By: Mark Swint
Time was, once, that miracles were commonly accepted and believed in as an integral component of life and living. The rough definition of a miracle was anything that was inexplicable by the existing body of knowledge of the day. In the 80’s the movie “The Gods must be Crazy” capitalized on this idea with a charming story of an African tribesman who finds a glass bottle ejected from a small airplane flying overhead. Having never seen a glass bottle before, the man and his fellow tribesmen quickly determined that the bottle was a sacred icon dropped from heaven by God. A whole story revolves around this event and the movie was very successful.
If any of us were to go back in time just 200 years and take with us the things we commonly use, almost everything we have and do would appear miraculous to the people of the day. For example, an Ipod would be a truly astounding device. Everything about it would cause awe and wonder. The display screen of a video Ipod would seem miraculous just by the glow and the menu. Imagine the awe as a picture from your photo collection appeared. Think of the surprise as that photo peeled away to reveal another photo, and another and another! Then imagine the shock as you played a video selection of “The Office” that you had downloaded from Itunes. We haven’t even plugged in the ear phones yet but everything about that would be even more miraculous. The earphones themselves would seem foreign on so many levels. The plastic from which they are made would cause wonder; the sound emanating from within these tiny devices would be remarkable. If we were to then play a music selection from Metallica or ACDC the listener would hear sounds from instruments they had never heard before. The whole technology of electronic and amplified music and the sounds from the electric guitars would seem otherworldly.
Well, you get the point; almost everything about our modern life would seem miraculous to someone removed from us by only a few generations. Sadly, this means that as we grow smarter miracles become less and less frequent. Today miracles seem so rare that we dispute the very existence of them, or alternatively, we have shifted the meaning of the word to imply something really really great as in “the miraculous power of a home PC” computer. Of course the PC is fully explainable, just not by most of us, but we know that there are smart people that can explain a computer and do know how to make one.
We don’t really believe in miracles anymore. We have replaced that awe with the belief that, with enough money and time, anything can be developed and made. We have somehow decided that real miracles are only those things that can’t be explained by reason, logic or science and, if anything can be explained, it is certainly not miraculous.
The implications of this way of thinking imply that if there were a God, and if he did interact with us, He would certainly not do so in any way that employed or used any natural process or science. Someone has told us, and we have believed, that God is God specifically because He is not bound by the laws of the universe i.e. physics, chemistry, astrophysics etc. and that He can do anything He wants without regard to any physical reality. Where does it say this? Who defined God this way? Is God an anarchist? Does He operate without any regard for order or structure or form? This is not only foolishness; it is contradicted by scripture and by the proclamations of prophets.
I submit that a true miracle is not a miracle because it unravels or ignores the universal laws that govern our existence. Often it is the timing of an event rather than the action that defines the miracle. Let me give an example; Moses’ parting the Red Sea is a miracle emblazoned in all of our memories because of Cecil B. Demille’s great movie “The Ten Commandments.” We all remember how he stood before the waters and, lifting his arms high in the air, commanded the waters to part. Immediately, in some type of Bellagio water show way, the sea parted and the waters mysteriously began shooting upward and outward, leaving a nice water lined passageway for the Israelites. This recounting of the story was certainly dramatic and it adequately conveyed the miraculous nature of the event. Just one problem, that’s not how it happened and the bible does not even claim that is how it happened. The account in Exodus 14 and 15 says essentially that the wind blew and it was this that both drove the water away and allowed it to return when the Egyptian armies were in pursuit.
Exodus 15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
Exodus 15:10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
Other ancient writings state that the Lord caused the winds to blow for three days before the waters parted.
Some years ago the National Geographic did a feature on the Red Sea. The story recounted the account in Exodus and explained that this strong wind pattern was a rather common weather phenomenon that frequently occurs in the area. The article stated that the winds had on occasion been so strong as to actually drive the water back so that the Red Sea had literally parted at least 7 times in recorded history. The implication was that the Biblical account wasn’t really a miracle after all – just a fortuitous weather event. This attitude presupposes, once again, that God can’t use natural things to bring about his purposes. I posit that the miracle of the Red Sea wasn’t the parting of the waters but rather the TIMING of the parting.
If we look to the serendipitous timing of many events and acknowledge that perhaps that is the miracle then we can once again say that there are miracles all the time in all the world. After all, aren’t we all comfortable with, and often use, the common phrase “By the grace of God”?