A young pastor in his first charge announced nervously: “I will take for my text the words, ‘And they fed five men with five thousand loaves of bread and two thousand fishes.'” At this misquotation, an old parishioner said audibly: “That’s no miracle — I could do it myself.” The young preacher said nothing, but the next Sunday he announced the same text. This time he got it right: “And they fed five thousand men on five loaves of bread and two fishes.” He waited a moment and then, leaning over the pulpit and looking at the parishioner, he asked, “And could you do that too, Mr. Smith?” “Of course I could,” Smith replied “And how would you do it?” the preacher asked. “With the leftovers from last Sunday,” Smith said.
Miracles have more of an important role in our lives than we like to think. Miracles played a role in the Old Testament verifying the presence of God and identifying God’s servants. In the New Testament miracles pointed to Christ. The Bible contains 103 obvious miracles and probably many more that are not so obvious. The Old Testament has 49. The New Testament has 54.
It is interesting to watch people struggle with miracles. There are those who are the skeptics. They believe that miracles stopped with the Apostles. Somehow God doesn’t perform miracles anymore. A stranger came up to a man in Atlantic City and asked to borrow $100. “My family has no place to sleep,” he said, “and we haven’t eaten in two days.” “How do I know you won’t take the money and gamble it away?” the man asked. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” said the stranger. “We already have enough gambling money.” Woody Allen: “If only God would give me some clear sign – like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.”
They find themselves reasoning away miracles, in the past and today. Research into the migratory habits of quail in the Middle East found that it was not uncommon to have quail in the Sinai. So there are some who would say that God providing quail every evening was not a miracle but an act of nature. But the migratory habits of the quail makes the miracle of the Lord’s provision all the more exciting. Each autumn, the birds fly from central Europe to Turkey. There they prepare for a crossing of the Mediterranean. The flight across the ocean is done in a single flight at a very high speed. Any bird that falters falls into the sea. When the birds approach the land they drop down in altitude but maintain their high speed.
As soon as they are over the coast land they land exhausted and completely drained. They lie motionless for hours while they regain their strength. For years Bedouins who lived near the coast harvested the easy prey. The amazing thing about the biblical account of the provision of the quail is that the birds must have kept flying until they reached the wilderness of Sinai where they became the source of survival for the hungry Hebrews in the desert. How did the quail know to fly on farther after their already exhausting flight? Only the Lord who created them could have pressed them on to be His blessing for His people in desperate need. And also note that for 40 years (not just autumn) the birds came.
Joshua is ready to take God’s people into the Promised Land. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. In the semitropical valley where Jericho is located, the valley has two growing seasons. The first harvest is followed by a month of rain, it is April. April when the river is swollen by spring rains and melting snow. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. Now what do we do with it? Is it a miracle or not? It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea ) was completely cut off. Frequently in recent history earthquake shocks have collapsed sections of the high clay bluffs beside the river. In 1927 such an earthquake stopped the stream for over 24 hours.
We have heard this story before, only it was called the Red Sea. (Exodus 14:21-26) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.”
How we have struggled with this miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. We think, “It must be a mistake – should be the Reed Sea, not the Red Sea. If the wind blow hard enough to hold the water back, how could the Jews pass through the sea without being blow away?
Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles isn’t a realist. The grounds for belief and disbelief are the same today as they were two thousand or ten thousand — years ago. For some reason the scientific had to rationalize all miracles. Eight-two percentage of adults agree or completely agree with the statement, “Even today, miracles are performed by the power of God” (Princeton Religion Research Center).
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. The point of scripture is clearly a miracle takes place.
God has never stopped performing miracles. Even life and death themselves are miracles. The miracle of birth no one completely understands. We can create the environment, but the life still belongs to God. Many asked, “Why didn’t God give Vickie a miracle? God did, with a disease that should have taken her life in 6 months and she lived 18 months. All healing is tentative. The mortality rate is still 100%. But for the Christian even death is a miracle.
The miracle is there for the eyes of faith that can see it. Crossed Any Dry Rivers Lately?