1. Confirmed The Men Of God
2. Confirmed The Word Of God
Text: I Kings 17:17-24
17 And it came to pass after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick, and his sickness was so severe that no breath remained in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death?” 19 And he said to her, “Give your son to me.” Then he took him from her bosom, and he carried him up to the upper room where he was dwelling and laid him on his own bed. 20 Then he called out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have you also brought calamity upon the widow, with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and called out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray you, let life return into this child.” 22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and life returned into the child, and he came to life again. 23 Then Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” 24 So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know this You are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth!”
His statement was so striking I knew I would never forget it. We had been discussing that the Bible was true, without error, even in reporting miracles. When I told him that we did believe Jonah was swallowed by the whale, he replied, “Pastor, if the Bible said Jonah swallowed the whale, I would believe that too.”
Miracles are reported in the Bible. But do divine miracles still happen? Thousands upon thousands flock to see what they think are miracles the Shroud of Turin, statues that cry, pictures that shed tears, shrines where miraculous appearances took place, faith healings, and speaking in tongues. But are these truly miracles from God? How can we be sure? On the basis of this text I want to address the subject of miracles. It reveals “Divine Miracles: Confirmed The Men Of God, Confirmed The Word Of God.”
The prophet Elijah had told king Ahab of Israel that a three-year drought would occur. The Lord then told him to flee to the brook Cherith, where ravens brought him bread and meat to sustain him. When the brook dried up, the Lord told Elijah to go to a widow’s house in Zarephath of Sidon. Soon after the widow’s son died. Elijah stretched himself out on top of the boy and prayed, “O Lord my God, I pray you, let life return into this child.” The Lord heard Elijah’s plea and restored the boy’s life.
When the widow saw the miracle, she said, “Now I know this You are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth!” The miracle convinced her that Elijah was a man of God and that he spoke the Word of God. Miracles served these purposes.
Just what is a miracle? A miracle is an unusual act, call it a supernatural occurrence, which reveals the hand of God. The Lutheran Cyclopedia defines it as “an unusual act of divine self-manifestation in the spiritual and natural world.” A divine miracle sets aside the laws of nature with a supernatural intervention.
In the Bible miracles are called three things: works of power, signs, and wonders. Let me discuss each of these briefly. First, a miracle is a work of power. No human or natural power is capable of performing it. It is supernatural, such as turning the water of the Nile into blood, splitting the Red Sea, raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, and raising the widow’s dead son.
Like the raising of the widow’s son, the miracle is accomplished by God, not by man. It was the will and power of God that raised the boy back to life, not Elijah’s command that compelled God to restore the boy’s life. Elijah did nothing more than pray. So watch out for those who supposedly perform miracles by commanding God to do them. No person can command God to do anything. God himself works miracles where and when he wishes. Luther once explained God’s miracles are few because God does not use miracles where he has given the natural means for solving the problems.
Second, miracles are signs, or attesting miracles. These miracles verify or support something, such as the power, the authority, the Word, and the kingdom of God. While many miracles are reported in the Bible, they occurred only during three key periods of history when God used them to defend and to deliver his people, or to uphold his Word. The first period occurred at the time of Moses to deliver God’s people from bondage in Egypt and to establish the Jewish nation of Israel from which Christ would come. The second period occurred at the time of the prophets when the Old Testament church was under siege from false prophets, false teachings, and persecution. The third period occurred at the time of Christ and his apostles. Other than these three periods, miraculous signs have been far and few between.
Third, miracles are called wonders. They are wonders, for they are supernatural occurrences that defy human and natural explanation. These wonders, as well as the signs and works of power, can only be accepted by faith as the divine works of God, and they are done for the strengthening of faith, which is why they were recorded in the Bible for us.
The world’s unbelievers do not accept the miracles by faith. They rationalize them away and invent natural explanations for them. For example, they say Jesus never walked on water but on a hidden reef that the disciples could not see. They say Jesus did not rise from the dead because he was never truly dead, or because his disciples stole his body from the tomb and made up the story of his resurrection.
We know by faith miracles have occurred, for the Bible tells us that they have. God’s Word does not lie or is not mistaken. And miracles have served a divine purpose, as even the poor widow of Zarephath recognized. Upon seeing the miracle of her son’s resurrection, she told Elijah, “Now I know this You are a man of God.” The miracle confirmed that Elijah was truly a man of God, just as other miracles confirmed other men of God.
Permit me to cite some examples. When the Lord told Moses from the burning bush to return to Egypt to tell the Israelites the Lord had appeared to him, Moses feared the people would not believe him. To convince the people that Moses was a man sent from God, the Lord empowered him to perform the miracles of changing his staff into a serpent, and making his hand leprous, and changing the water of the Nile into blood.
Likewise, Jesus’ miracles confirmed he was sent from God. When Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead, his miracle convinced the people that he was a great prophet from God. When Nicodemus came to Jesus one night, he told him, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one is able to do these signs that you are doing unless God be with him.”
Miracles also confirmed who was an apostle. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “To be sure the signs of the apostle were performed among you with all perseverance both in signs and wonders and miracles.” The Book of Acts tells us, “A sense of awe kept coming upon every person; not only many wonders but also signs kept taking place through the apostles.”
When we hear about miracles today, then, let us understand that divine miracles have confirmed the miracle worker was sent from God. But this does not mean today that we can conclude that every reported miracle means the miracle worker must come from God, for the devil mimics God’s miracles to confuse and mislead people into following false teachers.
Jesus warned us that false teachers would come who would perform miracles. He said, “If anyone should say to you, ‘Behold! Here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform great signs and wonders, in order to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand.”
The Holy Spirit also warned us through Paul that the Great Antichrist would come performing miracles by the power of the devil. He described the Great Antichrist as “. . . the one whose coming is in accordance with the working of Satan in all power and signs and lying wonders”
You may be wondering, “Do you mean that miracles could really happen? That such reports are not mere superstition and fraud?” Yes, miracles could happen, because the devil is trying to mislead people away from the truth for their salvation to deceive them into believing lies. Whether the Lord is causing miracles to happen today is another question.
Now how can we tell the difference between a genuine miracle done by the Lord and a lying wonder done by the devil? This brings us to the second point about miracles in our text. When the widow saw her son alive, she told Elijah, “Now I know this . . . the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth!.” When she saw the miracle, she saw Elijah spoke God’s Word. Divine miracles confirm the Word of God.
Other parts of the Bible also tell us miracles confirm the Word of God. Mark 16:19, 20 states, “So then, the Lord Jesus, after having spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord was working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” The Book of Hebrews tells us that God was “. . . testifying at the same time with them both by signs and wonders and by various kinds of miracles and by gifs of the Holy Spirit according to his will.”
When the apostles went out preaching the gospel, the Lord himself confirmed the gospel with the miracles he enabled them to perform. The miracles confirmed the Word, and especially the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. A miracle, then, should draw us to the Word of God for our salvation, not away from it.
We know the Word and its message. It tells us that we are sinners who have broken God’s law and have brought God’s punishment on ourselves. It tells us that we cannot save ourselves. It tells us our salvation is found in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, who paid for our sins with his holy, innocent life. It tells us that all who believe this good news will be saved and have eternal life. This is the Word and the message from God. A miracle of God will draw us to this Word and message. A lying wonder of the devil will draw us away from this Word and message and direct us to other things.
The lying wonders of the devil have been, and still are, leading people away from the Word of God and the message of salvation in Christ. Miraculous appearances of Mary at different places in the world have been reported to have happened. Shrines have been built in those places and people are encouraged to go there, to give money there, to find spiritual enrichment there. But the Word of God says no such things. Those miraculous appearances of Mary have led people away from God’s Word and the message of Christ, so they must have been the lying wonders of Satan, not the miracles of God.
Thus we see how we must test whether an occurrence is a miracle of God or a lying wonder of the devil. We go back to the Word of God. If God’s Word does not command us to go here or there, or to do this or that, yet some miracle is used to encourage us to do those things, we know the miracle is not from God but the devil, in which case we must avoid it.
Christ forewarned us about the coming of false prophets who would perform lying wonders. The Holy Spirit forewarned us about the Great Antichrist whose coming would be in accordance with Satan’s lying signs and wonders. The Bible forewarned us that the devil masquerades as an angel of light. Having been forewarned, the Lord tells us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
Let us test the spirits of the miracle workers. They claim to be from God, so what they do should acknowledge and direct us to Christ and to the gospel of salvation. If what they say in connection with their miracles tells us anything other than that, or directs us away from simple faith and living our Christian lives, we know they are not from God, no matter what their miracles may be. The Bible reveals what the spirit of God is like. It says, “We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Miracles, and what is said in connection with them, can only be for the truth of God’s Word, if the spirits performing the miracles are from God. If what they say is contrary to the Word of God, they are not spirits from God.
So while the reports of miracles capture our attention, let us not be captured by devilish spirits. If something is a miracle of God, it will confirm the message of God from a man of God, as it did for the widow of Zarephath. Amen.