A Covenant Between God And Abram
In Genesis chapter 15, God established a covenant with Abram, and He ratified it with a miracle. And the miracle was the “sign from God” that He had accepted Abram’s offering. I mentioned last week that all the miracles that would occur from this point on, would be for one of two possible reasons.
One reason for miracles would be for the judgment and destruction of ungodly people. And whatever occurred to bring about the judgment, would be something that was beyond the laws of nature. That way it would be proof positive that it was God causing it to happen. The miracle was always a “sign from God” of His displeasure. If some catastrophe happened, and it killed to someone, or if it killed many people, you might just think; Well, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if what happened was something that went beyond the laws of nature, well, then you know God made it happen!
And the other reason miracles, was for salvation, as God worked toward fulfilling the covenant He made with Abram. And again, a miracle has to be something that’s beyond the laws of nature, otherwise it wouldn’t be a miracle. If something happened that was beneficial to you, you might just think you were fortunate. Things just went your way. But if what happens is beyond the laws of nature, well, then you know that it’s God who made that happen.
Miracles of Salvation and Judgment
It was probably at least 15 years after God had ratified His covenant with Abram, that another miracle occurred. The Lord Himself appeared to Abram by the Oaks of Mamre. And He told Abram about two miracles that were going to occur. First, God promised to give Abram a son, when the laws of nature would have said, you’re too old to have children. And secondly, God told Abram that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, with fire from heaven. And of course fire doesn’t come from heaven, so that would be a miracle.
But one miracle was going to be for judgment, and one was going to be for salvation. As you continue through the bible, when you see miracles occurring, you’ll be able to attribute those miracles to either one or the other purpose. Either the judgment of man, or the salvation of man.
Sometimes you’ll see a miracle occur, that serves to satisfy both purposes at once. You’ll remember how the great flood in Noah’s day was exactly that kind of miracle. It enacted judgment on evil people, while at the same time, giving salvation to the righteous.
Judge the Oppressor and Save the Oppressed
Another example of that would be the miracles that God performed in Egypt, when He sent Moses to free the nation of Israel from their captivity. The miracles that brought judgment on the Egyptians, also served to bring salvation to Israel. Especially the final miracle, the parting of the Red Sea; It brought salvation to Israel, and moments later, it brought destruction to the armies of Egypt.
It says in Exodus 15:21 & 22; “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord swept the sea by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
And verses 27 & 28 say; “So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to it’s normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it. Then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them. Not even one of them remained.”
God Saves His People, and Judges His People
As Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, we see miracles occurring for the salvation of Israel. There was the giving of the commandments written in stone, by the finger of God. A sign of God’s authority over His people, but also a sign of His concern for them, in regulating their conduct.
There was the miraculous feeding of Israel, with manna from God, clearly a sign of God’s provisions for His people. And then of course there’s the water which came out of a rock, another sign of God providing for his people.
Do you remember the time though, when God provided meat for the whole camp of Israel? He provided meat in the form of quail that was brought into the camp by a strong wind from over the sea. But that was another case of a miracle with a dual purpose. It says in Numbers 11, verse 1; Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord. And when He heard, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed of the outskirts of the camp.”
It sounds like the fire of the Lord consumed some of the people that were complaining. There’s judgment, and there’s also a sign, that you had better stop complaining that you’re not satisfied with what God is giving you!
So the people said in verses 5 & 6; “We remember the fish which we used to eat, free in Egypt..” They were slaves in Egypt weren’t they? But now they think that they were free back there. They think they’re slaves NOW, in the wilderness. You get the analogy don’t you? We were slaves to sin, before we were forgiven and freed from sin. But most people don’t see it that way. Most people think that they’re free in the world, to do anything they chose. And they’re right, to a degree. Everyone is free to do whatever they choose. But you’re going to be a slave to whatever it is you choose.
Romans 6:16 says; “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness.”
So the Israelites were saying that they’d rather be slaves to Pharaoh, than to God. They said; “We remember the fish which we ate, free in Egypt. The cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic. But now, our appetite is gone! There is nothing at all for our eyes except this manna.”
They didn’t like freedom from Egypt did they? More importantly, they didn’t like being slaves to God! And people are no different today. And God is no different either. If we don’t want to be with Him, we don’t have to be.
Here’s what God did back then. God spoke to Moses, and said in verses 18 thru 20; “And say to the people; Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow you shall eat meat. For you have wept in the ears of the Lord saying; Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well off in Egypt. Therefore, the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor ten days, nor twenty days. But a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him saying; Why did we ever leave Egypt?”
So Moses wants to know how God is going to accomplish this, out here in the wilderness. So he says in verses 21 & 22; “The people among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot, yet Thou hast said; I will give them meat for a whole month? Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?”
And God gives Moses about the most simple answer that He could, and it’s what people today still don’t understand. God said, in verse 23; “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” Is the Lord’s power limited?
Now verses 31 thru 34; “Now there went forth a wind from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side, and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and from two cubits above.” A cubit is about 18 inches. Can you imagine quail, three feet deep, all around the camp, on both sides, for as far as you can walk in a day? Boy, talk about getting sick of quail!
“And the people rose, all day and all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered the least, gathered ten homers)..” An homer is about 11 bushels, so the people who gathered the least amount of quail, gathered at least 110 bushels of quail. “..and they spread them for themselves all around the camp.
And here’s what happened next; “While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague. So the name of that place was called ‘Kibroth-hattaavah’, because there they buried the people who had been greedy.” Those words, ‘kibroth-hattaavah’ mean.. “the graves of greediness”.
So I guess that proves, that if you don’t want to be with the Lord, you don’t have to be. God will arrange for you to not be with Him. What should have been a miracle of salvation from the people’s hunger, the providing of meat, turned into a miracle of judgment upon the people’s greed.
Why did God perform this miracle? You might say that it was for a sign of what God accepts, and of what He doesn’t accept. The miracle teaches a lesson. A lesson both for those people, and for us. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says; “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
You’d think that we wouldn’t need any more lessons like that, to convince us of the seriousness of being content with what God has given us. But God is patient, He gives us more examples in the bible to teach us this lesson, and more lessons. More miracles, and more lessons, for the sake of either salvation, or judgment, or both.
Just a quick question here.. Is a miracle that specifically enacts judgment upon people, done for the purpose of judgment only, or is it also for salvation?
Learn From God’s Judgments
With the time we’ve got left, we’ll look at just one more miracle, and one more lesson. It’s from Numbers chapter 16. It’s the story of Korah’s rebellion. It’s a story of judgment enacted upon unrighteous people. for the sake of helping us be saved.
Here’s how the story begins, in Numbers 16:1 thru 3; “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action. And they arose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said..” Now remember that Moses and Aaron were specifically chosen by God, to lead Israel.
So, they said to Moses and Aaron; “You have gone far enough, for ALL the congregation are holy, every one of them. And the Lord is in their midst. So why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Too often, people don’t like the way God chooses to do things, and so they want things changed. It doesn’t matter what God has ordained, they want to change things.
So Moses said to Korah, in verse 5; “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring near to Himself, even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself.”
Now I’ll make a long story shorter, and skip a lot of details. It says in verse 19; “Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.” And here’s what God said to Moses and Aaron in verse 21; “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly!”
So here’s what happens according to verses 22 thru 30; “But they fell on their faces and said; O God, Thou God of the spirits of all flesh; When one man sins, wilt Thou be angry with the entire congregation? Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying; Speak to the congregation saying; Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him. And he spoke to the congregation saying;”
“Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be swept away in all their sin. So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their children and their little ones. And Moses said; By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds, for this is not my doing.”
“If these men die the death of all men, or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But, if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing, and the earth opens it’s mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.”
Moses said; “If an entirely new thing” occurs. In other words if a miracle occurs. then that miracle will serve as a sign from God, of judgment! And, it will serve as a sign of salvation, for anyone who’s willing to learn from it.
So what do you think happened? “Then it came about as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them split open, and the earth opened it’s mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah, with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them, went down alive to Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.”
“And all Israel who were around them, fled at their outcry, for they said; The earth may swallow us up! Fire also came forth from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.” Verses 31 thru 35.
Next week, more miracles and more lessons to learn from. Thanks for being with me.