God’s Word for You
Acts 13:16-19 He carried them like a father
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 19, 2020
16 So Paul stood up and with a wave of his hand, he said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm he brought them out of it. 18 For about forty years’ time he carried them like a father in the desert. 19 And after he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he distributed the land as an inheritance to them.
While it is customary for many Oriental speakers to sit today, it was the Greek and Roman custom to stand. Perhaps the group had begun to speak with some disorder; there is no real explanation for why Paul made a motion with his hand to begin; he might simply have been identifying himself as a speaker, the way we were taught to raise our hands in school to speak.
Paul begins with the years Israel spent in the desert with Moses. God chose his people, and God exalted his people. He brought them out “with an uplifted arm.” This was God’s power at work to save his chosen people.
Verse 18 presents a translation question. Did God simply “put up with” his people, or did he “carry them like a father”? The first term in Greek is etropophoresen (ἐτροποφόρησεν), used by Cicero this way: “indulge (my whim)” (To Atticus, at Rome, 13.19). This word is supported by Greek witnesses to Acts 13:18 from the most ancient times and in almost all regions. The variant reading, which appears in the main text of my translation above, is etrophophoresen (ἐτροφοφόρησεν), the word that appears in Deuteronomy 1:31, “There you saw how the LORD your God carried you as a father carries his son.” This, too, is supported by Greek witnesses from the most ancient times and from almost all regions. Based on the internal clue of the word’s use in Deuteronomy 1:31 I chose to include it in the main text with the other reading as a footnote. Whichever reading is adopted, the emphasis is on the one who was at work doing the act: He, God, is the one who accomplished all these things.
The scope and shape of this sermon in Antioch is very similar to the sermon of Stephen which Paul heard while still an unbelieving Pharisee. In this passage, Paul takes his account up to the conquest under Joshua. This was done with the leadership of Joshua, but it was God at work in every victory, every success. It is God at work on behalf of his people that has always made the difference. Sometimes the Lord has to put up with us due to our sinfulness, but even then, he is carrying us as a father carries his beloved child. Give your worship and praise to God, always remembering that he has done mighty things for his people Israel, for his infant Christians church, and for you and me right here today. Our Lord is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
Pastor Timothy Smith