The Prophetic And The Miraculous

Elisha011In my recent discussion with atheists Arkenaten and company, I realized something critical—in debating the existence of God, presupposition is everything. If you presuppose there is no God as atheists do, then you demand evidence but rule out anything that smacks of “flying monkeys” or the like because whatever defies natural law is simply myth. This approach eliminates fulfilled prophecy as evidence of God’s work in the world or miracles because those will be dumped on the myth pile as nonsense believed only by the delusional.

I thought about this fact as I read the account in 2 Kings of the amazing miracles that occurred during the reign of unbelieving kings. These were not atheists but rulers who no longer worshiped the one true God or Him exclusively. They believed in prophecy and they experienced miracles. In some cases, the phenomenal work of God changed these kings, but more often than not, they went on acting as they had before—either taking God’s work for granted or crediting it to one of the false gods they worshiped.

The thing that I’ve overlooked in the past is how much prophetic and miraculous activity there was during those times. They did not have the Bible, but they were not short on God’s revelation. There were schools of prophets, and when Queen Jezebel, known for her worship of Baal, tried to eliminate the prophets of God, at least a hundred survived. A hundred! Survived!

For ages and ages, I’ve thought there were Elijah, Elisha, and the prophets who wrote the books of the Bible. Period. Well, not so. Scripture records the names of some twenty prophets who were actively communicating God’s message during the era of the Kings of Judah and Israel, but there is also mention of various schools of prophets or sons of the prophets living together in a kind of collective it would seem.

I’ve wondered about those. Did they inherit their job or need to be instructed in order to hear God’s voice? Did they volunteer to be prophets? Or were they “schools of prophets” like geese are gaggles? Just kidding on that last one.

Mostly the prophets recorded by name seemed to be called by God though Elijah apparently called Elisha to be his disciple, his heir apparent. I suspect those in the schools or the collection of sons of the prophets, then, would also have been called by God.

And the miracles seemed to be plentiful. Elisha was God’s instrument for an abundance of supernatural activity. He gave direction for Naaman, the Aramean military leader, to wash and be cleansed from his leprosy. Conversely, he spoke a word and his greedy servant Gehazi contracted leprosy. He gave a widow directions to gather many jars in order to collect a miraculous multiplication of oil to provide for her financial needs.

He spoke a word and a barren couple conceived. Years later, the son who was born died, and Elisha prayed and he was brought back to life. During a famine, he saved the lives of a group of those prophets by miraculously countering a poisonous ingredient inadvertently thrown into their stew pot. He even made iron float so that one of those sons of the prophets could retrieve an ax head that fell into the river.

There’s more—he repeatedly told the Israelite king where the Arameans were planning an ambush so he could avoid them. When the Aramean king sent a force to capture Elisha, he prayed and God opened the eyes of his servant so he could see the amassed forces of God surrounding the enemy. Then he prayed again and God blinded the eyes of the Arameans so that they didn’t know where they were and meekly followed Elisha where he wanted to take them.

I could go on. The point is, during this one period of history, there was an abundance of prophetic and miraculous activity. If people needed signs to believe in God, He gave those in abundance.

And yet, this period was one of great apostasy and ultimately of judgment. The various Israelite kings led their people astray. Baal worship was not just tolerated, but the religion of the ruling house. They instituted male cult prostitutes and prophets of Baal and sacrifices to Baal. They branched out to include worship of female fertility deities.

All the miracles and all the prophecy didn’t change the hearts of the kings bent on disbelief. Nevertheless, God was faithful to make Himself known. He gave them chance after chance to turn to Him in repentance. He allowed enemy armies to assail them, then miraculously delivered them; He brought famine then sent rain to relieve their drought. He foretold what He was about to do so that there would be no doubt His hand was on them. He wanted them to know that He is LORD.

And still, most went their own way.

All the evidence in the world can’t change a hard heart or make a blind man see. Instead, a person away from God must cry out to Him to give him sight, to soften his heart.

God alone can heal and save, but He doesn’t force anyone to come to Him. He pursues with everlasting love, and His abundant revelation—His prophecies and His miracles—testify of His faithfulness

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Published in: on November 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. You just wrote that despite all this activity by god and his prophets the people didn’t believe it. They were right there in the thick of it and did not belive it yet you expet me, 2000+ years later to believe the words in a book of dubious origin and known edits? The people who were right there to witness all the supposed miracles did not belive it. Why should I? because you have a book that say so? really? You might want to rethink that plan.

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  2. If you presuppose there is no God as atheists do

    Hi Becky

    I think you might have this backwards. The great majority of atheists today are not natural, rather have come from a position where they were told from a very young age, by adults, that a magical being existed. It was through honest questioning and inquiry into these claims that one arrives at the conclusion that there is no magical being.

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  3. I think you’re right that people won’t believe with any form of evidence in this day and age. Too many pieces of ‘evidence’ that were presented in the past have been discredited, and the rational and scientifically minded people of today recognise that even if we don’t why some things happen, there will be a thoroughly natural explanation at the root of it that we will understand some day. Because that has been the pattern of human understanding down through the ages.

    So yes you’re right, the need to believe in a god has very little to do with evidence, and as myatheist life points out, you’ve picked a perfect illustration.

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  4. All three of you seem to be saying the same thing, so I’ll try and answer in one comment. First, myatheistlife, these kings didn’t deny what had happened. Rather, it simply didn’t change them. So when Elijah, for example, challenged the prophets of Baal to a showdown, and God alone came through with fire from heaven, no one was saying it didn’t happen. Instead, the queen who was a Baal worshiper got so angry she swore she’d kill Elijah.

    When that Aramean king I mentioned learned that Israel was avoiding his ambushes because the prophet of God was warning them, he didn’t say, Well, that’s not happening because it’s impossible. Nor did he say, Then I need to give up my gods and worship Israel’s God. Instead, he too decided he’d kill the prophet.

    So the problem wasn’t believing the prophecies and the miracles. They knew they were real, but they rejected the Person behind the miracles.

    I think atheists do something similar by rejecting the Person behind creation because this universe is an amazing, complex miracle. To believe it is random is no different than those kings who saw what God did and kept on worshiping false gods.

    John, I don’t know the percentages of atheists who start from a presupposition of naturalism versus supernaturalism. I’m responding mostly to those I’ve had conversations with over the years. The common thread is, Show us the evidence. But when I do, it’s always dismissed as myth or unverifiable because it isn’t repeatable or some such rationale.

    The Bible, for example, is set aside though it was written over centuries by numerous writers who drew the same conclusions. But for those who don’t want to believe, the Bible isn’t evidence. And neither is fulfilled prophecy or miracles.

    Violetwisp, I was surprised at your statement: “the rational and scientifically minded people of today recognise that even if we don’t why some things happen, there will be a thoroughly natural explanation at the root of it that we will understand some day” (emphasis added). This reminds me of Arkenaten’s “intelligent people” statement—only people who agree with him are intelligent. So, too, apparently, only people who agree with the atheist position are rational and scientifically minded.

    I don’t find that to be true at all and could give you lists of names (I’ve done so in blog posts in the past) of people in scientific professions who hold to the veracity of miracles, prophecy, and other displays of the supernatural.

    The thing that no atheist can answer is how they KNOW that God isn’t in this far reaching multiverse we have only just begun to explore, as if they alone have this omniscient ability to rule out the possibility of His existence.

    Ironic, John, that there are any number of Christians who started as atheists and through their research realized God is true. So, there’s the problem I present in this post—people who see the same things but come to different conclusions. Why is that? I say it’s because of their presuppositions. They’ve said they don’t want there to be a God so they simply won’t believe in Him or anything that points to Him.

    I don’t see any evidence that contradicts this position.

    Becky

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