There are plenty of stories of signs and wonders in the Bible and each one varies on the scale of audience. In other words, some of these wonders are more private while others are more public. For example:
Turning Water into Wine:
Public, but also private. Only a hand full of people knew Jesus actually turned water into wine (John 2:9).
The Bleeding Lady:
Private, but also public. The lady grabs Jesus’ robe for a miracle for herself and Jesus addresses her amidst a crowd of people (Mark 5:25-34).
Alright, so there’s just a few quick stories to make my point. Now I could go through the whole Bible and address the level of publicity on each but… I’m not going to. Sorry. Instead, I’d rather shift our focus to astronomy!
Now I’m no NASA employee or scientist (though I have watched a fair share of science-fiction movies), but if I saw some of the weird astronomical events that happened in the Bible, I’d probably be freaking out a bit. For some, these stories are impossible science. For others, they are stories of signs, wonders, and faith.
Oh, and when your signs and wonders happen on an astronomical scale, you can mark it at obviously, obviously public.
The Day the Sun and Moon Stopped:
Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:12-14)
This story always catches me off guard. I mean, talk about the power of a request when God is on your side. Joshua actually asks God to stop the sun and moon in the sky? First off, where do you get the guts to request something like that? Secondly, why did God answer it? Surely there was a more convenient way to prove that God was on the side of Israel while they fought their battle?
Perhaps there was. But that’s not the God we serve. The God that we serve listens to our irrational, crazy, insane, scientifically-impossible requests and furthermore, He answers them! That’s the God we serve! A God who is willing to stop the earth in it’s place at the request of a mere mortal. That is our all-powerful God who puts miracles on display for an entire planet of human beings.
The Shadow on the Steps:
Now here’s something that will catch you off guard: when was the last time God moved the sun just to prove something to you privately? I mean, sure, if God is going to do an astronomical miracle, it makes sense that it would be on display for the entire earth. But we also happen to serve a God who isn’t restrained by human sense. He made the world and everything in it, and He can altar it to make a point—even if just to one person!
That’s the miracle that Hezekiah sees. He’s sick and wants a sign from God that he will be healed:
Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?” Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?”
So Hezekiah answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz. (2 Kings 20:8-11)
What we’re looking at here is an astronomical change just to make a point to one person! Don’t tell me that’s not mind-blowing.
The Star of the Magi:
If a new star popped into the sky tonight, I bet a good majority of us wouldn’t catch on to it until an astronomer let us know. Perhaps it was the same back in Bible times, but when a star popped into the sky then, the magi were on top of it, and followed it to find the birth of the new king, Jesus.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Alright, so this is a sign that Jesus was born and it was there for the whole world to see (whether the whole world noticed it or not). But I find it interesting at this moment that it was the Magi who noticed it and came to worship, because if you were going to group the Magi with anyone, it was with the demonic.
“No,” says one individual. “They were just scientists!”
Sure, they may have very well been scientists, but they were also still supernatural enough to believe that God had given them a dream. They were also supernatural enough to believe that a star was a sign and that they should follow it. And according to one source, the Magi were typically even more mystical than that:
The Magians were a priestly caste, and the office was hereditary. They uttered prophesies, explained omens, interpreted dreams, and practiced rhabdomancy or divination by rods: “They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood” (Hosea 4:12). Their notion of the peculiar sanctity of the elements led to a singular mode of disposing of the bodies of the dead: “They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth” (Psalms 79:2). (James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible, Rev. ed.]. (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998). 400.)
But the Magi were called in by King Herod to do their magic and figure out where this new king was, in the same way that King Nebuchadnezzar would call in various people of demonic power to decipher his dreams:
Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. (Daniel 2:2)
And just so you know, I’m using the NASB translation on all of this. The footnotes point out that the word “magicians” in this verse can be translated “soothsayer priests.” On top of that, the word “Chaldeans” can also translated “master astrologers.”
On a side note, Nebuchadnezzar always favored Daniel because he was wiser than all of these magicians, conjurers, and sorcerers because Daniel had the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is the real deal while any other means of supernatural happenings are demonic counterfeits.
These are the kind of people that that Herod and Nebuchadnezzar called in during their time, and it’s the kind of people society still calls in today. Horoscopes anyone? That’s exactly what the study of astrology is:
The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world. (New Oxford American Dictionary)
“Okay Jamin,” you say. “Why are you taking me down this road right now?”
“Because it’s awesome!” I say.
It’s a physical, natural sign to the world that a Savior has been born, but it’s also a sign in the supernatural! And not only that, but it’s a sign that is typically interpreted by demonic means! I can just see God laughing on up on His throne. “That’s right satan! Your people are figuring it out and bowing down to worship my Son even before my people are, and it’s only going to get better!”
That’s the God we serve.