The Jews Require a Sign
March 6th 2017
The Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting a sign. A sign was an indication to them that the Lord (Yahweh) was dealing with them in a particular manner. A sign meant a signal, a beacon, a monument, an omen, a token, or an evidential miracle.
Within the King James Version of the Bible, the word, “sign” first appeared in Exodus 4:8. The first mention of a word in the Bible generally sets its meaning. In Exodus 3:7 through 4:9 notice that Moses is talking with the Lord about the Hebrew children. The Lord told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.” (Ex 3:7)
The Lord proceeded to tell Moses that the time of Israel’s deliverance was now to be accomplished. In chapter four, verse one, Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” The Lord replied to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” and Moses said, “A staff (rod)” Then, the Lord told Moses to cast it to the ground. When he did, it turned into a serpent. Then, Moses took it by its tail, and it turned back into a staff. The Lord then told Moses that he should do this in front of Israel:
“that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
Then, the Lord had Moses put his hand to his chest; when he withdrew it from his bosom, it was “leprous like snow.” Then, Moses placed his leprous hand to his chest and, again, withdrew it, and it was healed for “it was restored like the rest of his flesh.”
The two miracles demonstrated to Moses were to be demonstrated to the enslaved Israelites. The Lord told Moses, “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign (turning the staff into a serpent and back again) that they will “believe the witness of the last sign,” the leprous hand (Ex 4:8). If they would not “believe these two signs,” the Lord told Moses to take water from the river and pour it onto the ground, and it would become blood.
Thus, we see the typology as to why the Jews “required a sign.” With the birth of the nation of Israel, God raised up Moses, and he showed them signs that they might believe. Signs were connected with Israel. The first mention of “signs,” in the Word of God (KJV version), associated them with Israel in order to demonstrate to them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “has appeared to” the one showing the “signs.”
Thus, signs were Moses’ credentials to Israel. We read in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” As Moses was the first deliverer who demonstrated signs and wonders, God promised to raise up a greater deliverer, a prophet likened unto Moses, who would have “signs” as His credentials to the nation of Israel. Israel was told to look for a second Moses - their true deliverer. Therefore, Israel had an expectation of looking for and seeing “signs.” The Lord began His dealings with the nation by showing and promising them signs.
After Moses delivered them from Egyptian bondage, he reminded them, “and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders;”
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
When “God, who spoke long ago … spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,” He confirmed what He said in “many ways.” In plainer words, it was with different signs. The different signs were as a signal, or a token, that God was indeed speaking through the mouths of the prophets. God confirmed, or bore witness to the prophets’ words with signs and mighty works. Certain prophecies relating to Israel were attested to by signs in connection with their fulfillment. (Is 7:11, 14, 20:3; Jer 44:29; Ez 4:3, 12:6, 24:24, 27)
From Moses to Christ, the Lord confirmed His Word through the mouth of the prophets many times with signs. When the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Moses, appeared as a “servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Rom 15:8), God bore witness to what Christ said to Israel with mighty signs, wonders, and miracles.
For, indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Prophet likened to Moses for which Israel had been told to look for. Hebrews 1:2 further states that the Lord God spoke to Israel “by His Son.” While Christ confirmed the promises with signs, and wonders, and miracles, this ministry of confirmation had the added weight that the signs performed were the very ones which the Old Testament Scriptures foretold He would perform. Notice two such verses that speak to this point:
On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah.
In Matthew 11:2-6, Christ appealed to these verses when the disciples of John the Baptist asked, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Mt 11:3)
It is essential to a correct understanding of the Scriptures to notice that signs were connected with Israel, not other nations or people. Signs were used to confirm that the Lord was dealing with the Jews - not the Gentiles.
Today there is much discussion in Christendom about signs, miracles, and wonders. Some charismatic preachers, filled with the supposed “Holy Spirit,” claim that they cast out devils, handle snakes, speak in tongues, heal the sick, and allegedly raise the dead. Unquestionably, the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Mt 10:8) He instructed them to “cast out devils,” “speak with new tongues,” “take up serpents,” drink poison, and “lay hands on the sick [so] they will recover” (Mk 16:17-18). But, notice the context - Jesus is sending His disciples with “signs” to the lost nation of Israel (Mt 10:5-7; Mk 16:17, 20). Jews at that time in history would only believe if they first witnessed God’s miracles.
Signs, miracles, and wonders were significant in Israel’s program. Jews always “required signs”. The Lord Jesus said (Jn 4:48): “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” Miracles in Israel first appear in Exodus 4:1-9, when God gave Moses the ability to handle a snake and to heal sickness (to teach Israel that he was God’s servant to deliver them from Egypt). Verses 30 and 31 explain that once Israel saw these signs, “the people believed” (cf. Jn 4:48).
Jesus performed many miracles during His earthly ministry to prove to Israel that He was God’s servant, their Messiah-King, the God whom their fathers worshipped. Sadly, sinful Israel crucified Him in unbelief. When God began turning to the Gentiles through the Apostle Paul, these miracles appeared to the Gentiles, teaching Israel that God was now working amongst the Gentiles (Rom 11:11-12; 1 Cor 14:21-22). Eventually, once Israel had firmly rejected God’s invitation to national salvation, these miracles faded, and we see that at the close of Paul’s ministry, he was no longer able to heal (1 Tim 5:23; 2 Tim 4:20).
The Acts Period abounded with signs. The twelve apostles had their testimony confirmed with signs. Signs, wonders, and miracles prevailed as long as Israel stood before God as a nation. If we can determine when Israel was set aside as a nation, then, we can make an intelligent determination as to when signs, wonders, and miracles were set aside from being normative.
The Apostle Paul ministered to the dispersed nation of Israel during the time covered by the Book of Acts. He was one “that heard the Son.” However, Paul was privileged to have heard the Son after the Lord’s ascension. Paul was the last man to have seen and heard the resurrected Jesus Christ. Thus, the Lord spoke to Paul, numerous times, after his Damascus Road experience in Acts 9. The Lord confirmed what Paul preached with mighty signs and wonders.
“I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.”
2 Corinthians 12:11-12
“in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
Therefore, as one who had heard the Son, Jesus Christ, God certainly bore witness, “both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 2:4) to what Paul both said and did during “The Acts of the Apostles.”
As diligent students of the Word, we should notice that the miraculous signs which began with Moses carried through to the 28th chapter of Acts. Notice the beginning and the ending of signs. Signs began with Moses showing “he was sent from God” to lead Israel out of bondage (Ex 4). They ended with Paul pronouncing spiritual blindness upon Israel in Acts 28:25-28. God began his dealings with the nation by showing signs. He ended His long and patient dealings with Israel by withdrawing signs in Acts 28.
The first “sign” we see in Scripture dealt with a serpent in Exodus 4:2-4. The second sign dealt with healing (Ex 4:6-7). Within the New Testament Book of Acts, the last two signs we see in relation to the long narration of Israel are those of a viper biting the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:3-6 and then Paul healing a man lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery (Acts 28:8). “After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured.” (Acts 28:9) Israel was then set aside. They were temporarily placed in abeyance with the solemn words of the Apostle Paul in Acts 28:28:
“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”
With the setting aside of Israel, we find her blessings temporarily set aside also. Therefore, there has been no need for evidentiary signs since that time, the first century, during the Apostolic Age.
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;
1 Corinthians 1:22