“Where are you?”
Acts 17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
In today’s text it says: The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. The Bereans were not smarter, more holy, better versed in scripture, they were noble-minded. They sought the truth, not their own preconceived idea. Now, just as then, when noble-minded people, people who desire to know the truth rather than to hold to their own preconceived ideas, search the scriptures they will find the truth and therefore they will believe. Even those who are noble-minded in regards to the evidence of science will find the truth concerning God and creation. God reveals Himself both through His word and through creation. Those who only desire to maintain their own preconceived ideas will believe and create alternate explanations that oppose the truth. In Jeremiah 29:13-14 God says: You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you. For anyone who truly seeks God, noble-mindly seeking truth, He will be found.
Later the text says: Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. Just as Paul observed then, people today are very religious in many respects. Aside from spiritual applications, religion is defined as: a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance - a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. Along many other causes, many people are very religious about their lack of belief in God. So it is not religion that people dislike, it is the belief in God and Christ. Like those Paul spoke to, many today worship unknown gods. God Himself is not interested in our religion, what He desires is a relationship. In Genesis 3:4-10 it says: Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” God desires to walk with us as He did with Adam and Eve. As it did with them, the awareness of sin causes people to hide from God. All of religion, all of man’s efforts to be spiritual are an attempt to restore the relationship that God Himself desires to have with us. What none of us can do on our own, God did for us. He restored our relationship with Him, reconciling us to Himself through Jesus sacrifice on the cross. In Christ there is no longer any reason to hide from God. Romans 8:1 says: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is no reason to look for another way to find God. In John 14:6, Jesus Himself says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
It is okay to be religious in many respects. It is okay to hold to and value many causes. But, nothing should come before our relationship with God. In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.” First and foremost, before and beyond anything else, we should seek to reciprocate the love that God has for us and to value and pursue, with ardor and faith the relationship He desires. God is asking: “Where are you?”
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit; that even when I hid from You, You sought me. Thank You that You demonstrated Your love for me, in that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. Thank You that You continue to pursue me, standing at the door and knocking. I say yes Lord. Come in. I love You with all of my heart, soul and mind, and my desire is to walk with You daily. I am religious about You. Amen.