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Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 28:11-16

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods[a] as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers[b] and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

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Last week’s post discussed the healing miracles that Paul performed for the people on Malta through the divine power that God had granted him.

With winter over (verse 11), it was time to resume the journey to Rome.

Luke gives us a bit of information about the ship (verse 11). It was from Alexandria, the breadbasket of Egypt at the time, an important source of grain for Rome. The ship also had a figurehead of Castor and Pollux, gods which were widely worshipped in Greece and Rome. These are the twins for the astrological sign Gemini, but in the ancient world, they represented much more.

Wikipedia explains (emphases in the original):

Castor[a] and Pollux[b] (or in Greek, Polydeuces[c]) were twin half-brothers in Greek and Roman mythology, known together as the Dioscuri.[d]

Their mother was Leda, but they had different fathers; Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.

In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini[e] (literally “twins”) or Castores,[f] as well as the Tyndaridae[g] or Tyndarids.[h] When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo’s fire. They were also associated with horsemanship, in keeping with their origin as the Indo-European horse twins.

The Ancient History Encyclopedia tells us (emphases mine):

The twins were considered the protectors of the home and hospitality, oaths, friendship, and sporting activities. Castor was held to be a skilled horse-tamer while Pollux possessed great boxing skills. Both were thought to protect warriors in battle and sailors at sea, especially those in life-threatening situations, and they would often appear in person at such times. At sea they were thought to appear in the form of St. Elmo’s fire.

In Italy the cult of the twins went back to the mid-6th century BCE. For the Romans the twins were the offspring of Jupiter and Leda; both were particularly associated with cavalry and Castor was adopted by the Roman knights (equites) for their patron. In addition, the twin brothers were represented in the constellation Gemini. Other associations were the dokana symbol (two vertical wooden posts connected by two horizontal beams), pairs of amphorae, snakes, and bossed shields.

Matthew Henry says that a Bible scholar, Dr Lightfoot, reckoned that Luke included the detail to indicate that the centurion Julius and his crew might have believed they would have better sailing conditions with these deities notionally watching over them:

Dr. Lightfoot thinks that Luke mentions this circumstance to intimate the men’s superstition, that they hoped they should have better sailing under this badge than they had had before.

They first landed on Sicily, which is fairly close to Malta geographically. They anchored at Syracuse, where they stayed for three days (verse 12). Syracuse had long been the most important port in Sicily, although, after the 7th century, Palermo overtook it in importance.

John MacArthur is quite sure that Paul wasted no time in Syracuse and began preaching the Good News:

Tradition says that Paul founded a church there too. Now I don’t know whether that’s true but it sounds like him. I mean I’ve got 3 days here I might as well start a church. Amazing, I’m telling you. There’s no way to calculate the man’s spirit. And, incidentally, Sicily is an island about 80 or 90 miles away from Malta and a 3-day layover there.

From there, the wind caused them problems, so they tacked then docked at Rhegium (verse 13), which is known as Reggio di Calabria today. It is at the toe of Italy’s ‘boot’ — the region of Calabria — not far from Sicily.

A more favourable southerly wind blew in and they were able to dock at Puteoli (verse 13), which is now called Pozzuoli. It, too, was an important port and more protected than the coastline near Rome. Its name comes from the volcanic sulphur which comprises its terrain.

Bible Map explains:

The region in which the town was situated is of volcanic formation, the name Puteoli being due to the odor of the sulphureous springs or to the wells of a volcanic nature which abound in the vicinity. The volcanic dust, called pozzolana today, was mixed with lime to form a cement of the greatest durability, which was weatherproofing against the influence of seawater.

Its sheltered location made it a resort for Roman nobility:

The region about Puteoli together with Baiae became the favorite resort of the Roman nobility, and the foundations of many ancient villas are still visible, although partly covered by the sea.

Luke states that he, Paul and their friends found Christians there with whom they stayed before journeying on to Rome (verse 14). Recall that the centurion Julius was favourably disposed towards Paul and no doubt allowed him this liberty. It could be that Julius himself had business to do and/or friends to visit in this city.

MacArthur describes the small Christian community in Puteoli:

There was a large Jewish community in Puteoli. It was a trade center like Corinth or Ephesus or Antioch and it would be occupied by Jews who were there for the trade business. And they found some Christians there and they had a terrific time for 7 days with a Christian. Some think the church at Puteoli and at Rome could have been founded as early as 50 to 60 A.D. so that’s very possible. It wasn’t a church that Paul founded. They were already there, and it must have been a blessed fellowship – an exciting time as they shared together. And Paul, finally, he was just 145 miles from Rome and here was a group of Christians. It must have thrilled his heart.

They made the journey to Rome on foot at that point. MacArthur says they would have travelled via the famous Appian Way:

The end of verse 14, “And so we came to Rome.” “So we came to Rome.” At last! Now they would have had to go from Puteoli on the very famous Appian Highway. The Appian Way. Name[d] for Claudius Appia who was the commissioning builder in 312. It led to Rome and so off they go on the Appian Way.

At this point, Paul had already written his letter to the Romans. He had never seen them before, but he would now. I cannot imagine what that must have been like for him. His lengthy letter helped those Christians better organise their growing community, structurally and doctrinally.

So, grateful members of the church in this great city travelled to nearby cities along the Appian Way to greet Paul. It is possible that the believers of Puteoli sent word that the Apostle was there. That he was a prisoner of Rome was no matter to them. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and ‘took courage’ (verse 15).

Henry explains:

They had heard much of his fame, what use God had made of him, and what eminent service he had done to the kingdom of Christ in the world, and to what multitudes of souls he had been a spiritual father. They had heard of his sufferings, and how God had owned him in them, and therefore they not only longed to see him, but thought themselves obliged to show him all possible respect, as a glorious advocate for the cause of Christ. He had some time ago written a long epistle to them, and a most excellent one, the epistle to the Romans, in which he had not only expressed his great kindness for them, but had given them a great many useful instructions, in return for which they show him this respect. They went to meet him, that they might bring him in state, as ambassadors and judges make their public entry, though he was a prisoner. Some of them went as far as Appii-forum, which was fifty-one miles from Rome; others to a place called the Three Taverns, which was twenty-eight miles (some reckon it thirty-three miles) from Rome. They are to be commended for it, that they were so far from being ashamed of him, or afraid of owning him, because he was a prisoner, that for that very reason they counted him worthy of double honour, and were the more careful to show him respect.

MacArthur gives us this insight:

Paul saw thanked god and what? Took courage. Was encouraged. Oh, he was thrilled at this reception. It had been three years since he wrote the Roman letter. Three years since he said I want to come to you on minister to you and impart a spiritual gift and mutually be comforted by you. Three years had gone by and they remembered him and they were eager for him.

Mercifully, Julius must have given Paul permission to stay by himself in Rome with only one soldier to guard him (verse 16).

MacArthur says that it was horrible for Paul to have been chained to his guard the entire time:

He was chained all the time to a Roman soldier. Verse 20 tells us about that, and verse 30. He had his own house and his own private guard was chained to him. But whenever I think about him being chained to the guard I always think about the guard being chained to him and I think that’s probably worse – never being able to get away from that guy would really be tough.

However, Henry posits a more optimistic view, and based on Julius’s lenient treatment of Paul from the beginning, I rather side with Henry’s perspective:

He is a prisoner, but not a close prisoner, not in the common jail: Paul was suffered to dwell by himself, in some convenient private lodgings which his friends there provided for him, and a soldier was appointed to be his guard, who, we hope, was civil to him, and let him take all the liberty that could be allowed to a prisoner, for he must be very ill-natured indeed that could be so to such a courteous obliging man as Paul. Paul, being suffered to dwell by himself, could the better enjoy himself, and his friends, and his God, than if he had been lodged with the other prisoners. Note, This may encourage God’s prisoners, that he can give them favour in the eyes of those that carry them captive (Psalms 106:46), as Joseph in the eyes of his keeper (Genesis 39:21), and Jehoiachin in the eyes of the king of Babylon, 2 Kings 25:27,28. When God does not deliver his people presently out of bondage, yet, if he either make it easy to them or them easy under it, they have reason to be thankful.

Indeed, the remainder of Acts 28 gives witness to the fact that Paul was able to preach and teach ‘with all boldness and without hindrance’ (verse 31).

Next time — Acts 28:17-22

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What follows are readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity — Fifth Sunday after Pentecost — July 14, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

Amos warns Israel’s priest Amaziah of God’s wrath to come for ignoring his prophecy and dismissing him.

Amos 7:7-17

7:7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.

7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

7:10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.

7:11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'”

7:12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;

7:13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

7:14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,

7:15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

7:16 “Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.”

7:17 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

Psalm — option one

This Psalm is a warning to those in responsibility to act in a godly way by showing mercy to those in need.

Psalm 82

82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

82:2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

82:3 Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

82:5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

82:6 I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;

82:7 nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

82:8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

First reading — option two

God promises His blessings to those who repent of their sins and return to His guidance.

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

30:9 and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors,

30:10 when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

30:11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.

30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”

30:14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Psalm — option two

This Psalm has all the necessary elements of a good prayer, including giving all glory to God.

Psalm 25:1-10

25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Epistle

This is the first part of Paul’s letter to the people of Colosse, which Epaphras founded and Paul nurtured as if it were his own. Paul begins with his general benediction, characteristic of all his letters. Note how he includes young Timothy and speaks highly of Epaphras. This is a prayer for the Colossians. The whole of the book is a warning against Judaizers, who wanted to distort Christianity.

Colossians 1:1-14

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

1:3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1:4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

1:6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.

1:7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

1:8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully

1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,

1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel

This is the enduring parable of the Good Samaritan, with the lesson that we should be merciful to all in need. The severely injured robbery victim was a Jew, yet the priest and the Levite ignored him. By contrast, the Samaritan — a Gentile — showed mercy on the man.

Luke 10:25-37

10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

10:27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Oh, the irony of pious, hypocritical clerics ignoring someone in dire need, leaving that to a layman — and someone who was not of their own belief system, either.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 28:7-10

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly,[a] and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

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Last week’s entry discussed the welcome by the Maltese of Paul and the 275 other passengers who providentially survived the shipwreck.

They called Paul a ‘god’ when he shook off a poisonous viper off his hand and was unharmed.

John MacArthur says this, which relates to today’s Lectionary Gospel passage from Luke 10 (emphases mine):

Go back in your Bible to Luke 10. I’ll show you 2 passages. When the Lord first sent out the 70 to talk about the kingdom, they must have had a lot of snakes in those days. But when they sent them out he told them this promise, verse 19. Well, he gave them a lot of things. I like this. We’ll go back to verse 17. “And the 70 returned with joy saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us through your name.’” Horrific. “And he said unto them, ‘I beheld Satan as lightening fall from Heaven.’” Sure, he’s subject to my name, I remember when he fell.

Listen, “Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall, by any means, hurt you.” Now he says don’t rejoice in the spiritual subject to you, rejoice that your names are written in Heaven. That’s a positive there. So he says I give you the power to tread on serpents. He sent them out with the ability to do that.

Now I want you to look at Mark 16:18. Now here he says to his disciples, now you’re going to in the world and many signs are going to accompany your ministry. You’re going to cast out demons. You’re going to speak with new languages. Verse 18, Mark 16. “They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them.” Now you see it’s fulfilled, isn’t it?

Now remember this, folks, that is not for today. You drink a bottle of poison you have no guarantees except that you’ll be dead. And if you play with poisonous snakes you cannot claim Mark 16:18. It’s interesting that the same people who want to claim that the speaking with new language was just for the apostles aren’t anxious to claim the drinking of poison or the playing with poisonous snakes.

This was purely for the apostolic era and an important thing but here’s the fulfillment of it. He just flicks off a poisonous snake. You say, well why this? I mean what a silly thing to happen. You know why God let that happen? Can you imagine the reaction of the people? God used miracles to confirm his apostles and to confirm their divine source and to confirm their word.

Incidentally, I can’t help when he flicked that snake off but think about the fact that ultimately, the ultimate snake is going to be flicked off – Satan himself. Romans 16:20, “I’ll shortly put Satan under your feet.” I like to think about that.

Luke, the author of Acts, does not tell us that Paul disabused them of the notion that he was a god, but we can be pretty sure that he did, because he shared the Good News wherever he went. Also recall that, at other times in Acts, Paul was quick to point out that he was a human being, not a deity:

Remember back in the 14th chapter he was there in the area of Galatia and there was this guy crippled from his birth, in verse 8, and Paul was preaching and he looked out and there was this guy and he says stand on your feet, fellow! The guy leaps up and jumps around. The people saw what he did. They lifted up their voices saying in the speech of Laconia, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury.”

And they brought out a bunch of animals to sacrifice to Jupiter and Mercury, and Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and ran crying, “Sirs, why are you doing these things? We are men of like passions with you. We preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God.” See, he didn’t want to be a part of that proliferation of deities, that polytheism that they were involved in. They wanted to the representatives of the true God, not a god.

The chief of the island, Publius, put all 276 survivors up for three days, showing them much hospitality (verse 7).

Matthew Henry says that the three days allowed Publius to make arrangements for their long term stay, which was three months:

he had a considerable estate in the island, and some think was governor, and he received them and lodged them three days very courteously, that they might have time to furnish themselves in other places at the best hand. It is happy when God gives a large heart to those to whom he has given a large estate. It became him, who was the chief man of the island, to be most hospitable and generous,–who was the richest man, to be rich in good works.

Even though he was materially well off, Publius could not prevent illness in his family. His father had been suffering from dysentery, so Paul visited the man, prayed and laid hands on him. He was duly healed (verse 8).

The King James Version uses the term ‘bloody flux’ for ‘dysentery’, because that is what it was called at the time.

MacArthur explains:

Now 1611 medicine leaves a lot to be desired and the King James was written in 1611 and bloody flux just doesn’t seem to make it. Fever I understand. The word for fever in the Greek is the word puretos and it means a gastric fever. The fact that it is in the plural, fevers, indicates that it was a recurring gastric fever.

Now the bloody flux is the Greek word dusentaria from which we get the word dysentery which is an intestinal disease. Now what he really had here was some sort of recurrent dysentery and a gastric fever accompanying it. Some historians record that this was a common problem in Malta because they have a certain kind of microbe in their goat’s milk. And so here Publius’ father who has this gastric problem, dysentery, to whom Paul entered in, prayed, laid his hands on him and healed him.

After this miraculous healing, others with diseases went to Paul to be healed (verse 9).

MacArthur is certain that Paul preached as he healed:

What Paul was doing by praying and laying hands on was identifying God’s power and the fact that he was God’s agent.

Now there is something that isn’t said here but it needs to be added to the text in this sense. I am totally convinced that what Paul also did here is to preach. And I think the reason it doesn’t say that is because it’s so obvious. The Lord Jesus Christ did not perform miracles without speaking to point out the fact that these miracles were to corroborate the testimony of the gospel. Peter, when he performed miracles, earlier in Acts, preached Christ. Paul, when he did miracles, preached Christ, having established the conformation of divine agency he then proclaimed the divine message.

So if Paul healed, believe it, Paul preached. And tradition tells us that he founded in these days the church at Malta.

I am glad that MacArthur mentioned the tradition about Publius. Of course, we read no more of him in the Bible, but it is believed that he was the first Bishop of Malta:

And tradition also tells us that the first pastor of the Maltese Christians was Publius. And very likely, if he had a house that could handle 276 guests, that’s probably where the church began too. And so we can be, even though it doesn’t say, confidently, the church was founded then and agreeing with tradition that Publius may well have been the first pastor and the church could have possibly even have met in his house. Someday, just to be sure, we’ll check out the Lamb’s Book of Life when we get there and we’ll well see a list of Maltese names and at the top will be Publius, and maybe following it will be names like Julius, a Roman Centurion and a few other people from a certain ship that had a wreck on the Coast of Malta.

Saint Publius is venerated in the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Like the Apostle Paul, Publius also died as a martyr, but later, around 125 AD. Hadrian was emperor at the time.

The Maltese are friendly, open people, so it is not surprising to read Luke’s comment that they honoured all the shipwreck survivors greatly and, when it came time to leave, loaded their ship with everything necessary (verse 10).

I’ll have more about Paul’s journey to Rome next week.

Next time — Acts 28:11-16

What follows are the readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity — the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — July 7, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the heading for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

This is the story of the Syrian commander Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy. The prophet Elisha advises his enemy Naaman to bathe in the Jordan, where he will be made clean. This is a rather complex Old Testament episode, aspects of which Matthew Henry explains well, including the wisdom of faithful servants, the taboo of leprosy, the salvation of the Gentiles and the spiritual importance of the River Jordan.

2 Kings 5:1-14

5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.

5:2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.

5:3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

5:4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.

5:5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.

5:6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

5:7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

5:8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

5:9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.

5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

5:11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!

5:12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.

5:13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

5:14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm — option one

David wrote this Psalm after a time of deliverance. It was after he moved into his house of cedar, and some scholars say that he was also cured of an illness at that time. It makes a good complement to the above reading.

Psalm 30

30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.

30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”

30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:

30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?

30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”

30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

First reading — option two

This reading comes from the last chapter in Isaiah, foretelling the rise of the Church — the new Jerusalem — and the inclusion of Gentiles among the saved.

Isaiah 66:10-14

66:10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her–

66:11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

66:12 For thus says the LORD: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.

66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

66:14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.

Psalm — option two

This Psalm encourages us to praise God and to thank Him for His continuing blessings.

Psalm 66:1-9

66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

66:2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

66:3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

66:4 All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah

66:5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

66:6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,

66:7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah

66:8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

66:9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

Epistle

In the last part of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul encourages us to be one mutually supportive body in Christ through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is partly a warning against following Judaisers, who were prevalent at the time. Verse 11 alludes to the vision problems Paul might have endured. Also note the timeless words of verse 7.

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

6:1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.

6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

6:3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.

6:4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.

6:5 For all must carry their own loads.

6:6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

6:7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.

6:8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

6:9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.

6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

6:11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised–only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

6:13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.

6:14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

6:15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!

6:16 As for those who will follow this rule–peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Gospel

Early on in His ministry, Jesus gave His seventy disciples the power to preach and heal. (He first gave the twelve Apostles those divine gifts.) Matthew Henry’s commentary posits that He might have had the seventy elders of Israel in mind.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

10:3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.

10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’

10:6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.

10:7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;

10:9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,

10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

10:16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

10:18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

10:19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:2 explains why we pray for more to be called to ordination and, where applicable, to religious orders. Our Lord also asks that they live humbly, which is why the faithful ones work on small salaries and live modestly.

On Friday, June 21, 2019, the UK’s Court of Protection ordered a mentally disabled Nigerian woman in her 20s to abort her 22 week old baby.

Fortunately, the following Monday, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision:

The world had followed this story, and police are still investigating the circumstances of the woman’s pregnancy.

Going back to June 21, the Catholic News Agency reported:

The Court of Protection handles cases involving individuals judged to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The woman, who cannot been publicly identified, has been described as “in her twenties,” and is under the care of an NHS trust, part of the UK’s National Health Service.

Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, especially if the baby would then be placed in foster care.

The woman’s mother made clear to doctors and the court that she would assume care of her grandchild.

The woman is believed to have the mental capacity of a grade school-age child. She is reportedly Catholic, and her mother is Nigerian.

It is unknown if the pregnancy was conceived consensually, and police are investigating the circumstances of conception.

The woman’s mother, reported to be a former midwife, registered her absolute opposition to the abortion citing the Catholic faith of herself and her daughter. A social worker who cares for the woman also disagreed that she should be forced to have an abortion.

The judge said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant to have a baby.

The Washington Examiner had more on the story that day (emphases mine):

In her ruling for the Court of Protection on June 21, Justice Nathalie Lieven said, “I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the State to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion … [but] I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”

“Immense intrusion” is a remarkable understatement. If the government can force you to abort your child, is there any limit to its power?

The pregnant mother and her family do not want an abortion, but she is under the care of a division of the U.K.’s National Health Service — thus why this matter has gone to court and why they have not already gotten one. But because the pregnant mother is mentally challenged, Lieven said, “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” completely dismissing the mother’s desire for her baby.

Barrister John McKendrick, who is leading the legal team for the pregnant woman’s mother, says the court has “no proper evidence” that having an abortion will be beneficial to the pregnant mother. “Their evidence is premised on a narrow clinical view. The application must be dismissed,” McKendrick said. The pregnant woman’s mother has added that abortion strongly violates her family’s Catholic values and that she would raise her grandchild herself.

I have no idea why the judge, a woman herself, wanted an abortion instead of adoption. Could she not bear to see the baby go to a good home?

A Canadian CEO considered the term ‘right to choose’:

I have no doubt that millions of prayers ascended on this future mother’s behalf.

As is so often the case with prayer, the good Lord heard us and answered our pleas according to His will.

On June 24, Sky News reported on the welcome reversal (emphasis in the original):

Doctors must not be allowed to perform an abortion on a pregnant mentally-ill woman, Court of Appeal judges ruled on Monday.

This is a marvellous result, especially for the people of United Kingdom.

Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers! Please bless this lady and her mother in the weeks and months ahead. Please also bless the child once s/he is born. To God be all glory, now and forever! Amen.

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 28:1-6

Paul on Malta

28 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people[a] showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice[b] has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

We are now in the final chapter of Acts.

Last week’s post discussed the providential safety of all 276 persons who were on the ship which ran aground in Malta during the raging storm.

Luke, the author of Acts, was there, hence the first-person narrative (verse 1). He noted that they learned they were on Malta, which was part of the Roman Empire at that time.

The reason that no one knew where they had landed was probably because the shipwreck took place on a part of the island that was unfamiliar to them.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

The reason they didn’t recognize it when they arrived was because they came by way of a little bay now known as St. Paul’s Bay which was not the normal port. The normal port was a place called Valletta … and this was not Valletta. The sailors and the soldiers probably had been to Malta before but wouldn’t have recognized this part of the island. It wouldn’t have taken them very long, however, since it was a mile only 17 miles and 10 miles wide.

Valletta is the capital of Malta and some distance from St Paul’s Bay.

Interestingly, the place where they landed — St Paul’s Bay — is now the largest town in Malta, as the city’s Bay radio station reported in 2018:

St Paul’s Bay is officially the biggest town in Malta.

The popular seaside resort, which includes Bugibba, Qawra, Xemxija, Burmarrad and Wardija, has seen its population soar in recent years to 23, 112.

St Paul’s Bay has overtaken Birkirkara as the largest town in Malta, according to official figures from the National Statistics Office.

Birkirkara is now in second place with 23,034 residents, with Mosta third and Sliema in fourth place.

Mdina has the smallest population in Malta with 235 residents, followed by Għasri in Gozo with 421 people.

The figures show that Malta’s population now stands at 460,297 – and almost one in eight residents are aged over 65.

The Maltese were very kind to Luke, Paul and the other shipwreck victims. They lit a huge bonfire in order that they might warm themselves (verse 2).

In older versions of the Bible, ‘barbarous’ is used instead of the word ‘native’. That was not an insult, but, Luke, as a Greek speaker, used the word to denote any non-Greek speaking people: barbaroi. From this, we got the word ‘barbarian’ and ‘barbarous’.

They were pagans at the time, but as the Bible shows us, unbelievers were sometimes kinder to those in need than God’s own people. The Samaritans are a case in point.

Matthew Henry’s commentary expands on this:

So far were they from making a prey of this shipwreck, as many, I fear, who are called Christian people, would have done, that they laid hold of it as an opportunity of showing mercy. The Samaritan is a better neighbour to the poor wounded man than the priest or Levite. And verily we have not found greater humanity among Greeks, or Romans, or Christians, than among these barbarous people; and it is written for our imitation, that we may hence learn to be compassionate to those that are in distress and misery, and to relieve and succour them to the utmost of our ability, as those that know we ourselves are also in the body. We should be ready to entertain strangers, as Abraham, who sat at his tent door to invite passengers in (Hebrews 13:2), but especially strangers in distress, as these were. Honour all men. If Providence hath so appointed the bounds of our habitation as to give us an opportunity of being frequently serviceable to persons at a loss, we should not place it among the inconveniences of our lot, but the advantages of it; because it is more blessed to give than to receive. Who knows but these barbarous people had their lot cast in this island for such a time as this!

Paul, as ever, made himself useful by gathering sticks — brushwood — to keep the fire going, when he was bitten by a viper (verse 3).

Paul loved to serve people and, in doing so, imitated Christ. MacArthur points out:

Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto” – but what – “to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” This is always a quality of true leadership. So we ought to add it to our study … True leadership includes the mentality of a servant; the eagerness to do the humble task as well as the exalted one.

Humility is absolute to true spiritual leadership. Look at Jesus in John 13, washing the disciples’ feet and he says then to those 11 leaders, or Judas, of course, would not be included in the ultimate fulfillment but he says to them, “You do what I have done to you.” In other words, you lead with a servant mentality. You stoop to meet the needs of each other. If you’re too important to get dirty, you’re too important to wash feet, if you’re too important to pick up sticks you’re not as important as you think you are.

The presence of the viper is still a subject of lively debate unto this day. Malta is not known to have poisonous snakes, yet these people recognised that this beast was venomous. In 2014, the Times of Malta published an article by an expert in local flora and fauna who says that Luke was wrong; they all landed on neighbouring Melita, which does have venomous snakes. However, it is also possible that, as a Maltese historian posits, humans introduced venomous snakes, which died out over time.

Luke’s words — ‘fastened on his hand’ — meant that the snake injected venom into it.

The Maltese watched what was happening and believed that Justice — a goddess of theirs — would not allow Paul to live. They wrongly assumed he was a murderer who must die for his deeds as punishment (verse 4).

However, Paul shook off the snake, which landed in the fire (verse 5).

Henry says:

It was well they did not knock him down themselves, when they saw he did not swell and fall down; but so considerate they are as to let Providence work, and to attend the motions of it.

After the Maltese saw that Paul was unharmed by the snakebite, they revered him as a god (verse 6).

Henry says that we can view Paul’s shaking off the snake as an allegory about resisting temptation:

He carelessly shook off the viper into the fire, without any difficulty, calling for help, or any means used to loosen its hold; and it is probable that it was consumed in the fire. Thus, in the strength of the grace of Christ, believers shake off the temptations of Satan, with a holy resolution, saying, as Christ did, Get thee behind me, Satan; The Lord rebuke thee; and thus they keep themselves, that the wicked one toucheth them not, so as to fasten upon them, 1 John 5:18. When we despise the censures and reproaches of men, and look upon them with a holy contempt, having the testimony of conscience for us, then we do, as Paul here, shake off the viper into the fire. It does us no harm, except we fret at it, or be deterred by it from our duty, or be provoked to render railing for railing.

Both commentators point out the fickle nature of mankind, as the Maltese onlookers displayed in this narrative. Within minutes they changed their mind about Paul, who went from murderer to god in their estimation.

Henry makes this observation and reminds us of another time in Acts when something similar happened:

See the uncertainty of popular opinion, how it turns with the wind, and how apt it is to run into extremes both ways; from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas to stoning them; and here, from condemning him as a murderer to idolizing him as a god.

Of course, Paul would have disabused them of such a notion.

However, the purpose of this miracle was to ready the Maltese for the Gospel — and more miracles among them.

Next time — Acts 28:7-10

What follows are readings for the Second Sunday after Trinity — the Third Sunday after Pentecost — June 30, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used for public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the heading for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading — option one

This is the dramatic account of Elijah being swept up into heaven on a chariot.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

2:1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

2:6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

2:7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.

2:8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

2:10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”

2:11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

2:12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

2:13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Psalm — option one

The water imagery and plea to God tie together well with the aforementioned passage about Elijah and Elisha.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

77:1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.

77:2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.

77:11 I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old.

77:12 I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.

77:13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?

77:14 You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.

77:15 With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

77:16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.

77:17 The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.

77:18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.

77:19 Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.

77:20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

First reading — option two

The Lord instructs Elijah to choose Elisha as his successor. Note the role of the mantle, also in the other first reading involving the two prophets.

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21

19:15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

19:16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

19:19 So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.

19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”

19:21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Psalm — option two

This psalm of David expresses his faith in God and ties in with that of Elijah and Elisha. More importantly, however, this psalm should be considered as pertaining to Jesus Christ.

Psalm 16

16:1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

16:3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.

16:4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.

16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

16:6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

16:7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

16:8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.

16:10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.

16:11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Epistle

Paul describes the freedom from sin that Christ gave us through His death on the Cross, our redemption. Therefore, we must let the Holy Spirit lead us in standing firm in our faith.

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.

5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

5:15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

5:16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

5:17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,

5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,

5:21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

5:22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

5:23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Gospel

Much takes place in Luke 9. The following occurred at the end of an eventful chapter which begins with Jesus giving the Twelve the power to go out to preach and heal. He then fed the Five Thousand. The Transfiguration followed. Afterwards, James and John, whom Jesus had dubbed the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), misunderstood Him. Finally, those who wanted to be His disciples were not really prepared to follow Him.

Luke 9:51-62

9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him;

9:53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

9:54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

9:55 But he turned and rebuked them.

9:56 Then they went on to another village.

9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

9:59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

9:60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

9:61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus could discern the hearts of those wanting to be disciples. The Son of Man desires full commitment, along with service. So often, we, too, let our lives interrupt what should be continuous service and devotion to Him.

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:39-44

The Shipwreck

39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef,[a] they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

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In last week’s entry, Paul brought the crew and prisoners together to share a meal — their first in a fortnight. Paul gave thanks to God in front of everyone.

Paul had been correct about every aspect about this horrific sea journey, therefore, the men trusted him, especially Julius the centurion.

So here they were nearing land. They had no idea where they were, only that there was a bay with a beach upon which they hoped to get the ship ashore (verse 39).

In order to get the boat ashore, they left the anchors in the sea and loosened the ropes around the rudders before raising the foresail to the wind, enabling them to reach the beach (verse 40). The weight they needed on sea was now unnecessary and, in fact, would inhibit them reaching shore had they kept everything intact.

Matthew Henry’s commentary sets the potentially perilous scene for us with no one on shore to help guide them onto land (emphases mine):

… here we are told, 1. That they knew not where they were; they could not tell what country it was they were now upon the coast of, whether it was Europe, Asia, or Africa, for each had shores washed by the Adriatic Sea. It is probable that these seamen had often sailed this way, and thought they knew every country they came near perfectly well, and yet here they were at a loss. Let not the wise man then glory in his wisdom, since it may perhaps fail him thus egregiously even in his own profession. 2. They observed a creek with a level shore, into which they hoped to thrust the ship, Acts 27:39. Though they knew not what country it was, nor whether the inhabitants were friends or foes, civil or barbarous, they determined to cast themselves upon their mercy; it was dry land, which would be very welcome to those that had been so long at sea. It was a pity but they had had some help from the shore, a pilot sent them, that knew the coast, who might steer their ship in, or another second ship, to take some of the men on board. Those who live on the sea-coast have often opportunity of succouring those who are in distress at sea, and of saving precious lives, and they ought to do their utmost in order to it, with all readiness and cheerfulness; for it is a great sin, and very provoking to God, to forbear to deliver those that are driven unto death, and are ready to be slain; and it will not serve for an excuse to say, Behold, we knew it not, when either we did, or might, and should, have known it, Proverbs 24:11,12.

They struck a reef — or a place between two bodies of water — and struck land. The bow could not be moved, and the surf broke up the stern (verse 41).

The place they landed is today known as St Paul’s Bay in Malta, as Wikipedia explains:

Saint Paul’s Bay (Maltese: San Pawl il-Baħar, Italian: Baia di San Paolo) is a town in the Northern Region of Malta, sixteen kilometres (9.9 miles) northwest of the capital Valletta. Saint Paul’s Bay is the largest town in the Northern Region and the seat of the Northern Regional Committee along with being the most populous town in Malta.

Its name refers to the shipwreck of Saint Paul as documented in the Acts of the Apostles on St. Paul’s Islands near St Paul’s Bay, on his voyage from Caesarea to Rome, which laid the foundations of Christianity on the island.

Burmarrad, Wardija, Qawra, Buġibba, Xemxija, and San Martin, as well as part of Bidnija and Mistra, form part of St. Paul’s Bay Local Council.[2] The area of the locality is 14.47 km2 (6 sq mi).

The population in 2018 was 23,112. This goes up to about 60,000 between June and September with Maltese residents and tourists lodging in hotels, especially in Buġibba and Qawra.

Heading north is Mistra Bay, its headland and St Paul’s Island. Going west and crossing the island towards Ġnejna Bay and Golden Bay is the scenic Wardija Ridge.

Afterwards, still in the days of the Roman Empire:

St. Paul’s Bay became an important harbour. Remains of a Roman road, baths and beehives, have been found at Xemxija, while Roman anchors were found on the seabed.

Oddly, St Paul is not the patron saint of the bay. Instead, the patron saints are Our Lady of Sorrows, the Sacred Heart of Mary and St Francis of Assisi.

Returning to Luke’s account of the shipwreck, the Roman soldiers were highly concerned about any prisoners escaping. This was because, under Roman law, a guard would be made to assume his escapee’s sentence. That could mean prison or death.

Therefore, the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners, thereby preventing any escape (verse 42).

However, Julius the centurion, their commanding officer, ordered them not to do that (verse 43). He wanted to save Paul, whom he liked from the time the Apostle was assigned to his ship to sail to Rome for trial.

Julius ordered those who could swim to do so and the rest could buoy themselves on planks or pieces of the ship.

In the end, everyone landed safely on Malta (verse 44).

John MacArthur elaborates on the concluding verses of Acts 27, which really describe a divine miracle, because the violent storm was still raging:

So they head in and they’re headed, supposedly, for a beachy area by a creek “and falling into a place where two seas met.”

That, friends, is a very difficult phrase. Dithalassos is the one word. The translation “two seas meet” may not even be an accurate translation. It probably means a shoal or a reef. They could have called it the dithalassos in this sense. In the middle of Saint Paul’s Bay, there is a small island called Salmanetta, and the waters from the west and the waters from the east meet behind this island. And it may have been that they assumed that the island was actually an extension of the mainland. And when they went into that area, they realized that there was water behind the island, and where those two seas met there had been the pushing together of sand that created sand bars. Whatever the significance of it is, they ran aground into the sand bars.

Verse 41 says, “Falling into a place where two seas met they ran the ship aground and the bow stuck fast and remained unmovable, but the stern was broken with the violence of the waves.” So here the bow is stuck in the sand bar, apparently a great distance from the shore and the waves, the tremendous hurricane waves are just smashing the stern of the ship and splintering it to pieces. And so there they are, stuck while the ship disintegrates.

That brings us to the fifth stage in this record, the safety. And here comes the great ending, verse 42. And notice, the soldiers were afraid of not only losing their own lives but of losing their prisoners, because when a Roman soldier lost his prisoner he had to take his prisoner’s sentence. Remember that? So he didn’t want to lose his prisoner. And so the soldiers panicked, verse 42, “The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners lest any of them should swim out and escape.”

So they were going to slaughter Paul and all the rest of the prisoners on the ship so they wouldn’t get away. But the centurion moves in and saves Paul’s life. And all the rest of the prisoners could thank Paul, too, for having their lives saved. Verse 43, “But the centurion, willing to save Paul,” – I mean he knew this. We – we’ve got to have this guy. Without him we have no chance. – “kept them from their purpose,” – He restrained the soldiers from killing the prisoners – “commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea and get to land.”

You know, “everybody in the pool” was the call. And if you can swim, hit it. “And the rest, some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship.” I mean that thing was disintegrating right there and they were just grabbing onto whatever they could if they couldn’t swim. Well, you can imagine the 276 people diving into a hurricane water, grabbing boards and floating debris and trying to make it to shore. But you know something wonderful? Verse 44 ends this way. “And so it came to pass that they” – What? – “all escaped safely to the land.” That is incredible. Absolutely incredible; 276 people jumped in the water and 276 people met on the shore in a hurricane.

God was at work accomplishing His divine purpose.

MacArthur describes how He used Paul as His instrument for all those survivors:

The first thought those people must have had is, “You know, that God that Paul worships, He’s right. His word is true. He said this would happen. Look, it has happened.” You see how God not only credibly establishes His own veracity, but He establishes the veracity of His leader, Paul, doesn’t He? God keeps His word

God’s word is reliable and God established that in this marvelous incident.

More will follow about Paul’s time in Malta en route for Rome.

Next time — Acts 28:1-6

The Church is now in what is known as the season ‘after Pentecost’, ‘after Trinity’ or ‘Ordinary Time’.

Green vestments are now worn until the First Sunday in Advent, when they change to purple.

The Church of England, my denomination, names these Sundays as being ‘after Trinity’.

What follows are the readings for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 23.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the heading for the second option.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading — Option One

The people did not listen to Elijah, so he went into hiding, during which time God took care of him.

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

19:1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

19:2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”

19:3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

19:5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”

19:6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.

19:7 The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

19:8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

19:9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

19:13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:15a Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.

Psalm — Option One

We do not know for certain who wrote these Psalms, but many scholars believe David wrote it either when Saul was persecuting him or Absalom was in rebellion. At that point, only God could remedy the situation. The isolation from his people that David faced parallels Elijah’s experience in the accompanying reading above.

Psalm 42 and 43

42:1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?

42:3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

42:4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help

42:6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

42:7 Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.

42:8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

42:9 I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”

42:10 As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me!

43:2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off? Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?

43:3 O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

43:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

First reading — Option Two

This reading prophesies that Gentiles would be brought into the Church and that God’s chosen who rejected Christ would be brought to judgement.

Isaiah 65:1-9

65:1 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name.

65:2 I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;

65:3 a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks;

65:4 who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

65:5 who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long.

65:6 See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps

65:7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the LORD; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.

65:8 Thus says the LORD: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.

65:9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.

Psalm — Option Two

In this Psalm, whether he realised it or not, David wrote of the Messiah and his own ancestry with regard to Christ. David’s sufferings were great; his descendant’s would be even greater.

Psalm 22:19-28

22:19 But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!

22:20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!

22:21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

22:24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

22:26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!

22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

22:28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

Epistle

Paul explains that Jesus Christ fulfilled Mosaic Law through His one, perfect and holy sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation.

Galatians 3:23-29

3:23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.

3:24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.

3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian,

3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.

3:27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Gospel

This is Luke’s dramatic account of the Gadarene Swine, about which I wrote a few years ago:

The Gadarene swine served a purpose (Apologetics Corner)

The Gadarenes — what happened next (Apologetics Corner)

Luke 8:26-39

8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

8:27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.

8:28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”–

8:29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)

8:30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.

8:31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

8:32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.

8:33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

8:34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.

8:35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

8:36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.

8:37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

8:38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying,

8:39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

I do hope that clergy give a good sermon on this week’s Gospel. There is much to examine.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:33-38

33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,[a] for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276[b] persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

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Last week’s entry described the ship’s approach to land and the sailors’ thwarted plan to escape by dinghy.

That was in the middle of the night. At daybreak, Paul encouraged everyone to come together for a communal meal after 14 days (verse 33).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it wasn’t as if no one had eaten anything, but they had eaten during breaks when they were trying to save the ship — and probably not very much (emphases mine):

Not that they had all, or any of them, continued fourteen days without any food, but they had not had any set meal, as they used to have, all that time; they ate very little, next to nothing. Or, “You have continued fasting, that is, you have lost your stomach; you have had no appetite at all to your food, nor any relish of it, through prevailing fear and despair.”

Paul continued, saying that they needed to build up their strength and not to worry because nothing would happen to them even if no one was tending the ship during that time (verse 34).

John MacArthur points out:

He says in verse 34, “I beseech you take some food for your health.” This means for your wholeness. It’s a word that’s used of physical salvation and of spiritual salvation in Scripture. But here it means for your physical wholeness, for your safety. “For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.”

Now you say, “That’s a rather dumb thing. I mean who cares if you lose a hair on the way in?” But you see, that’s an old Jewish proverb. You can go back to I Samuel 14:45, II Samuel 14:11, I Kings 1:52, Luke 21:18, and in all those places you’ll find that old proverb. It meant that you’re going to be secure. It meant that you’d have complete immunity from harm. So Paul says, “You’re all going to make it. But that’s no excuse not to have a good breakfast.” So you see the balance is here between the sovereignty of God and the perfect planning of God and the responsibility of man.

Then Paul acted as priest, breaking the bread — hardtack — and giving thanks to God, breaking it and eating some (verse 35), suggesting a secular Communion.

Henry explains the importance of giving thanks by saying Grace before eating:

5. He was chaplain to the ship, and they had reason to be proud of their chaplain. He gave thanks to God in presence of them all. We have reason to think he had often prayed with Luke and Aristarchus, and what others there were among them that were Christians, that they prayed daily together; but whether he had before this prayed with the whole company promiscuously is not certain. Now he gave thanks to God, in presence of them all, that they were alive, and had been preserved hitherto, and that they had a promise that their lives should be preserved in the imminent peril now before them; he gave thanks for the provision they had, and begged a blessing upon it. We must in every thing give thanks; and must particularly have an eye to God in receiving our food, for it is sanctified to us by the word of God and prayer, and is to be received with thanksgiving. Thus the curse is taken off from it, and we obtain a covenant-right to it and a covenant-blessing upon it, 1 Timothy 4:3-5. And it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by the word of God, which must be met with prayer. He gave thanks in presence of them all, not only to show that he served a Master he was not ashamed of, but to invite them into his service too. If we crave a blessing upon our meat, and give thanks for it in a right manner, we shall not only keep up a comfortable communion with God ourselves, but credit our profession, and recommend it to the good opinion of others. 6. He set them a good example: When he had given thanks, he broke the bread (it was sea-biscuit) and he began to eat.

Those on board ship were duly encouraged and also ate (verse 36). The older translation of verse 36 better expresses their state of mind:

Then were they all of good cheer.

Luke was careful to tell us how many men were on the ship: 276 (verse 37), so Paul had persuaded a lot of people to have a good meal before the next set of events.

When they had their fill, they threw the wheat out into the sea in order to lighten the ship (verse 38). The wheat would have been from North Africa, destined for Rome, most likely. By then, it was probably soaking wet and of no use.

MacArthur explains that while they were at sea, they needed the extra weight. Nearing land, as they were at this time, they needed to dispose of it:

they never would jettison the entire cargo in the Mediterranean because they would use the remaining cargo as a ballast and to keep the ship down in the water to some extent. Also, I’m sure they felt perhaps they would be able to salvage a part of it. But by this time it was so totally sea-soaked, so totally salted that it was worthless. In addition to that, when you’re going to beach the ship you want it as light as possible so that it’s as high on the water as it can be so that you can get as close to the shore as you possibly can. So they jettisoned everything in verse 38, all of the wheat.

Let’s recap their journey so far. The first stage was setting sail from Caesarea and changing ships. The second was the stay in Fair Havens. The third was the violent storm. The fourth, coming up next week, is the shipwreck landing them on Malta.

Note that Paul has been leading them since the storm. He reminded them that they had ignored his advice to stay in Fair Havens. The centurion, Julius, and the crew had overruled him.

Once he told them how wrong they were, they put their trust in him to lead the way.

In closing, these are MacArthur’s thoughts on Paul’s leadership and what we can learn from his example today. He delivered this sermon in 1975, by the way, but it’s just as true in 2019:

… in terms of the principles that [have] here, you could title it “Leadership in Crisis,” because it really is a portrait of a man who is a leader just when he needs to be one.

It shows a man who comes through in the tremendous time of stress with all of the abilities that a great leader has to have. So it’s not just a narrative about a shipwreck. It’s also a portrait of a leader in the midst of a crisis. I was thinking, as I was thinking about that fact, that if there’s a premium on anything in our world today it’s a premium on leadership. And whether you’re talking about government or industry or economics or education or medicine or science or whatever, there’s a tremendous need for leaders or capable people who can make decisions, or people who are willing to let the buck pass to them and then handle the situation.

There was an interesting survey done in recent years of seminaries in America. And the determination of the survey was that the vast majority of all people studying for responsibilities in the church wanted to be no higher than second man because nobody wanted ultimate responsibility. And I think that’s not only true in terms of the church, but it’s very true in terms of the world. There is definitely a premium on leadership. And especially true, I think, since leadership is so susceptible to criticism.

But in the church, I think we face the same thing. There needs to be a rising up in the church of leadership and people need to accept the responsibilities that come with being a leader. Now, the world is really preoccupied with this. In fact, there is a rather constant stream of seminars and professional methodologies being presented to various and sundry communities of people to try to extract from those communities the leaders. And I’m sure they have their criteria for determining who is a leader.

The same thing is true, I think, in the terms of the church and in God’s kingdom and the things that God wants to do. There’s a real need for leaders. And I believe the Holy Spirit is seeking leadership. I believe God is calling out leaders. In all of God’s history, as you go back in the Bible, you’ll find that God moved through men. And that in every era, at every crisis time in God’s economy there were leaders that God used to bring about the effecting of His will. And whether it was Moses or Joseph or David or Abraham or Elijah or Elisha or Ezra or Nehemiah, or whether it was, in the New Testament, John the Baptist or Peter or Paul or whomever it was, at all points in time God had somebody through whom He could lead.

And the tragedy so often of the history of Israel was the tragedy of an inadequate leader, an immoral leader, an ungodly leader, or a leader who just failed to fulfill the obligations that are basic to leadership. I think that as you study the Scripture, the greatest view or insight you have of leadership is simply the example of lives of the men that are the leaders. And that is really the case here in Acts 27.

This is why it is important to pray for our current leaders as well as good future leaders, be they religious or secular.

The story continues next week as the 276 passengers reach Malta.

Next time — Acts 27:39-44

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