They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Innocent of the Blood of All Men

Read these verses Acts 20:13-37; Ezekiel 3:17-19 before looking at this week’s post.

Map of Ionia

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Most people who visit the country of Turkey make it a point to go to the fabulous ruins of the seaport and biblical city of Ephesus. However, not many tourists make the fifty mile trip south of Ephesus to visit another biblical city, the ancient port city of Miletus. Paul was here, as found in Acts 20 and also 2 Timothy 4:20. Paul sent for all the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. This was at the end of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Paul had spent several years in Ephesus and been through lots of trials and difficulties with the believers there. He realized that he was about to be imprisoned and that he would never see these people that he loved, again.

Ampitheatre at Miletus

Ampitheatre at Miletus

When the leaders arrived, Paul began to speak to them in Acts 20:18 and tell them that he has done his best to teach them and that he has nothing to be ashamed of and that he has given them everything that he had. Paul was saying that he had left it all on the field and he had no regrets. Because Paul was a well versed student of the Hebrew Testament, he knew the story in Ezekiel 3:17-19 where God had warned his prophets, ”you tell them and if they don’t listen, it’s their fault. If you don’t tell them and warn them, then it’s your fault; their blood is on your hands”. Evidently, drawing from this passage, Paul tells the leaders of Ephesus, “I am innocent of the blood of all men”. He had boldly proclaimed the gospel to everyone that he had come in contact with. He had warned everyone in Ephesus and the surrounding area. In fact, Acts 19:10 says, concerning Paul’s preaching, ”This went on for two years,so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord”.

Where do you and I stand in this regard? Are we innocent of the blood of all the men that we have come into contact with? Obviously, we need to start at home, tell our children and our children’s children. What about the people that we work with? There are so many people that we come into contact with that have no idea about the claims of the gospel and the eternal implications that they bring. Lord, give me (us) the boldness to proclaim the good news of the gospel to everyone that I (we) interact with. Let them see you and your nature in our speech and actions. Let us be so bold and passionate that we too, are innocent of the blood of all the men that we have talked to.

Kick Against the Pricks (Goads)

The Conversion of Saul, Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Conversion of Saul, Michelangelo Buonarroti

I wanted to write a short story on what I had learned about this little saying that I had heard before and was in a song Johnny Cash wrote (When the Man Comes Around). First of all this saying is found, not in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, in Acts 26:14. Paul is describing his Damascus Road experience to King Herod Agrippa II. Paul says that God said to him, ”Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (the King James version says, the pricks). I had always wondered what that meant. A little look at the Hebrew meaning gave me some interesting results.

From the study of the various Hebrew words that mean, “to teach”, I learned that the verb “lamad” is a root word and part of the meaning of the word, “ox goad”. The letter “l“ in the Hebrew alphabet is “lamed”, and is formed in the shape of a goad or prod that is used on animals for making them go where you want them to. The letter in the alphabet actually has a hook on it that makes it look just like a goad or prod. The Hebrew word for ox goad is “malmad”, and is an instrument fitted with a nail or sharp point. Ox goad in Hebrew means literally, “the thing that teaches” (see above, lamad). Ecclesiastes 12:11 says, God’s words are” like goads, like firmly embedded nails” to prod us.

When God asked Saul why he was kicking against the goads, He was telling Saul that He had been trying to get him to go where he was prodding him to and he wouldn’t go. Paul had heard Stephen speak yet did not listen and continued to kick against the goads. He had continued to fight against God’s words by doing what he had been doing in persecuting every Christian that he could find. God finally stopped Paul by speaking to him from heaven and blinding him and putting him in darkness for three days.

An interesting side story to this one is, to the early rabbis, Jonah was the classic example of someone who kicked against the goads. He clearly heard the word of the Lord to go to Nineveh but he chose not to obey and went the opposite direction. What did God do to Jonah? He put him in darkness for three days! So, Paul is treated just like one of the other great prophets in the Scriptures! The Bible is such a fascinating book!

Here is a bit more on the word from the Hebrew:

The Hebrew letter for “l” is “lamed” (also the word for the number 30). It can be represented many ways – as shown below:

Like many ancient writing systems, the Hebrew alphabet was originally represented through a series of pictures or pictographs. The original pictograph for lamed represents a goad.