Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: A Promised Birth

Scripture: Genesis 18:1-16

After the birth of Ishmael, Hagar’s son, thirteen years passed before the Bible records another meeting between God and Abraham. At that time, names were changed, circumcision given as a sign, and the birth of Isaac foretold. (See Genesis 17.) But God didn’t stop there. Now He visited Abraham in a very human form, accompanied by two angels, to reaffirm the promise to both Abraham and Sarah.

Observations: Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t announce itself with trumpets or fantastical signs in the heavens. Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t look much different than the natural.

Genesis 18 is a prime example of this. Abraham’s visitors, at first glance, seem pretty normal. In fact, this passage describes them simply as “three men”—that is, they looked like typical humans. Moreover, they acted very human. They walked. They rested. They ate. They had feet washed. They talked with Abraham like any normal mortal.

So how do we know that there is even anything supernatural about these visitors?

They seemed to appear out of nowhere. Abraham was sitting in the tent door, able to see what was going on around him. Yet at one point he lifted his eyes, and there they were, standing before him. Not walking. Not approaching. Not climbing down some distant rise. One minute there is no one around. The next, the three visitors stood before him.

They knew more than ordinary strangers should. They knew Abraham had a wife. They knew her name was Sarah—a name given to her only recently. They knew when Sarah laughed at the prediction of bearing a son, even though no one could hear her (the Hebrew literally reads “laughed within”). They even knew about the promise from Chapter 17 that Sarah would bear a son—a promise, which Abraham may not have told his wife yet, considering her reaction to the news.

They predicted an impossible future. They predicted that Sarah would get pregnant. They predicted that she would bear a son—and would do so within a year’s time. Such precision would be amazing enough under normal circumstances. But Sarah was around 90 years old! There was no way she physically should be able to become pregnant or bear a son. What was predicted wasn’t merely improbable or implausible. It was completely impossible. Yet despite that, they accurately predicted the birth of Isaac.

Significance: When we read of the dramatic miracles of Exodus or the mind-blowing visions of Ezekiel and the Apostle John, it is easy to form a picture in our heads of how the supernatural ought to look. Now while the supernatural can and does manifest in such ways, that is not the only way. Sometimes the supernatural can appear quite ordinary, even mundane.

As a result, we must learn to keep our eyes open. While we don’t need to assign everything unexpected to the supernatural, neither should we expect the supernatural to always come with trumpet fanfare. Rather, we should live with a discerning eye, expecting the unexpected while learning to recognize the markers of the truly supernatural. 

No comments: