God’s Word for You
Acts 26:22-24 Jesus in the Prophets and Moses
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 18, 2021
Paul is still speaking:
22 “Having obtained help from God, I stand testifying both to small and great to this day, saying nothing beyond what the prophets said would take place, and Moses too, 23 that the Christ must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light, both to our people and to the Gentiles.” 24 While he was defending himself this way, Festus shouted, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you mad!”
This is the fifth part of Paul’s little sermon, and although he may have meant to go on after this, it ended here. For the Jews, the real problem with what Paul had done was to include the Gentiles as his audience, even though that had always been God’s plan (Isaiah 9:1, 42:6, 49:6, 49:22). Paul might have Isaiah 42:6 especially in mind here, since he describes the preaching of the gospel as “light,” and Isaiah said, “I will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.” David foresaw: “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10), and another Psalm proclaims: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23). The coming of the Savior is clearly taught by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:14-19. Moses even echoes Christ’s place in the Trinity when he quotes God’s promise as a threefold action: “I will raise up… I will put my words in his mouth… He will tell them everything” (Deuteronomy 18:18). As for the atoning work of Jesus, this is most easily seen in Moses in the curse on the serpent: “He will crush your head even as you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15), which might be echoed by Balaam’s Fourth Oracle: “A star will come up out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the heads of Moab, etc.” (Numbers 24:17). The resurrection and eternal life of Jesus might also be foreshadowed by God’s command, “Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites” (Numbers 35:34). The resurrection might also be seen in the use of the color blue in the tabernacle and the clothing of the people (Exodus 25:4; Numbers 4:6-8, 15:38) and in the use of flowers in the lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34, 37:19-20).
Because Luke has condensed a great deal of time into a short space of text, we should remember something: Festus and Felix were very different men. Felix was married to a Jew, and he knew quite a lot about the Jewish faith and about Christianity, too. Festus knew nothing of these things. Also, Felix had been governor for several years when he met Paul. Festus had only just arrived. So let’s put ourselves in the mindset of this Roman Legate. For Festus, religion was a matter of political advantage. He might have believed in the Roman gods, or he might not have, but his idea of religion involved those gods, whatever his personal beliefs. A good man might influence a god with offerings and prayers, and if luck was with him, that god might give him a favorable answer. If not, he might try again with another god. To the Romans, the gods were fickle and dangerous, like holding a wolf by the ears. Once you grabbed on, you didn’t dare let go. In King Lear, the blind Gloucester cries, “As flies to wanton (naughty) boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport” (4,1,26-27).
Festus couldn’t imagine things like forgiveness, rising from the dead, or God dying for mankind. He surprises us by shouting out, “You’re crazy, Paul!” He had hoped that Paul would help him to figure out what he should tell the Emperor, but in his way of thinking, this was ridiculous. The shouts of Festus are not angry, they are confused. He didn’t really believe that Paul was insane. But perhaps he thought Paul was unbalanced. Clearly Paul was brilliant, but Festus didn’t see Paul as a well-rounded philosopher. All he seemed to care about was this Jesus and the Hebrew Scriptures.
Paul had declared that the prophets had foreseen the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, and after this he adds “and Moses too” (some translations bring “and Moses” forward alongside “the prophets”). So primarily he has in mind passages like “after the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life” (Isaiah 53:11). Paul has accomplished his goal with these men. He had preached sin, grace, and the resurrection to Festus and to Agrippa, and he was ready to take this to a new audience.
Rely on the Word of God. Draw strength and courage from the Bible writers who did the same thing. “I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word” (Psalm 119:42). And God himself says: “I am the Lord you God. Follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 20:19).
How precious is the Book divine,
By inspiration giv’n!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine
To guide our souls to heav’n.
(Christian Worship 284:1, John Fawcett 1740-1817)
Pastor Timothy Smith