The year is 1400 BC. You are a 58 year old Israelite. For 40 years, you have been wandering in the wilderness. For 40 years, you have been looking forward to the day you would leave chaos and wandering and finally step into order and rest. For 40 years, you have been looking forward to this day. Joshua 3 tells the story of this day; the day the LORD will lead your people across the Jordan River into the long-awaited Promised Land.
Imagine the emotion and anticipation as your great, earthly leader spells out the game plan. Joshua’s instructions are simple…. follow the ark of the covenant of the LORD, but do not get close to it! Easy enough! But what next? How are we going to cross this overflowing, turbulent river? What happens next is something that will be told for thousands of years. The priests come to the edge of the overflowing river, their feet touch the brink of the water, and the waters stop flowing. A few miles upstream, the waters stand up in one heap. The waters flowing downstream are cut off. You look up and the priests are standing firmly on dry ground. You begin walking across the Jordan on dry ground. As you walk across the riverbed, you think back to when you were 18 years old and you crossed the Red Sea. You vividly remember the waters of the sea gathering in a great heap to your right and to your left. You distinctly remember walking across firm, dry ground. You are overwhelmed with wonder and awe as you proclaim, “The LORD has done it again!” Stories you have been telling your family for decades, its like they are happening all over again!
Read through the Old Testament and you will see many unique stories like that. God brought plagues on Egypt; He parted the Red Sea; He destroyed nations with rocks from heaven. God used these miraculous events to show all the peoples of the earth that His hand is mighty and that He is the one true God. Then, flip over to the gospels and read about what Jesus did. He walked on water, healed the blind, and raised the dead. Jesus did these miracles so that people would know He was more than just a man, He was the Son of God! Even the apostles did some incredible things in the book of Acts. They were casting out demons, healing the sick, and seeing miraculous events take place.
Here is a question that I have been asked a few times since our church family began studying Joshua: Why don’t we see these miracles today? Why don’t we see rivers dried up and the dead raised to life?
When asked a similar question, “Why don’t we experience the miracles that the apostles were capable of?” John Piper responds by saying, “Well some people do. The assumption is, ‘Why don’t we see it regularly, as often as we’d like, or as often as they did?’ I think that’s true globally. I would guess that, around the world, in God’s total working - especially in cutting-edge mission settings - more amazing, supernatural things are happening than we realize.” I believe that is a safe assumption and wise counsel. But that does not answer the question, ‘Why don’t we see these miraculous events today?’ Before we can answer that question, we must determine the purpose of miracles in the Bible. In his book on Systematic Theology, Robert Reymond writes, “The miracles of the Old Testament age authenticated Moses and the prophets as men of God while the miracles of the New Testament age authenticated in turn Christ and His apostles.” As the years progressed, men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded these miraculous events. Today we don’t see these miraculous events as often because we have the Bible. Everything we need to know concerning God, His prophets, Jesus, and how to have new life in Him can be found in Scripture. We do not need extraordinary events in order to believe in who God is and what He has done. That is why Paul says in Romans that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The nations of the Old Testament knew of God’s mighty hand of deliverance because of His supernatural acts. We get to experience God’s mighty hand of deliverance by hearing and responding to the gospel.
However, we must be careful not to say, “We never see anything miraculous today!” God created the universe and the natural laws to govern it. Surely, if with a spoken word, He can create the universe, then He can intervene and perform miracles. God is certainly able! The truth is, nothing is more miraculous than God Himself becoming man and dying in the place of sinners. It is miraculous that sinful man can be restored back to God. It is miraculous that Jesus’ reward becomes ours. It is miraculous that we, once enemies of God, are now adopted into His family. So if you are in Christ, rejoice in the fact that you have experienced the greatest miracle of all time -Jesus in my place!