“Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” Acts 13:12
Sometimes life is like a seesaw; you have to take the ups and downs. I don’t know if the ups are better or the downs are better, but a seesaw wouldn’t be a seesaw without both. And life wouldn’t be living without having to experience the ups and downs. Because it’s the ups and downs that teach us the most. Without the ups and downs we don’t get to learn to balance the seesaw. And learning to keep under balance the ups and downs in our lives is pretty important.
This account today from Scripture is about keeping a right balance. On one side of the seesaw there is Elymus, a Jew, and a magician and false prophet, who was the “friend” of the proconsul Sergius Paulus. On the other side of the seesaw there is Sergius Paulus, Roman proconsul, a prudent man who had called for Barnabas and Paul to hear the word of God.
Now Barnabas and Saul had been going to the different synagogues and teaching. They come to Paphos where they meet this Jew, Elymus, who wasn’t acting much like a true Jew. And through him, they meet Sergius Paulus. So on one side of the seesaw we have falsehood and on the other side we have prudence. One side is promoting lies, the other side is seeking wisdom.
This seesaw started with Adam and Eve. It started when one of us decided we had our own agenda and that our agenda was better than God’s. But just because we decide to believe something, it doesn’t make it true. Thus started the worst seesaw ride ever created. But, You, Lord knew it was coming and had designed life around it. This was all in Your plan. No surprises here.
We were created naked, with no agenda of our own, and it was good. We lived in the fear of the Lord. That was the beginning of knowledge. But like fools, we despised wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) And it wasn’t just anybody’s wisdom and instruction we despised. It was Yours. We tossed Your agenda to the side and replaced it with our own. And our agenda became like sport to us. How much mischief could we get away with and not be caught and not suffer the consequences? The sad thing is that both Adam and Eve sought mischief. Neither one stood strong. And what about us? Are we any different? But You give us hope that we can understand, we can have wisdom instead of foolishness. (Proverbs 10:23)
Now, it’s interesting that the word used for someone who is choosing wisdom and the word used for the craftiness of the serpent in the garden are the same word, “arum.” But maybe that’s not so shocking after all. Remember the time Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves”? (Matthew 10:16) Here’s that whole idea of how we make our decisions again. Jesus, are You saying that I should be crafty like the serpent? Or, are You saying that just as the serpent was intent on making his own agenda happen, I should be so intent on bringing Your agenda to pass? What if the craftiness that went into the serpent’s agenda, was turned around to support Your agenda? “Because the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.” (Proverbs 14:8) If I’m prudent, I understand the cost of making my own agenda. But if I’m foolish, I live my life based on lie after lie and I ignore and cover up the truth all for the sake of my own agenda.
Now Elymus had been created by God to be a light unto Sergius Paulus. But Elymus had adopted his own agenda so much so that he deliberately withstood the message of Barnabas and Paul. Not only that, he was looking for ways, probably very crafty ways, to dissuade Sergius from the truth and from believing and changing his agenda.
But Sergius Paulus was crafty in a different way. He was craftily seeking the Truth and he was open to the truth. He wanted to hear what Barnabas and Paul wanted to say. And not only Barnabas and Paul knew that. The Holy Spirit knew. And the Holy Spirit decided it was time to do something about it. Because the Holy Spirit’s agenda trumps everyone else’s agenda. Elymus didn’t have a chance.
See, the Holy Spirit saw all kinds of self-agenda stuff in Elymus. He was full of distortion and misinterpretation. He was corrupt. He was acting like a decoy. He was using trickery and deceit. He was full of mischief, recklessness, and malignity. He was not only reckless with his own life but with all those under his influence. To live by our own agenda is to live by the devil’s standards. Do I want to be a child of the devil or a child of the Lord? My agenda will make that choice for me. The Holy Spirit called Elymus a child of the devil and an enemy of righteousness, who twisted the ways of the Lord.
So what happened? The Holy Spirit struck Elymus blind for a season. It wasn’t forever, but it was for a set time and a set purpose. And notice the part where it says “and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” That is so awesome. Because all this time, Elymus was trying to lead others according to his own way, and now he has the opportunity to learn to seek out the guidance of others. Here he is learning for a time what it is to be dependent. And the funny thing about that word seek, is that the Hebraism means to worship the Lord. Was this a time for Elymus to learn to seek the Lord’s agenda instead of his own? How’s that for mercy!
When Sergius Paulus witnessed what came to pass, he believed (pisteuo). He was as astonished as if a hard ball had just hit him in the side of the face and knocked him down. That’s how strong astonished here is. But was he astonished by what happened to Elymus? Luke says he was astonished at the doctrine, the teaching of the Lord. Sergius heard the word and he saw the power of the word.
What end of the seesaw am I on? Am I willing to seek the truth or am I only searching for my own truth? Do I want to come to know the power of the word of God? Or am I seeking my own power? Have I set up my own agenda? Or do I realize that I need Your agenda? Lord, I want to live in Your agenda. And I know that believing and being amazed by You didn’t stop that day with Sergius. I am still amazed at how You bring Your words to life in my life and in the life of other believers and those who are coming to believe. Lord, guard me against deception, both against being deceived and deceiving others. I want to be done with my own agenda. I want to toss it out the window. Well, actually, I would love to see it utterly destroyed because it has a tendency to creep back in the window. But my agenda brings nothing but death and disappointment. Yours, brings life and satisfaction and overflows with truth and power. Open our eyes, Lord, to see the treasure of Your agenda and may it be our hearts desire to dwell in it.