Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill*, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
[Acts 17:22-23 KJV]
I love those words - Him declare I unto you. I make no apology for maintaining my preference for the King James Version; it is what I grew up with, and for me, it has a poetry and a majesty that other versions lack, good though they may be.
I always wondered about these verses and have spoken of them before, but never come to a firm understanding - and ‘a firm understanding’ is essentially what we are being urged to find.
When the Athenians are described as being ‘superstitious’, what is meant is that they are too religious; falling into tradition and form, which is more akin to superstition than to faithful worship and an understanding of the nature of God. To the Athenians He is “the Unknown God”; He has no name, and thus no nature that they know.
So Paul speaks to the Athenians the truth of God. He shares his understanding and love of Father God in a way that reveals the intimate relationship our Father has with each of us through Jesus. He brings the good news of the Gospel to them, encouraging them to accept - not just Jesus’ teachings - but Jesus himself into their lives. I feel sure Paul would have shown them how to pray and build on that joining, assuring them that God answers prayer according to His will and purpose, just as He did with the young Solomon:-
Then God said to him: "Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honour, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.
[1 Kings 3:11-13 NKJV]
Paul’s declaration was not only to the Athenians, but to us today, speaking Solomon’s words from Proverbs, Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]
* Mars’ hill: a rocky height in the city of Athens, opposite the western end of the Acropolis toward the west. This hill belonged to (Ares) Mars and was called Mar's Hill; so called, because, as the story went, Mars, having slain Halirrhothius, son of Neptune, for the attempted violation of his daughter Alicippe, was tried for the murder here before twelve gods as judges.
This place was the location where the judges convened who, by appointment of Solon, had jurisdiction of capital offences, (as wilful murder, arson, poisoning, malicious wounding, and breach of established religious usages).
The court itself was called Areopagus from the place where it sat, also "Areum judicium" an "curia". To that hill the apostle Paul was not led to defend himself before judges, but that he might set forth his opinions on divine subjects to a greater multitude of people, flocking together there and eager to hear something new.
“Trust In The Lord” (1981) - Babbie Mason
... alternatively, you could listen to this slightly more upbeat version?
“Trust In The Lord” - The Rizers
OSWALD CHAMBERS - RUN TODAY’S RACE
Monday 22nd June 2020
“For we are unto God, a sweet savour of Christ.”
We are enwheeled with the odour of Jesus, and wherever we go we are a wonderful refreshment to God.
GEORGE and GILL STEWART