There's nothing wrong with our need for constant reassurance. Like Gideon, we need to know if this God of ours is able. Like the people of Galilee, we need to know if He is for real. Like the sick and the lame, we have to know if He is for us. O, how I long for the day when we do not need such reassurances, but let's be honest - it's the story of our lives.
The real trouble with this is the way that we go about it. Most often, we are setting our God up in a contradiction of some sort, all in our effort to embrace His own testimony, but the contradiction itself creates more questions than it answers.
Take Gideon - Gideon asks God to make the wool wet and keep the ground dry. God does. In his need for a second sign, Gideon asks God to do exactly the opposite. Keep the wool dry and the ground wet. One response to God's ability to perform this sign would be to praise Him, saying, yes, this God is a God of both extremes. Truly everything, from one end to the other and even in between, is under His authority!
Another way to respond would be to ask, how can I ever know anything about this God who can do two completely opposite things with exactly the same power and authority?
Even if we accept the first response, the second still echoes somewhere inside of us. If God is capable of two completely opposite extremes, then how can we know who God is? How can we know what God stands for? We may praise God for His ability to do one thing in our lives, but there will always be this little whisper that knows He could have done exactly the opposite, as well. Rather than being comforting and awe-inspiring, this terrifies us. Does our God act on a whim? Does He simply do whatever extreme thing He wants to? What is to keep Him from swinging the pendulum the other way?
Or what about the people of the region of Galilee? The Pharisees, in particular, have this terrible habit of asking Jesus to perform miracles and signs for them on the Sabbath. This sets God up against Himself, at least in man's eyes. If God is willing to break His own commandment - that man rest on the seventh day - then what authority does He have to ask anything from us? If God doesn't have to obey Himself, why do we have to obey Him? Forget for a minute that the Pharisees were just trying to trap Jesus into a situation where they could say that He was not God; the theological issue raised by a God who contradicts His own command is much more troubling.
And what of the sick, the lame, the disabled who came to Jesus? Most of them, especially early on, I think expected Jesus to prescribe for them some course of healing, something they could do to effect their own restoration to some degree. The old law was rife with such things - go to the priest, offer these three sacrifices, wait seven days, go through these four steps. I think most of the hurting who came to Jesus were thinking along these lines. But at some point, they just start crying out, "Lord, heal me."
That's great. It is! Jesus is absolutely Healer, and He is able to heal. But somewhere along the way, did we lose our accountability in the matter? If we just call out for miracles and signs and expect Jesus to do them for us or on our behalf, then we lose sight of what He requires of us. We see this in the disappointment even of those with a skin disease, who were sent to wash in the water. Wash in the water? How dare God require something of us! How dare He suggest we take part in our own healing! Just reach out and touch us, Jesus, and make us well! All of a sudden, we have a God who gives, gives, gives, but requires nothing. It doesn't take much to see where this interpretation leads us.
I'm not saying that we need not look for miracles. Absolutely, we must. But we do have to be mindful of how we let our hearts interpret the incredible things that God is doing in our midst. We have to know how our heart plays with these things, and how they play on our hearts. So often, we end up in murkier theological waters than when we started out. And why?
Because in our longing for a sign, we often end up in a place where God has to, it seems, contradict Himself for our sake.
But things aren't always as they seem.... Our theology doesn't have to be so troubled. More on that, tomorrow.