God’s Book Of Weird Things

My postmodern brain wasn’t ready for all the weirdness I encountered when I began reading the Bible six years ago. Speaking serpents? Burning bushes? Parting seas? Sorcerers? Water-walking? Resurrection? All these things and more widened my skeptical eyes. I didn’t have categories of thinking into which the supernatural events described in the Scriptures could fit. I grew up believing that what could be visibly observed or proven was the measure of what was real and true. I thought there was a natural order that could not, under any circumstances, be interrupted or manipulated. I viewed science as the ultimate authority concerning reality. But God was straight up obliterating my secular worldview with his Book of weird things. The Bible painted a picture of reality that was so different from the one I had always known, and I struggled to embrace it. I questioned. I researched. I googled—a lot! But even as my mind ran wild with questions and hesitations about all the weird-to-me stuff in the Bible, something inside of me quietly yet powerfully testified to its truthfulness. I doubted—but I also believed.

My skepticism simmered down over the next couple of years. As I grew in my understanding of God, I grew more comfortable with the idea of a supernatural world. If I believed in an all-powerful God who created and sustains the material world (and I did), why would I consider it far fetched that he could interrupt and manipulate that material world? If I believed God is the one who originates, sustains, and takes away life (and I did), why would I consider it unrealistic that he could raise someone from the dead? If the starting point of my worldview was the existence of an omnipotent God who created all things and is in control of all things (and it was), believing he sometimes acts supernaturally actually seems logical, not crazy.

Okay, so that issue was settled. As the Creator, God can do whatever he pleases with the things he creates. He is not bound by the rules of the natural order he established. If he wants to split a sea open or raise someone from the dead, that’s his prerogative. Science is fantastic and can teach us the ordinary nature and processes of the world, but if God wants to do something extraordinary, he can—either directly (himself) or indirectly (through someone he chooses). Science is subservient to the supernatural God.

But just when I thought my Bible-weirdness issues were a thing of the past, those stupid Egyptian magicians pop up on my radar. Last week I was reading Exodus in preparation for a group Bible study I am helping out with. God performs all sorts of incredible, supernatural feats in this book—feats that no longer stir up skepticism in my heart, but worship. However, I was reminded in chapters seven and eight about the Egyptian magicians who transformed staffs into serpents, turned water into blood, and summoned a multitude of frogs—the same signs Moses did by the power of God. Yet these men acted supernaturally by a power that was not from God. Sure, there was a limit to these guys’ abilities. When it came time to summon the gnats, they couldn’t perform. Whatever power source they were drawing from was inferior to the source from which Moses drew. But nevertheless, they really turned staffs into snakes. They really turned water into blood. They really summoned a multitude of frogs.

I’m okay with a world in which God acts supernaturally—but a world in which evil created beings act supernaturally? I don’t know about all that. These magicians were obviously drawing from some kind of demonic spiritual power to perform their “dark arts.” I know the Bible teaches demons are real, but I struggle to believe they can possess the kind of power that is demonstrated in the book of Exodus, or even in the book of Job, when Satan, by his own power, sends a tornado to kill Job’s family and then afflicts Job with diseases. I can understand God granting good angels some level of his power, but an evil entity possessing dark power—and then sharing that power with evil men—is a hard pill for me to swallow. It just sounds so unrealistic to me.

In moments like these, though, I have to step back and ask myself: What do I trust most to shape and inform my perspective of reality? Should I lean on what Matt Moore thinks is reasonable, based on his personal experiences to-date? I think this would be unwise. I once heard a pastor (can’t remember who) say it’s mighty arrogant to assume that in our very short twenty or thirty or seventy or eighty years of very limited experience in this world, we have an exhaustive knowledge of all reality. Our individual lives are just a blip on the historical radar. We are simply too inexperienced to let our personal experience be the primary measure of what we believe is or isn’t possible. And neither can I let the opinions of other mere blips on the radar inform me about what is or isn’t real. The majority of Western intellectuals don’t believe in supernatural reality or the existence of invisible spiritual beings, but there are non-Western cultures in which the majority of people do believe in supernatural reality and in the existence of invisible spiritual beings. Who’s to say we’re right and they’re not? Throughout history, different cultures have believed different things. I just happen to have grown up in a culture that doesn’t put any stock in unseen reality. Maybe if I had grown up in an African village uninfluenced by contemporary Western thought, all of this ‘weird stuff’ wouldn’t be so weird.

At the end of the day, I can’t rely on myself or any human society to tell me what true reality looks like. Man’s perspective is just too limited. I can only rely on the God who has a full and accurate perspective of the reality he created. If I believe the written Scriptures to be divine revelation from that God (and I do), I must let the written Scriptures shape the way I view the world. I must let the Bible define what is and isn’t real. I must let the Bible tell me what is and isn’t possible. And if the Bible says mere men can access power from demons in the spiritual realm to perform supernatural wonders, then they can—even if the concept, at first, seems a little loony to my postmodern brain.

  • Shelby

    Love the title!

  • Lyle Nelson

    Matt, a few random thoughts on this excellent blog:

    – Yes, Satan did terrible things to Job, but he had to get God’s permission to do them. God could have chosen to allow none of them. Ultimately, He was still the one in control.

    – God’s ways are much higher than our ways, and so we have no hope of understanding all of the things He does, and the means He chooses to do them, unless He chooses to disclose this information to us. This includes using demons to perform acts that are His will, as the above illustrates. Maybe He allowed the magicians’ acts in Exodus to show that Satan has SOME power, but less than God does, so that we would continue to be wary of the devil and the power he is allowed to exercise. We simply don’t know. He chose to not reveal that information to Job, even though through the inclusion of the book of Job in the Bible, we understand.

    – i often wonder if more of this “weird stuff” occurred in the Old Testament, as well as during Jesus’ ministry on earth, as God’s way of revealing and proving Himself before Jesus physically came to earth to do it in an even more obvious way. Of course healing still occurred in Acts, and up until today. (I’ve heard WAYYY too many recent healing stories from credible, reputable sources who have either prayed for or witnessed healings, to ever discredit current day “miracle” healing). And I feel sure that there is a lot of other “weird stuff” that occurs today that is real, and perhaps performed by evil spirits in some cases, but is discounted by our extreme Western bias against the existence of the supernatural.

  • Andrea E S

    Here is a thought for you….if we only die once….Lazarus may actually be walking the earth still!! LOL!
    (I have to give my mom credit for that thought.)

  • SAHM1974

    I don’t find the dark powers unrealistic, but unsettling. It’s bad news. Even if they are limited.

  • Alan

    For all the discoveries that science has made that explain so much of this crazy world, I find it really inescapable and comforting that there is more that is unexplained, or supernatural. If you travel, there are places in the world that evil is tangible, it’s heavy in the atmosphere. If you remember the Rwandan genocide, the man in charge of UN forces, General Dallaire, wrote about the time he came face to face with the warlord responsible for so much of the slaughter. He titled his book, Shaking Hands with the Devil. It’s actually amazing and disturbing that for all our western education, we seem unable or unwilling to recognize evil as a spiritual reality.

    One of the pleasures of the Bible is that it induces wonder. One of those passages is from Isaiah 40: “He stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in. . . Lift up your eyes and see, Who created these? He who brings out their host by number calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might and because He is strong in power, not one of them is missing.” Amazing stuff. I read that and there is something unexplainable about it, but one day I did the math. Scientists who do this stuff figure there are upwards of 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe (look it up). That’s septillion. In a universe that’s 92 billion light years wide. One light year is almost 6 trillion miles. If you had a car that could go nonstop 100 miles/hr for 24/7 all year, it would take 6.7 million years to make the 235 million trips around the equator. That’s to go one light year. And the number of stars? If you get to live to be 70, you’ll have spent 2.2 billion seconds alive. If all 7 billion on earth lived to 70 and spent their entire lives naming 1 star/second, each one unique, it would take over 4.5 million generations of 7 billion people to call out the names of all the stars. How God does that, I don’t know or understand, but I believe. I believe that there’s a God who does that, who knows us and loves us. And I’m glad that things are bigger than we know.

    Sometimes I read the Bible too quickly and miss the wonder that comes when I meditate on it. That Isaiah passage isn’t just a poetic way of saying something else, it’s reality. The same thing is found in Psalm 147: “He determines the number of stars, He gives to all of them their names. Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.” What is cool about that is the verses that surround it: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds. . . The LORD lifts up the humble, He casts the wicked to the ground.” I get so impressed by the 70 septillion stars & the 92 billion light years that I too often miss that His great power is for healing our hearts and lifting us up. That 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 I’m so impressed with? That’s the same number of molecules in 10 drops of water. We don’t know as much as we think we do, and we understand what we know even less.

    • Brandon Burrell

      Amen!