Looking For the Right Signs

HPIM0754.JPGSigns are important in many ways. They warn us. They point us in the right direction. They instruct us. They can even entertain us. Here are some funny signs that were actually posted:

At a dry cleaners: Leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
In a Texas funeral parlor: Ask about our layaway plan.
Sign at a gas station with a restaurant: Eat here and get gas.
Attention: The Titanic artifact exhibition is currently closed due to water damage.
Advertisement: I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey but I turned myself around.
A newspaper ad: Dog for sale, eats anything and is fond of children.
Street sign: Haviture Way.

Speaking of signs, this was posted on a church sign: We love hurting people. Oops! As a pastor, I had to be careful not to put up sayings like this since they could be taken the wrong way. I learned the importance of putting up the right sign that would provide a message all could use.

There are right signs and wrong signs for Christians, too. For example, if we’re depending on astrology to direct our lives then are we not looking at the wrong signs? While it might be kind of entertaining to read your daily horoscope, Christians are aware that relying on it goes against the teachings of the Bible. The use of astrology was a form of divination forbidden by God when Israel was preparing to enter their promised land:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this,” (Deuteronomy 18:10-14, English Standard Version, ESV).

As history shows, in due time, Israel didn’t abide by this command (for example, 2 Kings 17:16). So, the Prophet Isaiah recorded the LORD’s displeasure toward them:

“You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you. Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!” ( Isaiah 47:13-14, ESV).

The royal astrologers in Daniel’s time were powerless to interpret the king’s dream, and thus could not be reliable sources for determining his future (Daniel 1:20; 2:27). Only God can provide the right signs for knowing what the future holds including our future, as well (Dan. 2:19-19-28). When God uses signs, we can trust that they will come true.

Signs were important for finding God’s will in the Bible. Gideon looked for a sign to make sure it was God calling him to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:16). We also remember the story of Gideon putting out the fleece to confirm if God would deliver Israel through his leadership (Judges 6:36-40). In Hebrews 11:32-40, Gideon the sign-seeker is listed among the faithful. Apparently, once he was assured of victory, he like other great heroes proceeded “by faith [to] conquer kingdoms…became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight,” Heb. 11:33-34, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

In the New Testament, there were various instances where the Jews sought signs as was their pattern according to the Apostle Paul: “For, indeed, Jews ask for signs…” (1 Corinthians 1:22, NASB). Jesus, made the same claim when he was confronted by the nobleman whose son was dying. When the concerned father asked him to come and heal the boy, Jesus remarked, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your son lives,” for he was healed that instant. John’s Gospel says this was the second sign Jesus performed when he had come out of Judea into Galilee (John 4:46-54). The first sign? When Jesus turned the water into wine. John wrote, “This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of galilee, and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him,” (John 2:1-11). It appears that Jesus performed the right signs to his people in order that they might believe in him as Messiah, God’s Son.

Onetime, when Jesus healed a man who was mute, some of those inclined to believe in evil spirits accused him of healing the man “by Beezebul, the ruler of demons,” (Luke 11:14-15). Others, tested him by “demanding of him a sign from heaven,” (v. 16). They were trying to discredit Jesus as the true Messiah. Jesus told the Jews, that “if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you,” (v. 20) and he gave them a fitting parable to prove his point (vss. 21-27).

And then, as the crowd around him was increasing, Jesus proceeded to remark, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah,” (v. 29; also Mark 8:11-12). Of course, he was referring to the fact that just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish (usually pictured as a whale) for three days and nights, so would he be buried in a tomb for three days and nights (Matthew 12:40). He was, of course, speaking of his death, burial, and resurrection, proving that he is indeed the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus was also warning them of impending judgment if they didn’t repent and accept God’s truth just like Jonah warned the people of Nineveh, for behold “something greater than Jonah is here,” (Matt. 12:41).

The moral of the story is that Jesus is the right sign the people should have been looking for all along. Even the miraculous birth of Jesus was a sign of God’s fulfillment that “a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:20-23). This was the lesson Jesus was aiming to teach his people.

For example, there was another time when Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand from only five barley loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-14). Later, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on him the father, even God, has set his seal,” (vss. 26-27). Jesus was clearly showing that if you are merely content to satisfy your temporary cravings, then you are not seeking the right signs. The signs you should really be seeking are those that pertain to spiritual food based on the Word of God for they are what lead to eternal satisfaction—that is, eternal life in God’s Kingdom (Cp. Matt. 4:3-4).

King Herod was one of those who was not looking for the right sign even though he was looking at him face to face. As Jesus was soon to be crucified, he was taken to Herod: “Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had been hearing about him, and was hoping to see some sign performed by him,” (Luke 23:8). But Jesus remained silent and didn’t give him a sign, likely because Herod was more interested in being entertained than learning the truth. It reminds me of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.”

Jesus used signs in the weather to illustrate how blind the people were to the present time:

And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?” (Luke 12:54-56)

I am afraid if Jesus were walking among us today, he’d probably make the same criticism. Jesus listed many signs of his return in Matthew 24 but many go about their daily lives without knowing how close we really are to that Great Day. Hence, Jesus says, “Be ready for the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not think he will,” (Matt. 24:44; also Luke 12:40).

Of all the signs Jesus gave concerning his return, Israel stands out as one of the most important. Jesus told the parable of the fig tree which I believe is a reference to Israel (Matt. 24:33-36; Mark 13:28-29; Luke 21:29-33). Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch is yet tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that he is near, right at the door,” (Matt. 24:32-33). Israel is designated as the fig tree nation according to the prophets (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:3-10; 29:16-17). Now that Israel is once again budding as a sovereign nation, we are now getting closer to the Lord’s return than we’ve ever been in the history of mankind.

As believers, our priority is to seek the right signs by trusting in Jesus everyday and looking for his glorious return. We are not so much interested in trivial signs like material things or temporary pleasure. We are looking for the wrong signs if it is merely for our own gain rather than the Lord’s glory. Instead, by faith, we desire the right signs that point us in the right direction for finding God’s will in our lives (Rom. 12:2).

Yes, signs of the times showing us the nearness of Jesus’ return is everywhere. Here’s Ernie Haase singing, “Redemption Draweth Nigh”: http://youtu.be/Tpwxar66tPg

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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