Acts 14:17

Capitol dome (shiney), Vermont State Capitol.

Saturday, 18 February 2023

“Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17

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).

The apostles are in the process of telling the Gentiles at Lystra about God, the Creator. In the previous verse, they said, “who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.” With that, the words continue, saying, “Nevertheless.”

Despite not giving the Gentiles the revelation of the Law of Moses nor being selected as His covenant people to bring in the Messiah, “He did not leave Himself without witness.”

The Law of Moses, the utterances of the prophets, the use of the Urim and Thummim, and so forth are known as special revelation. God specifically revealed Himself or His intentions through these things. What was revealed in these ways would not have been attained any other way. However, despite not having these things, God still did reveal Himself to the Gentiles in a general way. This general revelation witnesses to the workings of God, testifying to His nature and to the fact that man is accountable to acknowledge Him and seek after Him.

Paul writes of this in Romans 1. It is something that man understands, and yet he suppresses that knowledge, thus bringing wrath upon himself –

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20

The apostles, appealing to this precept, next explain some of the ways that man can generally understand God and what He must be like, even if in a limited sense, saying, “in that He did good.”

Rather, the verb is a present participle, “doing good.” It isn’t that He did good and then it ended, but it is ongoing even to this day. Within the creation, we know that there is goodness, David testified to this in the 19th Psalm by noting that what God has done in creation for the benefit of man is something that reveals God’s glory –

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

This goodness that David writes about is next explicitly explained by the apostles, saying that He “gave us rain from heaven.”

Again, the verb is a present participle, and the noun is plural, “giving us rains from heaven.” The words are intended to wake the people up to the state of things. It’s not, “Rain came 47 years ago, and we had crops and fruit trees to sustain us.” It is, “The rains come each year at the set time. The calendar returns to the time when the rains were here before and they are here again. The cycle of life is predictable, and what happens provides just what we need to again have what we had before.”

This cycle of life gives evidence of order and harmony. It also gives evidence that God is attending to the needs of His creatures. He has set things in order, and they continuously provide for man’s needs. As such, these rains bring about “fruitful seasons.”

Man exists because God created a world where man can exist. The house was prepared, and then the guests were invited in. Within this world, however, is more than simple sustenance. God could have created a single type of food that would sustain man. Although this would have been acceptable to keep him going, it wouldn’t have had the excitement that comes through the stimulating of taste buds.

But God has sent the rains to moisten the land, and then from the land have come an incomprehensible number of delightful things to satisfy man’s tastes and yearnings. From the king of all fruit, the durian, to the harvests of the field such as barley, spelt, lentils, and wheat. There is corn, there are potatoes, and there are taro plants.

As one travels throughout the world, different plants are seen – various fruits, various vegetables, and various grains. The world is filled with tastes that excite, delight, and satisfy. All of this gives witness to the wisdom and goodness of God on man’s behalf. This is all the more evident because the tastebuds of man can process these many tastes, identifying them and allowing man to rejoice over them. As the apostles note, saying “filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

It is reminiscent of the 104th Psalm, and it could be those words that were on the minds of the apostles –

“He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
11 They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.” Psalm 104:10-15

Instead of appealing to the law and the prophets (special revelation) as was done while evangelizing the Jews, the apostles appeal to the created order (general revelation) to evangelize the Gentiles. But the result is the same. Both lead to the need for a Messiah in the lives of man. It is this Christ who has been the focus of Barnabas and Paul’s words to lead the Gentiles to a right understanding of God.

Life application: As David noted in the psalm, the creation testifies to the glory of God. But one might say, “But my son got stung by a scorpion and died. How can God who is supposedly good make something that is harmful and bad?”

The question fails to understand the entirety of the biblical narrative. It was not God who brought these things about, but man. What has happened is a result of man’s turning from God and the entrance of sin into the world. The supposed “bad” that occurred is simply the lack of a good thing. Man was in Eden. All was good at that time. Only after man disobeyed came the curse upon the land, including thorns and thistles, bee stings and shark bites, killing and adultery, and so forth. This was not the original intent for man. These have come as a result of our failing to rightly fellowship with God.

But God promised that these things would not be permanent. He would send the Messiah to restore all things to perfection. Isaiah prophesies of a time on earth when things will be glorious for man for a thousand years. But beyond that, Revelation goes further and reveals the details of eternal glory for the redeemed of mankind.

Restoration is ahead, and it is available to those who accept God’s offering of pardon and renewal that has come in the giving of Jesus Christ for the sin of man. With sin dealt with, and only after it has been fully dealt with in the redemptive process, can man experience the fullness of what God promises for His people. Everything is working toward that time.

We, however, must live through these difficult and trying times. But God is with us in them, and He will get us through them. Trust in this and be thankful to God who has provided the remedy to restore us to idyllic perfection someday. Be patient and wait for it. It will be worth it!

O God, how grateful we are for the promise of restoration that lies ahead for Your redeemed. And yet, we know that we have the sealing of the Spirit now that guarantees our future redemption. Thank You that we have this sure and firm hope. Thank You, above all, for Jesus Christ who has made this possible. Amen!