The Lord works in mysterious ways.
When you’re on the road, there are three kinds of signs to help you reach your destination.
The most obvious are the road signs. Albuquerque 1500 miles, next exit. One way. Deer crossing. Stop….it doesn’t get much simpler than that. If you know where your destination is in relation to your current location, you can find your way there with nothing but road signs if you’re paying attention.
In the modern world, there are also GPS systems that give you audible and animated signs. In 800 feet, turn right. In two miles, stay in the third to the left lane to take the second exit on the right to Highway 23 South, Robinson Lane, Rural Route 11417, Exit 235C. Explicit turn-by-turn directions and usually very helpful.
There is a third kind of traffic sign, however, that is not so explicit and often goes entirely unnoticed.
Driving home from work late at night, have you ever seen a mass of red brake lights appear in the distance and multiply toward you like an ocean wave? You know exactly what’s about to happen: within the next minute, maybe two, you’re going to be stuck in a traffic jam. Hopefully, it won’t last long, but if you know the area, you might look for an exit and an alternate route. If you’re familiar with the downtown exits of some freeways, you know to move left when approaching an on-ramp in heavy traffic and move right when approaching an off-ramp. Poor lighting on a poorly surfaced road in the middle of a big city might signal another kind of trouble to avoid.
You can even follow the sun in the day and the stars at night. People have been navigating by the skies for thousands of years.
Signs are everywhere if you have eyes to see them.
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
The first century Jewish leaders had a millennium’s worth of writings about the Messiah. Every page of the Tanakh (the Old Testament) testifies to his identity and mission, and these men claimed to have dedicated their lives to studying it. Yet, what most of them really studied and kept was their own position, their credentials and the power they held over their brothers.
When Yeshua (Jesus) came healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, and releasing spiritual captives, they demanded something flashier. When he showed people how to keep God’s commandments and explained the prophets and Psalms, they tried to trap him with trick questions.
The Scribes, Pharisees, and Priests couldn’t read the obvious signs for one simple reason: They didn’t want to.
Yeshua then turned to his disciples and warned them about the leavening of the Pharisees. When they thought he was talking about actual leavened bread, no wonder he despaired!
But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
If even his own disciples couldn’t follow the obvious signs that Yeshua had erected along the road for them, how could the rest of Israel do it?
Every word and act of Yeshua that is recorded in Scripture is a multi-layered sign. When he spoke of bread, he never meant only the bread that a person chews and swallows with his mouth. When he fed the five thousand and the four thousand families, he wasn’t just feeding people. It’s a great thing to do good, but Yeshua elevated every good deed to the level of prophecy. The feeding of the five thousand was a prophecy of the repentance, regathering, and ultimate restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel. The feeding of the four thousand was a prophecy of Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the Great Commission, the martyrs among Yeshua’s Apostles, and the promise of eternal life for all who repent from sin and swear allegiance to him.
Yeshua is the bread of life, broken and distributed to the people of the world so that all who would put their faith in him will be saved from eternal destruction and given eternal life after the final judgment. Throughout his ministry, he had left “bread crumbs” that anyone with eyes to see could follow.
We have a more complete record today of Yeshua’s life and ministry than almost anyone living in Judea in 30 AD could have had. We have libraries full of commentary and biographies of martyrs and records of healings and miracles spanning two thousand years. We have hundreds of thousands–if not millions–of people who dedicate their entire lives to studying the astonishing miracles of life and Creation…and so many still can’t see the blazing LED signs that God has installed at every intersection.
The problem isn’t their rational minds, but their hearts. The eyes and ears that can perceive God’s signs are spiritual, and those signs will only be perceived by a spirit willing to perceive them. Reason and knowledge can have a positive impact, but ultimately, the real key to opening eyes to God’s signs is softening hearts. In my experience, hearts are softened by only three means: pain, kindness, and divine intervention.
That doesn’t mean we should set out to inflict pain on anyone. It also doesn’t mean that we should be nice to people no matter what they do. The loving kindness (chesed) exemplified by Yeshua doesn’t enable sin, but it exposes it, gently when possible, fiercely when necessary. If you want to know how to open people’s eyes to God’s signs, then follow the signs yourself. Live as Yeshua lived. Love as Yeshua loved. Speak the truth with chesed–and also with caution–and live a pure life. Pray for the blind and deaf, and let God do the rest.