The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament
June 8th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-8-80 8:15 a.m.
I have prepared four sermons; in my studying it just appealed to me, the mighty miracles of God. First, and the one delivered this morning, The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament; the next one, The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary; the next one, The Seven Mighty Miracles of All Time; and the fourth one, The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World.
Today, The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament. I ran into a fellow yesterday, and he said, "I see you are going to speak on the seven mighty miracles of the Old Testament. I just tried to think," he said, "what would be those seven, and one of them I know will be the feeding of the five thousand?" Actually, you may be surprised at the seven that I have chosen in reading the Old Covenant, the old Bible, the Old Testament. When we think of the mighty miracles of God, we think of the intervention of God in nature, something that we call a miracle, such as the heaping up of the waters in the Red Sea when Israel passed through on dry land [Exodus 14:21-31], or such as the fire that fell down from God that burned up the sacrifice and the altar and even the dust of the ground on Mt. Carmel in the day that Elijah prayed for the manifestation of the power and the presence of God [1 Kings 18:36-39]. That’s what we think of.
Of course, those are tremendous manifestations of the omnipotence of the Almighty, but to me, a greater miracle, and one that includes all of the others, is the miracle we read about in the eighty-ninth Psalm: the great faithfulness of God in preserving a seed and in building a people through whom should come the redemption and salvation of the world. So the seven that I have chosen out of the Old Testament – which to me are the great, mighty manifestations of that faithfulness of God – the seven I have chosen concerns the preservation of that seed and that people through whom should come the salvation and redemption of the world.
It all began in Genesis 3:15 when the Lord said to Satan, to the serpent, "The Seed of the woman shall crush your head." That is the protevangelium, the first pronouncement of the gospel of salvation. And the rest of the story in the Bible is the fulfillment of that promise: the faithfulness of God; the Seed of the woman, "the Seed as of one," as Paul described it, referring to Christ [Galatians 3:16]; and the seed as of a people, referring to the chosen family through whom redemption should come.
Now, these seven miracles of the providence and overshadowing elective purpose of God in guiding through that tremendous, redemptive story. The first miracle is the miracle of Noah and the ark, and I call it the miracle of preservation [Genesis 6:1-10:32]. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, it says that God saw the wickedness of man that it was great, and every imagination of his heart was evil. And God repented that He had made man, and it grieved Him, and the Lord said, I will destroy him from off the face of the earth. "But" – and verse 8 is the miracle – "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." And God said to Noah, verse 14: "Make thee an ark of gopher wood," of cypress wood, "and daub it within and without with pitch." And the dimensions of the ark: four hundred fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, forty-five feet high – the dimensions of a great sea-going vessel today. And in that preservation, God kept a seed. Two by two the animals entered into the ark, seven if it was a clean animal for the purpose of worship and sacrifice. And God brought into the ark Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the three sons and their wives, of Noah and his wife, and preserved the seed, the promise God would one day redeem this lost and fallen humanity. That is the first great miracle of the Old Testament, the miracle of preservation.
The second mighty miracle of the Old Testament I call the miracle of promise [Genesis 12:1-15:18]. It was made to Abraham in a day when the whole earth was filled with idolatry. And God called Abraham out of Ur of Chaldea and promised him a land that he should have afterward for his seed, and that in him all the families of the world, of the earth, should be blessed. And Abraham, a sojourner and a pilgrim, made his way to the land of Canaan, and he dwelt in that land as a stranger in tents. And in age having no child, having no heir, Abraham came before the Lord and said, "Lord, you promised me a son, but no son and no seed has been given me. And mine heir is this Eliezer of Damascus, who is the steward in my house, and I am an old man, and Sarah my wife is an old woman." And God brought Abraham out beneath the chalice of the sky and said, "Look up toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them; so shall thy seed be that will proceed out of your body." And Abraham believed God, and his faith was counted for righteousness [Genesis 15:1-6].
And the Lord said to Abraham, "Take you now a heifer of three years, a she-goat of three years, a ram of three years, a turtledove and a pigeon, and take them and divide them. And the heifer and the she-goat and the ram he divided one against the other, and on one side placed the turtle dove, on the other side the young pigeon. And Abraham, dividing them one against the other, then passed through them: his commitment to the faith that God would keep His promise. And Abraham waited for God to pass through them, to keep His promise; and the day passed and the evening came, and God hadn’t come down, and God hadn’t passed through those separated animals.
But when the evening came, a great, deep sleep fell upon Abraham and a horror of darkness overwhelmed him. And in that terrible darkness the Lord spoke to him and said, "Your seed shall be a stranger in a foreign land and be afflicted for four hundred years, and then will I visit them and bring them out." And it came to pass, when God had said those words, that behold there passed through those separated animals a smoking furnace and a flaming torch: God! [Genesis 15:9-18]. The smoking furnace represented the affliction of the people of Abraham in a foreign land for four hundred years in Egypt, and the burning torch represented the presence of God in their midst. The second great miracle, the miracle of promise.
I wish I had time to speak of the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis, when God said to Abraham, "Offer up this child, Isaac, this lad, the one through whom all the redemption of the world is to be wrought. Offer him up." And Abraham, still believing God, laid the lad upon an altar, raised the knife to plunge into his heart, believing – the eleventh chapter of Hebrews says – that God was able to raise him from the dead [Hebrews 11:17-19]. Rather than doubt the promise of God, Abraham believed that if he took the life of that boy, God would raise him up from the dead: the miracle of promise.
The third mighty miracle of the Old Testament, to me, is the miracle of deliverance [Exodus 2:1-20:17]. Moses grew up in the court of the Pharaoh. He was the heir-apparent to the throne, but seeing his people in oppression, he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of being ruler and Pharaoh of Egypt for just a lifetime. He forsook Egypt and forty years was a shepherd in Midian in the Sinai Desert [Exodus 2:11-15].
And while he was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro on the back side of the desert, he saw a bush burning unconsumed. And turning aside to look at that marvel, the Lord God spoke to him out of the flame and said, "Take off your shoes. The land whereon you stand is holy ground." And God said, "I remember My covenant with Abraham, the promise I made to Isaac and to Jacob, and I have heard the cry of My people. It has come up unto Me. Now I will send thee unto Pharaoh, and thou shalt bring forth My people out of the land of Egypt." And God gave Moses three signs of authentication: one, casting his rod down, it turned to a serpent; two, putting his hand in his bosom, drawing it out, it became leprous; and three, taking water, pouring it on the land, it became blood [Exodus 3:1-4:9].
And Moses appeared before his people in the land of Egypt, and after the ten plagues he led them out. And he led them through the waters of the Red Sea that heaped up on either side, and he led them in the wilderness wanderings where they were fed manna from heaven, and where God appeared to Moses on top of Mount Sinai and delivered him the covenant of the law [Exodus 20:1-17]. This is the third mighty miracle of God: the miracle of the deliverance of His people.
The fourth mighty miracle of God is the miracle of election. This is the story of the sixteenth chapter of 1 Samuel: God rejected Saul, and Samuel grieved and mourned for Saul. "And the Lord said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him? Take now thine horn of oil and go. I will send thee to Jesse, the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king from among his sons" [1 Samuel 16:1] .
And God elects. Judah elected God when he offered himself in behalf of his brother, Benjamin [Genesis 44:30-34]. Ruth elected God when she pled with Naomi that she might accompany her back to her home in Bethlehem [Ruth 1:16-17]. And God elected one of the sons of Jesse to be His king over His chosen people.
So when Samuel came with his horn of oil to anoint a new king over Israel, he said to Jesse, "Call your sons to the sacrifice." And the first boy stood before Samuel, tall and strong and handsome. And Samuel said, "Surely, the Lord’s anointed stands before me." Eliab stood there, a very prince: charming, strong, and beautiful. But God said to Samuel, "You look on the outside, on the countenance, but I look on the heart. I have rejected him." Then Jesse calls his second boy to stand before Samuel. His name was Abinadab. He was fine and strong and handsome, like his older brother Eliab. But God said, "I have rejected him." Then Jesse calls his third son, Shammah, to stand before Samuel. And Samuel said, "Surely, this is the Lord’s election." And God said, "I have refused him," and all seven of Jesse’s sons passed by in front of Samuel, and in each one, God said, "I have not chosen him."
In despair, Samuel turned to Jesse the Bethlehemite, and said, "I cannot understand. God sent me here to anoint one of your sons to be king over Israel, and God hath rejected all seven of your sons." And Jesse said, "I forgot." Can you imagine that? "I forgot. I have a little boy who is out in the fields, keeping watch over the sheep, but he’s just a lad." And Samuel said, "We’ll not sit down. We will remain standing before God until he comes." And Jesse sent and fetched – isn’t that a good word? – fetched little David, and he came. He was unshaven. He was a boy. He was ruddy-faced. He had been out there singing to the flock. He was singing those psalms that we read, and the angels bowed down to hear that boy as he played on his harp and sang to his sheep. And God said to Samuel, "Arise, anoint him! This is he!" And Samuel anointed David in the midst of his brethren. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forth. And in the seventh chapter of the second Samuel letter, God said to David, "I promise you a son, a seed, who will sit upon thy throne forever" [2 Samuel 7:12-13]. This is the miracle of election, God choosing that lad to be king over Israel.
Now, the next mighty miracle of God, the fifth one, is the miracle of the prophets, and I call it the miracle of the remnant [1 Kings 17:1-19:18]. There is no other religion in the world that has prophets, just the religion of Judeo-Christianity. That’s all. No other religion would dare say any word about the future. It would be most apparent that they were deceiving the people, not knowing. But God sees the end from the beginning, and the Lord spake through the prophets things that should come to pass, and the prophets, speaking in the name of the Lord, brought hope and assurance to the people that belonged to God. I call it the miracle of the remnant.
Elijah suddenly appears in the seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings. Just out of nowhere, there stands Elijah before Ahab. And in the confrontation between Jezebel, Ahab, and Elijah, in despair Elijah cried, saying, "And I, I only am left." But the Lord God said, "Elijah, I have seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal nor have kissed his hand"; always that remnant.
And in the days of the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah the prophet said, "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant . . ." Isaiah 1:9, "we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." But out of all of the distresses and captivities of Israel, God always preserved that small remnant.
In the days of Jeremiah and the Babylonian captivity – in chapter 25 and in chapter 29 – Jeremiah says, "The captivity will last seventy years. And at the end of seventy years, God will bring you back into the land of Canaan" [Jeremiah 25:11, 29:10]. How many returned out of all of the hosts that were carried away? Only forty-two thousand returned [Ezra 2:64].
But it was the seed. It was the people. It was the promise. And out of those forty-two thousand, God recreated the land, the city, the temple, awaiting the great day when the Messiah should come. The prophets: the miracle of the remnant. God is faithful. He will always have a witnessing people in the earth.
It might be well for us to remember that when we think that the day is so dark and evil is so overwhelmingly present, but God always has His people.
The sixth of the great, to me, miracles of the Old Testament is the miracle of precise prophetic prediction. I am overwhelmed by that when I read these prophets. In the ninth chapter of Daniel is one of the most unusual of all of the prophecies in the Bible. I think it to be the keystone of the prophetic future; the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel.
This is the vision and the prophecy of the seventy weeks. God says to this prophet-statesman, Daniel – he’s not a preacher. He’s not any ecclesiastic. He’s not a priest, doesn’t even belong to the family of priests. He’s not a Levite. He belongs to the family of Judah, and he is a prime minister of the Babylonian empire, and later Persian. God says to that statesman:
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks. And after three score and two weeks, shall Messiah be cut off, and the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary;,and he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease . . .
I want you to look at the precise, precise prophecy that was given to Daniel. Let me illustrate that to you. If you can know the future for five minutes, I can tell you how to be a billionaire overnight. Five minutes, or let’s say three minutes, or let’s say one minute, if the tickertape can carry it that fast. Dan, all you’ve got to do up there in that Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, Smith, Beane, and all the rest of that bunch up there – all you’ve got to do, Dan, to be a billionaire is to know the future two minutes. That’s all, just two minutes. Buy a stock before it goes up, and then sell it before it goes down. That’s all you’ve got to do, and you’ll be a billionaire in no length of time. Just two minutes. I wish you’d give me good advice about what I ought to do.
Man, these prophets are telling about things that are coming to pass hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years yet to come: In the case of Isaiah, over six hundred years; in the case of Genesis 3:15, thousands and thousands of years. That’s God.
Now here is an instance of precise prediction [Daniel 9:25-26]: God says to him three different groups of heptads, sevens. The first is seven heptads, forty-nine years; the next is threescore and two heptads, sixty-two [heptads] – that is, four hundred thirty-four years; and then the other is one heptad, seven years, set apart by itself. That is a prophecy that is given to Daniel, and when it came to pass, it came to pass exactly, precisely, to the minute as God said to Daniel: "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." That was under Artaxerxes Longimanus, and that is described for us in the Book of Nehemiah, chapter 2, verses 1 through 8, and that happened in 444 BC. From that date, there will be seven heptads, forty-nine years, and in that forty-nine years Jerusalem was rebuilt with its walls and its ramparts. Then he says, threescore and two heptads, sixty-two heptads, four hundred thirty-four years, Messiah will be crucified. And to the exact moment, Jesus the Messiah was crucified on Mount Calvary, on Golgotha. "Messiah shall be cut off."
Then there is one heptad remaining: that’s the seventieth week, and the seventieth week is divided into two parts. And that heptad awaits; it’s the Book of the Revelation, from chapters 4 through chapter 19, and that week cut in two is where you get that oft and familiar reference, "a time, times, and half a time" [Daniel 7:25], forty-two months [Revelation 13:5], one thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation 12:6], three and a half years. That’s the day, the week of the great tribulation, when the antichrist – and he refers to him: "The prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end wars and desolations are determined" [Daniel 9:26]. That’s the antichrist. He makes that covenant with the people of God, this chosen seed, and he breaks that covenant in the midst of the week, and it’s divided into those time, times, and half a time [Daniel 9:26-27].
The remarkable – to me, miraculous – revelation to Daniel of the course of human history is unbelievable! In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, he saw the course of all history to the consummation of the age; to the coming of Messiah the Prince in His millennial glory [Daniel 2:36-45]. First, there was a golden head; that’s Babylonia. Then there were silver arms; that’s Medea and Persia. Then there was a bronze thigh; that’s the bronze kingdom of Greece. Then there were those two straight, stalwart, strong, legs; that’s the Eastern and the Roman Empire. Then there will never be another world kingdom, never.
And whenever you think that Russia, who is a modern colonial power beyond any voracity we’ve ever known, when you think of Russia – and little-by-little, they are taking out the chunks of the whole earth – and you stand in abject fear of what tomorrow may bring, just remember what God said to Daniel: "There will never be another world empire, never." And remember what Ezekiel says in chapters 38 and 39. When Russia comes down to the Middle East – and it’s very apparent to us today why, because of its vast oil resources – when Russia comes down to the Middle East, that’s when God will destroy her forever and forever; that’s Daniel, and that’s the miracle of precise prediction, the sixth mighty miracle of the Old Testament.
Now the seventh one, the seventh one: the seventh mighty miracle of the Old Testament is the miracle of God’s grace and redemptive love for the whole world. Jonah said to God in the fourth chapter of his little book, Jonah said, "Was not this my saying when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. That’s the reason I didn’t go" [Jonah 4:2]. Now you look at that, the seventh mighty miracle of the Old Testament: God said to Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh and cry unto her," and Jonah said, "I’ll not go."
It is hard for us to realize the hatred and bitterness of the Israelite, the Jew, toward Assyria. To the Israelite, the Assyrian was a veritable ogre. They had wasted the people, carried them into captivity, destroyed them. And yet God has called Jonah the prophet to go preach unto the City of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire on the Tigris River. Jonah wouldn’t go. And he is a type of Christ in this: he was in the belly of that prepared fish and was resurrected from it, and when he went to Nineveh to preach, he did it with a vengeance! "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed! Hallelujah! Praise God! Yet forty days and this whole city and empire will be destroyed!" [Jonah 3:4].
But the king and his court and the people sat in sackcloth and in ashes and asked God to save them. And the Lord looked down and saw the king of the Assyrian empire, and all of his court, and even the beasts on which they rode, all of them covered in sackcloth and in ashes. And when Nineveh turned, God turned; when Nineveh repented, God repented. And the Lord said, "In My great grace and mercy, I shall spare the king, and his court, and his people, and his empire." And it made Jonah furious. "I came here to watch the fire of heaven fall down upon these Assyrians, and isn’t that what I told You, Lord? And isn’t that why I fled? Because You are a God of great mercy, slow to anger, and of wonderful kindness" [Jonah 3:5-4:2].
Dear people, you can’t imagine what kind of a book this is, the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament. How the Jew hated a Gentile! He was a dog of a Gentile, and how especially hated the oppressive Babylonian and Assyrian. And yet the prophet was sent to bring a message of salvation to these who had destroyed them and were oppressive.
For the love of God is greater
Than the measure of man’s mind,
And the heart of the Eternal is
Most wonderfully kind.
[from "There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy," Frederick William Faber]
There are no people God does not love. There are no souls for whom Jesus did not die. All over this earth, in every language and tongue, wherever there is a man, there is somebody for whom Jesus died. That’s a miracle of love and grace, and aren’t you glad?
I knelt down by the side a few days ago of a man who had been, in the eyes of the world, a most vile sinner. And when he prayed, asking God to save him, this is what he said: "Lord, Lord, how I thank You that You reached down to save, in this dark and sinful world; and especially, Lord, that Your hand of mercy reached down even further to touch me." All of us are like that: "Lord, Lord, thank You for the grace and the mercy that reached down to save this lost world; and especially, Lord, for the grace and mercy that reached down to touch me." It is a wonderful gospel, it is a glorious message: the miracle of God and His outreaching love and mercy.
In our singing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, today I receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior," or, "I’m bringing my family into the fellowship of this dear church, and I’m coming now."
Make the decision in your heart, and in a moment, when we stand singing this appeal, stand coming down that stairway, coming down this aisle. Do it now. Make it now. All of us will be quiet before God, nobody moving except as we move toward the Lord. And you’ll be dismissed for Sunday school, but right now, all of us waiting, all of us praying, all of us believing God, in His mercy, will send us a precious harvest. And if that harvest is you, God has spoken to you, answer with your life. Do it now. Make it now, while our ministers are here, while our deacons are here, while the Holy Spirit is here, while God is here, to welcome you into the faith, into the kingdom, into his church, while we stand and while we sing.