Acts 13:18

Another fun tile pattern. Vermont Capitol.

Thursday, 29 December 2022

“Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. Acts 13:18

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the preceding verses, Paul was asked to address the synagogue they were visiting. He agreed and immediately began speaking about the history of Israel. In the previous verse he noted their being brought out of Egypt by the Lord. Now, he turns to a sad, but continuously repeated part of their history, that of burdening the Lord, beginning with, “Now for a time of about forty years.”

It is referring to the time in the wilderness when Israel almost constantly complained and rebelled against the Lord. Those forty years cover everything from Exodus 12:37 where they began their departure from Egypt until they were set to cross over the Jordan in Joshua 3:14.

Paul notes this was about forty years. Some events are precisely dated such as the departure from Sinai after spending about a year in that location (Numbers 10:11). Other events are recorded without specific dating, but even then very exacting inferences can be made. The account of this period is carefully and methodically detailed in Scripture. One central theme of the entire period is that “He put up with their ways in the wilderness.”

Here is a word found only once in Scripture, tropophoreó. It signifies enduring or putting up with, and thus to bear their ways. It comes from tropos, signifying a manner or way, and phoreó, signifying “to have a burden, i.e. (by analogy) to wear as clothing or a constant accompaniment — bear, wear” (Strong’s).

Of this word, Ellicott notes, “The Greek word so rendered differs by a single letter only from one which signifies “to nurse, to carry, as a father carries his child.” Many of the better MSS. versions and early writers give the latter reading, and it obviously falls in far better with the conciliatory drift of St. Paul’s teaching than one which implied reproach. The word is found in the Greek of Deuteronomy 1:31 (“bare thee, as a man doth bear his son”), where also some MSS. give the other word, and suggests the inference, already mentioned, that this chapter, as well as Isaiah 1, had been read as one of the lessons for the day.”

Other scholars mention this as well. Barnes says, “It is furthermore not probable that Paul would have commenced a discourse by reminding them of the obstinacy and wickedness of the nation. Such a course would rather tend to exasperate than to conciliate; but by reminding them of the mercies of God to them, and showing them that He had been their protector, he was better fitting them for his main purpose – that of showing them the kindness of the God of their fathers in sending to them a Saviour.”

Rather, this is exactly what Paul is doing. Moses, after almost forty years, noted to the people that they had been borne by the Lord despite their rebellion. He went on in Deuteronomy to carefully detail Israel’s future rejection of the Lord and the punishments they would suffer because of it. Paul is not attempting to conciliate. Nor is he attempting to exasperate. He is simply laying out the facts that Israel, to this day, refuses to acknowledge. He will carefully and methodically follow this line of thought until he concludes.

It is in the use of this word that Paul is reminding them of their constant turning from Moses and from the Lord who chose Moses to lead them. It is a theme he will weave into his words, demonstrating that they have repetitively done the wrong thing in relation to the Lord’s will. As such, he is hinting that they are prone to do the wrong thing now and turn from the offering of the Lord Jesus as their Messiah.

Life application: The history of Israel is a snapshot of our own lives before the Lord. We have strayed from Him, we have done wrong and turned away, and yet the Lord is ever faithful to keep His covenant. Despite being under the curses of the Old Covenant, the Lord has maintained Israel to this day, just as He promised.

While they have been unfaithful, He remains faithful. The theology that says that God is through with Israel and that the church has replaced them is a failed theology because it looks at what is happening from a human perspective. The sense is, “Israel failed, they rejected the Lord, and He has rejected them. They got just what they deserve.” If this was true, it would mean that His word cannot be trusted because He covenanted with them and spoke out promises that would have then failed.

It is from this perverse thinking that one would then say, “Israel was rejected by the Lord, and so we too can lose our salvation.” That puts the onus, the responsibility, and the work on us, not on God who has sent Jesus. If a person can lose his salvation, at any time after being saved, then he was never truly saved. God simply gave them an offer of eternal insecurity and essentially said, “Work hard, maybe you will make it. It is, after all, up to you to do so.”

This is a complete misunderstanding or twisting of numerous points of theology in order to make “self” the central message of salvation. It is a shunning of the full, final, and forever work of Jesus on the cross, and it is to be rejected. When God speaks out salvation, it is an eternal decree. God cannot lie. He has spoken. Israel the nation has been kept for its own day of salvation, and if you have called on Jesus, you have been saved for your day of glorification – despite yourself.

Glorious Heavenly Father, how can we be so perverse as to think that what You offer by grace is up to us to merit once it has been bestowed? Help us to think clearly about what You have done and to consider the eternal nature of what You have decreed. And then, Lord, help us to hold fast to this and rejoice in what You have done, are doing, and will continue to do in our lives. Great are You, O God. Amen.