How Is a Messenger of God Confirmed? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 1, we looked at the first sign that God promised to show the enslaved Israelites in order to prove that Moses was God’s true messenger. We now continue with the second sign.

Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. (Ex 4:6-7 NIV)

Alfred Edersheim explains the meaning of the second sign in his Bible History: Old Testament:

The second sign shown to Moses bore direct reference to Israel. The hand which Moses was directed to put in his bosom became covered with leprosy; but the same hand, when a second time he thrust it in, was restored whole. This miraculous power of inflicting and removing a plague, universally admitted to come from God, showed that Moses could inflict and remove the severest judgments of God. But it spoke yet other “words” to the people. Israel, of whom the Lord had said unto Moses, “Carry them in thy bosom,” was the leprous hand. But as surely and as readily as it was restored when thrust again into Moses’ bosom, so would God bring them forth from the misery and desolateness of their state in Egypt, and restore them to their own land.

Finally, God offered a third sign as proof to the Israelites:

Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” (Ex 4:8-9 NIV)

Edersheim explains the significance of the third sign:

The third sign given to Moses, in which the water from the Nile when poured upon the ground was to become blood, would not only carry conviction to Israel, but bore special reference to the land of Egypt. The Nile, on which its whole fruitfulness depended, and which the Egyptians worshipped as divine, was to be changed into blood. Egypt and its gods were to be brought low before the absolute power which God would manifest.

In order to prove that Moses was a true prophet, God provided three miraculous signs that would not only be supernatural in nature, but would also communicate meaningful messages to the Israelites. These were not random miracles, but miracles that were significant to the recipients.

Did these signs actually serve their purpose? Yes. In verses 29-31, we learn that

Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. (emphasis added)

So here is the takeaway. If a man living today claimed to be a true prophet of God, I would expect God to provide miraculous signs to authenticate him. If no miracles were forthcoming, then I would assume he is either a lunatic or a liar, but definitely not from God.

  • sean

    Any example ideas you’d consider miraculous and signs from God? Obviously there could be others, but just if you can think of an example of something you’d consider more relevant today I’m curious to hear it.

  • Bernardo

    This is an important topic since many nowadays are claiming to be spokesmen for God. But I have a hard time complementing your article with someone like John the Baptist. John did not display miracles or signs yet he was God’s messenger to “prepare the way”. How would you reconcile your expectation of signs or miracles to validate a messenger with someone like John the Baptist?

  • Jesus validated John the Baptist’s propheticity by publicly declaring him to be a messenger from God. Recall that I was careful to say that not all prophets performed miracles, but only some of them.

  • Bernardo

    I agree and understand that not all prophets performed miracles. But would there be a way to not discredit someone who is a messenger of God without the evidence of signs or miracles? Thanks for your prompt response.

  • I’m not sure I understand your question. The kinds of miracles that were performed in the Bible would also stand up as miracles today (e.g., parting a large body of water on command, killing only the first-born of a nation of people in a single night through disease, walking on water, calling down fire from the sky on command, dying and coming back to life three days later).

  • Yes, if they preach a message that clearly contradicts earlier revelation. Or if they make predictions about future events that do not happen. Or if they are found out to be liars about anything they claim that God told them.

  • Bernardo

    Right on. Thank you.

  • sean

    Sorry, I may have not explained properly. I’m not saying those wouldn’t count as miraculous, but you were talking about how not only was it a miracle, but it was culturally relevant to the people who it was performed for. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what types of miracles would be culturally relevant to today’s people if a new prophet were to come down and need to prove himself via miracle.

  • It would depend on the culture. But it’s not so much the culture that matters, as much as the historical and religious context of the particular people God was speaking to.

  • sean

    Where exactly are you delineating between these two terms? I’m not quite sure. Are you further specifying which aspect of the culture?

  • The particular timing, the place, the religious traditions – all of these matter. Judeo-Christian prophets almost always showed up to fulfill predictions made by their predecessors – predictions which often pointed toward particular times, places, and situations.

    A prophet that came along today would need to tie his message into the prophecies contained in the Bible which talk about particular times, places, and situations.

    This is why Christians reject Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Charles Taze Russell as true prophets. None of these people performed miracles, and none of them brought a word from God that was consistent with previous prophecies or revelation. In fact all of them brought messages that flatly contradicted previous revelation.

  • sean

    Okay, makes sense.

    I don’t know about phrasing the rejection that way though, because those who accepted it converted. It’s like saying that’s why Jews rejected Jesus as the son of God. Well, no, some did, but some did not. Those that did converted, and those that did not stayed Jewish, but I get your point.