The power of the good news is not dependent upon miracles

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”’ Exodus 19:3-4 (NIV)

Read: Exodus 19:1-25

Consider: The history of the Israelites is filled with times when they have been in harmony with God, but mostly times when they have rebelled against God and his claim on their lives.

In today’s reading in Exodus 19 we read about an incident that happened just a few months after the Israelites left Egypt, fleeing from Pharaoh’s slavery.  God met with Moses at Mount Sinai and told Moses to say to the Israelites: You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4).  God then tells the Israelites what he expects from them:  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (19:5-6a).  You would naturally assume that having seen God act on their behalf, together with the promises God laid out for their obedience, they would comply and become obedient to God.  However, although they had seen how God acted on their behalf when they fled from Egypt and the value of the promises God made to them (to be his chosen people), the Israelites would continually rebel against God’s rule.  As a consequence they would wander in the wilderness for forty years and the whole adult generation, who had rebelled against God, would die before the people entered the promised land.

In Deuteronomy we read an account of Moses confronting the Israelites with the truth of their rebellion and its consequences.  We read: But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 1:26) and also: Then I  [Moses] said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’ In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God (1:29-32).  The Israelites punishment for their rebellion is spelt out in 1:34-35 – When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: ‘No-one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly’ (1:34-36).

The lesson from the Israelites is that although they saw God at work, supporting and protecting them over a period of many years, this did not stop them grumbling and rebelling against him.  When someone today says something like:  “If only God would perform a miracle in my sight I would believe in him”, we should not be praying for God to perform a miracle, but that their hearts would be softened to hear and understand the message of salvation.  As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).

I am not against God performing miracles as he chooses, but the life-changing power of the good news is not dependent upon miracles being performed.

Pray: Father, we see that you revealed yourself to the Israelites through signs and wonders, yet despite this many hardened their hearts.  We pray for anyone today who claims to want a sign, that your Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and bring them to Jesus seeking forgiveness. Amen

Every blessing

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