The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament
June 8th, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES OF GOD
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-8-80 10:50 a.m.
On radio and on television, it is an inestimable gladness, an ineffable happiness to welcome you as fellow listeners and fellow worshippers at this eleven o’clock hour of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
In my studying things come to me, of course. The Bible is an illimitable reservoir of inspiration. I got to thinking about the mighty miracles of God, the Lord’s intervention in human history and in human life and even in the natural wonders of the world. So as I studied and turned it over in my heart prayerfully, I had to divide it into four messages: one, The Seven Mighty Miracles of God in the Old Testament; second, The Seven Mighty Miracles of God at Calvary; and third, The Seven Mighty Miracles of God of All Time; and last, fourth, The Seven Mighty Miracles of God at The End of the World. And the first message is delivered this morning, The Seven Mighty Miracles of God in the Old Testament.
Now immediately one would suppose that, in thinking through the mightiest of God’s miracles in the Old Covenant, you would think of God’s intervention in nature, such as the heaping of waters in the Red Sea and the passing of the children of Israel through on dry land. Or you would think of the fire that fell down from God in heaven on the sacrifice and altar of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Now of course those are wondrous interventions of God, but when I turn it over in my mind, when I read the Bible, and when I think of its message and meaning for us, those miracles are just a part of the greater faithfulness of God in preserving a seed and building a people for the salvation and redemption of the world. So when I study and pray and read, the mighty miracles of God will include those wondrous interventions in nature.
But the mightier miracle to me is what God hath wrought in selecting, electing, preserving, presenting, building, preparing a seed, a people, for the redemption of the world. So the seven are going to follow that story of God’s elective preservation of the seed, the salvation that has been given to us in the goodness and grace of our Lord through the centuries.
It all begins in Genesis 3:15, when God says, "The Seed of the woman shall bruise Satan’s head." Salvation is to come through a Seed, as of one; and it is to be of the woman. And in the keeping of that promise, God wrought it out through the millennia. So the first mighty miracle of God in the Old Testament, to me, is the miracle of the preservation of that seed [Genesis 6:1-10:32].
When the Sethites finally succumbed to the wickedness of the Canaanites, God saw in the sixth chapter of Genesis that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, that every imagination of his heart was evil continually, and God was sorry that He had made man; and it grieved Him in His heart. And the Lord said, "I will destroy this man I have created from the face of the earth." "But," verse 8:
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
And God said to Noah, Make thee an ark of gopher wood, or cypress wood, and daub it within and without with pitch.
Isn’t it strange how little old incidental things in the Bible just fit everything that we know about history? Pitch – pitch is tar from oil, petroleum. Well, this is happening down there in the Mesopotamian Valley. Where did he find pitch? Where did he find petroleum? My brother, it’s all down there. Isn’t that right, Warren? There’s so much of it there that the world is glutted with oil because of the vast, vast, vast, petroleum deposits there. That’s where the pitch came from. It seeped up from the bottom of the earth, and there it was to be used to make the ark waterproof. And in the directions of God, it’s remarkable how the things the Lord tells are things that we learn today. The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. And those are the precise dimensions in the making of an effective seagoing vessel to this present time.
Now it’s a miracle that Noah would build an ark like that, the Lord only knows how many miles away from enough water to float it; build it out there on dry land, hundreds of miles away from any water that would raise it up. And [it’s] a miracle how the Lord made it possible for the animals of the earth to enter two by two, and the clean animals for worship, seven; and then into the ark the seed, the seed of promise: Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. This is the first great miracle of the Bible.
And when the flood came, the canopy of the earth was punctured. At that time the earth was covered, the Bible says, "with a great firmament of water," a firmament of moisture, and the whole earth was warm and moist like a greenhouse. That’s why you have such tremendous deposits of petroleum up at the North Pole. At that time, the vegetation was lush up there. It was as lush there as it is in a tropical jungle in Africa or South America in the Amazon. The whole earth was a great greenhouse, covered over with that firmament of moist atmospheric water. And God punctured that, and it fell from the sky. And the whole earth was drowned, and the fountains of the deep were broken up. And in the miraculous providence of God, the ark was borne up, and the seed was preserved. This is the first mighty miracle of God: the miracle of preservation.
The second great miracle of God I call the miracle of promise; the miracle of promise [Genesis 12:1-15:18]. The whole world was filled with idolatry; the whole earth bowed down before idols. And God chose, out of the seed of Seth and out of the seed of Noah, God chose Abraham and called him, and sent him to a land that he should afterward receive for an inheritance.
This man Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went. And when finally he arrived in the land of Canaan, he lived there a pilgrim and a stranger. He lived in nomadic tents. But God said to him that in his seed, "as of one," Paul says [Galatians 3:16], "should all the families of the earth be blessed" [Genesis 12:3]. And the days passed and the years passed, and Abraham now is an old man, and his wife Sarah is an old woman. Abraham is a hundred years old and Sarah is ninety, and there is no heir. And Abraham comes before the Lord and he says, "Dear Lord God, You have promised that I should have a son, an heir, a seed, but the years have passed, and there’s no child born. We are childless." And God said to Abraham, "Come out here under the chalice of the sky and look up and count those stars, if you can." And the Lord said, "So shall thy seed be that shall be born out of thy loins." And the Bible says, one of the great verses in the Book: "And Abraham believed God, and his faith was counted for righteousness" [Genesis 15:6], was placed on the side of the ledger of righteousness.
Then God said to Abraham, "Abraham, take a heifer three years old, take a she-goat three years old, take a ram three years old, and divide them down the middle. Put one piece against the other piece, and then take a turtledove on this side, and a young pigeon on that side, and walk through them, walk through them." And then, after Abraham had slain those animals and divided them: one half of the heifer here, one half here; one half of the she-goat here, one half here; one half of the ram here, one half of the other; and the pigeon and the turtledove on either side. And after he had walked through, then he waited on God to walk through, a sign of a covenant of blood unto death and forever; and God didn’t walk through. And Abraham waited all day long, and God didn’t pass through.
And when the sun went down, a great horror of darkness fell upon Abraham. And God said to him, "Your seed are going to be afflicted four hundred years in a strange and a foreign land; and at the end of four hundred years, I will judge that nation, and your people shall come out with a great deliverance." And it was then that God passed through in a smoking furnace, typical of the affliction that should come on the people of God; but in the midst of the smoking furnace, a burning torch, the sign of the presence of God among His afflicted people, and God passes through. The miracle of promise, of faithfulness: "I will never leave you nor forsake you," and in the midst of a smoking furnace that burning, lighted torch [Genesis 15:17].
Then it was confirmed in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, when God said to Abraham, "You take this boy, this seed, take Isaac and offer him up unto Me." And, in one of the great spiritual passages of the Bible, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 11:17-19], when Abraham lifted up that knife to plunge it into the heart of his son, the Bible says that he believed that if Isaac were slain, God would raise him from the dead. This is the miracle of promise: God’s faithfulness to Abraham and to his seed.
The third great mighty miracle of the Bible I call the miracle of deliverance. The first, the miracle of preservation, in the flood, under Noah; the second, the miracle of promise, God’s faithfulness promised to Abraham; and now, third, the miracle of deliverance [Exodus 2:1-20:17]. Moses grows up in the court of the Pharaoh. He’s the Prince of Wales. He’s the heir apparent to the throne, but he sees the affliction of his people and he renounces the throne of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to reign as a king over all the land of Egypt. And fleeing from the presence of the king, he forty years is a shepherd on the back side of the deserts of Midian, in the Sinai Peninsula, keeping the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law.
And while he is shepherding that flock, God speaks in a bush that burns unconsumed: a type and a picture of the people of God that are imperishable; when you get to the end of the age, there they are. And God says to Moses, "You take off your shoes, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground" [Exodus 3:5]. And He said:
I am the God of faithfulness, of promise, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And I have heard the cry of My people. I have seen their oppression. Come, now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh that thou mayest bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.
And God gave him three miraculous signs of authentication: throw down his rod, it turns into a serpent; put his hand in his bosom, it comes out leprous; pick up water from the Nile, pour it on the land, it turns to blood. And with these authenticating signs, Moses becomes the deliverer of God’s people. And after the ten plagues and the Passover, he leads them to the Red Sea. They are miraculously delivered, passing through with the waters heaped up on either side. Then the forty years of wandering, when they are fed manna from heaven and water comes out of the solid rock, and the law is given, the covenant of the old Bible; this is the miracle of deliverance.
The fourth miracle is a miracle that I call the miracle of election: God’s sovereign choice of the one through whom, in whose house, the seed is to be born [1 Samuel 16:1]. He’s to be a Sethite. He’s to be of the family of Noah. He is to be of the family of Shem. He is to be of the family of Abraham. He’s to be of the family of Isaac, He’s to be of the family of Jacob, He’s to be of the family of Judah, and now, God’s elective choice of the kingdom; from which, in whose household he is to be born. God rejects Saul, and Samuel mourns for Saul. And the Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him? Now stand up. Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided Me a king, I have chosen Me a king from his sons."
So Samuel comes to Bethlehem, where Ruth went to live with Naomi, where she was married to Boaz, and where a grandson is born named Jesse. And Samuel is instructed to call Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and there they stand. And God says to Samuel, "It is a son of Jesse that you are to anoint king over Israel." So he says to Jesse, "Have your first-born come and stand before me." And Eliab stands there in the front of the prophet; he’s tall and strong and handsome. And Samuel says to himself, "This is God’s anointed standing before me. What a magnificent specimen of Israelite manhood! This is the future king." And God says to Samuel, "A man looks on the outside, on the countenance, but God looks on the heart. I haven’t chosen him." So Samuel says, "Have your second son come." And Abinadab, the second son, he’s just as fine-looking as his older brother Eliab. And Samuel says, "This is he." But God says, "I haven’t elected him." Samuel says to Jesse, "Your third son." And Shammah comes, and he’s just a fine as his two older brothers. And Samuel says, "Surely this is the king." God says, "I’ve rejected him." And all seven sons of Jesse have passed before Samuel, and God has refused all seven of them.
And Samuel turns to the Lord God and says, "Lord, I don’t understand. You’ve sent me here to anoint, and here is the anointing oil, the horn of oil. And all seven of the boys have passed by, and You have said to me, ‘I have rejected them all.’ I do not understand." And he happened to turn to Jesse and said, "Do you have another boy?" And Jesse said, "Oh! Dear me, yes, but I forgot about it. Had not entered my mind – I forgot about it. He is just a lad, he is out in the field, he is keeping the flocks, he is a shepherd boy!" Samuel said, "Bring him! We will not sit down; we will stand here at attention before God until he comes!" And they stand there until the lad arrives.
He’s not even old enough to shave, he looks like a girl. His face is fair and ruddy and unshaven. He’s just a kid. His voice hasn’t changed. He sounds like some of these boys in the choir up here, and when he sings on his harp to his sheep, he sings in the treble clef; he has a high soprano voice. He’s just a kid, he’s just a boy. And the Lord says, "Samuel, arise! Anoint him! This is he!" And it says here, "And Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" [1 Samuel 16:13].
And in the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel, Nathan the prophet of God is sent to Samuel, saying, "You shall have in your house a son who shall reign forever upon the throne of David" [2 Samuel 7:12]. Isn’t that an amazing thing? The day came when there was only one left of the seed royal, and he’s a little boy named Joash [2 Kings 11:2]. But Jehoiada, the high priest, kept him and hid him and preserved him: God’s faithfulness to His promise. "And the seed shall be a son of David." He’ll be known as the child of the king, as the son of David: God’s faithfulness.
The fifth mighty miracle of the Old Testament: I call it the miracle of the remnant [1 Kings 17:1-19:18]. It is the miracle of the prophets. Their word is always one of hope and encouragement; the miracle of the remnant. In the days of Elijah, as he fled before Ahab and Jezebel – Ahab seizing his life, and Jezebel after his life no less – in his despair Elijah says, "And I, I only am left." And God says, "Elijah, I have seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal and have not kissed his hand." And the great text of Isaiah is this, Isaiah 1:9: "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Always God has His remnant, God has His faithful people, God has His seed, God has His redeemed, always. And there is never a time in the world when God does not have His faithful, witnessing people, always. They may be small, but they are ever there.
And Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 25 and Jeremiah 29 – Jeremiah said when the throng of the nation went into captivity, he said, "Seventy years and God will visit you and bring you back." How many came back? There were forty-two thousand. Out of all the people that were carried away only forty-two thousand returned. But that’s the faithful remnant. And out of that remnant God made the nation, and God made the city, and God rebuilt the temple. And into that remnant was the seed of Messiah presented as the hope and salvation of the world. That fifth one, the prophets with their message of hope: the marvelous miracle of the remnant.
Number six is the miracle of the precise, prophetic word of God. Daniel chapter 9 has in it one of the most amazing verses, prophecies of the whole revelation of God; and this is the keystone of all of the prophecies of the Bible. If you keep this in your mind, the whole prophetic picture will fall into beautiful mosaic place. If you leave it out it becomes a jungle, inexplicable and unexplainable. This is the vision of the seventy weeks in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel. God says to that prophet-statesman – he’s not a Levite, he’s not a priest, he’s not a preacher, he’s not – he is a layman, like Nehemiah. He’s the prime minister of Babylon, and prime minister later of Medo-Persia. This is a political figure, this man Daniel.
But God speaks to him, and he brings God’s message: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people." And he divides them into three groups of sevens; into three groups, heptads. The first, he says, "from the going out of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven heptads," seven sevens. And then three-score and two heptads, sixty-two heptads; and then after three-score and two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off. And then he speaks of the coming of the Antichrist: "The prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. And that Antichrist shall confirm the covenant with many for one heptad, and in the midst of that heptad, he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease" [Daniel 9:26]. He divides all our future history into three groups, three groups.
Now the miracle of that is this: if a man today can know the future for three minutes, I can tell you how to be a billionaire overnight. All you have to do is just to know the future three minutes, that’s all. Buy your stock just before it goes up, and sell your stock just before it goes down, and in no time at all, you’ll be a billionaire. It’s that simple. All you need is a telephone and some fellow up there who has got an office in the exchange, and all you got to do is just know it three minutes, just three minutes; just two minutes. If the tickertape will run, all you’ve got to do [is] to know the future one minute, and you’ll be a billionaire. That’s all it takes.
My brother, the miracle of the Bible – and there’s no other religion in the world that has prophecy in it. No man would dare prophesy in the Koran in Muslim, or in the Bhagavad Gita in Hindu, or the writings of Shinto. It would be manifest that they were charlatans and ignoramuses of deception, deceivers of the people. Only prophecy is found in the Bible.
But the marvel about the Bible is this: God will prophesy what is going to happen thousands of years ahead, and here in this instance He’s prophesying hundreds of years ahead. Isaiah is speaking six hundred years before Christ, and when you read Isaiah you would think he was standing there listening; standing there listening to Jesus at the cross. You’d think it. He just describes it as minutely as does John the apostle or Matthew. That’s God.
And here is God. He divides all this future into three heptads. The first group is composed of seven heptads; that is, forty-nine years. And that starts with the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus, which is found in the second chapter of Nehemiah, for the restoration and the building of the wall and the ramparts and the gates of Jerusalem. Starting there, forty-nine years – seven heptads, forty-nine years – for the completion of the city; and that came to pass. And that also marked the end of the prophecies of the Old Testament. That’s the end of Malachi.
Next, three score and two weeks: that’s four hundred thirty-four weeks. That means that with the forty-nine and the four hundred thirty four, there are four hundred eighty-three years until the Messiah, the Seed, is cut off; until He’s crucified. And that came to pass exactly – exactly – from the time of the beginning of this Artaxerxes’ pronouncement, commandment to build Jerusalem, to the time that Messiah is cut off, crucified. There are exactly sixty-nine heptads, sixty-nine sevens; four hundred [eighty-three] years.
Now, there is one heptad left by itself; one over here by itself. And that pertains to the end time. That pertains to the Revelation. Revelation, chapters 4 through 19 is that heptad. And that brings in the consummation of the age and the millennial kingdom of our Lord. And in the midst of that heptad, that one week that is divided into two parts: three and-a-half years on this side, three and-a-half years on that side. Forty-two months [Revelation 13:5], one thousand two hundred sixty days [Revelation12:6], all of those things – time, times, and half a time; all of those figures in the Bible refer to that last heptad.
And that’s Daniel: the meticulous, the meticulous revelation of God to His prophets. I just wonder sometimes, when I read these prophecies and look at the world today. We have today a vast, colonial empire, Russia. What shall come of us? Every year they lop off more and more of the free world and include it in that vast Russian empire, and it frightens you. It is terrifying.
Then I read Daniel who says the kingdoms of the world are first, the golden head, which is Babylon; the silver arms, which are Medo-Persia; the thighs, the brass – the brass kingdom of Greece; and the two great, stern, strong, steel, iron legs, of the East and the Roman Empire. And there will never be another one, never be another one. And then I look at Russia and think, "Lord, Lord, what of this?" "There will never be another one!"
Then I read Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39, and there I read when Russia comes down into the Middle East, we didn’t know why; now we know why. When Russia comes down into the Middle East to seize those oil fields, Russia will be absolutely destroyed! It will take seven years to clean up the land from so vast a destruction and holocaust and conflagration. That’s what God has revealed in His Word. We’re never to be afraid.
The seventh and the last one is Jonah – Jonah. God says to Jonah, "You go to Assyria" [Jonah 1:2]. And we can’t understand the terror; the Assyrian was a veritable ogre to the Jew. He’d wasted and destroyed the people, but God says, "Go preach to them." And Jonah says in the fourth chapter: "O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? And therefore I fled to Tarshish: I know that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil" [Jonah 4:2]. "I do not want to go to those Assyrians to preach the gospel, because if I go You will save them. They may repent, and You will save them." But after his experience, which is a type of Christ, he preached with a vengeance. But they turned, and the king down to the lowly servant, to even the beasts of burden clothed with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And when God saw them, the Lord had pity and the Lord saved them. That’s God.
And that’s the greatest and the seventh miracle of the Old Covenant. God loves the peoples of the world. There are no people for whom Christ did not die. There’s no man that lives that’s outside of the circle of the love of our Lord Jesus, and that includes us. The tenderness of God reached down and saved us. Oh! [It] blesses me.
Now may we stand together? Our Lord in heaven, what a wonder is God’s message of grace, and mercy, and salvation. Never a nation so wicked, but if it turns, God spares it. Never a man so vile, but if he looks and asks, looks up to Jesus and asks for help, God helps him. Never a family so far in apostasy, but that when he turns his face and they come back to Thee, God is merciful.
Like that man with whom I prayed last week; a vile man, but in his prayer, "Lord, thank Thee for reaching down to this lost, dark earth; and most of all, for reaching further down and touching me."
All of us, Lord, are Thy debtors forever. However we may be sinners, and lost, and wayward, and backslidden, and forgetful, God still in His mercy opens arms of appeal and invitation to us. O bless Thy name, for the mercies that help us, and seek for us, and forgive us, and save us. Lord, Lord, that there might be less of our own self and more of Thee, until there’s nothing of us and everything of Thee.
In this moment, when our people pray and we stand before God in intercession, the Lord calls you into His faith and kingdom. Come, through the waters of the Jordan in baptism, follow after into the fellowship of God’s redeemed, be numbered with us. In a moment we’re going to sing this song of appeal. And a family you, a couple you, just one somebody you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, preacher. I’m on the way. I’m on the way."
God bless you as you come on the first note of the first stanza. Our ministers are here, our deacons are here, the Holy Spirit is here. Welcome.
And our Lord, thank Thee for the harvest. In Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, make it now, come now.