Is divine intervention a burning bush or an angel descending with a message? If there are no burning bushes, how does one know when God has intervened? Our clergy discuss the elusive concept.
In Judaism, divine intervention happens all the time. We believe everything happens for a reason. Hashgacha pratis means that everything stems from the world of the spirit. I would quote English mathematician J.E. Littlewood (1885-1977), who said that statistically, each person can expect something divine to happen to him at least once a month.
There is a second concept, nes, or the miracle, which is not supposed to be taken literally. Maimonides explained that what is important is what we learn from the miracle. For example, the fall of the wall of Jericho (Joshua 6). The walls could have fallen because of an earthquake or some structural defect. What is important is that the people asked for assistance, and someone was there for them. That is divine intervention, that we know that there always is someone there for us.
How do you recognize divine intervention? You first must accept that there is a plan for everything. Then, you have to understand synchronicity. For example, a man and a woman both alter their schedules and end up in the exact same place at the same time. If either had arrived even two minutes earlier, they wouldn't have met, fallen in love and married.
Another key factor is that it implies an unusual occurrence. For example, you never get sick, but this day you get sick and don't go to work. On the same day, the train you regularly take is involved in a crash.
Third, it cannot be fully explained by the known laws of nature. The example: Someone gets struck by lightning twice and survives both times.
Pastor Jeff Wells, Community United Methodist Church, Massapequa:
Many people think of "divine intervention" as God forcing something to occur in our physical realm. I do not believe God works that way. That would not square with the free will that God gave us and which is part of the image of God in us.
On the other hand, God does intervene in our lives continually by offering us love, guidance, comfort and forgiveness. Most of us want that burning bush or flaming arrow to point us in the right direction. Divine intervention is most often a subtle experience. And we think of divine intervention as something he's doing for us. It also can be something he directs us to do for others.
God communicates with us both individually and collectively through his spirit. He intervenes by shining a light for our journey every day in very gentle and loving ways. However, in order to recognize and accept what God offers us, we have to be attuned and listen carefully and continually. We have to hear with ears of faith, see with eyes of faith and think with minds shaped by faith.
If you follow the way God is leading you, yes, you may experience a feeling of peace. More often, you recognize that you're doing the right thing, or participating in God's plan to make the world better for all of us.
The Rev. Diane Melograne, North Shore Assembly of God, Oyster Bay:
My simple answer is that divine intervention is an answer to prayer. Anyone can commune with God, but for us as Christians who follow the New Testament, we pray to God the Father, through Jesus (John 14) and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
When my daughter was 9 months old, she began to have infantile spasms. Doctors were giving her steroid injections and other medications, none of which would stop her 40 to 50 seizures a day.
My husband and I started to pray for her every night. All of a sudden, one night I had a vision of the Lord walking into the room and blowing his breath into her mouth and telling me she was healed. The seizures stopped the very next day. Our daughter, who is now 33 years old, has never had a seizure since.
Divine intervention isn't always like the miracle we received. It could be as simple as a sense of peace, a confidence about a direction you want to go in or strength to do something you need to do. And, it has to line up with God's words and commandments.