I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me? [Jeremiah 32:27 (NLT)]
When talking with my husband about the story of Jonah, he said that the fish story was a “little too hard to swallow”— too incredible to believe. Miracles! The Bible is full of them and, since they are supernatural events, they’re all hard to accept as true. Improbability is the nature of miracles. Along with the fish saving Jonah, the story is filled with other miracles: the immediate calming of the storm once Jonah was thrown in the sea, the deliverance of the prophet from the fish safely onto the beach, Nineveh’s immediate repentance, the appointment of the plant, worm and scorching east wind as teaching tools, and even God’s revelation of Himself directly to Jonah! Yet, if we believe the Bible is God-breathed and without error, we don’t have the privilege of picking and choosing which miracles we will believe and which ones we won’t. We have only one choice to make—all or none!
James Dobson tells a story of a prisoner locked in solitary confinement in a pitch-dark cell. Unknown to his jailers, he had a marble. The isolated man managed to maintain his sanity in the blackness by tossing the marble in the air and then finding it again by listening for the sound when it dropped. One day, after tossing the marble into the air, there was dead silence. Sure that the marble must have dropped somewhere, the prisoner asked, “How can that be?” He felt all along the floor but the marble wasn’t to be found. Every day he searched for the missing marble but, unable to solve the mystery, he lost his mind. After the crazed prisoner died, the guard turned on the lights as he entered the cell to remove the man’s body. High in the corner was a large heavy cobweb and, inside the web, was a brightly-colored marble. Looking up at it, the jailer asked, “How can that be?”
Although there was a clear answer to each man’s question, it was one neither man would ever know or understand. That’s our problem with miracles—there is an explanation but one that we never will comprehend. God can do things we can’t—things that we’ll never understand, not that we won’t try to unlock their mystery. Some people explain the parting of the Red Sea by saying the Jews actually waded through a “reed sea” in 6-inches of water. Their explanation falters, however, when they can’t explain how Pharaoh’s army managed to drown in a puddle. Some say that Moses knew the tides, in which case it is still a miracle that the Jews were there during low tide and the Egyptians were fool enough to cross at high tide. Others say a 63-mph wind was blowing that pushed back the water and exposed a land bridge for the Jews. Again, it’s a miracle that Moses was at the right place at exactly the right time to make a safe crossing and that the wind miraculously stopped at the perfect instant to flood the Egyptians.
The existence of a physical explanation for a miracle isn’t necessary and it is useless to expect one. We can’t dismiss the Bible’s miracles as fabricated tales of wonder or base our faith only on those acts of God that can be replicated. Just because something is beyond the scope of a scientific explanation or our limited understanding doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. God created the world and designed the laws of nature and He can follow or suspend those laws as He so chooses. God is God and we are not.
With more than 150 miracles recorded in the Bible, I’m not going to try explaining the how of Jonah being saved by a fish, three men emerging unscathed from a fiery furnace, manna appearing every morning, a widow’s never-ending supply of flour and oil, a burning bush that doesn’t incinerate, Lazarus rising from the dead, or any other Biblical miracle. Finding a logical explanation for what transcends science and nature can make us as crazy as the man with the disappearing marble.
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. [Saint Augustine]