“21b When the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin — the full Senate of the sons of Israel — and sent orders to the jail to have them brought. 22 But when the temple police got there, they did not find them in the jail, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing in front of the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 As the commander of the temple police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them, as to what could come of this.
25 Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple complex and teaching the people.” 26 Then the commander went with the temple police and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. 27 After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, 28 “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to bring this man’s blood on us!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging Him on a tree. 31 God exalted this man to His right hand as ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Peter and the rest were so compelled by the power of the Gospel message, the movement of the Holy Spirit in them, and the truth of what they had seen and heard, that there was simply no force apart from death that could silence them. They were convicted, determined and excited by and because of this hope that now lived inside of them. Jesus’ teachings were authoritative enough to be worth teaching, they were -the- truth after all. But the fact that they and all of Jerusalem had seen Him arrested, tried, convicted, crucified, dead and buried…and to have Him then walking, eating, talking and still performing miracles 3 days later…that was enough for them to turn their lives over in glad and joyful surrender.
And that’s what it takes to follow Jesus, we must surrender to Him. We cannot try to save ourselves, to preserve our former way of life. We have something new and wonderful and amazing to take part in. A new purpose, a new life, a new state of mind, of heart and of the soul, in which to walk and live and exist. Following Jesus comes with a Great Commandment to GoLove Go & men, a Great Commissioning to baptize, to teach & make disciples. There is nothing that should stop us, quiet us or keep us from sharing what we now hold so dear. Like Peter & the other apostles, death itself should be the only thing that should keep us from speaking in the Name of Jesus Christ, and even then, in our deaths, we should still proclaim His Name with our last breaths.
We cannot be silent or silenced. We cannot live in fear or timidity. We cannot compromise the Good News for the sake of comfort or for secular social ‘standards.’ Faith in Christ and a general silence do not work, they are not compatable. The joy that has been planted in us compells us each in our own ways, with the giftings we have been given, to speak the truth in love, to serve others in His Name, to teach them what we have learned and to then equip them to do the same…in other words: to ‘go and make disciples.’
Peter & the rest were in prison for what they had said about Jesus. Would we risk prison?
Peter & the rest were prepared to go before the highest court of their people because of what they said about Jesus. Would we risk trial?
Peter & the rest spoke up in defense of the Gospel message to people who were more educated than they were. Would we risk public shaming?
Peter & the rest were simply human beings, flawed human beings, who had been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit now dwelled. How do we see ourselves today, we who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and in whom dwells that same promised Holy Spirit? Do we see oursleves with the capacity to be bold to the point of prison, court and death? Or do we walk timidly, trying not to stir the pot too much, not to make too many waves?
We must make our own decision. Do we follow Christ, living as He intends, witnesses for His gospel walking the narrow road, or do we try to make up some middle ground for ourselves, trying to ‘play it safe’ hoping that Jesus will excuse our complete lack of faith in Him? We know the correct answer & so we should live it, trusting in Him, loving Him more than we love this life.
“12 Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they would all meet in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people praised them highly. 14 Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers — crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a large group came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”
“17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach.”
If you ever needed a situation to describe or define ‘boldness’ this would be one worth using. The apostles are preaching, teaching, healing and crowds are being drawn. The Temple elite don’t take kindly to this, and so they throw them all in jail only to have God undo what they did…and the apostles get right back to work. I love these accounts! When we look at the early church, these initital believers, using the word ‘minority’ to describe their numbers isn’t a small enough word, but they still stand tall, loud & bold for Jesus. They don’t care what the high priest’s interpretation is on life after death (he’s a Sadducee, so he doesn’t believe in a resurrection) because they have seen the evidence for themselves. They know what they believe because their faith was also sight. They know, because they lived it all, they saw it all and they experienced every moment personally. Theor testimony was powerful, and the Gospel was at work in them because they were joyfully willing to let God do whatever He wanted to do in them and through them.
So, when the high priest and his men said not to preach Jesus, Peter and the Apostles will reply back with the only answer that makes sense: “We have to do what God wants before we do what you want.” But I’m jumping ahead a little bit.
Most of us, if arrested for an activity, wouldn’t turn right around and get back to it the moment we were freed from jail. The only people who do that are addicts. They steal to they can get their fix, get caught, jailed, eventually released, and then they get right back to what got them in trouble in the first place. That’s called a chronic condition. And when it came to the Apostles, they had a chronic obsession with Jesus, and rightfully so! This boundless boldness, this joyful Good News, propelled them forward through any and all obstacles that would come their way. Prison, death, torture…none of those would hold them back from what they knew needed to be done, and so the Holy Spirit propelled them forward, changing the world through them, because they didn’t love themselves so much that they wouldn’t do whatever needed to be done for the sake of the message that brought them life, and shone light into their hearts.
They were excited & they were unstoppable!
Church, we need to remember this for ourselves. We need to be bold, unhinged and carry the Good News with us every day, every where, all the time. This is our joyful task that we have been appointed by the Master to accomplish. GoLove people! Tell them the Good News that has changed everything in our hearts, that has saved us from ourselves, sin, death & hell. Let them know the truth, show them the evidene and plant seeds of faith, water those seeds of faith, so that God might reap a harvestin their lives. No fear of social awkwardness should keep us from delivering the message that redeems souls and can change the course of their eternity. To GoLove in the way that Christ desires requires us to be vocal, to reach out & do what the Master would have us do.
“15 Balak sent officials again who were more numerous and higher in rank than the others. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, ‘This is what Balak son of Zippor says: “Let nothing keep you from coming to me, 17 for I will greatly honor you and do whatever you ask me. So please come and put a curse on these people for me!”‘
18 But Balaam responded to the servants of Balak, ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the command of the Lord my God to do anything small or great. 19 Please stay here overnight as the others did, so that I may find out what else the Lord has to tell me.’
20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, ‘Since these men have come to summon you, get up and go with them, but you must only do what I tell you.’ 21 When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab.
22 But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him.”
This is one of those unusual passages of Scripture that look like God is contradicting Himself, but all it takes is a tiny amount of investigation and a look at the context of what is going on to find out that God is indeed acting as normal, and that nothing contradictory is being said or done. As always, with any good study of Scripture, with any good exposition, context is key. Don’t take what you know from your cultural understanding and apply it to the conversation/sequence of events happening in a different culture at a very different time in history.
Balaam refers to the Lord in the proper way, but that does not mean he is a believer. He is a diviner, a pagan, who uses entrails, dissection, bones and other cultic instruments to try to seek out the future and determine coming events. And so when he enquires of God about Israel, God is going to be very direct with him about how they are to be handled & treated. Because they mean nothing to Balaam, they are obviously seen as an enemy to Balak, and so God is unhappy with the whole situation. So God gives Balaam two different opportunities to see and understand that there are to be no curses laid out on the people of Israel. The first time, the message is for Balaam and Balak, when God tells them that he will not be going to curse Israel. That lets Balak hear for himself that they are not to be cursed. Balaam and the emissaries sent to him are all used as messengers from God for this pagan king, to point his mind toward God’s will and desire. The second time God gives Balaam permission to go, but not to do anything other than what He says. And so it is no surprise that God gets angry with the situation. Balaam holds no heart-loyalty to YHWH and if he does ‘curse’ the people for Balak, if even the smallest unfortunate circumstance happens, then Balak would claim responsibility over the event, and in turn power over God Himself. So, when God stops Balaam on the way with His angel, and even makes his donkey speak to him, it is all to let Balaam see and understand that God is not fickle, not impulsive or inconsistent that the imagined pagan gods that he is used to ‘invoking.’ God is serious about His people, and He is serious about His reputation and that His Name is glorified and lifted up. Nothing will stand in the way of His will. Balaam’s promise to refuse the gold and silver when it is a 25 day journey is one thing, but often gold in the hand sways the heart.
As Christians, we see from this event in Scripture that God is serious about the integrity of His Name and His people who bear His Name. That should be a great motivator to us to make sure that we are honoring God in all our efforts, and in every arena of our life. The proper respect for God as we GoLove others in His Name and according to His will, will translate into everything we do for His sake. We cannot take Him or His will lightly and hold Him in His proper place.