NOAA-Storm from space

Magic vs Miracles: Storms

Continued from Magic: Part 1 and Part 2.  Now I can finally get to the exact question I was asked on facebook!  “Can [non-Christian powers] cause storms?”

Giant waves on the seafront at Seaham, County ...

But the Lord brought a great storm on the sea. The wind made the sea very rough. The storm was very strong, and the boat was ready to break apart…The sailors were very afraid. Each man began praying to his god.

The captain of the boat saw Jonah and said, “Wake up! Why are you sleeping? Pray to your god! Maybe your god will hear your prayer and save us!”

Then the men said to each other, “We should throw lots to find out why this is happening to us.”

morro-rock-big-waves_mg_2346So the men threw lots. The lots showed that the troubles came to them because of Jonah. Then the men said to Jonah, “It is your fault that this terrible thing is happening to us. Tell us, what have you done? What is your job? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”

Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the land and the sea.”

Jonah told the men he was running away from the Lord. The men became very afraid when they learned this. They asked Jonah, “What terrible thing did you do against your God?” Jonah 1 Easy-to-read Version

English: Four coloured 6 sided dice arranged i...Here we have magic and God’s power face to face.  The men knew that the gods could cause storms, especial out of season (the Mediterranean has a storm season just like the monsoon and hurricane seasons).  They knew the gods would show them who was the “guilty one” by using lots (something like short straws, dice or other “chance” objects).

Look at how they reacted when they realized it was the “God of heaven who made the land and the sea” who did this.  I would have been “very afraid,” too!

If you continue reading, you will see that as soon as they sacrificed Jonah to God by tossing him in the water (It is nice to see they hated to do this, they were honorable men), the storm stopped immediately.

North Pacific storm waves as seen from the M/V...This reminds us of someone else who could do the same thing: Jesus (Mk 4:39; Matthew 14:32).  In Mark’s story of Jesus’ nap, He just spoke, “peace, be still,” and the winds and water obeyed (the water had to obey, or the  waves would have continued for some time).  In Matthew’s account of Jesus foot-surfing to the disciples, Jesus didn’t even have to talk; it just calmed down as He climbed into the boat.

I’m sure there are a bunch of other stories about people groups who are familiar with demonic power (we call them animists), but this one will have to do for today.

BTW, Praise God, He doesn’t insist that we get our act all together before He helps us.  None of God’s earthly children are perfect, but He cares for us anyway!

Here are some quotes from the Plymouth Pilgrims during their first Summer in New England:

Bradford wrote, “the Lord seemed to blast… and threaten… sore famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from the 3. week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat…  the corn began to wither away.”

Its raining in my backyard-Hooray

Its raining in my backyard-Hooray (Photo credit: aussiegall)

“they set a part a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And he was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own & the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them…. toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing, & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence,…  the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken the decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold.”

An Indian named Hobamak who witnessed this event said to a Pilgrim: “Now I see that the Englishman’s God is a good God, for he hath heard you, and sent you rain, and that without storms and tempests and thunder, which usually we have with our rain, which breaks down our corn, but yours stands whole and good still; surely your God is a good God.

The Indians could get their gods to send rain, too.  But when it came, it was as bad as the drought.

Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
Who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains.
He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.  Psalm 147:7-9,10

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Church Window, Wikicommons

Science in the Bible: Magic Part 2

Continued from  Part 1:

Jesus said, “False messiahs and false prophets will come and do great miracles and wonders, trying to fool the people God has chosen, if that is possible. Now I have warned you about this before it happens.”  Matthew 24:24,25 Easy-to-read Version

Hieroglyph for “Magician”

Today it’s time to learn about “magicians” in the Bible.

The first and last mentions of magicians are really interesting (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 5:9-11), both tell about how magicians were expected to interpret dreams and couldn’t do it for real.

The strongest magicians in the Bible were those who mimicked Moses before Pharaoh.  They were able to:

  • Turn rods into snakes (Exodus 7:11,12)
  • Turn water into blood (Exodus 7:22)
  • Brought frogs up on the land (Exodus 8:7)

That last one is highly questionable since God was doing the same thing all over the land.  How would you know whether it was the magicians or God?  After that, they had to give up.  Only God could produce lice, hail and all the other terrible plagues.

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Church Window, WikicommonsThe other magicians in the Bible served the Babylonian king.  Their job seems to have been to tell the king what his dreams meant.  But, when God really did send a dream, these men were helpless to respond.

Next, we have the word “sorcerer.”  This word is used to describe the magicians, is also mentioned in the law and here:

[King Manasseh] caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.   II Chronicles 33:6 KJV

This is almost an exact quote from Moses’ command to never do these things in Deuteronomy 18:10.  King Manasseh’s willingness to kill his own children was directly tied to the rest.  What do they mean?

  • Observed times: remember all those observatories the ancients made?  They believed that when the stars and planets were in special places it was very bad/good to do certain things.  It also can mean to watch for shapes in clouds or other nebulous things (crystal balls?)
  • Enchantments: augury: to observe signs and omens.  Black cats, comets, and other stuff would be in this catagory
  • Witchcraft: the Bible doesn’t really tell us what this means except that it is bad enough to earn you the death penalty under the law.  All dealings with unholy spirits would be included along with drug/poison use (Revelation 9:21)
  • Dealing with a Familiar Spirit: we have one clear example of this with Saul and the woman of Endor (I Samuel 28:7-25).  This tells us that people would try to talk to the dead through such people.  The amazing thing is, when the dead Samuel actually showed up, she was shocked and realized what was going on right away.  This shows that whatever usually happened, real humans weren’t involved.
  • Wizards: those who practice all of these things

All of these in themselves are a big pile of nonsense, but there is a power behind them.

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Revelation 9:20 

The idols couldn’t walk, but there was something else there: demons.  Get yourself some good missionary stories and find out what’s going on here.  I highly recommend Otto Koning’s CD series where he came from a denomination that didn’t even believe in demons, but he learned better (and the power of Jesus over them in the 20th century).  My kids and I just finished reading Joanne Shetler’s story of translating the New Testament for the Balagao people of the Philippines, powerful and encouraging stuff.

Notice, these magical arts never helped anyone.  The best people could hope for was to be left alone so bad things wouldn’t happen.  Demons want you scared, weak, poor and eventually dead.  God is the one who loves you enough to help you in big and small things.

Parents, you aren’t doing your kids any favors pretending there isn’t a war going on in the unseen realm.  If you don’t prepare them, the Enemy will still do all he can to entice them.  Knowing that there is real power lined up against us, but our God is far stronger is the best protection we can have.  It’s how the Bible deals with these things!

“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  I John 4:4 EtrV