“On the Sabbath they went to the meeting place and took their places. After the reading of the Scriptures — God’s Law and the Prophets — the president of the meeting asked them, ‘Friends, do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement perhaps?’

“Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said, ‘Fellow Israelites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet and led them out of there in grand style. He took good care of them for nearly forty years in that god-forsaken wilderness and then, having wiped out seven enemies who stood in their way, gave them the land of Canaan for their very own — a span in all of about four hundred and fifty years.'” Acts 13:14b-20a (The Message).

What would you have said had you been Paul, given the opportunity of a lifetime to share the gospel message on foreign soil in a Jewish synagogue for the first time? What was his aim? Surely it was to present Jesus to the Jews and Gentile God-fearers as the fulfilment of their Scriptures.

It was not a “come to Jesus to have your sins forgiven so that you can go to heaven” message. It was a “this is the one God promised through the prophets from ancient times and now He commands you to repent and believe in Him” story. Paul anchored his presentation of the truth firmly in historical fact and in the familiar history of his hearers.

“‘Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, out of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.'” Acts 13:20b-22 (The Message).

God was at work, guiding His people towards the moment when David would appear on the scene. Was Israelite’s demand for king premature? It was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world that His Son be a descendant of the royal line of David. As he spoke a blessing over his sons on his deathbed, Jacob prophesied that it would be from the tribe of Judah that the ruler would come (Genesis 49:8-12).

Why was Saul chosen to be Israel’s first king, from the tribe of Benjamin, God knowing full well that he would fail and be disqualified? According to Deuteronomy 23:2, no one born out of wedlock was permitted to hold public office in Israel up to the tenth generation. David was the tenth generation from Perez, the illegitimate son of Judah but he was too young to take office as king when the leaders of Israel made their demand of Samuel.

Had Saul been a godly king, his son, Jonathan, would have inherited the throne. David would not have been in the picture at all. Since God gave in to their demands, He put a loser on the throne to mark time until David was ready to reign in Israel.

It was up to Paul’s hearers to listen carefully and reach their own conclusions regarding the startling message he was bringing. It was important that he lay a solid foundation of fact so that they could make an informed decision regarding the identity of their Messiah.

This the beauty of God’s story — not some philosophical thumb-suck but verifiable historical facts of the God of heaven interacting with human beings in a series of miraculous events that have no natural explanation. God did intervene in human history to prepare a nation to be the cradle of His son and their Messiah.

Luella Campbell

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