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Psalm 78:23-29 1
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. 26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens and led forth the south wind by his power. 27 He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore. 28 He made them come down inside their camp, all around their tents. 29 They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved.

clip_image069Background

This psalm is historical; it is a narrative of the great mercies God had bestowed upon Israel, the great sins that had provoked God, and the many tokens of His displeasure the Israelites had been under for their sins. The psalmist began, in the foregoing psalm, to relate God’s wonders of old, for his own encouragement in a difficult time; there he broke off abruptly, but here resumes the subject, for the edification of the church, and enlarges much upon it, showing not only how good God had been to them, which was an earnest of further finishing mercy, but how basely they had conducted themselves towards God, which justified him in correcting them as he did at this time, and forbade all complaints. Verses 23 to 29 remind the Israelites of the provisions for them when they wandered in the wilderness.

Biblical Truths and Theology 2

God had given them undeniable proofs of his power, not only on earth, but from heaven above; for he commanded the clouds from above, as one that had created them and commanded them into being; he made them do what pleased Him. Usually by their showers clouds contribute to the earth’s producing corn; but now, when God so commanded them, they showered down corn themselves, which is therefore called here the corn of heaven or manna; for heaven can do the work without the earth, but not the earth without heaven. God, who has the key of the clouds, opened the doors of heaven, and that is more than opening the windows.

To all that by faith and prayer ask, seek, and knock, these doors shall at any time be opened; for the God of heaven is rich in mercy to all that call upon Him. He not only keeps a good house, but keeps open house. Justly might God take it ill that they should distrust Him when He had been so very kind to them that he had rained down manna upon them to eat, substantial food, daily, duly, enough for all, enough for each. Man did eat angels’ food, such as angels, if they had occasion for food, would eat and be thankful for; or rather such as was given by the ministry of angels, and such as descended from the dwelling of angels. Every one, even the least child in Israel, did eat the bread of the mighty; the weakest stomach could digest it, and yet it was so nourishing that it was strong meat for strong men. And, though the provision was so good, yet they were not stinted, nor ever reduced to short allowance; for he sent them meat to the full.

If they gathered little, it was their own fault; and yet even then they had no lack. The daily provision God makes for us, and has made ever since we came into the world, though it has not so much of miracle as this, has no less of mercy.

Items for Discussion

  • How do you personally relate to the story of manna from heaven?
  • How would we describe the miracle literally and how would we describe it figuratively?
  • In what ways does God still provide manna from heaven?
  • What are some of the modern day forms of manna?
  • How should we relate to this story as modern day Christians?

 

Acts 9:26-31
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

Background 3

Barnabas was an early Christian mentioned in the New Testament. His Hellenic Jewish parents called him Joseph but when he sold all his goods and gave the money to the apostles in Jerusalem, they gave him a new name: Barnabas, which means huios parakleseos “son of exhortation,” see Acts 11:23) and means a prophet in the primitive Christian sense of the word (see Acts 13:1; 15:32). His feast day is June 11. or ‘man of encouragement.’

In many English translations of the Bible, including the New International Version (NIV), King James Version (KJV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB), Barnabas is called an apostle. In Acts 14:14 of these translations, he is listed ahead of Paul, “Barnabas and Paul,” instead of “Paul and Barnabas;” both men being described as apostles.

Barnabas is one of the first prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). Luke speaks of him as a “good man” (11:24). He was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. His aunt was the mother of John, surnamed Mark (Colossians 4:10), widely assumed to be the same Mark as the person traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. He was a native of Cyprus, where he possessed land (Acts 4:36, 37), which he sold, and gave the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem. When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him and introduced him to the apostles (9:27); it is possible that they had been fellow students in the school of Gamaliel.

The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem to send Barnabas there to superintend the movement. He found the work so extensive and weighty that he went to Tarsus in search of Paul to assist him. Paul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year (Acts 11:25, 26). At the end of this period, the two were sent up to Jerusalem (AD 44) with the contributions the church at Antioch had made for the poorer members of the Jerusalem church (11:28-30).

At Salamis in 61 AD, Barnabas was stoned to death, allegedly by Jews and at the time of his death he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew he’d copied by hand. He is venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprus.

Biblical Truths and Theology 4

Verse 26. Came to Jerusalem. It is probable that he then went immediately to Jerusalem, Galatians 1:18. This was three years after his conversion.

To join. To become connected with them as their fellow Christian.

But they were all afraid of him. Their fear, or suspicion, was excited probably on these grounds:

  1. They remembered Paul’s former violence against Christians. They had an instinctive shrinking from him, and suspicion of the man that had been so violent a persecutor.
  2. He had been absent three years. If they had not heard of him during that time, they would naturally retain much of their old feelings towards him. If they had, they might suspect the man who had not returned to Jerusalem; who had not before sought the society of other Christians; and who had spent that time in a distant country, and among strangers. It would seem remarkable that he had not at once returned to Jerusalem and connected himself with the apostles. But the sacred writer does not justify the fears of the apostles. He simply records the fact of their apprehension. It is not unnatural, however, to have doubts respecting an open and virulent enemy of the gospel who suddenly professes a change in favor of it. The human mind does not easily cast off suspicion of some unworthy motive, and open itself at once to entire confidence. When great and notorious sinners profess to be converted–men who have been violent, or artful, or malignant– it is natural to ask whether they have not some unworthy motive still in their professed change. Confidence is a plant of slow growth, and starts up not by a sudden profession, but by a course of life which is worthy of affection and of trust.

A disciple. A sincere Christian.

Verse 27. But Barnabas. Barnabas was of Cyprus, not far from Tarsus, and it is not improbable that he had been before acquainted with Saul.

To the apostles. To Peter and James, Galatians 1:18,19. Probably the other apostles were at that time absent from Jerusalem.

And told them, etc. It may seem remarkable that the apostles at Jerusalem had not before heard of the conversion of Saul. The following considerations may serve in some degree to explain this:

  1. It is certain that travel between different countries was then much more difficult than it is now. There were no posts; no public conveyances; nothing that corresponded with our modes of intercourse between one part of the world and another.
  2. There was at this time a state of animosity, amounting to hostility, subsisting between Herod and Aretas. Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, and had put her away. The result of this was a long misunderstanding between them, and a war; and the effects of that war might have been to interrupt the communication very much throughout all that country.
  3. Though the Jews at Jerusalem might have heard of the conversion of Saul, yet it was for their interest to keep it a secret, and not to mention it to Christians. But,
  4. Though the Christians who were there had heard of it, yet it is probable that they were not fully informed on the subject; that they had not had all the evidence of his conversion which they desired; and that they looked with suspicion on him. It was therefore proper that they should have a full statement of the evidence of his conversion; and this was made by Barnabas.

Verse 28. Sayed with them, etc. That is, he was admitted to their friendship, and recognized as a Christian and an apostle. The time during which he then remained at Jerusalem was, however, only fifteen days, Galatians 1:18.

Verse 29. He talked and debated. He openly defended the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah.

(Verse 28 – In the name) By the authority of the Lord Jesus.

The Grecian Jews. The word Grecians means, that he not only maintained that Jesus was the Christ in the presence of those Jews who resided at Jerusalem, and who spoke the Hebrew language, but also before those foreign Jews, who spoke the Greek language, and who had come up to Jerusalem. They would be as much opposed to the doctrine that Jesus was the Christ, as those who resided in Jerusalem.

Verse 30. And sent him off to Tarsus. This was his native city. It was in Cilicia, where Paul doubtless preached the gospel. Galatians 1:21: “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.”

Verse 31. A time of peace. That is, the persecutions against Christians ceased. Those persecutions had been excited by the opposition made to Stephen (Acts 11:19) they had been greatly promoted by Saul, Acts 8:3 and had extended, doubtless, throughout the whole land of Palestine. The precise causes of this cessation of the persecution are not known. Probably they were the following:

  1. It is not improbable that the great mass of Christians had been driven into other regions by these persecutions.
  2. He who had been most active in exciting the persecution, who was, in a sort, its leader, and who was best adapted to carry it on, had been converted. He had ceased his opposition; and even he now was removed from Judea. All this would have some effect in causing the persecution to subside.
  3. But it is not improbable that the civil state of things in Judea contributed much to turn the attention of the Jews to other matters. The effect of this consternation in diverting their minds from the Christians can be easily conceived. The prospect that the images of the Roman emperor were about to be set up by violence in the temple, or that, in case of resistance, death or slavery was to be their portion; the advance of a large army to execute that purpose; all tended to throw the nation into alarm. By the providence of God, therefore, this event was permitted to occur to divert the attention of bloody-minded persecutors from a feeble and a bleeding church. Anxious for their own safety, the Jews would cease to persecute the Christians; and thus, by the conversion of the main instrument in persecution, and by the universal alarm for the welfare of the nation, the trembling and enfeebled church was permitted to obtain repose. Thus ended the first general persecution against Christians, and thus effectually did God show that he had power to guard and protect his chosen people.

All Judea, etc. These three places included the land of Palestine. The formation of churches in Galilee is not expressly mentioned before this; but there is no improbability in supposing that Christians had traveled there, and had preached the gospel. The formation of churches in Samaria is expressly mentioned in Acts 8:5.

Were strengthened. Were built up, increased, and strengthened. See Romans 14:19; 15:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1.

In the fear of the Lord. Fearing the Lord; with reverence for him and his commandments. This expression is often used to denote piety in general, 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:9; 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 13:13.

Items for Discussion

  • What was Barnabas’ relationship to Paul (use these categories: a protégée; a peer; a mentor)?
  • Paul was the ultimate Christian evangelist. Why did Paul need Barnabas?
  • Who is your Barnabas?
  • What is missing in someone’s spiritual development when they do not have an accountability partner?
  • What are the attributes of a good accountability partner?

Discussion Challenge

  • What can the modern church do to develop an interest in accountable relationships?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. Matthew Henry’s Commentaries
  3. From Wikipedia
  4. Barnes’ Notes
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