Miracles, visions, dreams, angelic appearances, God directly speaking to people. Things were so exciting and sensational in Bible times! Why not today?
Or were things actually that sensational back then?
The idea that these amazing things were always going on is a misconception and one with serious implications in my opinion. I’ve known of people who rejected the Bible because they saw it as only legend. Since they had not experienced or observed these amazing things today, they came to see the Bible as embellished and the miracles as only made up stories. Or perhaps they didn’t reject the faith, but became deeply discouraged that their own experience has not measured up. Why haven’t they been visited by an angel, seen a miracle, or had God speak directly to them? I’ve seen odd or inaccurate theologies develop from this too.
But let’s consider the biblical accounts. Were miracles always taking place? Well, just a general remark: if miracles were always taking place then they would cease to be miracles. They would be normal and not miraculous! Right?
In substantial sections of the Bible there are no miracles taking place at all. There are 3 places in the Bible where we see clusters of miracles: the career of Moses, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and during the ministry of Jesus/start of the church in Acts. These 3 times were critical periods: the beginnings of the people of Israel, a time of temptation and apostasy in Israel, and the coming of Christ/establishment of His church. If you lived during these times there were miracles aplenty, but less so at other times.
What about God speaking through dreams? In the Old Testament, a period covering about 4,000 years, there are about 20 specific dreams to 14 people recorded: Abimelech, Jacob, Laban, Joseph, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, Pharaoh, Moses, a soldier in judges, Saul, Solomon, Job, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar. In the New Testament there are 6 recorded dreams, all of which are found in the book of Matthew surrounding Christ’s birth and death.
About what about visions? Visions are primarily found in the prophetic or apocalyptic books of the Bible such as Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation. There are also visions in Luke/Acts of the New Testament surrounding the birth of Jesus and early church. Again, one can notice some clumps or clusters – where dreams or visions took place around key events or people in redemptive history.
Similar stats could be shared on angelic appearances and God directly speaking to individuals. On another note, when angels did appear to someone they were afraid and greatly surprised by it. A person would not be afraid and surprised if it was an every-day or normal occurrence. Right?
Some people today also seem to be seeking miraculous encounters. But I don’t think I see this in the Bible. Yes, of course, we can see biblical characters seeking God or wanting some type of sign because they doubted God after He had revealed something to them. But they were not actually seeking the initial miraculous encounter. When God or an angel directly spoke with them, they were not expecting it and were shocked, afraid, or incredulous.
I hope you are getting the point I’m attempting to make. I’m not trying to limit God in our modern day. God can work in amazing ways whenever He chooses to do so!
But we need realistic expectations. Even in “Bible times”, God was not always working in amazing and sensational ways for all to see. There are times when God is near or more overtly at work, and there are times when God’s presence is veiled and His work in this world is less obvious or even hidden. There is a problem with our theology if we always want the former, and can not accept the later.
We need realistic expectations, lest we become discouraged, or drift into inaccurate beliefs, or seek things we should not be seeking. Seek Jesus, then other things should fall into place my friends. When we are seeking or expecting other things, we open the door to so many problems.