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"marvel, and disappear"

23-09-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet


Beware then, that that which has been declared in the prophets may not be coming on you: Perceive, you despisers, and marvel, and disappear! for a work am I working in your days — a work which you should by no means be believing if anyone should be detailing it to you. -Acts 13:40,41-

Acts 13 is the chapter in which the name Saul becomes Paul (verse 9).beginning in this chapter, Paul turns to the Gentiles (nations), while his people, Israel, witness this with great envy. The history of the proconsul Sergius Paulus and the Jewish Bar-Jesus on the island of Cyprus (13:6-12) is, therefore, very illustrative. Paul became “an apostle of the Gentiles” because of the unbelief of Israel, as he explains in his letter to the Romans. Nevertheless, Paul regarded the climax of his ministry to be among the Jews “that he should be saving some of them, anyway. (Rom.11:11-15). That explains why Paul, everywhere, first visited the synagogue. That was definitely not because Paul still counted on a rapid conversion of the nation (and the manifestation of the Kingdom). Nowhere in the book of Acts, do we find even a hint in that direction. Paul primarily first visits the synagogue, because he had his eye on (some) individual jew. This is evident from the following. After Paul’s visit to the island of Cyprus, we read in Acts 13 of his visit to the city of Antioch. Paul goes first to the synagogue and gives a message, there, which he ends with the memorable words shown at the top of this article. Let’s take a closer look at this text.

Beware then…

 Paul warns his listeners, here, in the synagogue

 …that which has been declared in the prophets

 This refers to the prophet Habakkuk (1:5).

Perceive, you despisers….

 By “despisers”, Habakkuk and Paul primarily are referring to the leaders of Israel. They are indicated, here, as despising or disrespecting the Word of God.

… and marvel…

Israel will marvel about what will happen to them. Marvel means: not understanding and being amazed. It also means seeing and hearing things contrary to expectations. In the days of the book of Acts, at its beginning, the return of the Messiah and the revelation of the Kingdom of God were preached and expected (Acts 3:19-21). But because they despised the word, very different things would take place.

…and disappear…

Instead of a restoration of the kingdom of Israel, the nation would perish among the nations of the world. In 70 AD, when the Temple went up in flames and Jerusalem was razed, the Jewish nation vanished off the map.

for a work am I working in your days — a work which you should by no means be believing if anyone should be detailing it to you.

The work that God is doing during the days in which Israel is being set-aside, is incomprehensible to the Jewish people. Of a Messiah, whose kingdom is hidden, as Paul’s letters reveal, they can imagine nothing, thus far (neither can the rest of the world, for that matter). With this closing statement in the synagogue of Antioch, Paul makes it clear that he … 1. already, from his first mission among the nations, knew and spoke about the drama that was awaiting the nation of Israel; 2. wanted to warn and prepare his faithful countrymen for the amazing (= hidden) work of God in these days.