Natural Explanations of Miracles

can miss the point.

Exodus 13:17-22 (NKJV)

Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around byway of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”

So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

So, this enormous entourage is being led by a pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. But the pillar turns right toward the Red Sea instead of taking them the direct route. I can just hear Moses’s GPS complaining, “In 200 feet, make a U-turn.

The northern end of the Red Sea forks into the Gulf of Suez to the west, and the Gulf of Aqabah to the east. The Gulf of Suez is now connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal.

Many Bibles note that the Hebrew for Red Sea is “yam sup,” which can mean sea of reeds. Some scholars speculate that the Israelites didn’t actually cross the Red Sea but the sea of reeds, presumably some marshy area near where the canal was eventually cut. This leads to a natural explanation for the parting of the Red Sea. A combination of tides and normal winds could have been sufficient to let the Israelites pass but drowned the Egyptians later after their chariots got stuck and the tide came in.

However, two references support viewing yam sup as the Red Sea. First, yam sup also appears in 1 Kings 9:26. There it means the Gulf of Aqabah – thus the Red Sea and not the sea of reeds. Second, the Septuagint translates yam sup as the Red Sea.

People are funny about miracles. They want to believe but can’t stop searching for natural explanations for everything. That’s OK – it’s what science is all about – but for some Bible stories it misses the point.

While God does many wondrous things naturally, some things are simply miracles.

To become a Christian, you have to believe in at least one miracle – the resurrection.

Then there’s answered prayer. Not every prayer request gets granted though. God’s agenda comes first.

But pray a lot and you’ll see some big, stop-your-heart miracles. They inspire big, stop-your-heart faith.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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