Another area where the effects of the “hand of God” are clearly seen is the existence of miracles: those events that cannot be explained by natural phenomenon or trickery. In a previous post, I have already explored the miracle of manna and the difficulty of explaining it in any way other than as a miracle.
There are times when God performs the miracle directly as He did when He sent the manna. For example, to help Israel be victorious in a battle, He caused the sun to stand still until the battle was won (Joshua 10).
On other occasions, God anoints certain people with the power to perform miracles to prove to others that He has sent them as prophets or for some other purpose. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah is sent by God to a widow and her son who had only enough food left for one more meal. The woman expects that this will be their last meal, and then they will die. Elijah persuades her to divide that remnant of food three ways so he may eat also. He explains to her that God will cause this tiny remnant of food to last for “many days”. And indeed it is so, apparently until a natural source of food comes along and the supernatural is no longer required.
Yet this alone was not enough evidence for the woman. For when her son falls ill and dies, she rebukes Elijah that as a man of God, he is responsible for killing her son as a judgment against her for her sins. Elijah takes the son aside and prays to God to revive the son. The Lord hears the prayer and the son came back to life. Here is the testimony of the mother in response:
And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth. – 1 Kings 17:24
In the New Testament, the ministries of the Apostles and Jesus Himself are accompanied by miracles. In my post about God approving of the healing of birth defects, we saw how Peter healed a man unable to walk from birth. Paul raises two people from the dead. And at Pentecost, at the beginning of the Apostle’s ministry after the ascension of Jesus, everyone who heard them speak heard them in them in their own (the listener’s) language.
The ministry of Jesus is filled with miracle after miracle. In previous posts, I have already talked about the feeding of thousands with a small amount of food, the healing of a man born blind, a woman hemorrhaging for many years, and the raising from the dead of a 12-year old girl. There were others raised from the dead, many others healed, storms calmed, walking on water, demons cast out, minds read, and Moses and Elijah temporarily brought back to life while Jesus is transfigured. The ultimate miracles are the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Are there other supernatural forces that can do miracles? According to the Bible, yes. For example, when God gives Moses the power to bring miraculous plagues upon Egypt to prove that Moses was sent to Pharaoh by God, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate the first few plagues. But compared to the power of God, this supernatural power is limited. They could not replicate the fourth plague or any of the others thereafter. Furthermore, the Bible strictly warns us against using any such powers because if it is not from God, the source is evil.
By count, healing was the most frequently performed type of miracle by Jesus. This may be due in part to the relatively primitive nature of medical care at that time, but it also is an allegory for the spiritual healing that every person needs.
It is not surprising, therefore, that this is the area that frauds and charlatans use to attempt to validate themselves. Sadly, many do this in the name of the Lord, and there are even some who even claim to believe that this is condoned by God as long as people who witness such events are saved. Unfortunately, no lie is of the truth, and the truth has a way of coming to light. When the fraud is revealed, it is likely that those who began to draw near based on these so-called miracles will turn away from God.
There are a number of common tactics among the phony faith healers. At most meetings, the only people healed are people planted in the audience, people who no one else has ever seen before or since. They claim easily faked ailments, like being stooped over or coming up front in a wheelchair; then suddenly with the work of the faith healer, they straighten up or leap out of the wheelchair, supposedly healed. Another typical indicator is that more miraculous healings, the type that would be difficult or impossible to fake, only happen in certain third world countries where there is no one around to record or give independent corroboration of these miracles. (It will be interesting to see what happens to the reports of these miracles in the next few years as technology spreads to even the poorest regions of the world and everyone becomes capable of posting videos on sites like Facebook and You Tube.) Of course, these perpetrators claim that those who weren’t healed didn’t have enough faith and that there is greater faith found among the people in these poor countries.
Jesus didn’t need to plant people in the crowds. He didn’t hold special healing meetings advertised in advance. In fact, after some of the more dramatic healings, He even told the person who was healed to not tell others. It is reported that most of them did not listen and spread the word anyway.
Furthermore, most of these healings occurred in front of many witnesses, including those who opposed Jesus and accused Him (among other things) because He healed on the Sabbath. Their very accusation is confirmation that the healing occurred.
Here is one of many examples of how the people were brought to Jesus by their friends and family, people who were known to the local population to have infirmities:
And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole. – Mark 6:53-56
I have personally known people who were healed in ways that their doctors could not explain. These healings came in response to fervent prayer, sometimes accompanied by laying on of hands or anointing with oil. But such healings are rare and those who helped bring them about give the credit to God, not themselves.
Seven years ago, my hand was professionally examined and I was told that surgery was the only remedy for my thumb locking. It was a painful case of trigger finger that I had been experiencing for four months. Two months later without any medical intervention, continuing only to pray for it (myself and others), the trigger finger departed and has never returned. Praise be to God for His healing touch in answer to prayer.
In my next post, I will talk about still other types of witness to the existence of God.