A daily devotion for July 11th
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
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. Acts 17:24-25
What is he saying here? First, that God is the Maker and not the one who was made. God was not created by man; he is the One who makes man and everything else that exists in all the universe. He is the originator of all things.
We have not moved very far from ancient idolatry. In the ancient world, they took a piece of gold or silver or wood and carved or formed an idol, thus worshipping the works of men's hands. Today we don't use images, but we still see men worshipping themselves, projected to infinite proportions. Man simply thinks of himself, projects this into infinity, and worships that. That is his god. That is exactly what idolatry did. Paul points out that this is not in line with reality. God is not the projection of man; God is greater than man. God originated man. Everything that exists came from his hands. He is the Maker, and not the made.
Second, God is the giver, and does not have any needs himself. God is not looking for anything from man, as idolatry and paganism taught. People had to bring gifts to the gods, they had to do things for their gods, to propitiate them and sacrifice to them, and bring them all kinds of things. People today are still doing the same. The gods of people today still make demands upon them. Do not think that we are free from idolatry, for if a god is that which is the most important thing in your life, that to which you give your time and effort and energy, that which occupies the primary place of importance to you, the thing you live for, then men have many gods even today. Money is a god for some. Fame is a god to others. Your children can be your gods. You yourself can be your own god; you can worship yourself. I am appalled at the number of people today who worship America and enthrone it as the highest value in life, the thing for which they would give their lives, the only thing worth living for. These are the false gods that people everywhere worship. They make continual demands upon us. They do nothing for us, but we must work for them.
Paul cancels all this out. He says the real God is one who gives, who pours out. He does not need anything from you. He does not live in temples made by man. I am sure he must have pointed to the Parthenon as he said that, for it was regarded as the home of Athena, the goddess for whom the city was named. God does not live in places like that, he said, but he is the one who made you and everything about you, and there is nothing you can give him that he needs. He is, rather, giving himself continually to you.
Father, I know how I have tried to satisfy the emptiness within with some lesser concept than you. I can never do so and am therefore rendered restless and unhappy, never finding what I am looking for. I pray that this great message may have its effect on me as it did on Athens, and that our darkened society will be set free from its bondage to materialism and made to be what you intended us to be.
Life Application: Are we willing to honestly evaluate and courageously confront, and name, our personal idols? Do we see our idols as affronts to the presence and power of Christ in us and through us? Are we sacrificing our time, our very lives, to those idols -- lives purchased and legitimately owned by Christ who died for us?
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