A Bad Sign

“. . . this was a bad sign.”


“Judas, however, noticed that Nicanor was becoming hostile and rude toward him, and he knew that this was a bad sign. So he gathered a large number of his followers and went into hiding.” (II Maccabees 14:30) (A book from the Apocrypha of the Old Testament)

It was an ominous looking winter day made to feel even more ominous by the presence of thousands and thousands of birds roosting in trees we were passing in the car.  I stopped the car, got out, and walked into the midst of the clearing that was surrounded by the trees with the birds.  Talk about ominous!  The birds were screaming to each other as I stood in their midst.  Then suddenly, they took to the sky and the already storm-darkened sky was further darkened by their cloud of flight. 


In ancient days the pattern of flight of birds was often interpreted as a sign of something.  If the birds flew to the left it meant one thing, to the right something different.  I’m aware that there are many ominous signs that we receive almost on a daily basis.  Sometimes they are signs from our bodies – a creak here or there, a sudden pain, a lump…  Sometimes they are signs in our culture – more violence, a downturn in employment, an upturn in hunger.  Sometimes they are signs in our relationships – a frown, a lack of desire to communicate, a drop in energy.  Signs cannot be ignored if health is to be maintained.

In II Maccabees it says that Judas Maccabeus (an earlier Judas, not the Judas who betrayed Jesus), “…noticed that Nicanor was becoming hostile and rude toward him, and he knew that this was a bad sign.”  I think we’d all agree that hostility and rudeness in a relationship is definitely a bad sign, a sign that the relationship is in trouble.  Noticing the bad signs in our relationships is one thing, but acting on them is something else.

How many times have you heard someone say (after a major crisis like a heart attack) that they had signs before the crisis but chose to ignore them?  Unfortunately it’s all too common.  The same can be said in relationships.  The bad signs are always there.  That’s a pretty strong statement but I’m willing to stand by it.  I believe the ominous, bad signs of a relationship heading into trouble are always there, but too often we choose to ignore them.  In the case of Judas, he noticed the bad signs and moved to protect his army so they could live to fight another day.  In our relationships bad signs signal us to move not further away, but rather, toward each other. 

When God has seen bad signs in the relationship with us, God has always acted in some way to move closer to us with the sending of prophets, teachers, leaders, and finally Jesus.  When God has noticed our hostility and rudeness in our relationships with God and one another (our sin), God has always paid attention to the bad signs and moved to bring healing to our relationships.  God’s grace invites us to confront our difficulties head on – acknowledge our hostility and rudeness (sin), seek forgiveness, and live into God’s healing.  The same is critical for us when we see the bad signs in our relationships (and we can see them if we open our eyes).    It is imperative that we act to move toward one another instead of running further away.  God can bring healing to our relationships if we acknowledge the bad signs, turn toward God for help, and turn toward (instead of away) from one another. 

I pray that God will help me see the signs, ask for help, and move closer.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit www.survivingteendepression.com.

Check out my new video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on January 23, 2013.

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