When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Words are inadequate to describe the events in these chapters. The shepherds fall before angels, and Joshua bows before the Commander of the Lord’s army. The Israelites cross the Jordan on dry land and God squeezes his form into an infant’s shell.
God is the same… yesterday, today and forever. But have you ever wondered why God doesn’t show himself to us in such a dramatic fashion? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the glory of an angel or crossed a river on dry ground. If God is the same, why does He seem so different?
First, miraculous signs don’t make it easier to believe. What did the people do after they saw God part the Red Sea, provide water and manna in the desert and descend on the temple in glory?? They failed to believe that God would help them defeat the Canaanites. They did not enter the land.
Second, I believe that He has chosen to display His power and work in the world through His church. It is a great responsibility – a work that requires humility and compassion – and can only be done as we are unified by the Spirit. Remember Jesus’ words in John 17…
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 NIV).
The world notices when believers are unified and serve one another with humility and compassion. On the other hand, the world is quick to mock when we show division and hypocrisy.
And finally, we shouldn’t need signs because we have the privilege of having his Word. And even more importantly, we have Jesus.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).