13:26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death."
In rereading chapter 13 this morning a phrase jumped out at me that represents a theme that runs all through the Bible. Paul addresses the gathering as the sons of the family of Abraham. It's subtle and if it was only in this one place I would never have noticed. However the normal thing to call them would be the sons of Abraham. That's what the Jews called themselves. However Paul calls them sons of the family of Abraham. Isaiah in referring to the nation called them "the daughters of God's people" on several occasions. In Exodus 19 Moses referred to them as the house of Jacob and the children of Israel.
Why these subtle "name changes"? Jacob was the original name of Abraham's grandson. It meant 'supplanter'. Jacob lived much of his life trying to play God in manipulating people and events to secure what he wanted. He was a supplanter. Finally he came to the realization his scheming was destroying his future rather than securing it and in desperation threw himself on the mercy of God. With this profound heart change God renamed him Israel which means 'overcomer'.
In Exodus 19, four generations later Moses calls the people a house of supplanters, even though they were descendants of an overcomer.
At the time of Isaiah the nation was in rebellion and he used a very distinctive term for it. 'Daughter' was derogatory because of the extremely patriarchal male dominant culture but worse was 'daughter of God's people'. The meaning was clear. He was acknowledging the hereditary link to God's people but at the same time pointing out the link was only that. In reality they were not acting like God's children at all.
Paul continues the theme by adding the phrase 'family'. He calls these Israelites the sons of the family of Abraham. In other words, you are descendants of his line but not part of the family. He goes on to say that their rulers did not know God and even though they heard the words of the prophets read every Sabbath they did not hear the voices of those prophets. As Jesus declared in Matthew 13, "Seeing you don't see and hearing you don't hear."
So cavernous was the disconnect between God and the nation of Israel that when God sent His Son they saw Him as a law breaker, an imposter, and a threat to national security. They handed Him over, an innocent Man, to the Roman authorities to be killed.
Yet Paul and Barnabas stand in that synagogue offering them another chance to embrace the One who while dying at the hands of His own cried "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."
I am generations deep in Seventh-day Adventism and many more generations deep in Christianity but that doesn't make me a child of God. It only makes me a descendant of overcomers, a son of a family of faith. It's up to me to choose to be His friend or His enemy, to embrace Him or crucify Him afresh.
"Choose this day whom you will serve... Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts..."