Monday, April 24, 2023

Dying Tigers, Red Skies and Miraculous Signs

Suggested Reading: Matthew 15:29-16:4

When it first came out, my family and I went to see We Bought a Zoo at the theater. The movie is inspired by the true story of a journalist whose wife had died, leaving him to struggle to grieve and connect with his kids. Trying to start somewhere fresh, they buy a house that happens to come with a zoo attached. Through the course of the movie, Dad deals with an aging, dying tiger who, by all accounts, needs to be put down but Dad doesn't want to accept it. So he keeps looking for other things, other explanations, anything to prevent him from putting the tiger to sleep. All along he knows what has to happen but simply chooses not to believe it. He doesn't want it to be true so he refuses to accept it, regardless of the evidence, at least for a time.

That dad would have found a kindred spirit in some of the Pharisees and scribes during Jesus's ministry. In Matthew 15, Jesus casts out demons, heals the sick and feeds four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. But in Matthew 16, immediately after the feeding, the Pharisees and scribes come to Jesus and demand that he give them a sign. If I were Jesus, I would have said something like, "What do you think I've been doing? Do people heal the sick and feed thousands with next to nothing every day?" But Jesus answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red. ’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening. ’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away (Matthew 16:2-4, HCSB).

Now, God doesn't seem to have a problem with people asking for confirmation. He allowed Gideon to put out fleeces as a test to confirm God's instructions. In some places in scripture, God demands that people ask for a sign because he wants to confirm His word. So what is Jesus upset about? Well, any person who wanted to look honestly could have seen all the miracles Jesus was doing as the very signs they were looking for. But the Pharisees weren't interested in confirming the truth about Jesus. They asked for more evidence because they refused to believe the evidence in front of them.

What about you? What has God been trying to say to you that you are still "praying" about? Is there something you know God has called you to, but you are still seeking confirmation when you already know, deep down, exactly what God wants you to do? When we do that, when we know exactly what God is saying and refuse to listen, when we keep asking for confirmation or continued prayers for guidance about something God has already made clear to us, Jesus calls us a wicked and adulterous generation. Don't pretend a lack of understanding in order to avoid what God is saying to you. Stop stalling and obey God now. It will be a lot easier on you in the long run.

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