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Bible Gemz 1437 - An Appeal to the Highest Power (Acts 4:23-30)

January 28, 2019

 

 

The Content of the Prayer in question: 

 

"O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 

who by the Holy Spirit, throughthe mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?

'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.'

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,

while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (NASB)

 

 

"O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them,

You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, Your servant, saying, 'Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans?

The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against His Messiah.'

In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, Your holy servant, whom You anointed.

But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will.

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word.

Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (NLT)

 

 

"Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 

By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David: Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples?

Earth's leaders push for position, Potentates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers!

"For in fact they did meet--Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!--met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah,

to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion.

"And now they're at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message,

as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (MSG)

 

 

As I said in the last Gemz, this marks the beginning of a new era whereby everything they do to be witnesses, must by definition, be unlawful. From now on, all their preaching and teaching must be in direct violation of the prohibition given by the highest legal power and authority in the Jewish nation. The prohibition is to not talk to anyone, in groups or as individuals, from now until forevermore. That is pretty comprehensive. The might of the Sanhedrin was arrayed against them. So what did they do? Simple really. They just went over the heads of the Sanhedrin and appealed to the highest power under Heaven and Earth. Peter has already told the Council to judge for themselves whether it is right for these disciples to listen to the Sanhedrin or to God. As far as the disciples are concerned, they can’t stop being witnesses. That is the task or the assignment they have been given and they will carry it out with full voice. 

 

Notice how they start the prayer. “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them . . .” You can’t get a higher power than that. Who cares about the Sanhedrin and what they can do to you when you have God on your side. It reminds me of Hezekiah’s reaction when he received the letter from Sennacherib’s Commander of the Assyrian Army. 

 

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the LORD's Temple and spread it out before the LORD.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, You are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.

Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open Your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib's words of defiance against the living God.

"It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations.

And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands.

Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that You alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19)

 

This is what they are saying Lord – both Sennacherib and the Sanhedrin – so Lord, You will have to deal with it because we can’t. What a powerful position to be in! You have no resources whatsoever while facing the biggest threat of your life, let alone your very existence on earth. But this is no problem to God who made you and Who appointed you to the task you have, which got you into this predicament in the first place. So God, it’s not my problem, it’s Yours. Please take care of it Lord. In Hezekiah’s case, he had the letter the Commander of Assyrian forces had brought from Sennacharib. So Hezekiah takes it into the temple and spreads it on the table. Here God, this is what they are saying about You. The disciples, in this case don’t have a letter for the Lord to read but it doesn't matter. He actually knew what the threat was going to be, before it was uttered. So they simply appeal to the Lord to help. 

 

Why the connection to the Davidic quote? - who by the Holy Spirit, throughthe mouth of our father David Your servant, said: 

    'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?

'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, 

THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.'

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus . . . 

both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel . . ."

 

The forces arrayed against them are likened to the forces arrayed against the Christ and the forces that were arrayed against King David. The word "gathered together” is a specific military term which conjures up the way in which armies gathered in lines for battle - wave after wave. All carefully regimented and ordered to achieve maximum threat prior to the battle and maximum effect in the battle. This is the picture described here. After the scene has been set, the ones praying come to the essence of their request.

And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,Hear their threats and give us confidence to speak your Word. Keep manifesting Your Power in miraculous signs in Jesus Name - we are not going to soften the declaration of His Name.

 

They don’t ask for deliverance from the threats. They don’t ask for the Lord to make the threats or the accompanying persecutions, beatings, etc, go away. They simply ask for the courage and confidence to continue to do what they have been told to do by God. There is nothing more needed. When God is on your side what can stand against you? Read again the end of Romans 8. Oh, it is one thing to quote scripture in theory as you read it each morning in your Quiet Time. But it is quite another matter when your personal situation matches the events found in Scripture. It is exactly that which they are appealing to here. Peter has already told the Council that they will not stop. True to Peter’s response, which the larger group of disciples agree with, they ask for the confidence to do what they know they need to do. 

 

Added to the prayer is this little element - while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.

 

In other words, continue the healing and signs and wonders so that people will know that God is at work. But more importantly in the context of the threat, they make it clear that they are not ashamed of the name of Jesus nor the Gospel – the Good News that is only possible in Jesus. It is a response to the prohibition against speaking in the name of Jesus. Lord, may You continue to accompany our witness with signs and wonders and we will continue to witness to the power in the Name of Jesus. Simply put, keep witnessing about Him and you will see signs and wonders following. 

 

Before the next Gemz, take a second look at the prayer and see if you can see some strange aspects to it. 

 

 

Be thankful for the challenges and the threats to your faith. It is during those difficult times that you grow the most. Ian

 

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. William James

 

Real courage is when you know you're beaten before you begin, but you begin anyway. That kind of courage opens the door wide for God to act in power. Ian

 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. 

 

 

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