Many times today, I have heard people say that if God would only give them a sign, then they would believe in him. But what kind of sign would be a true indication? They haven’t defined what that sign would be, just that they won’t believe until they see some sort of evidence.
Well, we can tell from the book of Deuteronomy that signs are not the answer to people believing in God or not. Time after time, Moses is upbraiding the people for their lack of faith, regardless of the signs they have personally witnessed.
Deuteronomy 6:22-23 – “Before our eyes Yahweh inflicted great and devastating signs and wonders on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his household, “but he brought us from there in order to lead us in and give us the land that he swore to our fathers.
Deuteronomy 11:2-3, 7 – “Understand today that it is not your children who experienced or saw the discipline of Yahweh your God: His greatness, strong hand, and outstretched arm; “his signs and the works he did in Egypt to Pharaoh king of Egypt and all his land; … “Your own eyes have seen every great work Yahweh has done.
Deuteronomy 1:30-33 – “Yahweh your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. “And you saw in the wilderness how Yahweh your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. “But in spite of this you did not trust Yahweh your God, who went before you on the journey to seek out a place for you to camp. He went in the fire by night and in the cloud by day to guide you on the road you were to travel.
In spite of the signs they had seen, they refused to believe. Yet even as he is concluding his narrative, Moses provides us a glimpse into why they had rejected the signs:
Deuteronomy 29:2-4 – Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything Yahweh did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land. “You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. “Yet to this day Yahweh has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.
Now we get to the meat of it; regardless of the amount of signs they experienced, Yahweh had not provided them “a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.” Why would he do that? Doesn’t he want everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4)?
We can understand this a little better as we find Yeshua, quoting the prophet Isaiah, saying the same thing to the religious leaders of his day:
Matthew 13:10-17 – Then the disciples came up and asked him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables? ” He answered, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. “For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. “That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. “Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. “For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back — and I would heal them. “Blessed are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear. “For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see but didn’t see them, to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them.
When he spoke in parables, it was with the idea of sharing the truth of the kingdom with them but also providing them opportunity to reject it. The ones who were sincere in seeking God would understand the parables for what they were, while those who were not sincere in seeking God would reject them.
This was how the apostle Paul also understood the principle of receiving spiritual truths:
1 Corinthians 1:19-23 – For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Messiah crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the nations.
For Moses, Yeshua, and Paul, those who would not understand their message have been kept from understanding something, not necessarily because of some direct intervention of God, but by the condition of their own hearts.
The idolatry of ancient Israel hardened them to the signs they received. The pride of the religious leaders in Yeshua’s day prevented them from hearing the truth of his words. The philosophy of the elite that Paul preached to prevented them from accepting his message. Yet through all of these rebellions, the larger purpose of God was ultimately served.
When we share the clear measure of the word of God with those around us and they don’t receive it, it could be that God has not yet prepared their hearts for understanding at that moment for some other greater purpose he has. This requires a great measure of faith on our part. However, we can be sure that as Paul told Timothy, God desires that we intercede on behalf of others that they would receive the truth:
1 Timothy 2:1,3-4 – … I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, … This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We are not to determine how the seed may grow or what kind of soil it lands on, only that we are faithful in the sowing of it.
Acts 13:46-47 – Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you [Jews] first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the nations. “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the nations to bring salvation to the end of the earth.”
We should remember that through the discipline of unbelief in the wilderness, God hardened and prepared a people to have the strength to take the land he had promised them. That was the larger purpose. And through the discipline of unbelief in New Testament Judea, God’s largest purpose was then realized: his word was spread throughout the world, and even down through the millennia, to us.
Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
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