Bible Verse: “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:39)

Scripture Reading: Acts 13:13-43

Act Three tells the story of the small, nomadic group of people called Israel. Their story is essentially the story of “what does not work” to change the human heart and restore intimacy with God. Act Three moves through four major scenes.

The key figure in the first scene of the third act is a guy named Abram, also called Abraham. Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, grows up and himself has two sons, Esau and Jacob. God changes his name from Jacob to “Israel,” which means one who “struggles with God.” Israel becomes the father of a family that, in time, will bring fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Eventually he will have twelve sons and, in the most tangible way, the promise of a nation will begin.

As scene two opens, the twelve great-grandsons of Abraham are in the far-off land of Egypt. Their descendants increase in number and are in time made slaves of the brutal Egyptian Empire. During this time, starting with the birth of their leader Moses to the end of a period called “Judges,” God rescues the descendants of Israel from slavery and leads them all to a land they can call their own. They have all the rules and all the space they need, but they still have an inescapable problem. Their hearts are bent and broken.

The third scene opens with Israel getting their first king. In the end, what looked like Israel’s final triumph, a dream come true, comes crashing to the ground. With the failure of Israel’s kings, the focus shifts to a new kind of leader, a prophet. God unleashes on Israel a series of prophets whose role is to shout out God’s truth loud and clear, whether the people want to hear it or not.

By the end of Act Three we are left desperate. We just want to shout, “Get me away from these people.” Yet their story is a mirror. If we are honest, we see ourselves in this story all too clearly.

Having said all this, we find some amazing people in this third act. In one way, they are exceptional friends of God, and in another way still deeply flawed. People like Abram, Moses, David, and Elijah live as friends of God in a way that transcends the rules and rituals of religion. Yet none of these leaders fulfilled the promise of the one who would set all the wrongs right. None of them was the promised rescuer to come.

As we look back over the four scenes of Act Three, what do we see? God selects the smallest, weakest, most unlikely family to use as a case study for the rest of the human race. Did it work? Did this little family, humanity’s case study, finally pull it together? Nope. It was nothing short of a complete disaster. As we journey through this third act, we see God demonstrate for all time and eternity that religion does not work.

— Tim Day in God Enters Stage Left
Copyright © 2013 by Tim Day

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