Monday, October 21, 2013

Look, be amazed you scoffers, and perish.


Acts 13:40 Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:
Acts 13:41     ‘Look, you scoffers!
        Be amazed and perish,
    for in your days I am doing a work,
        a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’”


Paul and Barnabas were responding to the crowd, which included the religious leaders of the day.  They had heard the news about Jesus Christ -- they should have known and seen that he truly was the Messiah, and yet, they were blind.  This quote comes from Hab. 1:5 -- where the people of Israel are warned about their lack of repentance.  Because they are stubborn, they are going to be overrun by the Chaldeans.  The religious leaders listening to Paul and Barnabas would have instantly understood what it was they were saying through this scripture.  The quote is from the Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew and therefore is a little different from the original.  The NIV translates Hab. 1:5 as:

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.

You see there are a couple of additions in Paul's version.  He refers to the listeners around him as "scoffers."  They scoffed at the idea that Jesus was the Messiah.  They scoffed at the message that they had heard. They scoffed at the disciples themselves.

In the original the people are simply going to be amazed -- now, they are going to be "amazed and perish."  Not only will the land be overrun and Israel destroyed, but on a personal level, if they refuse to accept Christ as the Messiah, they will perish for all of eternity. 


I had to stop at this verse of scripture today because it's always had a very special place in my heart.  When I turned eighteen years of age I had a very significant spiritual experience.  I had really struggled with giving God everything in my life -- especially my future.  I wanted to control where I would go and what I would do.  It felt so much safer that way.  After wrestling with God for months I clearly remember the night when I turned everything over to him!  It was that night that I was led to this scripture -- the original one -- found in Habakkuk. 

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told."

For a young lady who was born in Germany the very summer that the Berlin Wall was built -- this had significance for my life.  In my lifetime I have watched the nations with utter amazement -- as the Iron Curtain fell and the world literally changed.  Then, this little girl who had lived in fear of the wall and what lay behind it, was asked to go into the post-Communist world and serve the Lord there.  Yes -- I have looked at the nations and watched and been utterly amazed.  You see, for me, this passage brought a positive message, one that said that God could even take down the powers and principalities of this world and we would all be amazed.

But now, Paul's use of this scripture is very different.  The warning sounded in the simple and subtle change of words is significant.  Yes, the original had been a warning of doom for the people of Israel -- for the nation as a whole.  But now, the warning goes to something extremely personal, and that is eternal punishment for the rejection of Christ. 

Barnes shares the following thoughts:
    (1.) that men may see, and be amazed at the works of God, and yet be destroyed.
    (2.) There may be a prejudice so obstinate that even a Divine revelation will not remove it.
    (3.) The fancied security of sinners will not save them.
    (4.) There are men who will not believe in the possibility of their being lost, though it be declared by the prophets, by apostles, by the Saviour, and by God. They will still remain in fancied security, and suffer nothing to alarm or rouse them. But
    (5.) the fancied security of the Jews furnished no safety against the Babylonians or the Romans. Nor will the indifference and unconcern of sinners furnish any security against the dreadful wrath of God. Yet there are multitudes who live amidst the displays of God’s power and mercy in the redemption of sinners; who witness the effects of his goodness and truth in revivals of religion, who live to despise it all; who are amazed and confounded by it; and who shall yet perish.

For me, personally, this is a challenge to look at the scripture which has been a promise, and examine where I stand before God.  Am I a scoffer?  Have I become obstinate in wanting Christ on my own terms?  I believe that God still wants to do amazing things in these days, but only for those who can look beyond what is directly ahead and truly see Christ.  He transcends our understanding and sometimes, even if we were told, we would not comprehend his ways.  It's a solemn reminder to not be a scoffer, or risk perishing. 


Lord, thank you for your wondrous acts which we continue to see in the world today.  Amen.

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