Teaching sixth grade Bible can be quite the challenge. Kids, as the saying goes, say the darndest things. They also ask some amazing questions. In order to actually be able to teach in the 35 minutes I have each class, I had to set up ground rules for questions, the main one being that they be “on subject.” Now, I have a box at the front of my room for kids to place “off-subject” questions in, and we go over them as time permits.
One of the most common questions I get from my students is, probably, one of the most common questions among people of any age, goes something like this:
“Why doesn’t God just show up and prove Himself instead of making us wonder? Why can’t He just give us a sign? Why can’t He do something so that I know He’s really real?”
We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all asked it, if we’re honest.
I’m currently reading through Numbers, and this question was fresh in my mind from reading the journals of my students yesterday. It hit me that we always ask for signs, but when given, they seldom do anything lasting in our lives. Think about the children of Israel. They witnessed God deliver them from Egypt in the 10th Plague and, oh yeah, that dry bottom Red Sea crossing thing. They saw His provision each day in the desert in the form of manna and quail. They SAW the cloud of His presence over the Tabernacle by day, and the fire by night. They. Saw.
Did it make a difference in their faith?
No. They longed to go back to slavery. They refused to enter the Promised Land out of fear, though they had seen God’s power in High Definition reality. The signs, real as they were, did not have a lasting effect on their faith.
And myself. How many times has God clearly moved in my life? How many times has He made a way where there was no way? How many times has He done great things for me? And how many times have I refused to obey and gone my own way?
The signs are everywhere. Doesn’t mean you have to follow them.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, He responded that “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39, ESV) Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had cast a demon out of a man! And they want a sign? So Jesus gives them one: they would kill Him, bury Him, but be unable to hold Him in the grave. Three days and He’d rise again!
Did it matter?
No. They ignored that sign, too.
“Faith is the evidence of things unseen” we are told in Hebrews. And as my dad wisely says “if it was easy, everybody would do it.” God gives us plenty of evidence for His existence (see Romans 1, Psalm 19 for a few). But as believers, we walk by faith, and not by sight. The signs should encourage our faith when we see them, but they should not be the hinge on which our faith swings.