Saturday, 7 January 2023
“For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. Acts 13:27
Paul just mentioned that the word of salvation had been sent to his people, the sons of the family of Abraham, and to those among them who feared God. Now Paul explains the purpose of the mission going forth, beginning with, “For those who dwell in Jerusalem.”
Paul brings the attention of the matter back to where it began. Jerusalem was the seat of power in Israel. It was where the temple was, where the high priest ministered, where the oracles of God and the genealogical records were maintained, and so on. It is the focal point of God’s dealing with the people, even if events in Jesus’ ministry occurred elsewhere in the land. Paul next says, “and their rulers.”
The rulers of the land determine its direction. This is a precept found both implicitly and explicitly throughout Scripture. All people are individually responsible for their actions, but the rulers of a land direct how the land, meaning the nation of the land, will be determined in the eyes of the Lord. In the case of Jerusalem, being the seat of power, what occurred there was because of what the rulers determined. In the case of their Messiah, Paul continues, saying, “because they did not know Him.”
This does not mean:
1) That they didn’t know who Jesus was as an individual. The gospels are replete with the rulers’ interactions with Him. There was certainly not a ruler in Jerusalem who didn’t know who He was.
2) That they didn’t know His claim to be the Messiah. He told them, but they didn’t listen (John 10:25). Many of the people either proclaimed Him the Christ or learned through interacting with Him that He was the Christ.
3) That they didn’t have sufficient evidence that He was the Christ. He had performed many miracles, fulfilled ancient prophecies, and walked in sinless perfection before them.
In saying that they did not know Him, it means that they willingly failed to recognize Him for who He truly is. He even said this explicitly in John 10:40, saying, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” And more, Paul demonstrates that they were wholly without excuse in this, saying, “nor even the voices of the Prophets.”
Being the stewards of the oracles of God, they had direct access to every prophecy ever recorded in their Scriptures. These were both exacting and readily available to them. In fact, when Herod wanted to know where the Christ would be born, this is exactly what He did –
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’” Matthew 2:3-6
As such, these rulers of Jerusalem were completely without excuse. Again, Jesus told them this explicitly in John 5 –
“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” John 5:45, 46
And again, not only did they have the voice of the prophets, but he notes that they were the prophets “which are read every Sabbath.” Rather, the verb is a present participle. They “are being read every Sabbath.” The process continues even to this day.
It wasn’t as if the oracles of God were sequestered away and taken out only when a person claimed to be the Messiah, at which time the sages poured over the Scriptures hoping to remember what they said and where to find out the needed details to confirm or disprove a claim. Rather, they were read every Sabbath in synagogues throughout the land and even throughout the dispersion, as evidenced by Paul’s commenting on a Sabbath day reading now in the synagogue in Pisidia of Antioch.
With this marked stain upon those in Jerusalem who had personally seen, interacted with, and rejected their Messiah, Paul next says that they “have fulfilled them in condemning Him.” This is the height of irony. The very people who had the oracles of God before them, and who had interacted with the living fulfillment of those oracles, rejected Him and condemned Him. Paul says that they were so blind to their own Scriptures that they could not even see what was plainly before them.
Life application: The point of Paul’s words is that those in the synagogue were about to be on a sort of trial, just like those in Jerusalem. They were Jews, they had the oracles of God laid out before them, and they had eyewitness testimony of who Jesus is and what He did while among the people. And more, the oracles before them in the synagogue not only told of the things that transpired up until the time of Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion, but they also even told of those things.
In other words, when Paul finishes, they would be just as responsible for their acceptance or rejection of Jesus as were the leaders of Israel who were in Jerusalem. And that same type of trial continues to this day.
The word of God contains the same message today that it did two thousand years ago. We have the exact same witness and testimony that those in the synagogue in Pisidia of Antioch had because we have Luke’s record of it. We also have the rest of the New Testament now written and on permanent record before us.
And yet, despite it being read in churches all over the world, many are just as blinded to what it says as the Jews in the synagogue Paul is speaking to. They open up the word, read what it says, and say something ridiculous like, “Jesus is not God.” Or they might say, “Jesus is loving and love wins, we will ordain a homosexual to be a leader over us.”
The very oracles that tell us what God expects of us are ignored, manipulated, or dismissed as archaic writings with no bearing on how we should conduct our affairs before God now. Those with such attitudes will receive their just condemnation. Let us hold the word close to our lives, live in accord with its precepts, and be willing to never waffle in our convictions concerning what it proclaims. God has spoken. Let us consider this soberly.
Lord God, help us to accept Your word for exactly what it is, Your unchanging, infallible, and complete revelation to us concerning the redemption of mankind. May we never trifle with it. Instead, help us to hold it in the highest reverence while we walk in Your presence. It is our light and our guide to return us to You. Thank You for Your precious word. Amen.