Sunday, August 19, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Wisdom 3-5 and Acts 27-28

Wisdom 3 – The souls of the virtuous are in God’s hand. It is true their death seems like annihilation, but they are at peace. “Their hope was rich with immortality” (3:4) The New Jerusalem note says this is the first use of the word “immortality” in the Old Testament. It means the abiding unity of the soul with God and does not yet mean resurrection of the body. “Those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.”

Wisdom 4 – The godless will be judged and punished. Even those thought to be without much status in society – women without children, eunuchs, the lowly – all will have greater reward than those who reject wisdom.

Wisdom 5 – At the judgment, the virtuous will face their oppressors. They will confess their sins. They have pursued every path of worldly pleasure and gain through life but have never sought out the path to God. There follows several passages of beautiful poetry. It starts, “All [the worldly mockers]. . .have passed like a shadow. . .like a ship that cuts through heaving waves – leaving no trace to show where it has passed” (5:10). But the virtuous will live forever. Evil doing will bring the thrones of the mighty down.

Acts 27 – Luke starts again, saying that they were ready to sail for Italy in the custody of a centurion named Julius. They leave from Adramyttium (near Antioch) and sail along the coast. The centurion allows Paul to visit with friends along the way. It takes a fortnight (15 days) to get to Myra where they get on an Alexandrian ship for Italy.

They have rough wind for a time, and end up in Lasea (southern Crete). A “north-easter” hits them on their way west – they start throwing things overboard and pretty much give up hope. Paul tells the crew he had a vision, an angel who told them not to fear. In the Adriatic, still torn by the weather, some men try to abandon ship but Paul tells the captain and the boat they were going to escape on is cut loose. Paul gives everyone hope that they well survive. But the boat runs aground. The soldiers think they should kill the prisoners so they won’t escape, but the centurion is committed to bringing them through. They all get safely to shore.

Acts 28 – They discover they are on the island of Malta – south of Italy.  They are received well and taken care of. Paul is bitten by a snake, and some of the “natives” think it means Paul is a murderer suffering “divine vengeance” (28:5). He shakes it off into the fire and is fine; they are so surprised they end up thinking he was a god (28:6).

Publius is the prefect of the island. He entertains them for three days. Publius father was in bed with fever and dysentery, and after Paul lays hands on him he is healed. This leads to a long line of sick from the island visiting Paul. After three months they said again to Syracuse, spend three days there and then go up to Rhegium and then Puteoli, where they encounter Christians and stay a week with them.

Finally, they arrive in Rome where they are greeted by Jews and permitted to lodge with them, accompanied by a guard. Paul calls the leading Jews together and tells them his story, but they have heard nothing from Judaea or elsewhere about him. They are willing to hear his side, but they tell him “all we know about this [Nazarene] sect is that opinion everywhere condemns it” (28:22).

They arrange a day to listen to his case. He talks to them all day and some are convinced (28:24), but many remain “skeptical”. Paul leaves them with this quote from Isaiah: “Go to this nation and say: You will hear and hear again but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing and they have shut their eyes, for hear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me” (28:26-27). So the salvation God meant for them has been sent out to the pagans – “they will listen to it” (28:28).

Paul spends two years in his own rented place, welcoming visitors and proclaiming the kingdom of God and “teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone” (28:31).

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