Signs 1

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”             Exodus. 3:11-12 ESV

Have you ever thought much about God’s “signs,” the supporting evidence that his word, or his instructions, can be trusted? Sometimes, they are immediate, as, for instance, Gideon’s fleeces (Judges 6:36-40), or in the context of the passage above, the staff/snake, the leprous hand, and the bloody Nile water that Yahweh gave Moses for the Hebrew people (Exodus 4:1-9).

But it seems that more often, as in the verses above, the signs are only fulfilled in the future, and after the person addressed has acted in faith. So Moses, an eighty-year old man with an Egyptian death sentence hanging over his head, is told to go back to the Pharaoh with an outrageous request, one that is almost sure to be turned down flat. And what is the evidence that this whole thing is not, in Dickens’ words, “a piece of undigested beef”? One day in the future, Moses will “serve God on this mountain”! What?

Well, of course, that is exactly what happened. And what a day that must have been for Moses when, with all those delivered people around him, he fell on his face, perhaps at that same bush and praised the God of Gods, the Lord of Lords, for his faithfulness.

But what is the point of a sign like that? It is precisely about faith. Faith is about launching out into the unknown on the basis of a promise. That is what Abraham did, and it is what every spiritual child of Abraham has had to do ever since. But faith is not merely about launching into the unknown. That is not faith, but stupidity. The sign is the promise. There is something to aim at, something to believe for. We dare to believe that the One making the promise is trustworthy, and we stake our lives on it, frame the shape of those lives on it. That is what Biblical faith is about.

No, God does not usually give us unmistakable evidence before the fact to provoke us to action. But he does give us something to believe for. For us, the sign is that we will be raised from the dead, like Jesus. What a day that will be! Are you getting ready?

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