• – – – – He is the God • – – – – – who made the world and everything in it. • – – – – – Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, • – – – – – – he doesn’t live in man-made temples,• – – – – – – and human hands can’t serve his needs• – – – – – – for he has no needs. • – – – – He himself gives life and breath to everything, • – – – – – and he satisfies every need. (24-25)
• – – – – From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. • – – – – He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, • – – – – – and he determined their boundaries.• – – – – “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God • – – – – – and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—• – – – – – though he is not far from any one of us.• – – – – For in him we live and move and exist. (Acts 17:26-28)
“He is the God
who made the world and everything in it.
Since he is Lord of heaven and earth,
he doesn’t live in man-made temples,
and human hands can’t serve his needs
for he has no needs.
He himself gives life and breath to everything,
and he satisfies every need.
From one man he created
all the nations throughout the whole earth.
He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall,
and he determined their boundaries.
His purpose was for the nations to seek after God
and perhaps feel their way toward him
and find him
though he is not far from any one of us.
For in him we live and move and exist.
As I indicated last Gems there is a contrast between what is God-made and what is man-made. With this comparison Paul laid out the obvious in much the same way Isaiah did in the verses I gave you in Gem 1724 – Isaiah 44:9-20. One view is man-centric and the other view is God-centric. Many ancient cultures and some modern ones have the notion of god houses or temples which house the spirit of the gods. People go to such places and serve the gods. Shrines and sanctuaries for the gods carrying the idea that the gods need something from human beings. That the idols and the shrines require offerings for the gods to feed them or to placate them and turn away their wrath. Paul contrasts gods who dwell in shrines made by humans with humans who live and move and exist in God.
Notice what Isaiah wrote:
“How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit? All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame.
The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and weak. It makes him thirsty and faint. Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it! He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!”
Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”Isaiah 44:9-20
All of these god-shrines are [cheiropoietos] “man made” – the word used is a compound “hands-made” or made with or by human hands. This is contrasted with the fact that the one true God made the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He has no need to be [therapeuo]. Do you see the irony of the word Paul uses here. [Therapeuo] is an interesting word. It’s the word from which we get “therapy”. But in this case it is used in a religious sense of ministering to the gods, serving, doing service or even looking after; not giving God therapy but caring for Him. Paul is telling us God doesn’t need anything and he doesn’t need caring for. He has no needs. God is totally self-sufficient. Even that word is intensely human in its perspective. Isaiah’s words capture the foolish of man’s thought that he can fashion something man-made and that would be sought after or of use by God. The idea is folly in the nth degree. How can this one true God possible live and move and have his being in spirit houses? The idea is crazy.
There are many things I could pick up on here. I am sitting here at my computer and wondering how far I should take this. If I let myself go off on one of my favourite side-tracks (creation vs evolution // design vs chance) we could be stuck on this idea for a long time. I will comment on two ideas in Hebrew thought. The first is that God spoke into being all that you see in terms of the immensity of the universe and the delicate balance of life that He created. The Butterfly Effect and the notion of an ever-expanding universe which stays constant, in balance and works like clockwork are mysteries. How can that be? But consider too the contrast between God speaking EVERYTHING into being by the power of His spoken word. Not with hands (God’s hands vs human hands). Yet God did use His hands when it came to creating mankind. Note the special attention in this case.
God limited his communication with human beings to anthropomorphic language analogies. He is light and this light was the light of mankind and the life of mankind. Science tells us that is true. He then took dust / dirt and personally fashioned it into a human creature. I use the word picture deliberately because it encompasses the idea of a created being. The two accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 are to highlight and emphasize the particular attention God gave to His creation of mankind. Man was placed in the centre and the apex of the creation act. In Hebrew repetition is used for emphasis. That is why we have two creation accounts. Not that there were two different and distinct creative acts to make Neanderthal man or australopithecines and then modern man. That is human nonsense in much the same way Isaiah tells us. And furthermore it is not to highlight man’s place at the top of the heap – man centric – but rather to highlight God’s place in it all – God-centric- as the Creator and not the creation.
The second point I would like to make and then I will bring this Gem to a close is the idea of breath. Paul tells us something very deep and significant. “He himself gives life and breath to everything and He satisfies every need.” Do you see how strongly this contrasts with the pagans’ ideas of God. God gives breath to man! You come into this world with a first breath. We all have been born into this world and made our first cry. The first moment when we sucked in the air to fill those lungs for the first time. Conversely we all pass from this life with a last breath. It is somewhat uncanny that medical science hasn’t solve the mystery of that last breath. Oh, there can be many other things going on in your body which causes your body to shut down. But at one particular moment the life source, breath, stops. When that happens, death occurs. Take note of this. In Hebrew thought God is breath. [Ruach] is all at the same time spirit, breath and wind. God per se, is the sustaining sufficiency of life. Our lives and the life of the planet. I could say more but I am leaving that for Deeper Bible Level Seven.
Paul the great Rabbi is telling the members of the Areopagus (and us) that at the same time. It is God who gives to us life and being, sustains the universe by His power. This God doesn’t need anything from man, human hands don’t supply his needs. While He fills us with breath, His breath, we live and move and have our existence in Him. When He takes that breath back our life stops until the Life of the Age to Come is given again.
Today’s Gem was a bit of a pot-pourri, but I felt I needed to emphasize these things before we move on. I have given you two parts from today’s passage and divided them accordingly: Acts 17:24-25 and Acts 17:26-28. Both packed with goodies. We will address the second one in the next Gem.
It is possible to believe in something and not care about it; it is totally impossible to care about something and not believe in it.Shane Willard
All of us have wandered away from God. All of us are eligible for forgiveness. All of us.Isaiah 53:6
Insight is the ability to see reality with accuracy.Ian Vail
Our greatest challenge with God’s commands isn’t understanding them but obeying them.Ian Vail
The only deterrent to becoming vulnerable to sin and spiritual failure is to have a heart that is desperate for God.Jerry Rankin
In everything I do I want Jesus to increase and me to decrease and for resurrection power to be released through the exchange.Ian Vail