God’s Confirming Signs
April 27th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
GOD’S CONFIRMING SIGNS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-27-88 7:30 p.m.
And once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are a part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message, and it concerns one of the things that I believe and have preached about and have experienced in confirming grace through all of the sixty and more years that I have been a pastor. It is entitled God’s Confirming Signs. And we take our background text from the first chapter of Genesis, verse 14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, for days, and for years” [Genesis 1:14]. God’s signs are in the heavens above us. They are up there in the sky, and you can look at them. That word in Genesis 1:14: “Let them be for signs,” mowadim, signs.
That word mowadim is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. All of the solemn assemblies of the people of God were convened by those signs. For example, in Psalm 104:19, “God appointed the moon for mowadim”—signs, seasons. So Easter, Passover, is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox [Numbers 9:2-3]. It is set according to a sign God placed in the sky. Pentecost is seven times seven days, then the fiftieth day; seven times seven, seven weeks, forty-nine days, and on the fiftieth day after Passover, after Easter, is Pentecost [Leviticus 23:16]. So the Hebrew New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is the first full moon after the autumnal equinox [Leviticus 23:24-25]. It is set by the signs of God in the sky. The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is the tenth day after the vernal—after the autumnal equinox [Leviticus 23:26-27]. And the Feast of Tabernacles is five days later [Leviticus 23:34-37]. And the Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, is the first day after the winter solstice. We have it Christmas. God says He sets those heavenly bodies for signs and for seasons [Genesis 1:14].
So we just follow through the work of God. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, verses 12 through 17, God says, “I do set My rainbow in the sky, it is a sign. . . that I will never again destroy this world by flood” [Genesis 9:13-15]. There had never been a rainbow in the sky. It had never rained before. The world was covered by a canopy [Genesis 1:7-8] and the thirsting earth was watered by the dew [Genesis 2:6]. And when God punctured that canopy, it rained forty days and forty nights [Genesis 7:4, 12]—the first time the world ever experienced rain. And at the end of that Flood, God said, “I will put a rainbow in the sky. . .and it will be for a sign that I will never destroy this earth again by flood” [Genesis 9:12-17]. In Genesis 15:1-6: God said to Abraham, “Come out here under the firmament of the heaven.” And the Lord God said to Abraham, “Look at the stars. Can you count them?” And Abraham, “I could not begin,” nor can we today. And God said, “They are no longer to you, Abraham, stars; they are promises.” Every star that shines in the infinitude of God’s firmament is a promise. “Your seed will be like the stars of the heavens.” They are signs of God’s promises to Abraham [Genesis 15:5-6].
In Matthew 2:1 it says, the wise men coming from the East, “We have seen His star, and are come to worship Him” [Matthew 2:2]. And Luke 2:12 defines it: the angel says this is a sign, “When you go to Bethlehem you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” That is the sign that He is the Son of God. God confirms His promises to us by signs. In Judges 6:36-40, and again in Judges 7:10-15, God gave to Gideon signs that He would be with him. “Let the dew fall on the fleece and all the earth be dry,” and it was so [Judges 6:37-38]. Then the next day Gideon says, “Let the [whole earth] be covered with dew and the [fleece] be dry” [Judges 6:39-40]. It was a sign from God, that “I am with you. Do not be afraid.” God confirmed His call and His promise to Gideon by a sign.
In 2 Kings 20:1-11, and in the entire chapter 38 of Isaiah, Hezekiah is sick unto death [Isaiah 38:1-22]. And he cries to God and prays, and God sends Isaiah the prophet to Hezekiah and says to him, “The Lord has seen your tears and He has heard your prayers, and He is adding to your life fifteen years” [2 Kings 20:5-6; Isaiah 38:5]. And Hezekiah the king says to Isaiah, “What sign will you give me that such a thing will come to pass?” And Isaiah replies, “On the sundial, would you like for it to go back or would you like for it to go forward?” And Hezekiah says, “Let it go [backward].” And the sundial went [backward] ten degrees; a sign that God would keep His promise and give the king fifteen added years [2 Kings 20:8-11, Isaiah 38:8]. Or take again in Isaiah 7:14: Ahaz, a wicked king has already made an alliance with Tiglath-Pileser against the will of God [2 Kings 16:7-9]. And Isaiah the prophet says to Ahaz, “Depend upon the Lord for deliverance” [Isaiah 7:3-9]. And Ahaz, of course, refuses. And Isaiah says, “Ask a sign that God will be with you and deliver you. Ask anything in heaven or anything in earth, just ask” [Isaiah 7:10-11]. And Ahaz refuses [Isaiah 7:12-13], and Isaiah says, “Then I will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and He will call His name God with us, Immanuel” [Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23]; a sign. God makes known His presence by signs.
We are going to look at the Trinity, each one of them. The presence of God the Father: in Exodus 13:21-22, His presence was visible by a sign, a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. And all through those Sinaitic wanderings, God confirmed His presence by a sign; one you could see: the pillar of the cloud by day, and the pillar of a burning flame by night; a sign of the presence of God.
The presence of the Son of God incarnate is confirmed by signs, semeia. We just read one. The whole Gospel of John is built around seven signs; he calls them semeia, signs. In the King James Version sometimes, most of the time, it is translated “miracle.” It is not miracles, it is signs. John chose seven signs of the deity of your Lord, and that is the Gospel.
When the Lord was accosted by His enemies in Matthew 12, “What sign do You give us that You are the Son of God; that You are what You say You are?” He says the sign is “the sign of the prophet Jonah . . . three days in the heart of the earth” [Matthew 12:38-40]; and on the third day, raised from the dead. Once again, you would have that in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, when the enemies came and said, “What sign do You give us that You are a visitor and emissary from God’s heaven?” He says, “You destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up . . . And He spake of the temple of His body” [John 2:18-21].
All right, let’s take the third Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit in His coming is confirmed by signs. Do you remember them? In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, there was the sound of a rushing, mighty wind. There was the flame of fire that settled and lambently rose upward over the head of each one of the disciples. And there was the speaking in languages, and the word is languages, understood languages; the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God [Acts 2:2-4]. And the presence of God is seen in the authorship of this Holy Book out of which I preach. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul writes in verse 15: “Brethren, I have written boldly” [Romans 15:15], and in verse 19 he says, “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” [Romans 15:19]. He confirmed the apostolic authorship by signs.
God’s warning signs are always given before impending judgment, always. Judgment never falls, never, but that God precedes the judgment by a sign. That is true everywhere in the Bible, and it is true in your life. Before any judgment will ever fall upon you, it will be preceded by a sign from God. Always, you will know. In 1 Kings 13:1 and following is the story of the prophet, unnamed, who comes to Bethel in the days of Jeroboam. Jeroboam had made calves of gold and set them there for the people to worship, and God was offended; bowing down before a golden calf instead of before the Lord Jehovah in heaven [1 Kings 12:28-32]. And when this unnamed prophet came to Bethel to cry against it [1 Kings 13:1-2], he said, “Behold, the altar shall break in twain, and the ashes shall be spilled out” [1 Kings 13:3]. And when Jeroboam reached forth his hand to seize the prophet, his hand withered, and withered, and withered [1 Kings 13:4]. God’s sign of judgment—the rending, the rending of the altar at Bethel [1 Kings 13:5].
Let us take another one. In Jeremiah 28:10-17, Jeremiah is wearing a yoke of iron, and it is a sign to Israel, a parable, an acted-out parable that Judah is going into captivity. Because of their sins, the judgment of God is falling upon Judah. And Hananiah, a false prophet, takes the yoke of iron off of Jeremiah, and he says Jeremiah is not a prophet speaking for God, Judah is not going into captivity. And Jeremiah turns to Hananiah and says, “The sign that you are a false prophet, you will die this year.” And Hananiah died according to the saying of the prophet Jeremiah. God’s judgment is always preceded by a sign.
In Matthew 24:3, 37, and in Revelation 15:1, and in Revelation 16:1 and following, the great judgments of God are preceded by signs. As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot, that is the way it will be at the time of the end [Luke 17:26-30]. God’s great judgment will be preceded by signs.
Now, last, God confirms His will for us by signs, always. There will be a sign to confirm what God wills in your life. I took this out of The Dallas Morning News. It is from San Antonio, by the United Press. “In what is billed as a ‘Booze-Bust for Jesus,’ Don and Pearl Langlon will destroy bottles and bottles and bottles of liquor Sunday to signify the end of alcoholic drinks at their chain of restaurants. The Langlons decided not to renew their liquor license for the El Rancho Restaurant chain after state officials sent back the application. Mrs. Langlon had signed it in the wrong place. So they said, ‘The Lord must have been guiding my hand,’ and she took the signing error as a sign from God to stop serving liquor at the restaurant. So at 2 p.m. on Sunday they had a big booze-bust for Jesus.” And the article ends, “They said this is El Rancho’s happiest hour.” Isn’t that all right? God love them. God bless them.
Always, there will be a confirming sign if this is the will of God for you. In Genesis 24, Eliezer says to the Lord God, “How am I going to know which one of these young women You have chosen for Isaac, my master?” And the Lord God put it in his heart and said, “When you go to the watering place, the first damsel that comes leading her flock to the water, that is she.” And Rebekah, the sweet daughter of Laban, was there [Genesis 24:13-28], and she became Isaac’s wife [Genesis 24:67]. Always there will be a sign from God what you ought to do. When Paul, in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul could not go to the right and could not go to the left, he finally came down to the sea. And what was he to do? [Acts 16:6-8]. And that night, there appeared unto him in a dream a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over, and help us” [Acts 16:9]. And Paul turned to those who were accompanying him and said, “God has spoken. We are called to cross the Hellespont into Europe and to preach the gospel to the Macedonians” [Acts 16:10].
If anything is right, God will confirm it by a sign. If there is any assignment for you, God will confirm it by a sign. If you take it to the Lord and ask God’s will for your life, God will confirm that will by a sign. I have been preaching this for so many years, I can hardly count them. The confirming signs of God. You take it to the Lord. What should I do? Whither shall I turn? And God will confirm the right decision by a sign from heaven.
Let me take one thing that happened here in our church. There came a family down the aisle here, the whole bunch of them. There was a father and a mother and a bunch of children; all of them coming on a confession of faith to be baptized. I had talked to the father, and here is what he said. He said, “For some reason that I cannot explain, I had a deep, deep, deep moving in my heart that I ought to go to your church”—an amazing thing. Maybe it came from someone talking about our congregation; or maybe he listened to a radio program; or maybe it came through a providence of life. But he had that conviction in his heart, that the moving of the Spirit of God in his heart, that he ought to come here to church, that he ought to come here to church; attend the service. He said, “I refused to do it. I had never been to church in my life. I am not a Christian, and not even thinking about being one, and I did not do it. And,” he said, “there came into my life and into my family an unspeakable sorrow, an indescribable tragedy. And,” he said, “after that sorrow, I said to my wife, ‘I am going down there to that church.’” And she said to him, “I am going with you.” And when the children found father and mother were going down there, each one of those children said one by one, “We are going with you.” And the whole family came down to this church. And the whole family was saved; one of the sweetest testimonies that I ever listened to in my life. When we don’t do what God affirms in our hearts, put it down: you are going to have unspeakable sorrow visit you, come into your life. It’s coming. But if you turn and do what God says, there will be unspeakable gladness and joy. God’s confirming signs.
Now in this moment, we are going to sing us a hymn. And while we sing the song, a family you to come to be with us; a couple you; anybody you, a welcome from heaven itself awaits you. To put your life and letter here; to accept the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13]; to ask to be baptized [Matthew 28:19]; to give your heart in a new way to the Lord; to answer a call of God in an assignment; as the Spirit shall make the appeal, answer with your life. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.