Today’s readings are Acts 9-10

Read today’s Bible readings at BibleGateway by clicking here.

Rabbit Trails

Todays and tomorrow’s reading notes are somewhat combined. Today I’m going to focus on one aspect of our reading and then tomorrow, I’m going to focus on another aspect. Part of today’s topic carries over into tomorrow’s reading and part of tomorrow’s topic backtracks to today’s reading. I promise it isn’t nearly as confusing as I just made it sound.

In the beginning of Acts 9:2 two we see that the Messianic Jews were called “followers of the Way”. This is how the early believers referred to themselves. We saw Messiah call Himself “The Way” in John 14:6 and we see more personal references to folks identifying as followers of “The Way” in Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 22:4, Acts 24:14, and I think there are a few other cases.

The Way is a title that doesn’t ascribe us to a set of doctrines or traditions. Rather, it is how we live, a way of life, by following Messiah, who declared Himself to be The Way. Unfortunately, a well known cult is currently using this title.

However, the Father has taught me, over these past five years or so, that He will not fit into any box man tries to fashion for Him. His majesty will break the seams of our definitions every time. And so, as followers of His, its best we just get used to not being able to fit into any of the world’s boxes, too. If someone asks me what religion I am, I don’t have a short answer but I can be concise. “I follow the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A God so full of love and mercy that He sent His son, Yeshua, to be our Messiah. Yeshua means “YHWH Saves” – and He did and He does.” I don’t ascribe to any denomination or any sect. I just wake up each morning, turn to His face, and look for His footsteps to follow in. And whoever else does the same, regardless of any label they may ascribe to or have ascribed to them, those are my brothers and sisters and I want to encourage them.

Moving on to the big stuff!

In today’s reading one of the most significant events with regards to Believers today takes place . I count this right up there with the creation, the giving of the ten commandments, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Messiah. Seriously, it’s that big of a deal, especially to most of us reading this.

So what happens? Well, we’re gonna talk about that but first we need a little lead up because I can’t even begin to imagine how many times the Father has shook His head at us and marveled at how we have chosen to willfully (mis)interpret this passage.

So the Father is going to give us a vision and then He is going to immediately give us an interpretation of that vision, not once but twice, very clearly and very bluntly with no room for other interpretation. He is then going to reinforce and prove that interpretation a multiple times in this same passage.

So surely all Christians, as Bible readers and believers, are going to accept what the Bible says as true, right? I mean, when we see this clear, obvious, blatant passage telling us exactly what it means we wouldn’t ever dream of making up an entirely different meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with any of the text we are reading, right?

Surely no one who believes the Bible would take this story out of context, ignoring the clear interpretation given in the Word, and turn it around like that, right?
Yes, you would think – and hope. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

What am I talking about? Peter’s vision. Ask most Christians and even many pastors what Peter’s vision is about and they will likely tell you that this is when “God made all things clean” with regards to food. Even though the clear interpretation (right there in the passage) and explanation states no less than three times that this has nothing to do with food. Even though YHWH said He does not change (Malachi 3:7) and even though Isaiah 66:17-24 and several other verses clearly hold up the Word of YHWH… but I digress. I’m not here to argue over anything YHWH has declared. I am here to call your attention to the monumental event that takes place in Acts 10 – and it has absolutely nothing to do with eating a ham sandwich. Or as my friend, Miss Margie, once heard “The Father was making a point, not a menu.

So up until this point, we have been talking about Jews following YHWH, receiving the Gospel, Holy Spirit, Grace, Forgiveness, the whole nine yards – it’s all been about our Jewish brethren.

During most of this time, Gentiles have pretty much been in the background worshipping idols, killing Jews, and going about our own mayhem. There is an occasional sojourner, such as Ruth, who joins themselves to YHWH’s people – but Messiah and all of the apostles have been teaching and preaching to Jews.
So we open our scene with Gentile Cornelius, who we see is a man who lives his life in a way that seeks to honor YHWH. He prays continually to YHWH and has shown himself to be a man after His heart. How do we know this? Because of the way YHWH takes notice of Him. We need to read this entire story very carefully, y’all, a few times at least.

The next day after YHWH (or His angel) speaks to Cornelius, Peter goes up to the roof to pray and becomes hungry. Y’all know how when you’re hungry all you can think about is food and it gets to the point where just about anything looks good? Well, Peter was almost at this point. Almost. We are about to see his limits.

The Father sends Him a vision, a sheet coming down with all sorts of unclean animals on it (Lev 11). He is told to arise, kill, and eat.

What does Peter say?

Peter is horrified at the very thought.

“No! I have never eaten anything common or unclean!”

Now it should be noted that this is taking place a few decades (estimates say 30 years) after Messiah ascended. So at this point, Jews are still only eating what YHWH has declared to be food.

He has lived his entire life as an obedient Jew who kept the commandments and knowledge of what was acceptable to eat and what was not acceptable to eat was as ingrained in him as it is to us. I mean, think about it. If I offered you a rat burger or cat meatloaf, you would be repulsed, right? Same thing is happening here. In fact, rats and cats are also not to be considered food according to YHWH’s Word in Leviticus 11.

This sheet is brought down three times. Now at this point, the text says Peter is perplexed. Why?

Recall that Peter has the gift of the Holy Spirit and he knows this vision has to mean something different – at no point does he assume it is regarding food. Rather he assumes that it is not telling him that it is okay for him to break one of YHWH’s commandments or that YHWH has suddenly changed His mind (Peter also knows Scripture).

BAM! Immediately after this, three men show up at his door AND the Holy Spirit (See, Peter is being guided) tells Him that he is to go with them without hesitation because YHWH has sent them. Y’all, this is happening in immediate order, one right after the other.

At this time, Jews did not associate with Gentiles and they certainly wouldn’t go into their homes. Gentiles were not considered clean by the Jews as most of them were pagan, worshipping many gods, not observing the commandments of cleanliness, eating meat sacrificed to idols, and worse. Jews, in their desire to remain ritually clean, saw these folk’s houses as minefields and chose to avoid them altogether. But after this vision Peter goes with them, obeying the Holy Spirit in both His vision and direction afterwards. Directly following this we read:

“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but YHWH has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection.” Acts 10:28

Y’ALL THIS IS THE KINGDOM OPENING UP TO US! This is a MAJOR TURNING POINT in Scripture and we are going to see all of the participants being amazed at this – and as Gentiles we should feel double the awe that they feel!

Yes, there were always ways for us to join ourselves to Him but this is the green light for the apostles to now go and deliberately bring the gospel to the Gentiles who would diligently seek it.

Now, let’s read again what Peter was shown in his vision in Acts 10:34-35

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35

Does Peter think his vision was about food? No. The Holy Spirit showed him that it was about people. Now, anyone who even begins to understand the power of the Holy Spirit understands that questioning this is the same as questioning YHWH.

Acts 10:45 adds proof of what is going on, the Holy Spirit is being poured out onto them as well! It also further verifies the amazement that YHWH would open up the faith to Gentiles.

And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. Acts 10:45

The Jews were amazed at this!! While, tragically, most of today’s Christians completely ignore the meaning of Peter’s vision as given to him by the Holy Spirit, and instead decide to make it about food. This is like being gifted a Rolls Royce and trading it in for a skateboard.

Now let’s read ahead a bit just in case two proofs haven’t been enough – YHWH knows we’re a bit thick headed so He is graciously repetitive with us. There is a THIRD explanation of Peter’s vision.

But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:4-18

The sheet was brought down three times, immediately following the vision three men arrived, and Peter explained his vision three times.

And that, my friends, is how the Gentiles came to know the Gospel.

Tomorrow, I’m gonna talk about Paul!

BONUS From the queen of rabbit trails!

I was talking with my sister, Patti, the queen of deep and winding rabbit trails, about this passage. She had some great insight that really helped to expand my thinking on this.

When we read about this being a sheet that was lowered, we likely envision what we consider to be a flat sheet. However, bedding of this sort did not exist and nothing similar to it was used in this time. The text makes it a point of calling this a four cornered piece of fabric. Other times in the Bible we read of prayer shawls or tallits being worn by Jewish men and it is this garment (the tallit) that they attach their tzitzit. The Greek word being translated refers to a piece of cloth made of fine linen, which was a traditional cloth often used in making tallit.

Patti had a thought, and It think this makes sense as well, that it could have been a prayer shawl that was lowered with all of these animals on it. We see Peter was shocked to see all of the unclean animals and to see them on a prayer shawl, all these unclean things on such a special garment, would have been doubly shocking. This also further brings to mind the connection to people as a sheet would have no tangible connection but the connotation of a prayer shawl is of that belonging to a man of YHWH. He did not let it touch that which was unclean. It was treated special, set apart for a special purpose.

This also brings to mind the lady with the issue of the blood. Recall that as Messiah passed her by she reached out and touched the fringe (tzitzit) of his garment (tallit). I see another connection there if this was, in fact, a tallit being lowered. This is not something I have proof of right now, just an idea to put out there, something to consider. I enjoy rabbit trails like these and when they are not salvation issues, they can be interesting things to research and ponder.

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!

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Christy Jordan
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