Matthew 12:38-40 – Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
How often have we begged God for a "sign" so that we would know God's will? When we pray, how do we recognize God's direction over the beguiling call of our desires and perceived needs? Wouldn't it be so nice just to be able to "cast lots", pull out the Urim or Thummim from our breastpiece, follow the cloud and the fire?
Recently a friend of mine, a self-described "seeker," got me to thinking of these tangible markers of God's direction, so prevalent in the Old Testament. She wrote of the impending dissolution of her husband's three-person medical partnership after the junior member made secret dealings with a large conglomerate:
"Since Tim is a strong Christian, deacon in his church, rabid non-drinker, Dave finds his 'I prayed about it and it's the right thing to do' maddening. The fact that the company makes its money by 'churning' patients with over-treating doesn't seem to bother Tim. … Does God really speak to people and give permission to join unsavoury groups to accomplish some greater good — perhaps by increasing the tithe?"
We want signs, we want to have the assurance of God's voice in controversial matters, but through the writings of the prophet Micah we learn that the will of God consists of broad strokes only, with the particulars left to us: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 Jesus seems to have been thinking along the same lines when He summarized His message in two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and "Love your neighbour as yourself." Mark 12:30,31
Like Tim, haven't we all sometimes approached God in prayer while clinging a little too tightly to the decision that we have already made? There's no easy way to figure out what choice best corresponds to the values God sets out for us, not without the hard work of seeking to align our will with the will of God through meditative Scripture study and prayerful times when we consciously try to empty ourselves of 'self'. It's only when we let go of our wants and humbly 'make room' for God's Holy Spirit that our heads and hearts can be led to make decisions that are just and merciful in the eyes of God.
Prayer: O God, help us to understand and forever thank You for the miracle foretold by the 'Sign of Jonah', the only 'sign' we need. Through Jesus, You show us how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with You. In His Name, we ask for the wisdom and courage to do likewise. Amen.