So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 ESV
There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6b
Have you ever heard of the phrase “hedge your bets”? This means to play things safe by leaving more than one option open. The phrase comes from a time when people would fence their land by planting a row of bushes or trees around the edge of their property, and these hedges would keep their land safe. Hedging your bets is often talked about in actual betting. For example, if you are betting on a horse race, you might put money on more than one horse. Then, whichever horse wins, you will get some money. You can hedge your bets when you make plans, too. For example, you might plan a picnic, but if it rains that day, you can have another plan ready, such as going to see a movie. That way, no matter how the weather turns out, you will have something fun to do.
The people of Athens had built an altar to an unknown god. They wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any god who might help them, so they were hedging their bets. No matter which god turned out to be true or good, they would have given that god some respect. Paul used that altar to introduce them to the one true God. He said that the true God couldn’t be seen, and couldn’t be an idol made with human hands. The true God, he said, doesn’t live in a temple we can build, and there’s nothing we can do to help him. In fact, it’s the other way around. God is the one who helps us. He is the one who made us and gives us life, and he is in control of the whole course of human history. Paul said that for a long time God allowed people to go their own way, but even so he was never far away from anyone. He is the Father of all people, because he made all people in his image. He now calls everyone to turn away from idols and from sins, and to believe in the true God, who will soon judge the whole earth through Jesus.
We can’t hedge our bets with God, because he is the only true God, and he calls us to put all of our trust in him. He calls us to turn away from sin and to follow his ways. This can be a scary thought sometimes. We want to play things safe and to save some of our faith for someone or something else. But our Heavenly Father has given us complete safety in Jesus, our Savior. Jesus took all our sins on himself, and he paid for them at the cross. When the final judgment comes, we can put all our trust in what Jesus has done for us. Our sins are forgiven every day, and we can look to the future with confidence that we are safe in God’s hands, now and always.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for taking us into the safety of your hands through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.