“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.”
It’s true, signs are everywhere. On street corners, attached to walls, in windows. Informational signs, warning signs, and signs telling you how fast to drive. Churches have signs. Gas stations, too. Electronic signs, LED signs, and handwritten signs.
I’d venture to say that we pay attention to only a small fraction of the signs that we pass every day.
Such is the nature of signs.
Signs are even mentioned in the Bible, but not the kind you might see on the side of the interstate. As the Israelites were wandering in the desert, no “Exit Here” sign ever appeared next to the Promised Land.
Instead, the signs in the Bible were activities of God done through people and nature that pointed to his providence and sovereignty. To be properly understood, they had to be interpreted through the lens of faith. Without the lens of faith, it must just be another cloud in the sky or cranky street preacher (prophet).
Enabled by faith, these same signs became guideposts for the people of God.
Unfortunately, it was easy to become more dependent on the signs than what the signs pointed to — or who was sending the signs. Since the beginning of time, the temptation has been to worship the creation rather than the Creator.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul would frame the tension this way: “we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
To live by faith and not by sight isn’t to choose willful blindness. Faith grows as we see and properly interpret what God is doing around and within us.
If I’m living by faith and trusting God to direct my steps, then I must believe he’s in control of the GPS and will guide me to my next turn. Is it possible to turn off the GPS? Absolutely. People of faith make wrong turns all the times. That’s why repentance is a holy u-turn, a second chance to get back on the right path.
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ – John 6:28-31
The Living, Breathing, Walking Sign was right in front of them and they couldn’t see him. What they saw were simply the benefits — the free food.
The ultimate sign would offer no immediate benefits, no instant gratification. If one of those first century folks looked at the cross hoping to find an immediate benefit, they would have walked away disappointed. In fact, they did walk away disappointed.
Signs might appear in the form of food. But in order to be properly digested, they require faith.