Monday, July 10, 2017
God’s Miraculous Power
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the (old) altar of the LORD that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel (Jacob), 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the Name of the LORD. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), prove today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command. 37 O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that You, O LORD, are God and that You have brought them back to Yourself.” 38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—He is God! Yes, the LORD is God!” 1 Kings 18:30-39 (NLT)
The Elijah and Elisha narratives found in the great middle section of the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings reveal the living God’s miraculous power and presence in His world. The Holy Bible does not use a single word to define miracle but blends three terms: wonders, mighty works, and signs. Miracles include striking events such as childbirth, food provisions, bodily healings, future predictions, and resurrection (e.g. see 1 Kings 17:1, 17-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7; 2 Kings 5:1-15; Jeremiah 25:11-12; Matthew 1:18-25; John 11:38-44).
In the Holy Bible, God’s miracles are nearly all clustered during Israel’s great Exodus from Egyptian slavery, the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and the ministries of Jesus the Messiah (Christ) and His faithful apostles (e.g., see Exodus 13:17-14:31; Deuteronomy 34:10-12; 1 Kings 18:16-39; 2 Kings 4:42-44; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 23:8). However, God’s miracles are revealed throughout the Old and New Testament (e.g., Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34-35; Daniel 6:25-27; John 4:48; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 19:11-12; Rom. 15:17-19; Hebrews 2:4). Signs, wonders, and miracles confirmed God’s true prophets and servants (e.g. see Exodus 4:1-9; 1 Kings 17:24; John 10:38; John 14:11-14; Acts 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Hebrews 2:3-4). Miracles are a gift of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:10-11, 28-29).
In fact, miracles are at the heart of the Christian faith. The Holy Scriptures’ greatest miracles were Jesus’ incarnation as God in human flesh and resurrection from complete death (e.g., see John 1:1-5, 14; Luke 24:1-12). Without Jesus’ miraculous birth and miraculous resurrection, there would be no Christmas, no Easter, and no Christian faith. The Holy Scriptures reveal that Jesus the Messiah was accredited by God with miracles, wonders, and signs (e.g., see John 2:1-11; John 4:48; Acts 2:22). God did miracles through Jesus to authenticate Jesus as the Christ and His Son (see John 20:30-31; John 21:25). After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, Jesus’ faithful apostles and disciples continued His miraculous ministry as God’s power – the Holy Spirit – worked mightily through Jesus’ faithful followers (e.g., see Acts 5:12-16; Acts 6:8; Acts 7:35-36; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; Romans 15:17-19). Truly, the living God is all powerful!
Usually, miracles reveal God’s power and activity (Acts 2:19; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; Acts 8:9-13; 14:3; 15:12). Sometimes miracles and wonders are the work of Satan and his evil representatives and false prophets (e.g. see Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Matthew 24:24-25; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 13:11-14; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:19-20). These evildoers and false workers produce bad fruit and seek to draw people’s hearts and minds away from wholehearted allegiance and faithfulness to the only true and living God (see Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 8:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12).
Miracles by the living God’s power are always redemptive and eschatological. Divine miracles and wonders always point and draw people to belief, faithfulness and love of the living God (e.g. see Exodus 4:1-5; Exodus 10:1-2; Psalm 65:8; Psalm 72:18-19; John 4:43-54). Miracles from God always lead to His glory. Even more, miracles point toward the future restoration and renewal of the heavens and earth at Jesus’ second coming. Miracles anticipate the renewal of the heavens and earth and paradise restored. In paradise restored, there will be no more want, hunger, pain, or fear. Keep in mind that miracles in the Holy Bible restore to pristine condition and rectify wrongs in our world. An example of miracles restoring a wrong condition is found at 2 King 2:19-22 where the prophet Elisha brings restoration to bad water and unproductive land. In Elisha’s healing of the waters and restoring the land, we have a foretaste of restoration of paradise and the removal of the curse of which creation was subjected through Adam and Eve’s original sin (see Genesis 3:1-24). Miracles not only bring restoration and redemption for people but also to creation itself. Adam and Eve’s original sin subjected creation to decay and frustration. Creation longs for its redemption (see Romans 8:20-22).
Amazingly, the Elijah and Elisha narratives from the Old Testament overflow with miracles of God. The Elijah and Elisha narratives are found in the great middle section of the book of Kings from 1 Kings 17:1 through 2 Kings 13:25. The miracles of Elijah and Elisha do not make them carnival magicians. Instead, the miracles testified to Elijah and Elisha’s divine message from the living God. The preceding book of Deuteronomy promised prophets after Moses that would also perform great miracles, signs, and wonders and their words would always come true (see Deuteronomy 18:14-22). Through His faithful prophets, God revealed His providential hand and lordship into His world (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 4:42-44).
Elijah and Elisha were Old Testament prophets that ministered to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The living God raised up the prophets Elijah and Elisha to combat the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Israel. The living God had called His people Israel to exclusive allegiance and worship to Him (see Exodus 20:1-3, 23; Exodus 34:14) and to tell the world about Him as the only true God (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). From the moment that God chose Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham and his descendants were to bring God’s blessings to “all peoples” (e.g., see Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8). God intended Israel to be His witnesses to the nations (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). God chose Israel as a “kingdom of priests” and a “treasured possession” to reflect His goodness and righteous standards to the world (see Exodus 19:5-6).
Sadly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel started mixing devotion to the living God with made-up gods and other foreign religions. Starting with evil reigns of King Jeroboam and his successor kings such as Omri and Ahab, Israel’s faithfulness to the living God was threaten with the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, creation of high places, and the worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah (see 1 Kings 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 16:25-26, 31-33).
During the ninety-century BC, Omri and Ahab claimed the foreign god Baal had dominion over the rains, waters, and fertility. The ancient Israelites begin worshipping Baal believing Baal ensured fertility of the land and the production of crops. In ancient Canaanite mythology, Baal was depicted as the “rider of the clouds” holding a thunderbolt in his right hand living on a mountain in the north, a Mount Zaphon. The Canaanites believed Baal rode the clouds as the “rider of the clouds,” and they considered Baal a warlike weather god. The billowing dark clouds of a storm were viewed as Baal’s battle chariot in which Baal rode, thundering forth his voice and carrying lighting as his spear.
However, the miracles of God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha revealed that the true and living God was the true “Rider of the Clouds.” The Elijah and Elisha narratives proclaimed the true and living Lord God of Israel (also known as Yahweh, El Shaddai, and Elohim) ruled the rains, fertility, and fire and that Baal was only a false delusion and dead (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:25-29; 2 Kings 1:2-17; 2 Kings 2:11-12). The contest of the living God verses Baal at Mount Carmel demonstrated Baal had no command over storm, rain, fire, or fertility as those powers belong to Yahweh (see 1 Kings 18:16-39, 41-46)!
The Old Testament repeatedly declared that the title “Rider of the Clouds” rightly belongs to the Lord God (see Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4; Isaiah 19:1). The Lord God of Israel rides the heavens in His storm chariot as the Head of the heavenly armies (see Psalm 68:17; Psalm 104:3; Ezekiel 1:4-9; Joel 2:5; Habakkuk 3:8; Zechariah 6:1-2; 1 Chronicles 28:18). The living God’s chariot is in the clouds and whirlwind (see Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13), and He controls storm, the fire, and the clouds (see Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4; Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1; Jeremiah 4:13; Ezekiel 1). The glory cloud, that pillar of fire and smoke that attested to the presence of the living God, preceded Israel into battle and during their wilderness wander (e.g., see Exodus 13:21-22; Joshua 10). God and the armies of heaven fought on Israel’s behalf from within the cloud at the Red Sea (e.g., see Exodus 15:4, 19). The Holy Bible proclaim to have God’s prophets means to have the presence and power of the living God’s heavenly armies (e.g., see 2 Kings 3:14-19; 2 Kings 6:8-12, 17).
Even more, Elijah and Elisha’s miracles pointed to Jesus’ coming miracles found in the Gospels. For instance, the multiplication of loaves and fishes by Jesus reflected the miracles of Elijah multiplying the widow’s bread and oil (see 1 Kings 17:7-16) and Elisha multiplying the oil supply for the widow and her two sons (2 Kings 4:1-7; see also Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-13). Jesus was the prophet like Elijah and Elisha, but even greater because Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God (see Mark 1:1; John 20:-3031). With His Son Jesus as well as for His faithful prophets, God multiplies what His prophets were already given to supply the need of others for His glory. Even more, the true and living God stands ready to multiply and help everyone in need who faithful love and seek Him first (see Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:7-11).
The New Testament notes many parallels between the life of Jesus and that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Not the least of these is the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven by the glory cloud as the prophet Elijah was received into God’s glory cloud (see 2 Kings 2:11-12; Acts 1:9-11). When the prophet Elisha saw the whirlwind, the fire, and horses, the symbolism was unmistakable (see 2 Kings 2:11-12). The warrior God, the captain of the armies of heaven, had come to retrieve His servant and catch Elijah up into His war chariot. The living God’s angels reminded Jesus’ disciples of what Jesus had already taught them, that “this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (see Acts 1:11). Jesus will come again as the Son of Man “coming in the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (e.g., see Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27).
When Jesus returns in the glory clouds, He will come as the Divine Warrior in His storm chariot as the Head of the armies of heaven. The clouds will be dark, laden with flashes of fire and a ripping wind as the resurrected Jesus will return to judge the earth and to establish His kingdom (see Revelation 1:7). The resurrected Jesus is not only the great Prophet and Son of God but He is also the Captain of the Lord’s armies (see Revelation 19:11-16). God and His Son Jesus stands ready to fight any battles of His faithful servants as He goes before His faithful servants, God’s children, in any battle. Jesus has already defeated Satan, death, and the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:56-58).
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God most often appears as the Spirit that empowers and enables prophecy. Many passages associate the gift of prophecy with the possession of the Holy Spirit (e.g., see Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Kings 2:15; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 7:12; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Spirit often “clothed” God’s prophets (e.g., see Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18-19; 2 Chronicles 24:20). With the coming of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus brought God’s abundant Spirit (see John 1:14, 18), and He has graciously poured out the Holy Spirit to all faithful believers. The true and living God and His Son Jesus freely and graciously gives salvation and the power of God’s transforming Spirit to anyone through faith and acceptance of Jesus and the Gospel message (Galatians 3:2, 5, 14; see also Acts 2:38-39; Acts 11:15-18; Romans 8:9-11; Romans 10:14-17; Ephesians 1:13-14). In the church today, God’s Spirit is not given to just a few, but to all through faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah (e.g., see 1 John 4:13-15). All believers of Jesus have been given God’s prophetic function to tell the world about the living God and His Son, Jesus (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). God has graciously given believers not a spirit of timidity but a Spirit of power (see 2 Timothy 1:7). Faithful believers of God are shielded by His power (see 1 Peter 1:4-5).
Is there idolatry today? A great part of the Old Testament is concerned with idolatry. Idolatry means worshipping any object, person, and thing other than the true and living God. During the Old Testament, the ancient Israelites had a hard time seeing that worshipping a few statutes or carved images interfered with their relationship with the one true God. Sadly, the ancient Israelites worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also known as Israel), but they mixed their worship of the true God with other gods from foreign countries as well as golden calves and high places. The ancient Israelites ignored God repeated warnings through His prophets that God hated this “mixed” religion. The first commandment demands our exclusive allegiance and loyalty to God (see Exodus 20:3) and to His Son, Jesus the Messiah (see Luke 9:57-62). The living God and His Son Jesus are One (see Deuteronomy 6:4; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11, 22). Jesus is God (see e.g., John 1:1-5, 14; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6). The living God is a jealous God, and He will not share His worship with any other humans nor other gods (e.g., see Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24). The living God is a consuming fire, and He demands our wholehearted allegiance to Him first (see Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:28-29). To a generation looking for signs and wonders, “we preach Christ,” who is the wisdom and power of the living God (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
The New Testament broadens the definition of idolatry. The Apostle Paul said that greed is idolatry (see Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Things that people get greedy for – money, sex, power, and even food – functions as little gods. If anything or person comes before the living God, we are guilty of idolatry. As Jesus taught, we must seek God FIRST (see Matthew 6:33). In our lives, when circumstance seems overwhelming and the difficulties seem beyond our ability to overcome or even cope, God then shows us His miraculous power. God’s power is shown most clearly in our weakness (see 1 Corinthians 1:25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Where our resources and efforts are insufficient, the miraculous power of God comes to our rescue. As the Elijah and Elisha narratives reveal, God’s care and blessings are available to all people, both rich and poor (e.g., see 2 Kings 4). Just ask God if you need God’s miraculous power today (see Matthew 7:7-11). There is no room for double-mindedness and no room for doubt (1 Kings 18:21, 39; see also James 1:7-8). No one can serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God demands a single-minded and wholehearted commitment to Him as one’s only God!
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Butler, Trent C. Holman Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Dillard, Raymond B. Faith in an Age of Apostasy: Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha (P and R Publishing, 1999).