“The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt. Then with a powerful arm He led them out of their slavery. He put up with them through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Then He destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’
And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! Before He came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized. As John was finishing his ministry he asked, ‘Do you think I am the Messiah? No, I am not! But He is coming soon—and I’m not even worthy to be His slave and untie the sandals on His feet.’ Brothers—you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles—this message of salvation has been sent to us! The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the One the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned Him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath. They found no legal reason to execute Him, but they asked Pilate to have Him killed anyway. When they had done all that the prophecies said about Him, they took Him down from the cross and placed Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead! And over a period of many days He appeared to those who had gone with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now His witnesses to the people of Israel.
And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus: ‘You are My Son. Today I have become Your Father. ‘ For God had promised to raise Him from the dead, not leaving Him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give You the sacred blessings I promised to David.’
Another psalm explains it more fully: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to rot in the grave.’ This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay. Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this Man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in Him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’ ”Acts 13:17-41
I left you to work out what you thought about the interpretation of the 450 years. Was that the measure from promise to fulfillment or was it the time of the span of the Judges.
I like the translation of the KJV here or Murdock’s version of Acts 13:20:
- And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. (KJV)
- And for four hundred and fifty years he gave them judges, until Samuel the prophet. (Murdock)
I believe that is where the focus is here on the time of the Judges and the time of the Kings. The classic way of looking at the time of the Judges is to pick up on the refrain “and every man did what was right in his own eyes”. The time of the Judges was not a highlight in Jewish history. But the time of the Kings was no better either. Notice where Paul is putting the emphasis here. I have coloured one portion green because it leads you to life. What Paul wanted them and us to remember about the time of Judges was how far from God’s purpose it was. This period was followed by the time of the Kings. Was this any better? A resounding NO! The people wanted to be like the nations and asked for a king. God told them they didn’t need a king; they had Him as King. They insisted on having things their own way and God told them what would happen. (1 Sam 8:4-22) Note also Judges 8:22! God was the One to rule over them but they wanted to be like the world around them. So God gave them the king they deserved – Saul. [Be careful America: you will get the ruler you deserve. Oh how scary this all is! Surely America doesn’t deserve Trump. Or Hillary.] Paul, by using this outline and by making the subtle changes that he does has spelled out what led the leaders and the people to the demise they faced at the end.
How could the people go so wrong? By choosing their own leaders and rejecting the fact that God wanted to be their leader. But as you know in this present day and age it is hard to make God your leader. It all seems so indefinite and cloudy when God is your leader. That is why the children of Israel wanted a human leader. They wanted an intermediary and not to have to relate to God Himself.
Perhaps the two questions I am asked the most frequently are:
- How do you hear the voice of God?
- How do you know God’s will?
As I tell people regularly in Deeper Bible God many times God doesn’t answer your prayer – deliberately. Either you are asking for something above and beyond your maturity. Like the twelve year old child asking for a car. Or we ask only because it is a fashionable fad to follow. (do you like the alliteration?) Mummy, I want a barbie doll. Daddy I want a rugby ball. Please mummy please? Please Daddy please? But we don’t give them what they ask for immediately. A good parent checks out to see whether what the child is asking for is not driven by a fad or driven by the fact that their friend has one. If that is the case it will be used once and then sit in the cupboard. Do you realise God does the same thing? God, I want to know you. God, I want to hear your voice. God, I want to know your will. God I want to be close. What is God’s most likely answer to those pleas? Of course it is “yes” because He wants to give you spiritual gifts and see you grow. He wants you to know Him and to hear His voice. But God is smarter than we are as parents. He tests you to see how much you want Him. How much you want to hear His voice. How much you want to grow in holiness. Ouch, that’s where reality bites.
I remember the story told of D L Moody after speaking at a student conference and of a young man who followed out of the auditorium as Moody walked toward the beach. The student expressed a desire for God and to know Him and hear His voice. He kept on and one and Moody didn’t say much. Then finally Moody stopped by the water edge and said, “So young man you hunger to know God do you?”
“Yes Mr Moody, I do.”
“Follow me then son” and with that Moody started walking out in the water, deeper and deeper. When they were chest height Moody suddenly grabbed the young man and held him under the water until he started to fight Moody’s hold to get back to the surface. Holding him a few seconds longer, he then let the young man up to breathe again. Upon which the youth gasped and said, “Mr Moody, what did you do that for?”
“Son, when you long for God like you longed for air then you will find Him.” And then D L Moody walked off and left him.
It is so easy to ask to know God in all of His fullness on the last night of a conference when emotions are running high. But what about during the cold reality of life a week or a month after the conference? Me? I would love to know what happened to that young man. What is he doing now? Did he take on board the full power of what Moody told him that day. Or did the shock of Moody’s response quickly wear off. What about you after reading these words? Will you keep seeking or quickly fall by the wayside?
Do you see that is what Paul is doing with what he was telling those Jews who loved Adonai and those Gentile God-seekers who were longing for the One and Only God. All of the children of Israel longed for God. It was in their DNA as children of Israel. I love the way the Bible calls the people of Israel, the Children of Israel. Because they were like children. I refer often to Psalm 103:7 – He gave knowledge of his ways to Moses, and made his acts clear to the children of Israel. There is Hebrew parallelism in this verse but there is also a subtle difference. Moses knew the principles on which God decided, the CHILDREN of Israel only saw what He did but didn’t really understand the why and the why not.
It seems to me that Paul is making it clear to these people who were listening in that first synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to check themselves out in the light of Jewish history. Learn the lessons of Jewish history and learn the lessons from your own history as well. Don’t remain children. Do all you can do to press into God for all you are worth. When you seek Him with all your heart you will find Him. (Jer 29:13) I have told you the possible interpretations behind the four verses which I believe underpin this passage. Yes there is controversy over the interpretations. Many are divided as to whether the 450 years refers to the time between the promise and the fulfillment of the promise or whether it refers to the time of the Judges. I believe it is the time of the Judges which is in the focus for the reasons I have outlined above and in the preceding Gems. I may be wrong. The best way to find out now is to ask God and the Holy Spirit. The best way to find out later is to ask Paul. But I also believe you won’t have to worry too much about asking Paul when you first see Him. You will be too busy worshipping Jesus. When you finally catch a breath and think to ask I believe you will know already what the answer is – because you will know as you are known. (1 Cor 13:12) And that my friend is perfectly.
I also suspect that Paul took this above approach in every synagogue he spoke in but the details are only recorded here for us. These ought to be on-going principles that we put into practice.
God’s principle: People get the leader they deserve.Ian Vail
Gain God’s perspective on your past so by the Holy Spirit you learn to set your course for the future.Ian Vail
Learn to grow in your ability to hear God’s voice and know His ways, not just be able to see what He does in your life after the fact.Ian Vail
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (NASB) When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else. (MSG)Jeremiah 29:13
Learn the lesson Paul is teaching us here. Don’t be one of those who would fulfil what the prophets said but on the wrong side of the fence.Ian Vail
Read this passage again in order to put all the pieces in place; then act on the basis of your new understanding.Ian Vail