Belief And Miracles

When God was preparing to give His Law to the Israelites, it was to the miraculous nature of their exodus that He turned for confirmation of His authority. After all, what good is a law if the one giving it cannot prove he has the power to enforce it? In both Exodus 19:3-8 and Exodus 20:2ff, God goes back to the escape from Egypt in establishing the basis for His authority as Lawgiver. Perhaps this is because it was a very recent event – a very tangible display of His power to this generation – and would still be fresh on their minds. But miracles continued to be one method of establishing His authority throughout the Bible narrative. God showed His approval of prophets and judges through miraculous signs and wonders also – Gideon (Judges 6), Samson (Judges 15-16), Samuel (1 Samuel 1:27, 12:18), Elijah and the drought (1 Kings 17-18), or Daniel and his ability to interpret dreams, to name a few examples. He confirmed His choice of Saul as king by imbuing him with the gift of prophecy (1 Samuel 10:9ff). When God wanted to confirm that it was His power working in Hezekiah’s life, He performed a miracle (Isaiah 38:7-8). In all these examples, God was confirming or validating His claim to authority over His people, and, by extension, all the world.

Power In Recollection, Not Observation

Let us reconsider our original example by noticing what is written in Deuteronomy 11:1-7. God is careful to note that it was not their sons or descendants who observed the miracles by the Red Sea or in the wilderness. It was them, that generation. But the power of those miracles would be felt in recollection. Even though their descendants did not have the privilege of seeing the miracles firsthand, they were nevertheless expected to take them to heart. Like them, therefore, we are without excuse when we choose not to believe. We might complain that we need more evidence, but God is saying that His deeds of the past should be evidence enough! The argument that one would believe if he only saw miracles falls flat on its face when we consider a sad fact about that generation of Israelites in the wilderness – almost every one of them died without receiving the reward of their inheritance in Canaan (1 Corinthians 10:5, Hebrews 3:16-19).

That generation of Israelites literally saw a miracle every day in the form of the pillar of fire and cloud that led them through the wilderness, to say nothing of the food, water, and unnatural condition of their clothes (Deuteronomy 8:4). Yet even in this miracle-saturated environment, almost every one of them lacked genuine belief in God! Perhaps this is why the writer of Hebrews does not offer additional miraculous evidence for God’s authority, but rather a sobering reminder of the disbelief of a truly privileged generation (Hebrews 3:7-15).