Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for January, 2014

What About Miracles?

Skeptical people point to the miracles in the Bible as reason for thinking that the Bible is not true.  Miracles like the parting of the Red Sea seem too fantastic to be true.

I researched some web sites about the parting of the Red Sea, and some suggested that a strong wind might have blown the waters apart, and the Israelites walked across a hidden reef.  Such scientific or natural explanations have the effect of taking God out of the equation.  But actually, I’m willing to accept that God had the ability to part the waters.  After all, if God created the whole world, then parting the Red Sea would be a relatively simple task.

I too was skeptical about miracles, but as I learned more about the Bible, there were a few things that I noticed.

Miracles didn’t happen all the time.  Sometimes, there were hundreds of years between miracles recorded in the Bible.

There are very few spectacular miracles, like the parting of the Red Sea, and a lot of small miracles, like Jesus healing a crippled man.

All miracles had a purpose.  In the New Testament, John the apostle used the term ‘signs’ to mean miracles, and all these signs were meant to point to Jesus.

During the time of Moses and Joshua, God performed miracles to show his power and authority to the young nation of Israel and surrounding nations.  The ironic thing is that even though the Israelites witnessed the miracles firsthand, they still didn’t take God seriously, and they complained, grumbled, were unappreciative, and drifted away from God.

Tangible proof itself doesn’t always convince people to believe.  Even today, people are sometimes skeptical about even tangible evidence, they may be quick to think there’s a conspiracy, or a cover up, etc.  So when I read about Biblical miracles, I try to put them in perspective with the overall message and not get hung up on trying to prove them.  The miracles actually are not the main point, they are just details to support a broader message.

Next:  Jonah Swallowed by a Big Fish

The Ultimate Bad Thing to Happen to Anyone

Probably the ultimate example of suffering in the Bible is Jesus being crucified.  Crucifixion was the worst method of execution that the Romans could devise.  The word excruciating is derived from crucifixion, and means ‘extremely painful, causing intense suffering, torturing’.  The movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is probably a good example of a portrayal of the horror of crucifixion.

God set Jesus up as the ultimate example of sacrifice and service to others.  Jesus always taught about serving others, and that following him would not be easy.  In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.  Remember that the cross represented crucifixion – not exactly positive advertising to attract new followers, yet this demonstrates the idea that sacrifice is required to achieve a greater good.

But even if you suffer for following Jesus, God will be there to help you.  In John 16:33, Jesus says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10:  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 1:5: For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Jesus suffered a terrible death on the cross, but according to the Bible, he rose from death to show that those who believe in him will also live, and be saved from the penalty of sin.  So according to the Bible, even though people may suffer all kinds of problems in life, we can have hope if we look to Jesus.

Next: What About Miracles?

Bad Things Happened to John the Baptist

From Matthew 14:1-12

John the Baptist was God’s messenger who prepared the way for Jesus.  He was totally in tune with God, he was doing God’s purpose, yet he didn’t live a comfortable life, and was ultimately jailed and executed.

John was jailed and beheaded by order of Herod the Tetrarch because John had called out Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod, and because it pleased him, he promised to grant her request.  Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for John’s head on a platter.

John doesn’t even get executed because of his association of Jesus, he gets executed because he called out someone’s sin. In other words, he didn’t die because of a noble purpose, he died because of hatred and someone’s desire to cover up their sin, which makes his death even more tragic.

On top of that, Jesus didn’t lift a finger to save John, who was even his relative.  He just received news of John’s execution from his disciples.

Why did God allow all of this to happen?  Actually what happened to John the Baptist was nothing compared to what happened to Jesus, and actually may have been a hint as to what will happen to Jesus.

Next:  The Ultimate Bad Thing to Happen to Anyone

Bad Things Happened to Joseph

Even though people may wonder why God allows bad things to happen, Joseph is an example of a person who was in tune with God but still suffered a lot.

For the story of Joseph, read Genesis 37-41, I’ll summarize here.

Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob, who gives him an ornate robe, and his brothers are jealous of him.

Joseph is a little arrogant, and because of a dream he had, he tells his brothers that in the future, they will bow down to him.  This makes the brothers hate him even more.

Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt, he ends up in Potiphar’s house.

Potiphar’s wife comes on to Joseph, but he refuses, which makes her angry so she frames Joseph, and he is put into prison.

Joseph interprets the dreams of a fellow prisoner who is the Pharaoh’s cupbearer, predicting that he will be released.  Joseph asks the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him, but the cupbearer forgets him.

After two years, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph after Pharaoh starts talking about his dreams, and the cupbearer basically says ‘I know someone who can help you”.

Because Joseph can interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he is put in charge of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.

Even though God was with Joseph, Joseph still suffered majorly for many years.  If the story of Joseph is actually true, then we have to accept the idea that God can still allow bad things to happen, even to God’s people.  According to the Bible, the world is imperfect because of sin, but God can help us and still wants to help us.

Next:  Bad Things Happened to John the Baptist