"For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning Him" (Acts 13:27)
The above statement as a whole carries a significance which embraces a very great deal of history, but its direct and immediate implication is that if the people referred to - the dwellers in Jerusalem and their rulers - had been in the good of the most familiar things, they would have behaved very differently from the way in which they did behave. Every week, Sabbath by Sabbath, extending over a very great number of years, they heard things read; but eventually, because of their failure to recognize what they were hearing, they acted in a way entirely opposed to those very things, though under the sovereignty of God fulfilling them in so doing.
Surely that is a word of warning. It represents a very terrible possibility - to hear repeatedly the same things, and not to recognize their significance; to behave in a way quite contrary to our own interests, making for our own undoing, when it might have been otherwise.
The point is this - that there is a voice in the prophets which may be missed, a meaning which may not be apprehended, and the results may be disastrous for the people concerned. "The voices of the prophets"; that suggests that there is something beyond the mere things that the prophet says. There is a 'voice'. We may hear a sound, we may hear the words, and yet not hear the voice; that is something extra to the thing said. That is the statement here, that week by week, month after month, and year after year, men read the prophets audibly, and the people who heard the reading did not hear the voices. It is the voice of the prophets that we need to hear.
As you go through this thirteenth chapter of the Acts you are able to recognize that this little fragment is in a very crucial context. This chapter, to begin with, marks a development. There in Antioch were certain men, including Saul, and the Holy Spirit said: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto I have called them." That was a new development, a moving out, something far-reaching, very momentous; but you are not through the chapter before you come upon another crisis, which became inevitable when in a certain place a great crowd came together, and the Jews, refusing to be obedient to the Word, stirred up a revolt. The Apostles made this pronouncement: "It was necessary that the Word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (vs. 46); and they quoted a prophet (Isaiah 49:6) for their authority: "I have set Thee for a light to the Gentiles". These were epochs in the history of the Church; and the Jews, as a whole, were turned from, and the Gentiles in a very deliberate way were recognized and brought in, because of this very thing - that the Jews had heard these prophets Sabbath by Sabbath but had not heard their voices.
Big things hang upon hearing the voice. Failure to hear may lead to irreparable loss. Very big things concerning Israel have come into the centuries since the time of Acts 13. It is not my intention to launch out on matters of prophecy concerning the Jews, but my point is this. On the one hand, it was no small thing to fail to hear the voices of the prophets. On the other hand, you notice that the Gentiles rejoiced. It says here, "As the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of God." Well, on both sides, it is a great thing to fail to hear what could be heard if there were an ear for hearing, and it is a great thing to hear and give heed. I think that is a sufficiently serious foundation and background to engage out attention.
(continued with # 1 - "Old Testament Prophets In The New Testament")