In my last post I tried to lay out my understanding of the term ‘miracle’. You can go back and review all that. The long and short of it is that as I have come to understand the definition and purpose of miracles, almost all the miracles recorded in the Bible fall into three widely separated periods concentrated and Moses/Aaron and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles. That amounts to 150 years out of 5,000 years of recorded Biblical history - 10,000 or more years if you try to assign dates to pre-flood history. Sticking with the 5000 year figure, Almost all the recorded miracles of the Bible are packed into just 3% of the Biblical time line. That leaves 97% of the time in question to receive no more than 5% of all the recorded miracles of the Bible. And we’re not talking about that many miracles to start with.
How many miracles are recorded in the Bible? Well, the count varies depending on the definition used by the counter. One list I checked says 126. Another says 163. Another says 185. * Let’s go inclusive, round up and say 200. Proposing 200 recorded miracles, we’re talking about 190 of them happening in three waves comprising 150 years which leaves 10 to be spread out over the remaining 4850 years. If the distribution were even, it would amount to one miracle every 480 years or so – give or take a few months here and there.
The point to understand is that miracles were always rare. And the few time periods in which miracles are more concentrated are also rare. And Jesus was plain on this – the majority of people fail to read the ‘sign’ portion of miracles correctly and get caught up only in the act of power itself – or what they perceive to be the miracle’s immediate practical uses. If I could just have a clay pot that was always full of olive oil no matter how much I took out – I could be rich! Thus, the performing of miracles mainly leads to the demand for – MORE MIRACLES – rather than to a stampede toward the truth God is trying to communicate. We’re that way. A miracle a day would only lead us to wonder why we couldn’t have an AM miracle and a PM miracle!
All of this is not to say that no miracles happen today. It is to say we should expect them to be rare and SIGNIFICANT. God cares about the suffering of the sick and hungry. But most sick people will not be miraculously healed and we shouldn’t expect multiplications of fish and loaves every Tuesday. We (by which I mean mankind) could put an end to world hunger if we wanted to. We could do it using the wonderful creation God has put in our care and a little conscience. World hunger is not solved because we are sinful. The same for crime, injustice, poverty etc. These problems will not be solved until the world to come. And the rare and significant application of miracles is supposed to point us to that world! The expectation that miracles should be commonplace so as to solve the problems of this world is a fool’s game and we shouldn’t play it.
When miracles are performed at all, especially in any time when miracles are concentrated, we should be first and foremost concerned to see what God is pointing us to.
In the meantime, prayers will continue to be answered. Providence will continue to be showered upon us. Angelic ministries will not cease. History will be guided by the Almighty Hand and Everything God does will always be wonderful. But when we talk about miracles, let’s know what we’re talking about and if one occurs – let’s focus on where God wants to lead us through it.
*If you’re interested, All the Miracles of the Bible from Herbert Lockyer’s unique ‘All’ commentary set is available online for as low as $5 used, $18 new.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church