Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, July 27, 2015


As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, It is the king of Israel. So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him. – 2 Chronicles 18:31

I guess it was Jehoshaphat’s lucky day. 

What constitutes a miracle?  How do we tell a miracle from chance or coincidence or a random occurrence?

First, we need to define chance or random.  We can define chance in terms of probability as in the classic coin-toss.  There are only two possible outcomes.  Depending on the starting point, air pressure, force applied, distance the coin falls, etc., which we do not know, we say that a coin will be heads 50% of the time and tails the other 50%.  But when we consider that for a moment, we realize that what we mean by chance or random is “causes unknown”. 

Even the Bible uses this term.  Reading on from the verse above:  For as soon as the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.  But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded (vv 32-33, emphasis added).  The words in English translations that say “at random” or “by chance” are, from the original Hebrew, something like “in his innocence”. 

The king of Syria had ordered his soldiers to specifically target only Ahab, the king of Israel.  Ahab, having heard a prophecy that he would be killed in this battle, thought to escape by disguising himself and allowing attention to be drawn to his fellow king, Jehoshaphat of Judah.  Something happened – we have no idea exactly what – to convince the Syrians that Jehoshaphat was not Ahab and they turned their attack from him.  However, like the famous story of an appointment in Samarra, Ahab could not escape God’s decree.  An arrow released by a Syrian bowman toward the Israelite warriors found its way through the armor of Ahab and mortally wounded him. 

The bowman had no idea that he was shooting at the king of Israel.  Our friend, the Preacher explains, Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).  It strikes me that the most ardent and militant of atheists must agree that the Bible contains at least this one truth.  Time and chance explains the whole of existence to the unbeliever.  We and not something or someone else are here because of time and chance.  The wise man, though, uses time and chance to say that there are things beyond us that we cannot know.  The foolish thinks that because he knows of time and chance, he understands all. 

Ahab was destined to die that day in the battle that he had chosen to fight.  The prophet spoke out the decree of the Lord.  There was no chance Ahab would escape. 

I was lucky.  I was unlucky.  What a coincidence.  It was just an accident.  We have all said those things in the past and will again in the future.  Someone fell asleep.  Someone was distracted.  Someone left late.  Someone left early.  I slowed up just before the deer crossed the road.  I never saw it coming.  Why did the deer cross the road in the first place?  Chance.  Causal chains of events collided, for good or for ill, to make someone smile.  To end someone’s life. 

No miracle will ever convince anyone of God’s existence or of His goodness and grace, except those who are touched by the Holy Ghost.  There is no chance we will escape. 


I wrote this and pulled up the browser and came over here to post.  At that point, I read the comments on Friday's post, and John's last comment:

Something similar happened this weekend. Cousin Rick, one of my few relatives and somebody I really liked but saw maybe 6 times, called me and left a message on Friday. He had never called me before. Didn't notice until Saturday. I called and left a message Saturday night and again Sunday morning. He died on Sunday morning from a heart attack we found out last night. Make of it what you wish. Guess we will chat later.


mushroom said...

John, you and your family will be in our prayers.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Aye, John.
I feel sad you didn't get the chance to talk to your cousin Rick before he passed on, and yet, as you said, you will chat again.

John Lien said...

Thanks guys. I'm just a bit sad that he might have thought for a moment I didn't want to talk to him. I hope he and Dad have caught up on the news. He was exactly between Dad and me in age, 18 years, and really looked up to my Dad when he was a yoot. I'm hoping they are in a duck blind in Minnesota on the Mississippi. Hope they save a space for me.

mushroom said...

I think it goes something like that.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I believe Jesus says, somewhere in the Bible, my Father has built many duck blinds. Fishin' holes too.