Our story takes place in Israel, around 850 BC.1 It was a sad and difficult time for a nation that was suffering under the worst king it had ever had. Ahab had adopted his wife Jezebel’s pagan god, Baal, and under their rule, the prophets of the true God were systematically executed.
It had been a rough few months in the spring of 1972. I desperately wanted a baby, a little one to hold in my arms, to call my own. Twice I had miscarried, and I held these disappointments up before God, shaking them in His face and saying, See what You did when I trusted You to answer my prayer? I just couldn’t move on.
Today I saw a leaf suspended in the air, dancing in the wind and twirling, but not falling. I stopped and watched it for a moment, amazed and a bit confused, until I looked closely and saw a tiny, nearly invisible thread of a spider’s web that attached the leaf to the branch above. Then it all made sense and I could walk on, realizing that it was an amazing feat of nature that the tiny wisp of a thread could support a leaf while the wind wildly spun it around.
I recently reflected on how my perspective on miracles has evolved throughout my life. Although I’ve had faith in Jesus since childhood, I often compared myself with those who’d witnessed healings and other dramatic miracles—thinking I’d missed out. I then came across an eye-opening definition of the word miracle: “An event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause.”1 This caused me to reflect further on my past, and I realized that I’ve lived through several events that perfectly fit this definition. Starting with the very beginning.
I grew up around creeks, lakes, and rivers, but when I was sixteen I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and saw the ocean for the first time. At the boardwalk the night we arrived, I walked out on a wooden pier. As the first thunderous waves crashed beneath my feet, I grabbed the railing, terrified. Since then I have had a cautious fondness for the ocean. I’ve never been a strong swimmer, but I love the look of the ocean, the feel of sand between my toes, and even the weightless feeling of being lifted from my feet and carried about by gentle waves—as long as I have something buoyant to hang onto.
I wasn’t born a citizen of the United States of America. Earning the right to be here was a process. I had to fill out piles of forms, spend hours on the phone with officials, pay a hefty sum, get fingerprinted, and have an interview to determine if I indeed met the requirements to earn residency. And, yay, I did! That was a happy day!
I had walked to the health store, ten blocks from home, to pick up some vitamins. Though I loved walking and made this trip often, something felt different that day. I had fumbled with my change and forgotten my list.
On my walk home I stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. After some minutes, I noticed people looking at me strangely. I realized I had been waiting at the crosswalk through several light changes. Then it seemed like a very long walk home.
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and their pal, Daniel, were four young men who might have passed into obscurity if not for some remarkable things that happened in their lives.
The story begins around 500 years before Christ with these young men being taken far away from their homeland as captive slaves by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire.
The baby’s first cry rings out, the umbilical cord is cut, and the proud parents and everyone else present—whether it’s an obstetrician and attendants in a gleaming hospital or a tribal midwife in a thatched hut—rejoice at the wonder they have just witnessed. The birth of Jesus on the first Christmas was all of that, but also involved at least eight more miracles.
I must confess that I have never been one who could easily believe in miraculous forms of healing. In fact, I prided myself a bit on being “rational,” “logical,” of which skepticism was an integral part. Perhaps it was also because of feeling that what happens to us is just part of the big game plan—our destiny. I think that I too, like the Jews demanded of Jesus, “required a sign.”