Soft sponge or hard…?

Acts 28:17-31

And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.  But when the Jews  spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.  But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our  fathers, saying,

            ‘Go to this people and say:

             “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;

             And seeing you will see, and not perceive;

             For the hearts of this people have grown dull.

             Their ears are hard of hearing,

              And their eyes they have closed,

            Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,

           Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,

            So that I should heal them.” ’

 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”  And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

 You will be ever hearing but

    Never understanding

You will be ever seeing but

   Never perceiving.

This is given as a description of a calloused heart in one translation.  Another says hardened and others say gross.  All of these words would describe one who cannot be reached.  Hearts that are closed off, do not respond, do not express emotion or compassion.  It’s as if they have been exposed to the message so frequently without responding that they can no longer sense the tug at their hearts to acknowledge the love that God extends.  We are told over and over how God loves His creation and desires a relationship with us.  We are also told over and over how self-oriented mankind is turning the deaf ear to this message of love.  The deaf ear results in desensitization.  We soon cannot hear it.  God says this is done by choice: “their eyes they have closed,” Looking at the word calloused brings to mind two words; hard and rough.  The soft, gentle, supple nature that draws an invitation to touch has become repulsive inviting rejection.  This is not to end on a depressive note, rather God also states if we choose to listen and see He will heal: “Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” ’

Paul’s response to those from the Jewish community who reacted with callous rejection was to let them know God’s message of love as expressed through the salvation brought to us by Jesus  would still be extended, but now it would be extended  to any who would listen.

Take away is this:  We want to be ever hearing and understanding, ever seeing and perceiving.  We want hearts that respond and receive.  Be immersed in the Word of God, be immersed in His love, let it fill up the sponge of who we are until we cannot hold anymore and it runs out of us onto those around us.  Be soft as the sponge receiving rather than  hard as the sponge refusing the waters of the Spirit.  Fill up and spill out.

A plan…

Acts 3:17-26

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.  Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’  Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

 “Repent, turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”…”That he may send Christ…”  Looking for Christ’s return, recognizing the conditions that must be met, understanding prophecy is fulfilled, along with a warning; ‘anyone who does not  listen…will be completely cut off…’  Repent according to the dictionary includes but is not limited to:  feeling remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; to feel such regret  for past conduct that one changes one’s mind regarding what one has done or is doing, therefore to make a change for the better as a result of remorse.  Repentance, sins wiped out, resulting in change, refreshing, and hope of Christ’s return show a plan of action for the new believer complete with promise.   Christ did what was required, all we must do is listen to him, follow his commands, and we have new life, freedom from sin’s bondage, … refreshing that comes from the Lord.  Be refreshed, be revitalized, be renewed, be thankful.  It is good to be reminded of the extent to which God has gone for us.  We have much to be thankful for. It is good to be reminded that in this picture we have done nothing to be worthy of this blessing other than to accept it.  How great is that love!!!