“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.”
Whatever riles us up or weighs us down reveals where we are in our walk with the Lord.
That’s what’s described in today’s Manna as Paul saw the many statues and idols in the prosperous city of Athens. Having begun as a small village of the slopes of the Acropolis—the most famous hill of all the ancient cities and rose some 500’ into the air—Athens had become a “super city” by Paul’s day and the capital city of Attica. It was also the home to Plato’s famous school, the Academy, and a center for worship of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts, and also that of Neptune.
Thus, there’s no doubt it was a “pagan place.”
And, no wonder Paul’s “spirit was stirred within him.” Ours would have been, too—or at least should have been.
The Greek word “paroxuno” is used here for “stirred” and also means “to sharpen alongside, exasperate, easily provoked, keen, agitated, etc.” But, we must view this as “grief-groanings,” not a feeling of being “put out,” which is rooted in pride and a judgmental attitude.
No, Paul’s was an “anointed agitation” like that of Jesus’ that day when He twice “groaned in His spirit” on His way to Lazarus’ tomb (Jn. 11:33, 38). Interestingly, the Greek word used both times there is “embrimaomai,” which basically means “to snort with anger, have indignation over, murmur against, etc.” Thus, it would appear that both Jesus’ reaction to the folks’ unbelief and Paul’s reaction to the people’s idolatry is the same: A deep, inward groaning over their spiritual blindness.
Anyone who walks with the Lord knows well this feeling.
You talk to that loved one or friend, trying to woo and warn them of their spiritual condition; but, they will not listen. You try to reason with them concerning their rebellion, but they laugh and continue on their merry way. You weep openly over their waywardness, but their heart seems impervious to your concerns.
That’s why we must continually pour our hearts out to the Holy Spirit, Who intercedes for us (and them) with “groanings that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26)—which basically means “baffled sigh of emotion, exasperation, etc.” and cannot be put into words.
Always remember that lost people act, think and talk differently than saved people. They act lost. They think lost. They talk lost. Their interests are different. Their focus is different. Their purpose, priorities and passions are different.
That’s why we must not “grow weary in well-doing and faint in our minds” (Gal. 6:9); instead, we must continue pleading and interceding. In so doing we’ll see God move in ways we never thought possible (I Jn. 5:14-15). So, do not lose heart or hope, Pilgrim. Keep going and groaning. God’s at work.
August 27, 2011