Good Morning, Siblings!
Today’s readings are acts 16-17
DIVING RIGHT ON IN!
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where he found a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman and a Greek father. Acts 16:1
So now feels like a great time to add in another nugget here. Our Jewish brethren trace their lineage through the maternal line. Meaning, if your father was a Gentile and your mother was a Jew, you’re a Jew. If your father was a Jew and your mother a Gentile, you’re a Gentile. It is speculated that this was in place around or before the time of Moses. I’ve had some great discussions with people over the past few years about why this may be the case and we always seem to go back to the thought that Jewish women, especially in servitude or slavery, may have been abused and this is a way in which their children would be cared for as part of the tribe, never having to questioned about their lineage or whether or not they belonged. Regardless of what their mother went through, they were part of the tribe, a Jew, treasured family. Rabbinical literature backs up this reasoning and I find it deeply moving.
However, is this how YHWH views it? That is a rabbit trail you can take if you like. I have not spent a lot of time on it myself as the Father makes a way for everyone who would join themselves to Him to be counted as His sons and daughters, but it is helpful to have this cultural knowledge when reading the Word so that you can have a grasp of knowledge that the reader is expected to know in some of these passages.
Why did Paul circumcise or have Timothy circumcised? (there is debate over which of these took place but one did for sure). Normally, a Jewish father would have seen to this but clearly, Timothy’s Greek father saw no reason to. It is also possible that his father was not present in his life and for whatever reason his mother did not make sure this happened when Timothy was born. We are given the note that the Jews knew Timothy’s father was a Greek and that he was not circumcised. Since Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and a tremendous part of his ministry was preaching the gospel to Jews, he wanted to make sure Timothy was circumcised to avoid his uncircumcision being a stumbling block to any of the Jews they would preach to and so, he saw to it himself. This is just one of many times in which Paul would take a paternal role in Timothy’s life.
We are told in Acts 16:4-5 that the decisions the apostles and elders came to in our reading yesterday (to have the Gentile converts start with the basics and learn from there) were shared in the cities they went into. This lets us know that many synagogues were welcoming in Gentiles at this time! In sharing the wisdom of this decision on how to teach them and where to start them out, we are told that assemblies were strengthened in faith and continued to grow at a rapid pace. This was clearly an education model that worked.
Acts 16:6 Has the Holy Spirit ever forbidden you to speak? Whether it be regarding a certain topic, speaking up to something you disagree with, voicing your opinion on a matter, or even speaking back to someone who is trying to incite an argument, this is certainly a strange feeling when it begins to happen! Giving control of our tongue over to the Holy Spirit is a process that requires deep prayer and practice on our part. I’ll never forget the first day I opened my mouth to say something and suddenly it was as if all the breath was gone out of my lungs and I had to shut my mouth right back, no words having left it, because I immediately knew I was not allowed to voice the words I had chosen to say. It is an exercise in humility to be sure! And nowadays, it is not just our tongues that we should seek to submit to the Holy Spirit, but our keyboards as well.
Acts 16:15 I love that Lydia is referred to as a “worshiper of God”. What a way to be remembered!
Acts 17:1 Take note that we see Paul staying here for three weeks, teaching each Sabbath as the people gathered, patiently reasoning with them and explaining, using the Scriptures (what we call the old testament) as his only teaching tool, and with that “old” testament, he is able to prove that Yeshua was our Messiah. We can do the same using just that part of the Word today as well! This is monumental.
The text also says that some of them were persuaded to join them, along with Greeks and not a few (which means many) female leaders as well. So this tells us that the first group referenced in “some of them” means the Jews. We now have the apostles joined by a group of Jews, Greeks, and influential women. If you think about this a bit, it tells you a lot about their growing power and importance in the communities they would visit as well as their increased reputation with those that they visited previously as they would have received news of how the group had grown.
Often when we read things like “leading women” it means women of means and station. We have historical accounts of situations like this in which these important women may have financed trips and provided other valuable resources. Of course I’m sure many of the affluent men did this as well, I just wanted to help flesh out the image of these “leading women” and what part of their role may have been beyond what we typically think of.
Acts 17:6 shows some of the Jews (possibly one of the sects of Pharisees) who didn’t agree with the apostles issued an indictment against Paul and his crew and it left me praising the Father to read!
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” From Acts 17:6
Keep in mind, that was meant as an insult but my thought is “YES”! I love the concept of taking this lost world and turning it upside down for the Father. His ways confound the world and bring light to the nations! LET US TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN!
Acts 17:11 cannot be stressed enough and should be deeply carved into the minds and hearts of all Bible readers.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11
As Paul was teaching from Scriptures, they were not just listening, they were going back and examining the Scriptures to test everything He was telling them to see if it lined up with the word of YHWH. They were actively using Scripture as the straight edge to which all else must line up and as such, they were also testing Paul to see if they should be sitting under his teaching.
How often did they do this? DAILY.
How was their behavior described? AS NOBLE.
Acts 17:22 Paul’s address to the people of Aeropagus is epic, brilliant, well thought out, and impressive at any angle you view it from. These are idol worshippers. He could easily go in there and rightfully condemn them all, which is the exact approach we see many Christians taking today in confronting those outside of the faith. But instead, he meets them where they are, establishes common ground, and then goes on to explain exactly who the God they have declared they do not know is. It is masterful, heartwarming, encouraging, and emboldening. This encouraged me!
When it comes to Paul, we are granted unprecedented access to his “behind the scenes” thinking and narrative. He is unreservedly relatable. We will see him struggle with anger, frustration, and pain. We will see him lose his temper with those who refuse to see and be unnaturally patient with those who have just the slightest bit of desire to learn. He will take great pains to humble himself and even be a father to people in need of such and then he will stand amid a crowd and expound upon his own attributes to the point of making the reader uncomfortable, before lowering himself once again to prove a humble servant. And for all of this, I think we can learn greatly from Paul because I think we can relate to him, to his struggles, and to his journey unlike any other.
You know why this book is so relatable? Because, family, we were meant to read it. In this book we find instructions from our Creator on how we are to live. And these commandments that He gives us are not too far off so that they feel somehow unattainable, but they are near, in our hands, in our minds, on our hearts.
For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. From Deut 30:9-11
Now y’all know I just gave you a portion of that passage in Deuteronomy. I hope you know what your response should be – when someone gives you a verse, take a chapter. You got this. You know how I know that? Because He’s got you.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!