell phone as something miraculous, and almost certainly supernatural. But the fact that two people using cell phones talking to each other 1,000 years ago would be regarded by that age as a miracle does not mean that cell phones are not miracles today. Indeed there are miracles all around us which we can't see because of one simple fact: we take them for granted.
You see, the Bible does not distinguish between Yahweh's constant sovereign providence and His particular acts. For most of us, miracles are acts - things that occasionally, if rarely, happen in our lives but the Scriptures tell us that miracles are happening every second of our lives. Our belief in miracles is always set in a context, and that context is our world-view. Today a lot people look at babies and don't think of them as being extraordinary, not because they aren't extraordinary miracles but because of an atheistic world view that redefines the miracles so that we lose our respect, wonderment, awe and even surprise. These days most people think that life arose spontaneously. They have been taught to believe in a fairy tale so absurd that a part of us actually dismisses it and refuses to see any meaning in it, because there is none. Because all miracles must have meaning. Since according to evolutionary theory we arose by chance, then we can have no purpose, and ultimately no meaning. Therefore life is no longer viewed as a miracle - it is simply inexplicably there.
The Bible teaches that the whole of Creation is continually dependent upon the sustaining activity of Yahweh-Elohim and is subject to His sovereign will (Col.1:16-17). What we take for granted is actually nothing short of a miracle because we have never actually comprehended it, it involves powers too great for our finite minds to comprehend, and everybody and everything around us is part of a divine plan. Nothing whatsoever is accidental. We are all a part of something that has immense significance. Thus it would be true to say that wonder, power and significance are not only present in special acts of God but also in the whole created order (Rom.1:20)! No matter where you look, or when, there's a miracle taking place right there in front of you and within you. Inside or out, miracles are in progress. And there has never been a time in history when miracles have not been happening on a second by second basis. Our problem is that we have been conditioned to believe that things are only miraculous so long as there is a huge contrast - like water turning instantly into wine, or the dead being raised, or people being instantly healed of visible illnesses. And whilst these are all great and wonderful miracles, there are equal if not greater miracles happening all the time which we are quite simply blind to, and that because of our expectations.
Yahweh, our Father in Heaven, is the Alpha and Omega - the Alef and Tav - the beginning and the end, and everything in-between. He knows the end from the beginning and everything that will happen in between in the future. Indeed, He knew all that would happen, in minutest detail, before He even started creating. He is the Unchanging One for whom there are no surprises and no problems too difficult to solve. But the fact that He is unchanging does not mean He is passive - He is living and personal. His changelessness is not that of an impersonal force but the faithfulness of a Person - His creative act brought into existence responsible creatures with whom He deals not as puppets but as other persons over and against Himself. A miracle is an event which dramatically reveals this living, personal nature of God. Thus like a pebble cast into a pond which sends out ripples, Yahweh comes into out lives and makes 'ripples' so that we can experience His presence. When He reveals Himself to you it is not as some impersonal force relentlessly pushing you towards a goal over which you have no control over (as some religions teach) but as a Redeemer who saves and guides His people. When He interacts with people it is so that every person can make a difference by choosing to believe and obey Him, or not.
So what we sometimes regard as unique events may actually, in truth, be part of a regular pattern. In fact, you can be pretty certain that that is the case. Just as one of the characteristics of all living organisms is sensory perception, so one of the characteristics of spiritual beings like man is the ability to sense good and evil, and to know the difference. We have that spiritual radar built into us. Depending on the choices we have made in life, and the way we have, or have not, cultivated that spiritual radar by fine-tuning it using Torah, unconscious miracles may become conscious ones. There was a time, when I was an atheist, that I did not believe in spirits, demons and the like. But when I saw my first demon I got the shock of my life. Today I see angels and demons and think nothing of them. I have simply become aware of a supernatural dimension that I was not aware of before. Those seeing an angel manifest for the first time would consider they had experienced a miracle because to them it was 'different' or out of the ordinary. Angels have always been around and have always been a part of the natural universe. A miracle, then, is simply making contact with something that we cannot yet compute in our head or accomodate in our world-view. But once we understand it, it becomes 'ordinary' to us and we tend to not think of it as being miraculous anymore. It is 'ordinary', however, only in the sense that we have become habitually aware of it. It is still a miracle just like everyone and everything else is. However, until we 'see' something extraordinary as part if the natural order of Yahweh, we need to exercise faith that it is 'there' on the basis of reliable testimony. That becomes harder when the witnesses are fallible, error-prone human beings like ourselves. We look at them, see their weaknesses and follies, and doubt. Why should anyone have believed the testimony of Thomas of the resurrected Christ when he had consistently demonstrated his lack of faith before? Suddenly the man says He has seen a man whom everyone saw die. Why should they suddenly believe him?
Why indeed. But when several people come along and say the same thing, we are forced - if we are honest - to rethink our doubts. Two witnesses are, after all, better than one. And yet even a multitude of witnesses can be deceived, so we are required to do some testing. Those of you who have read the Book of Mormon will have seen the first pages of that book in which numerous witnesses claim to have physically seen and touched the gold plates delivered by an angel from heaven. Yet closer inspection of their testimonies reveals that none of them actually laid eyes on any supposed gold plates but had rather 'seen' them in a 'vision'. What they experienced in the physical dimension was not real and whilst Christians do not discount the gift of seership, we have to be careful about the source of visions. More importantly than that for our illustration, when we are being asked to believe in something tangible and physical like a resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus), 'visions' or apparitions just won't do. Thomas saw and felt the resurrected Christ with his physical eyes and physical hands, and so did thousands of others. It was not an out-of-this-world experience but entirely tangible. We are therefore challenged not only by the eye- and touch-witnesses of thousands of people who saw and handled the resurrected Lord but by the fact that this experience so galvanised them that they fearlessly went out to preach their testimony to the world and were prepared to die rather than deny their plain senses. They had experienced a miracle - the resurrection - which in this instance had never happened in the history of the world. It was powerful too - people don't just rise from the dead and become immortal - but perhaps even more important than these things, it has immense significance not only for them but for us too! The physical resurrection of Yah'shua (Jesus) changes everything about life and is something we cannot just ignore.
There are, of course, lots of 'fake' miracles in the world, wonders which, though different and obviously based in power, have no spiritual significance whatsoever. Certain charismatic 'Christians' are claiming, for instance, that gold dust is appearing on their hands in meetings, and this they are claiming to be a miracle from God. Yah'shua (Jesus), on the other hand, during His mortal ministry, consistently refused to work useless and spectacular wonders in order to 'guarantee' His teaching. You will remember the three miracles Satan tried to tempt Him to do. The religious leaders and potentates tries to do the same to Him but He ignored their demands for the cheap and meaningless spiritually-speaking. What spiritual use is gold-dust appearing on your hands? God might just as well turn your gold wedding ring into plastic to demonstrate that He is an alchemist, but He won't, because such a miracle would have no redeeming value. For a miracle to be of God it must have salvational content, in other words, it must play a part in the process that leads to the redemption of a soul as well as having a spiritual symbolism. Thus when Yah'shua (Jesus) turned water into wine He was not simply making up for the planning carelessness of the organisers of a wedding but symbolically telling everyone that He was transforming the Mosaic Covenant into a better, richer and fuller one - the New Covenant of Christ.
The Bible is full of examples of wonder-working by people who were opposed to the purposes of Yahweh (e.g. Dt.13:2-3; Mt.7:22; 24:2; Thes.2:9; Rev.13:13ff; 16:14; 19:20) and we must ever be on our guard against them. The refusal to do wonders for their own sake sharply marks off the Biblical miracle stories from what the Germans call Wundergeschichten or 'the history of wonders'. Thus the only miracles that Yahweh does are those which have spiritual significance. This includes telling the future, the function of prophets. True miracles are an integral part of already existing revelation. True miracles harmonise with the knowledge which believers already possess about Yahweh, even where it also carries that knowledge farther and deeper. Thus the Bible strictly warns the children of God to reject any miracle-worker who denies Yahweh (Dt.13:2-3) and the revelation He has already given, namely, Torah. So the working of miracles has as its sole purpose a deepening of men's understanding of Yahweh. It is Yahweh's way of speaking dramatically to those who have ears to hear, in other words, to those who already believe. Nearly all the miracle stories in the Bible are intimately concerned with the faith of observers or participants (e.g. Ex.14:31; 1 Ki.18:39) and with the faith of those who will hear and read them later (Jn.20:30-31). Yah'shua (Jesus) looked to faith as the right response to His saving presence and deeds - it was faith which 'made whole', which made the difference between the mere creation of an impression and a saving communication of His revelation of Yahweh.
You will remember that the Gospel of Mark tells us that Yah'shua (Jesus) was unable to do any mighty miracles in Nazareth, not because the peoples' unbelief limited His power (because Mark tells us that He healed a few sick people there) but because He could not proceed with His preaching, or with deeds which proclaimed His Gospel in action where men were unready to accept the Good News in His own Person. Wonder-working for the crowds or for the sceptics is inconsistent with the Gospel message and for that reason Yah'shua (Jesus) could not do it in Nazareth.
Now throughout my ministry I have been approached by people desperate for miracles. Many of them are demonically oppressed. They have begged that Yah'shua (Jesus) would come personally, or send an angel, wave a magic wand, and they would be free. But Yah'shua (Jesus) doesn't do miracles that do not lead to spiritual deliverance too. Many such people would simply rejoice for a while and return to the world having learned nothing. Indeed, the chances are they would end up demonised and oppressed all over again, in which case such a miracle would serve no spiritual purpose whatsoever. It would have no meaning. Gratuitous miracles are just not Yahweh's way even if some of them may appear to be so.
Take Paul. Here is an unusual case of a man being delivered who was actively persecuting Yahweh's people. Yahweh knew exactly who Paul was - He knew his heart, his inner disposition. True, Yahweh saving Him was an act of sovereign will, for Paul did not choose to be saved. Nevertheless, Yahweh knew what his response would be, and that response is the story of a bold and valiant apostle. Why didn't, for instance, Yahweh do the same for Pontius Pilate? Because He knew what His response would be. He knew that he would not become another Paul.
So when miracles do not just drop out of the sky, it is for a reason. It is because, more than likely, that there are things you must first learn so that such a miracle, should it be granted, has spiritual significance to you. That is why many people coming to deliverance continue to suffer in a seemingly endless cycle of failure. It is not because Yahweh doesn't care but because He does care. Faith must precede the miracle, and if it does not (as in the case of Paul and others like him), it is because Yahweh knows that man's heart and what he will do with such a miracle. But not all would react this way. In fact, most would not.
I know people who have been sitting around for years waiting for miracles that never happen. Why is that? It is because Yahweh knows that such a miracle, if granted, would lead to false belief and take the person away from the path of salvation. That is why Satan does miracles through false religions, in order to keep people off the true path. So beware, if you have not got the miracle you have desired, it is almost certainly because Yahweh loves your soul too much to give it to you. He knows a better way even if in the meantime you must suffer a little longer.
Some people argue that what I am saying is not true because, for example, of some of the lepers that Yah'shua (Jesus) healed. Some were grateful and seemed to give a spiritual response but others did not. You have to remember that these were all Yahweh-worshippers and observers of Torah. They were not pagans believing in false doctrine. Moreover, their only 'crime' may only have been to have touched someone and thereby got infected with the fatal virus. This is not the same as someone, for example, who has believed in a lie and got himself demonised. So we must be careful about miracles that are of a purely compassionate nature that are not necessarily related to salvation.
I believe in miracles and have seen plenty of them in my ministry. However, I have also asked for miracles that I have not got, and I have asked them for friends and clients who have not got them either. I have learned that when this happens (or to be more precise, doesn't happen), it is because Yahweh wants something else to happen first. And usually it has to do with the acceptance of some critical Gospel Truth. Healing someone who continues to believe in a lie just reinforces that lie and that is why Yahweh does not do it. Healing and salvation are intimately connected, as we have seen. It is the pagans who separate the two and mislead people into hell.
All godly miracles are intimately linked to truth and spiritual life in some way or another. I do not pretend to know all the answers but what I have shared is what I have learned, often the hard way. Some people are just too stubborn and rebellious to want to change for whom a miracle would serve no useful purpose. The real miracle is the transformation of the inner man to become what it was always supposed to be since this has to do with eternal inheritance. Seek truth, have faith, love as Yah'shua (Jesus) loves you as you forget yourself and serve others and let Him take care of the miracles. This is counsel I have long given and counsel I am unlikely to change. May Yahweh bless you and give you peace. Amen.
This page was created on 5 June 2005
Last updated on 5 June 2005
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