Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services. After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.”
So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.Acts 13:13-16
I have divided the text as I described to you in the last Gems.
- The Introduction (Acts 13:13-16)
- Paul’s Message (Acts 13:17-41)
- The Reaction (Acts 13:42-52)
I don’t intend to spend much time on the Introduction. Suffice to draw your attention to the following things.
Paul is following the principle of what he stated in Roman 1:16. He is not ashamed of this gospel and shares it with the Jews first and then with the non-Jews (Gentiles). That is his pattern. But there will come a time when he no longer bothers to share the message with Jews but still holds them in his heart. In accord with that principle Paul and Barnabas head to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Notice that there were usual portions read at the synagogue. Several of you asked me about the statement in the NLT, “after the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets. . . “ The NLT could make it sound as though they read the same passages each day. But that is not what is going on here. Rather there were set passages – like lectionaries. I would translate prophets with a capital – Prophets. I believe Paul is referring to the reading from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings – the three fold division of the Old Testament. A reading was taken from each section. The normal opening at the synagogue would be to read the Shema – Deut 6:4 “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is One.” That is the opening statement read before any other reading from the Tanakh (the Hebrew scriptures).
Tanakh is an abbreviation for The Law, The Prophets and The Writings. (Ta – Torah, Na – Nevi’im, Kh – Kethuvim) This statement is read (Deut 6:4) and then the scroll is opened to read in order the passages of the Law and the Prophets firstly. The Writings are not always read.
As I used to teach in God’s Awesome Book – the Shema is interesting because that verse is always written the same in all Hebrew Bibles. It contains a majuscula. Letters written in large form containing a code.
שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד
The Ayin and the Daleth are always written twice the normal size – The last letter of the first word and the last letter of the last word. Remember Hebrew reads right to left, not left to right.
Together they spell the word for “witness”. The message here subliminally is that God is your witness as you read and recite the Word of God. He is watching and He knows what is in your heart and what is in your mind. Don’t treat lightly the Word of God.
After this verse is read then the reader will read the verses set for each day. The scroll will be marked with a bookmark and the place where they left the text each day will be taken up again the next day. So the “usual readings” referred to in the NLT translation is not suggesting they read the same verses each day, it is referring to the fact that readings are taken from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings and the Shema is read before each set of readings.
There are two more things I would like to comment on before I leave you today. Firstly, notice the leaders of the synagogue say to Paul and Barnabas, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” They are welcomed to speak at the beginning of their ministry. The reaction among the Jewish community has not developed into animosity at the beginning of their missionary tour. That develops later.
Secondly notice the words that follow. So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.” Both Paul and Barnabas were invited to speak but Paul is the one to take up the offer. He addresses them as both Men of Israel and God fearing Gentiles. There were both among the gathering that day, as there were in all synagogues. Do you see why initially Paul always heads to the synagogue – there he will find the God sensitive people. That is a good place to start. There will be both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles there. Notice also how Paul starts. Listen to me, hear brothers. He starts with exactly the same word as the Shema. it is called the Shema because that is the first word spoken. Shema Israel. . . Likewise here Paul says “Shema brothers. . . “ Paul repeats the word Shema and then launches into a retelling of Jewish history only this time he tracks the coming of Messiah for them.
It is not coincidental that Paul starts that way! Listen up brothers, I have things to tell you of which God is a witness.
The three seasons of a married man’s life: Tri weekly, Try weekly, Try weakly match some people’s attempts at reading the Word of God.Ian Vail
Yes it is true, there is a code written in the Bible to remind you that God is watching all you do and think.Ian Vail
You can’t hide anything from the Creator of the Universe; don’t you know that?Ian Vail
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the One to whom we are accountable.Hebrews 4:13