“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 17:27-28)
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.
What interesting words! What does Paul mean by using words like “seek after God”, “feel their way toward him”, “find him”, “not far from any one of us”? They are interesting combinations of words in this context of seeking after God. If you stop and take in the words used it is like we are stumbling around, groping in the dark for God who is right there in front of our face. Like playing a game of hide and seek with blindfolds on, stumbling slowly forward, groping and feeling with our hands for what is immediately in front of us. How ironic when God is pure light! The words Paul uses here are brilliant and deliberate. Let’s unpack them.
There appears to be a deliberate balance or contrast in these words with the words of verse 25. Life, breath and all things contrasted with live, move, and everyone existing in Him. Also included in this mixture of thought is the shrine to the Unknown God. It is like man has lost God. The very God it was God’s purpose for man to seek. How can you lose God when He is within you with each breath you take? Your first and last breath depends on Him. God’s breath is within each one of us. He is light and this light is the life of mankind. Oh just ponder on that thought and all of the directions you can take it. Without Light there is no life just as without God there is no life. How ironic then that mankind should be stumbling around in the dark to find Him. This game of hide and seek is not because God has hidden himself; it is because man has lost his way to God. Hence the shrine to an “Unknown God”. This Unknown God is set in contrast to the gods the Greeks have made with their own hands. The gods who fill the agora with their incense.
God’s purpose is that man seek after God. Firstly because they are ignorant of where to find Him. Secondly because they desire to know Him because we are all made with a God-sized hole within all of us. We either fill that hole with things made with our human hands or we fill it on His terms. Thus each human being is seeking to bring themselves into connection with God – to find Him. Simply because since the Fall we all know we are missing something. Something is not right. Where is the One who made us? The recognition of God in all that He made (the ever-expanding universe) can only be partial. Each and every soul on earth needs to find Him for themselves. Yet He is right there – in front of your face and within you. The idea is not local physical nearness but a spiritual nearness. The Rabbis say God is as near as our breath – oh how true when the Spirit of God is [ruach] spirit, wind and breath. It is God who breathed into Adam and the disciples and in turn gives each of us breath. The Hebrew letter Hē (the H) symbolizes breath, spirit, wind and is what sets us apart from the animals. Interesting isn’t it that Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai become Sarah – when the Hē is added. Coincidence? No! This God who made all that is and then all men and nations from one blood, then assigned their dwelling place and limited their power is the One who made man with His hands. We don’t need to fashion gods by our hands in order to find Him. That would be folly. Folly is an old English word, better perhaps if I call it what it is – stupidity.
The construction “and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” are very descriptive words. The idea is that we are in the darkness of our own willful ignorance trying to find God. A darkness I might add that we brought on ourselves. “In the hope that we might feel after Him and find Him” – do you see now why I call this Gems “Playing Hide and Seek with God”?
The first word [zeteo] “to seek”, “look for” (27) is in line with the purpose of God – that His Creation / His people he made would seek after him. There is a second [heurisko] “to seek” – it is found in the second part of the same verse – feel their way toward Him and find Him. This word speaks of an “intellectual discovery”. That you might come to know that Unknown God you worship but don’t know. This seeking is described by the word [pselapheseian] “to touch”, “handle”, “grope”. Do you see now why that made me think of playing hide and seek in the dark stumbling along, touching, groping and feeling our way toward God, who was standing right there all the time? These words of Paul’s are deliberate. They paint a picture of man’s futile groping in the dark to find a God who is pure light. It’s just so ridiculous. I liken it to that version of hide and seek where when you have found someone you have to feel their face and say who it is you have found. How apt in this case of Paul’s description of God. How contrastive it is with what Paul has told the Areopagus already of his experience of wandering the Agora and seeing all the man-made idols to God whom they confess to not knowing. It is God who has made you with His hands, not you who make gods with your hands. There is no excuse for their (or our) failure because God is close to every single individual.
I will close this Gem now and leave verse 28 for the next Gem. I don’t want to detract from the importance of this verse (27) by adding the detail of the following verse. Paul’s choice of words and the brilliance of his argument are worth more than that. Stop and ponder verse 27 rather than moving on too quickly. Soak in the Word of God.
Our life becomes credible as we move from darkness to light – or from ignorance to enlightenment.Ian Vail
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.John 1:4-5
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.John 1:9-11
After dark one evening, Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus . . .John 3:2
And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.John 3:19-20
The measure of your spiritual maturity is your response to the light.Ian Vail
Do you find yourself playing hide and seek with God, stumbling and groping in the dark? Time to step into the Light.Ian Vail