Someone asked what I thought about magic on facebook last week. There was no way to fit a response into 2 or 3 sentences, so I saved my answer for today.
The KJV Bible doesn’t even use the word “magic” or “magical.” It does call certain people “magicians” in the Egyptian and Babylonian culture (more on them tomorrow). But the Bible does have a lot to say about this type of thing.
Magic, n.: 1. the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.; legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.
2. the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.
We’ll start with God’s power:
Can you tell me any place in the Bible where God Himself, or one of His servants did “sleight of hand” or “deceptive devices”? The Scriptures tell us over and over that such things are completely opposed to God’s character.
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; Titus 1:2
God doesn’t need to do anything fake to prove He’s powerful. He IS powerful.
As for definition #2, I’ve heard of people who think saying “in Jesus’ name” works like a magic spell, but does it really? If you say, “God, give me 200 ice cream cones right now, in Jesus’ name!” Is there any hope that He will answer such a demand? Not a chance. God isn’t a genie in a lamp who has to give us three wishes. There’s no way He’s going to bow to anyone and jump to obey.
There’s also the idea of using some sort of magical object to get power. Although the church in the middle ages was obsessed with relics (bits of stone, bone, or wood) did they really help? Does God listen better when you clutch a cross or pray in front of a saint’s tomb than He does otherwise?
There is one odd thing in the Old Testament that seems like magic: the Urim and Thumim.
And [Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: Numbers 27:21
David used this unknown way of asking God questions several times. You can see how this worked for yourself in I Samuel 23:6-12. But all it seemed to do was say yes or no when God felt like answering. When God was fed up with King Saul, He refused to answer with this system (I Samuel 28:6).
But this was so rare you probably never heard about it in Sunday School. But what do we learn about God doing? Miracles, wonders, and signs.
Yesterday, I read II Kings chapter 4. This one chapter includes a lot of the types of miracles God does:
- stretched existing food to meet the need (both the oil jug and the barley bread)
- gave a woman a baby when it was naturally impossible
- raised the dead (be sure to notice it was not any special action that made God decide to bring the boy back, it was Elisha’s passionate begging)
- removed poison so people weren’t harmed
Other ways God showed His power:
- Told people what cannot be known naturally (who Saul would be and where his dad’s donkeys were I Samuel 9:15,20; plus hundreds (thousands?) of future predictions throughout the Bible)
- Hide/protected people from their enemies (Judges 7:10-15; I Samuel 26:11; II Kings 12:14-19; Acts 12:7-9)
- Gave fire from the sky to establish God’s reality and approval (Leviticus 9:24; I Chronicles 21:26; II Chronicles 7:1; I Kings 18:38)
- Sent plagues to punish and show His power over God’s enemies (Exodus chapters 5-12; Numbers 12:10, 16:49; I Samuel 6:19; Isaiah 37:36; Acts 5:5,10)
- Made water do unnatural things (split: Exodus 14, Joshua 3:16, II Kings 2:8; hold people up while not frozen: Matthew 14:29)
- Healed diseases (Numbers 12:14-16; II Kings 5:13,14; II Kings 20:7; all thru the Gospels and Acts)
- Burnt up people who were disobedient, rebellious, or servants of the wicked (Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:35, 26:10; II Kings 1:10,12 [note that the 3rd captain humbled himself and was spared])
- Protected His own people from being burnt/eaten (Daniel 3, 6)
- Rained “stones from heaven” Joshua 10:11. This isn’t the word for hail, it’s the word for rocks. God seems to have sent meteorites to help Joshua’s army. But that was small compared to…
- Made the earth stop spinning or go backwards a little (Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8)
Oh, boy, I’m getting long. Do you see a pattern here? God cares about people’s needs and can supernaturally meet them, but He uses real things. He knows the future as well as He knows the past. He occasionally does dramatic things to prove He really is powerful, usually at the beginning of some new era.
He never does pointless, useless things just to make people’s jaws drop.
God is not under any person’s control, but He does listen when we beg Him for help.
Fear not, neither be afraid: didn’t I tell you back then, and announce it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yes, there is no other god; I don’t know of any. Isaiah 44:8