MIRACLES WITHIN MIRACLES!
Why are so many miracles recorded in the Scriptures? For us to be awed by the all-powerful ways of Almighty God and to spontaneously praise Him in the spirit of adoration! The very purpose of our Creation is to worship Him (The very first declaration in Westminster Catechism, which encapsulates Christian faith best, testifies to this fact). Oh yes, reading about miracles also reinforces our faith in Him, to deliver us from our difficulties. Now permit me to sidetrack just a bit and visit the Cricket field!
One of the fascinating aspects of Cricket - essentially a team game - is that it packages and presents contests within contests. Confused? Let me explain. Let’s take the recent India-Australia series for example. Even while the crowds were having their fill from watching the two mighty teams matching their sublime skills on the field, discerning Cricket aficionados wouldn’t miss the development of an enthralling duel within the game. A young tyro Ishant Sharma versus a seasoned campaigner R. Ponting! The young pace bowling sensation in contemporary cricket pitting his skills against the best batsman in business and rattling him up provided for some lip-smacking stuff for many a Cricket buff. Likewise, old-timers would recall similar hi-voltage contests within contests in Cricket history involving ‘Gary Sobers and D. Lillee,’ ‘Sunil Gavaskar and Malcolm Marshall’ etc.
A bit dazed once again? We always praise God for many an awe-inspiring miracle in the Bible; but have we praised Him for some ‘silent’ miracles within ‘thundering’ miracles. Not so much for felling a Goliath, as for silently ‘directing’ the stone slung by the shepherd boy to its target! I want to bring to the fore three such extraordinary Biblical accounts.
Gosh(en)! A Protected Land
Goshen was the name of the district in which the Jews were penned (like sheep in a pen) in Egypt during the times of Moses. “Gosh! What a land within Egypt!” is how any first time Bible reader would react on repeatedly coming across God’s special protection of His special people living there, awaiting deliverance from slavery.
Normally, in a boxing bout, before the killer blow arrives, there are a few ‘softening blows’ which are anything but soft, setting up the stage for the final coup de grace. After that, the scene of the victor standing triumphantly beside the vanquished lying limp in the canvas would invariably emerge. The fact of the matter is that the softening blows are just as important as the knock-out punch. Ditto treatment of cancer; the preceding cycles of chemotherapy to root out the dreaded disease are just as vital as the final long session.
Exodus 7-10 records a series of Divine softening punches unleashed on the hard-hearted Pharoah, before the knock-out punch in the form of killing of the eldest offspring (Ch. 11-12) arrived. God ‘who donned the gloves’ and fought on the ‘corner’ of His unarmed chosen ones (they obtained their independence without as much as raising their little finger against their oppressors) in the Egyptian soil unleashed one softening blow after another on the stubborn tyrant, who was hell bent on not releasing Jacob’s descendants from the clutches of slavery. One such softening blow that preceded the knock-out punch was the biggest hailstorm in Egyptian history that hit the Nation of Pyramids (Exo.10:23-26). I am picking out and laying special emphasis on this miracle only to bring home the fact that ‘silent miracles’ do occur alongside ‘blaring’ ones! While doubtless we are awed by God’s power in this miracle of whipping up a devastating hailstorm that levelled all of Egypt, what about a silent miracle, which accompanied this boisterous thunder, and lighting miracle? V. 26 records pointedly, “The only spot in all Egypt without hail that day was the land of Goshen where the people of Israel lived.” Talk of an invisible wall of protection around the land of Goshen, which had no physical walls rising to the skies…
While we may have praised God for the awe-inspiring miracle of unleashing rip-roaring storm upon the cruel despot, have we ever praised Him for this ‘silent’ miracle within the ‘thunderous’ one?
Speaking of storms, there is that story of a storm of great intensity hitting the high seas. It was so severe that the giant waves tossed the big ships about, like paper cups in a big bowl of water. A few days after surviving the tumultuous ordeal, a captain of a ship was in a sailors’ party. When he related this frightening, ‘brush-with-death experience’ with one of his friends, who had been in a submarine at almost the same place during the storm, the latter is said to have calmly quipped, “What storm?” Several hundred feet below the raging waves, he and his crew in a submarine had been in a serene world of their own.
A Jew of Moses’ times in the City of Goshen waiting for ‘Divine liberation’ from the tyrannical Pharoah’s yoke might well have asked the question, “What storm?” to his Egyptian acquaintance, when informed about the biggest hailstorm to have come upon the Egyptian soil!
We see repeatedly the pattern of God’s people being insulated in the land of Goshen amidst God-ordained calamities. Before the hailstorm arrived, do we not see a similar pattern in the miracle of ‘swarm of flies’ infesting the land or the plague on livestock (Exo. 8:9). Later on, was there not normal light in Goshen even as night like pitch darkness pervaded rest of Egypt (Exo.10: 21-23) and eventually even the case of death angel visiting only the Egyptian homes on the Passover night was an example of preservation of His chosen ones in the midst of devastation.
Standing Tall On A Crumbling Wall!
If Goshen without a wall was safe in God’s hands, then the city of Jericho, despite a robust wall around it, was hapless before the marauding army of Joshua (Num.14:9), which brings us to the Rahab story. Frankly, Rahab’s daring faith and her subsequent rescue and rehabilitation story (Josh. 2,6) never ceases to surprise the Biblical scholars. The more one digs into that, the more are the insights representing a rare treasure, waiting to be revealed.
As the Jericho wall miraculously fell (Josh. 6:20), where was Rahab? Since she knew that going outside her house at the time of conquest would be a breach of the covenant she had entered into with the spies (Josh. 2:17-21), she with her relatives shepherded into the safety of the house were ensconced therein. Oh yes, there was a scarlet cord tied to the window, hanging outside. At this moment, we can well imagine her with all her relatives waiting with bated breath for the Jericho wall to collapse or be breached with battering rams and the city to be conquered. In case we have forgotten, where was her house? On the wall! Look once again at her amazing faith. Stretching our imagination a bit, we can well visualise her relatives whispering into her ears about the danger of remaining inside a house with a shaky foundation. But praise God for her unshakable faith at that time, even as she held fast to her oath of staying put inside her house. By faith she knew that while the entire wall or a section of it surrounding the Jericho city would collapse, the portion on which her house rested wouldn’t. That’s exactly what happened. Even as other parts of Jericho wall collapsed like a pack of cards, her house, as though in the safety of His palm, remained untouched by the rumble all around! Hallelujah!
If felling of Jericho wall - not a finger of His people needed to be raised - was a mighty miracle, then that of Rahab’s house standing tall amidst ruins was the very definition of a miracle within a miracle. There it stood symbolic, as it were, of her unshakable faith, even as those of her city dwellers lay in ruins.
Even as we praise God on reading the account of a crumbled Jericho wall, let us not forget to praise Him for Rahab’s house, which stood tall amidst ruins!
Joshua 10 records one of the most amazing divine interventions ever during a battle in human history. I neither intend to focus upon the event of sun and moon stopping in their tracks, consequent to Joshua’s prayers (vv. 12-15) nor do I desire to focus exclusively about the enemies dying on account of the hailstorm (v. 11) which God unleashed upon the fleeing army. In the midst of these greater miracles, I want to focus upon a ‘silent miracle’ that happened alongside.
Joshua and his men were engaged in a battle with five Canaanite kings (Josh.10:3-11). Close to the scene of the battle at Gibeon was Upper Beth-horon- about ten miles distant, and approached by a gradual ascent through a long and precipitous ravine. This was the first stage of the flight of the enemy forces, who realised as the battle progressed that they were no match to divinely strengthened army of Joshua. The fugitives had crossed the high ridge of Upper Beth-horon, and were in full flight down the descent to the Nether Beth-horon. The road between the two places is so rocky and rugged that there is a path made by means of steps cut in the rock. Down this pass Joshua continued his victorious rout. Here the Lord interposed, assisting His people by means of a storm, which, probably having been gathering all day, burst with such irresistible fury that “they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.” Just as it is recorded in Job 38:22-23, sometimes God uses hailstorm to deadly effect in wars. The oriental hailstorm is a terrific agent; the hailstones are masses of ice, large as walnuts, and sometimes as two fists; their prodigious size, and the violence with which they fall, make them always very injurious to property, and often fatal to life. As these natural bombs from the skies were raining upon the fleeing army, where were Joshua and his men? Chasing their enemies, they were certainly not far away! Did these ‘heavenly bombs’ fall upon them? No! Welcome to the age of precision bombing! Those of us who think that precision bombing with guided missiles is a modern-day invention would do well to revise our opinions. Doesn’t this miracle of hailstorm not falling upon the chasing army of Joshua awe us, as much as the miracle of it precisely hitting the scampering foes does? A case of yet another miracle within a miracle! Hallelujah!
The underlying principle behind all these miracles: God’s faithful preservation of the faithful ones amidst full-scale destruction! The Psalmist also shares this sentiment in Psalm 91:7-8. What is the lesson these miracles (more than one, as though to underscore a point) hold for modern-day Christians living so-close to the Second Coming and subsequent tribulation? Having come under His saving grace, our present difficulties (varying in degree from person to person) on Earth aside, we as a Church are guaranteed to be raptured, and taken away from a much more severe tribulation time ahead (Rev. 3:10)! As a Bible teacher taking special classes on the Book of Revelation, I shudder sometimes at the very thought of terrible woes awaiting the disobedient world. A detailed study of tribulation woes (Rev. 6-19) would also reveal their similarity to the Egyptian woes. In both the cases it was just not one woe but a series of them. Do we not see both of them gradually growing up in intensity? That is the second similarity. Then, what about their impact on the wicked? Pharoah did not repent till the end; likewise, nor would the wicked during the tribulation (Rev. 9:20-21, 16:11). No wonder, our God is said to be an unchanging God (Heb 13:8). Not only are His ways of dealing with the wicked still the same (intensity of punishment always increases gradually); but more importantly, He is just as unchanging when it comes to preserving His faithful ones in the midst of calamities. If He has insulated His chosen ones from troubles in the past, will He not keep up His promise of keeping us insulated from the fiery times ahead? Is this not one more reason to praise our glorious Saviour God? HALLELUJAH … more loudly please. What price any theology, which doesn’t end with doxology!