For the most part I’m not a fan of the “Messages from God” billboards (“What part of ‘Thou Shalt Not’ didn’t you understand?” “Keep using my name in vain and I’ll make rush hour longer,” “You think it’s hot here?”).
Launched a few years ago by a Fort Lauderdale advertising agency, there are 17 messages in all, each one signed simply “God.”
I do, however, like the one that says, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”
That always makes me laugh.
Years ago, a friend’s teenage daughter was going through a time of rebellion, causing a lot of turmoil in the family.
For months my friend was distraught, begging God to do something in her daughter’s life, get her attention somehow. That’s when she learned that her daughter passed a billboard every day that read: “Jesus is real,” which irritated the girl to no end.
To my friend, that billboard was a sign from God to comfort and encourage her and to remind her that he had his hand on her daughter no matter what outward circumstances looked like.
For me, a pig with wings is a sign from God, a reminder that he can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20) and that he hasn’t forgotten me.
For my friend Tara, her sign at one time was wild beehives. One day as she walked through the woods praying through her stuff that she was going through she asked God to show her a beehive. The next week as she walked in the same woods she heard some buzzing, looked up in a tree and there was a beehive.
When she walks in the woods, she’ll ask God, “Show me something yellow, but it can’t be anything manmade like a T-shirt. It has to be something you made” — and she’ll see something yellow in the middle of all the green and brown.
Tara believes God gets a kick out of doing things like that and she does it, not to say, “If you’re really God, then prove it,” but to enjoy him and his creation and to join with creation in worship of him.
People in the Bible were always asking God to show them signs. God told a man named Gideon, who was hiding in a winepress from the Midianites to go save Israel from them.
Gideon gave a bunch of lame excuses, which God refuted, telling Gideon it would be OK because he’d go with him.
Not convinced, Gideon asked God for a specific sign: He would put a piece of wool out on the ground and if only the wool and not the ground was wet with dew in the morning, then he would trust him.
The next morning — wet wool, dry ground.
But just in case that was a fluke, Gideon asked God to do it again, only in reverse — dry wool, wet ground, which God did (Judges 6). God graciously condescended to Gideon’s obvious lack of faith.
In other places in the Bible, when people asked for a sign God said no.
Some Pharisees who were following Jesus asked, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Another translation says, “Teacher, we want to see you credentials.” They were asking for hard evidence. A miracle or two, maybe calling fire down from heaven or making a rock turn into a T-bone steak.
Jesus not only told them no, he said only a “wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign.” Earlier in Matthew’s gospel he told them they had “minds like a snake pit” (v. 34, The Message).
He told them the only sign they would get was the “sign of Jonah,” the prophet who stayed inside the belly of a fish for three days. Jesus was referring to his upcoming death, burial and three-days-later resurrection.
As Christianity Today columnist Mark Galli put it, “The demand for signs is a demand for proof. It’s a clue that the heart is not right. It’s putting God on trial…Questions driven by a demand for signs never cease, and they never satisfy. The unfortunate conclusion in the gospel of John is, ‘Despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him (John 12:37).
But for those of us who do believe, sometimes God sends beehives and yellow things in the woods, billboard signs that irritate straying kids and pigs that fly.
Because he’s like that for those he loves.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.