An Explanation of Lessons from Lent
In the next 40 days (23 now because you have already accomplished seventeen), the weeks leading up to Easter, the posts on Glimpsed Glory will be different. I am reading through the New Testament during this time and I am hoping the Holy Spirit will lead me to a fresh revelation each and every day. I’m going into it with a prayerful heart and an expectant spirit but I will fully confess to you that my soul feels sluggish.
I have been in a place of exhaustion over these last months. My mind has been clouded, my body has ached and insomnia has been my companion since late December. The enemy has been and is still whispering in my ear that my Jesus has forgotten me . . . that He has finally tired of my imperfections and left me behind.
I’m not giving in to it! I am going to fight the good fight of faith and follow the example of my Nehemiah Man. I am going to stand firm in my faith because if I do not, I will not stand at all. I’m praising God for bringing me to a place of emptiness so that I can look to Him to fill my cup.
I’m coming before the Lord and I’m asking Him to do a new thing in me. To rouse my heart to His side and to draw me near in real and tangible ways. To plow through the fog that has settled over me in the form of health issues, physical stress, and emotional upheaval and lay a level path before me. I’m entering the throne room and I’m humbly reminding Him that He has invited me to come in my time of need. O Lord – be near to me. Love me where I am. Take me where I need to be.
That’s the cry of my heart Sweet Sister and I’m thinking that if I am in this place that perhaps you are too. It might be that different life situations have brought us here but here we are. If that’s the case, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you have a faith sister to walk through it with. We can do this together – you and I. It’s why God gave us to one another. We can join our hearts and we can offer up the next 40 days to the Beautiful One and trust Him to do the beautiful thing in us.
So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll post the daily reading on the blog (except for Sundays) and if you read the Scriptures not only will you have read through the entire New Testament by Easter but God promises that He’ll show you deep and unsearchable things you do not know. He promises that His word is alive and active and will transform your heart. I could use some transformation. What about you?
At the end of the daily passage, I’m going to share my “Lesson from Lent” – nothing long or drawn out just something that God uses to speak straight to my heart from the Scripture that day. I’m putting it at the end because if your time runs short on a particular day – I want you to skip reading my words, not His.
I’m hoping that you’ll start your own running record of what God is showing you. Maybe you’ll even be moved to leave a comment so your Sisters can glean from what you’re learning. No matter how you choose to keep track of all He shares with you . . . treasure it up in your heart Sweet One, meditate on it, mull it over, consider the whisper of the Lover of your soul. The God of the Universe is the only Voice we need to revive our tired souls. So, let’s you and I lean in close, pray for ears to hear and hearts to respond. Let’s dig in to the riches He has given us and prepare to be amazed by what He will reveal to our expectant hearts. O Sister, let’s boldly ask Him for a lesson from Lent and then brace ourselves for a glimpse of Glory!
March 10, 2015 ~~ Acts 1-6
Footnotes: I’ve left the footnotes in place if you would like to track down sources in word study and language. Please follow the link to each chapter and scroll to the bottom of the passage.
In the former account [which I prepared], O Theophilus, I made [a continuous report] dealing with all the things which Jesus began to do and to teach 2 Until the day when He ascended, after He through the Holy Spirit had instructed and commanded the apostles (special messengers) whom He had chosen. 3 To them also He showed Himself alive after His passion (His suffering in the garden and on the cross) by [a series of] many convincing demonstrations [unquestionable evidences and infallible proofs], appearing to them during forty days and talking [to them] about the things of the kingdom of God.
4 And while being in their company and eating with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised, Of which [He said] you have heard Me speak. 5 For John baptized with water, but not many days from now you shall be baptized with ([a]placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit.
6 So when they were assembled, they asked Him, Lord, is this the time when You will reestablish the kingdom and restore it to Israel? 7 He said to them, It is not for you to become acquainted with and know [b]what time brings [the things and events of time and their definite periods] or fixed [c]years and seasons (their critical niche in time), which the Father has appointed (fixed and reserved) by His own choice and authority and personal power. 8 But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.
9 And when He had said this, even as they were looking [at Him], He was caught up, and a cloud received and carried Him away out of their sight.
10 And while they were gazing intently into heaven as He went, behold, two men [dressed] in white robes suddenly stood beside them, 11 Who said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This same Jesus, Who was caught away and lifted up from among you into heaven, will return in [just] the same way in which you saw Him go into heaven.
12 Then [the disciples] went back to Jerusalem from the hill called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, [only] a Sabbath day’s journey (three-quarters of a mile) away. 13 And when they had entered [the city], they mounted [the stairs] to the upper room where they were [[d]indefinitely] staying—Peter and John and James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas [son] of James. 14 All of these with their minds in full agreement devoted themselves steadfastly to prayer, [waiting together] with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
15 Now on one of those days Peter arose among the brethren, the whole number of whom gathered together was about a hundred and twenty. 16 Brethren, he said, it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit foretold by the lips of David, about Judas who acted as guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received [by divine allotment] his portion in this ministry. 18 Now this man obtained a piece of land with the [money paid him as a] reward for his treachery and wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle [of his body] and all his intestines poured forth. 19 And all the residents of Jerusalem became acquainted with the facts, so that they called the piece of land in their own dialect—Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood. 20 For in the book of Psalms it is written, Let his place of residence become deserted and gloomy, and let there be no one to live in it; and [again], Let another take his position or overseership. 21 So one of the [other] men who have accompanied us [apostles] during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 From the baptism of John at the outset until the day when He was taken up from among us—one of these men must join with us and become a witness to testify to His resurrection.
23 And they accordingly proposed (nominated) two men, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, You, Lord, Who know all hearts ([e]their thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors), indicate to us which one of these two You have chosen 25 To take the place in this ministry and receive the position of an apostle, from which Judas fell away and went astray to go [where he belonged] to his own [proper] place. 26 And they drew lots [between the two], and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to and counted with the eleven apostles (special messengers).
And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit [a]kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words].
5 Now there were then residing in Jerusalem Jews, devout and God-fearing men from every country under heaven. 6 And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them [the apostles] speaking in his own [particular] dialect. 7 And they were beside themselves with amazement, saying, Are not all these who are talking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own (particular) dialect to which we were born?
9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and [the province of] Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and the transient residents from Rome, both Jews and the proselytes [to Judaism from other religions], 11 Cretans and Arabians too—we all hear them speaking in our own native tongues [and telling of] the mighty works of God! 12 And all were beside themselves with amazement and were puzzled and bewildered, saying one to another, What can this mean?
13 But others made a joke of it and derisively said, They are simply drunk and full of sweet [intoxicating] wine.
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: You Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let this be [explained] to you so that you will know and understand; listen closely to what I have to say. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you imagine, for it is [only] the third hour (about 9:00 a.m.) of the day; 16 But [instead] this is [the beginning of] what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [[b]telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions ([c]divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [[d]divinely suggested] dreams. 18 Yes, and on My menservants also and on My maidservants in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [[e]telling forth the divine counsels and [f]predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom]. 19 And I will show wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and smoking vapor; 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the obvious day of the Lord comes—that great and notable and conspicuous and renowned [day]. 21 And it shall be that whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [[g]invoking, adoring, and worshiping the Lord—Christ] shall be saved.
22 You men of Israel, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man accredited and pointed out and shown forth and commended and attested to you by God by the mighty works and [the power of performing] wonders and signs which God worked through Him [right] in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 This Jesus, when delivered up according to the definite and fixed purpose and settled plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and put out of the way [killing Him] by the hands of lawless and wicked men. 24 [But] God raised Him up, liberating Him from the pangs of death, seeing that it was not possible for Him to continue to be controlled or retained by it.
25 For David says in regard to Him, I saw the Lord constantly before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken or overthrown or cast down [from my secure and happy state]. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted exceedingly; moreover, my flesh also will dwell in hope [will encamp, pitch its tent, and dwell in hope in anticipation of the resurrection]. 27 For You will not abandon my soul, leaving it helpless in Hades (the state of departed spirits), nor let Your Holy One know decay or see destruction [of the body after death]. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will enrapture me [diffusing my soul with joy] with and in Your presence.
29 Brethren, it is permitted me to tell you confidently and with freedom concerning the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being however a prophet, and knowing that God had sealed to him with an oath that He would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 He, foreseeing this, spoke [by foreknowledge] of the resurrection of the Christ (the Messiah) that He was not deserted [in death] and left in Hades (the state of departed spirits), nor did His body know decay or see destruction.
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all we [His disciples] are witnesses. 33 Being therefore lifted high by and to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father [h]the promised [blessing which is the] Holy Spirit, He has made this outpouring which you yourselves both see and hear.
34 For David did not ascend into the heavens; yet he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand and share My throne 35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet. 36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel recognize beyond all doubt and acknowledge assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ (the Messiah)—this Jesus Whom you crucified.
37 Now when they heard this they were stung (cut) to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles (special messengers), Brethren, what shall we do? 38 And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is to and for you and your children, and to and for all that are far away, [even] to and for as many as the Lord our God invites and bids to come to Himself.
40 And [Peter] [i]solemnly and earnestly witnessed (testified) and admonished (exhorted) with much more continuous speaking and warned (reproved, advised, encouraged) them, saying, Be saved from this crooked (perverse, wicked, unjust) generation.
41 Therefore those who accepted and welcomed his message were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls.
42 And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord’s Supper] and prayers. 43 And a sense of awe (reverential fear) came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles (the special messengers). 44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common; 45 And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need. 46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts, 47 Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death].
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (three o’clock in the afternoon),
2 [When] a certain man crippled from his birth was being carried along, who was laid each day at that gate of the temple [which is] called Beautiful, so that he might beg for charitable gifts from those who entered the temple. 3 So when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them to give him a gift. 4 And Peter directed his gaze intently at him, and so did John, and said, Look at us! 5 And [the man] paid attention to them, expecting that he was going to get something from them.
6 But Peter said, Silver and gold (money) I do not have; but what I do have, that I give to you: in [the [a]use of] the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!
7 Then he took hold of the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankle bones became strong and steady, 8 And leaping forth he stood and [b]began to walk, and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking about and praising God, 10 And they recognized him as the man who usually sat [begging] for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement (bewilderment, consternation) over what had occurred to him.
11 Now while he [still] firmly clung to Peter and John, all the people in utmost amazement ran together and crowded around them in the covered porch (walk) called Solomon’s. 12 And Peter, seeing it, answered the people, You men of Israel, why are you so surprised and wondering at this? Why do you keep staring at us, as though by our [own individual] power or [active] piety we had made this man [able] to walk?
13 The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified His Servant and [c]Son Jesus [doing Him this honor], Whom you indeed delivered up and denied and rejected and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied and rejected and disowned the Pure and Holy, the Just and Blameless One, and demanded [the pardon of] a murderer to be granted to you. 15 But you killed the very Source (the Author) of life, Whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through and by faith in His name, has made this man whom you see and recognize well and strong. [Yes] the faith which is through and by Him [Jesus] has given the man this perfect soundness [of body] before all of you.
17 And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance [not aware of what you were doing], as did your rulers also. 18 Thus has God fulfilled what He foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ (the Messiah) should undergo ill treatment and be afflicted and suffer. 19 So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of [d]reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And that He may send [to you] the Christ (the Messiah), Who before was designated and appointed for you—even Jesus, 21 Whom heaven must receive [and retain] until the time for the complete restoration of all that God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets for ages past [from the most ancient time in the memory of man].
22 Thus Moses said to the forefathers, The Lord God will raise up for you a Prophet from among your brethren as [He raised up] me; Him you shall listen to and understand by hearing and heed in all things whatever He tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to and understand by hearing and heed that Prophet shall be utterly [e]exterminated from among the people.
24 Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel and those who came afterwards, as many as have spoken, also promised and foretold and proclaimed these days. 25 You are the descendants (sons) of the prophets and the heirs of the covenant which God made and gave to your forefathers, saying to Abraham, And in your Seed (Heir) shall all the families of the earth be blessed and benefited. 26 It was to you first that God sent His Servant and Son Jesus, when He raised Him up [[f]provided and gave Him for us], to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness and evil ways.
And while they [Peter and John] were talking to the people, the high priests and the military commander of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 Being vexed and indignant through and through because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in [the case of] Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 So they laid hands on them (arrested them) and put them in prison until the following day, for it was already evening.
4 But many of those who heard the message believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus as the Christ). And their number grew and came to about 5,000.
5 Then on the following day, their magistrates and elders and scribes were assembled in Jerusalem, 6 Including Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and all others who belonged to the high priestly relationship. 7 And they set the men in their midst and repeatedly demanded, By what sort of power or by what kind of authority did [such people as] you do this [healing]?
8 Then Peter, [because he was] filled with [and controlled by] the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and members of the council (the Sanhedrin), 9 If we are being put on trial [here] today and examined concerning a good deed done to benefit a feeble (helpless) cripple, by what means this man has been restored to health, 10 Let it be known and understood by all of you, and by the whole house of Israel, that in the name and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, [but] Whom God raised from the dead, in Him and by means of Him this man is standing here before you well and sound in body. 11 This [Jesus] is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner [the Cornerstone]. 12 And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved.
13 Now when they saw the boldness and unfettered eloquence of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and untrained in the schools [common men with no educational advantages], they marveled; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And since they saw the man who had been cured standing there beside them, they could not contradict the fact or say anything in opposition.
15 But having ordered [the prisoners] to go aside out of the council [chamber], they conferred (debated) among themselves, 16 Saying, What are we to do with these men? For that an extraordinary miracle has been performed by (through) them is plain to all the residents of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may not spread further among the people and the nation, let us warn and forbid them with a stern threat to speak any more to anyone in this name [or about this Person]. 18 [So] they summoned them and imperatively instructed them not to converse in any way or teach at all in or about the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must decide (judge). 20 But we [ourselves] cannot help telling what we have seen and heard.
21 Then when [the rulers and council members] had further threatened them, they let them go, not seeing how they could secure a conviction against them because of the people; for everybody was praising and glorifying God for what had occurred. 22 For the man on whom this sign (miracle) of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
23 After they were permitted to go, [the apostles] returned to their own [company] and told all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, lifted their voices together with one united mind to God and said, O Sovereign Lord, You are He Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything that is in them, 25 Who by the mouth of our forefather David, Your servant and child, said through the Holy Spirit, Why did the heathen (Gentiles) become wanton and insolent and rage, and the people imagine and study and plan vain (fruitless) things [that will not succeed]? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand in array [for attack] and the rulers were assembled and combined together against the Lord and against His Anointed (Christ, the Messiah). 27 For in this city there actually met and plotted together against Your holy Child and Servant Jesus, Whom You consecrated by anointing, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel, 28 To carry out all that Your hand and Your will and purpose had predestined (predetermined) should occur. 29 And now, Lord, observe their threats and grant to Your bond servants [full freedom] to declare Your message fearlessly, 30 While You stretch out Your hand to cure and to perform signs and wonders through the authority and by the power of the name of Your holy Child and Servant Jesus.
31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage.
32 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all. 33 And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace (loving-kindness and favor and goodwill) rested richly upon them all. 34 Nor was there a destitute or needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell them, and one by one they brought (gave back) the amount received from the sales 35 And laid it at the feet of the apostles (special messengers). Then distribution was made according as anyone had need.
36 Now Joseph, a Levite and native of Cyprus who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, which interpreted means Son of Encouragement, 37 Sold a field which belonged to him and brought the sum of money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.
But a certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, 2 And with his wife’s knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing only a part and putting it at the feet of the apostles. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, and should [in violation of your promise] withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land? 4 As long as it remained unsold, was it not still your own? And [even] after it was sold, was not [the money] at your disposal and under your control? Why then, is it that you have proposed and purposed in your heart to do this thing? [How could you have the heart to do such a deed?] You have not [simply] lied to men [playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful] but to God. 5 Upon hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped up [the body] and carried it out and buried it.
7 Now after an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not having learned of what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, Tell me, did you sell the land for so much? Yes, she said, for so much.
9 Then Peter said to her, How could you two have agreed and conspired together to try to deceive the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out [also]. 10 And instantly she fell down at his feet and died; and the young men entering found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And the whole church and all others who heard of these things were appalled [great awe and strange terror and dread seized them].
12 Now by the hands of the apostles (special messengers) numerous and startling signs and wonders were being performed among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in the covered porch (walk) called Solomon’s. 13 And none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them, but the people held them in high regard and praised and made much of them.
14 More and more there were being added to the Lord those who believed [those who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and devoted themselves to Him joined and gathered with them], crowds both of men and of women, 15 So that they [even] kept carrying out the sick into the streets and placing them on couches and sleeping pads, [in the hope] that as Peter passed by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 And the people gathered also from the towns and hamlets around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those troubled with foul spirits, and they were all cured.
17 But the high priest rose up and all who were his supporters, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and being filled with [a]jealousy and indignation and rage, 18 They seized and arrested the apostles (special messengers) and put them in the public jail.
19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and, leading them out, said, 20 Go, take your stand in the temple courts and declare to the people the whole doctrine concerning this Life (the eternal life which Christ revealed). 21 And when they heard this, they accordingly went into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now the high priest and his supporters who were with him arrived and called together the council (Sanhedrin), even all the senate of the sons of Israel, and they sent to the prison to have [the apostles] brought.
22 But when the attendants arrived there, they failed to find them in the jail; so they came back and reported, 23 We found the prison quite safely locked up and the guards were on duty outside the doors, but when we opened [it], we found no one on the inside. 24 Now when the military leader of the temple area and the chief priests heard these facts, they were much perplexed and thoroughly at a loss about them, wondering into what this might grow.
25 But some man came and reported to them, saying, Listen! The men whom you put in jail are standing [right here] in the temple and teaching the people! 26 Then the military leader went with the attendants and brought [the prisoners], but without violence, for they dreaded the people lest they be stoned by them.
27 So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, 28 Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this [b]Man’s blood upon us.
29 Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross). 31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him.
33 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and infuriated and wanted to kill the disciples. 34 But a certain Pharisee in the council (Sanhedrin) named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, highly esteemed by all the people, standing up, ordered that the apostles be taken outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them [the council, saying]: Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men. 36 For before our time there arose Theudas, asserting himself to be a person of importance, with whom a number of men allied themselves, about 400; but he was killed and all who had listened to and adhered to him were scattered and brought to nothing. 37 And after this one rose up Judas the Galilean, [who led an uprising] during the time of the census, and drew away a popular following after him; he also perished and all his adherents were scattered. 38 Now in the present case let me say to you, stand off (withdraw) from these men and let them alone. For if this doctrine or purpose or undertaking or movement is of human origin, it will fail (be overthrown and come to nothing); 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop or overthrow or destroy them; you might even be found fighting against God!
40 So, convinced by him, they took his advice; and summoning the apostles, they flogged them and sternly forbade them to speak in or about the name of Jesus, and allowed them to go. 41 So they went out from the presence of the council (Sanhedrin), rejoicing that they were being counted worthy [dignified by the indignity] to suffer shame and be exposed to disgrace for [the sake of] His name.
42 Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the good news (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah).
Now about this time, when the number of the disciples was greatly increasing, complaint was made by the Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) against the [native] Hebrews because their widows were being overlooked and neglected in the daily ministration (distribution of relief). 2 So the Twelve [apostles] convened the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not seemly or desirable or right that we should have to give up or neglect [preaching] the Word of God in order to attend to serving at tables and superintending the distribution of food.
3 Therefore select out from among yourselves, brethren, seven men of good and attested character and repute, full of the [Holy] Spirit and wisdom, whom we may assign to look after this business and duty. 4 But we will continue to devote ourselves steadfastly to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
5 And the suggestion pleased the whole assembly, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith (a strong and welcome belief that Jesus is the Messiah) and full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte (convert) from Antioch. 6 These they presented to the apostles, who after prayer laid their hands on them.
7 And the message of God kept on spreading, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem; and [besides] a large number of the priests were obedient to the faith [in Jesus as the Messiah, through Whom is obtained eternal salvation in the kingdom of God].
8 Now Stephen, full of grace (divine blessing and favor) and power (strength and ability) worked great wonders and signs (miracles) among the people. 9 However, some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), as it was called, and [of the synagogues] of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians and of those from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, arose [and undertook] to debate and dispute with Stephen.
10 But they were not able to resist the intelligence and the wisdom and [the inspiration of] the Spirit with which and by Whom he spoke.11 So they [secretly] instigated and instructed men to say, We have heard this man speak, using slanderous and abusive and blasphemous language against Moses and God. 12 [Thus] they incited the people as well as the elders and the scribes, and they came upon Stephen and arrested him and took him before the council (Sanhedrin).
13 And they brought forward false witnesses who asserted, This man never stops making statements against this sacred place and the Law [of Moses]; 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus the Nazarene will tear down and destroy this place, and will alter the institutions and usages which Moses transmitted to us. 15 Then all who sat in the council (Sanhedrin), as they gazed intently at Stephen, saw that his face had the appearance of the face of an angel.
And all the Sisters say “Amen”
All of Scripture hangs on this one immutable fact: God does not change. He is and will remain the God who He announces and shows Himself to be: always holy, always just, always compassionate, always trustworthy, always loving, and always faithful. If we could but wrap our minds around the unchanging nature of God, taking it from head knowledge to heart assurance, all worry would leave and our souls would know true rest. We would have certainty that His intentions for us are good and we would have no doubt that what God sets about to do, He accomplishes. ~ Marilyn Biddinger
I wrote the paragraph above about three years ago. I had just come through a time with the Lord that put exclamation points all over “taste and see that He is good.” It was the best time of my life and I realized as I just put those words down it was this same time of year. It was during Lent that God took me by the hand and began to teach me that He truly is the Covenant God – YHWH, the LORD. The Unchanging One who is Faithful to Himself.
He revealed so much of Himself to me, it was like an explosion of His Muchness too beautiful, too detailed to fully describe. . . and that journey has not ended. He continues to take those foundational truths and to build on them in ways that absolutely blow my mind. These Scriptures from Acts did exactly that – as the Holy Spirit rushed into the upper room it blew through my heart as well.
Space isn’t going to permit my explaining every connection but I think you’ll be blessed by narrowing in on just one. We’ve got to go back to Genesis 15 and visit the account of God cutting covenant with Abram. God had promised Abram in Genesis 12 to make him into a great nation and yet, after leaving his country to go to the land God showed him, we find Abram in Genesis 15 with only a servant to be his heir. God visits Abram and assures him that He will provide a son, from Abram’s own body, to inherit all that God has promised to give him. God, who has already promised Abram that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth, tells Abram to go outside and look up at the stars. Abram gazes at the night sky and God assures him again that his descendants will be too numerous to count . . .
6 And he [Abram] believed in (trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness (right standing with God). Genesis 15:6
God used the earth He had created and the stars He had called out by name to remind Abram that the word He speaks is filled with power and when He says something will be done . . . it will be done.
Abram believed God to be his Creator and his Sovereign but still he wondered how he would come into possession of the inheritance he was to pass along. It seems to me that this isn’t a doubting question but more a curiosity similar to Mary asking “how will this be since I am a virgin” in Luke 1:34.
God is not annoyed at Abram’s wonderment – in fact God doesn’t simply answer Abram, He demonstrates His commitment to the ultimate fulfillment of His Word. He cuts a covenant with Abram and God promises with a solemn binding agreement that Abram will have more descendants than he can count and more riches to pass on to the them than He can imagine.
Cutting covenant isn’t familiar to you and me. It’s not a practice common to us so by way of explanation the particular type of covenant that God entered into with Abram is called a covenant of grant. Covenant means a solemn binding agreement. Covenant of Grant seals the solemn binding agreement, at the barest bones explanation by pledging life to guarantee the promise. The one who walks between (cuts the path between) the pieces of dead animals is pledging to give all he has, including his life to be certain the covenant promise is fulfilled.
So God has promised Abram blessing and Abram has believed His promise but God goes a step further and He enters into a covenant of grant with Abram. Now remember the one who walks between the pieces of death is the one pledging his life as a guarantee that the covenant promise will be fulfilled.
God instructs Abram to cut the animals of sacrifice in half and lay half on the left side of the path and half on the right side of the path. Then God puts Abram into a deep sleep and . . .
17 When the sun had gone down and a [thick] darkness had come on, behold, a smoking oven and a flaming torch passed between those pieces. Genesis 15:17
Do you see Beloved? God could swear by no one higher than Himself and so He pledged His own life to fulfill the promise. The Fire moving between the pieces is God Himself. His holiness burning, His Life moving, His promise echoing in the midst of the death around Him. Oh yes Abram . . .you will have a great inheritance and your descendants will be blessed!
This is the unconditional promise that led the Hebrew nation to be so particular about their genealogy – because if they were children of Abraham then they were heirs to the promise. God Himself had guaranteed it as Fire that walked between the pieces.
God had assured Abram that he would have many descendants and God will always do what He says He will do. And Abram, whose name had been changed to Abraham, had a son who inherited the promise of descendants and land – Isaac. Isaac’s son Jacob, later called Israel, was the next to inherit the covenant promise. That’s why every time the Israelites got into trouble and God was about to destroy them or abandon them to their own devices, someone would speak up and remind Him of the covenant promise . . .” Remember LORD, You’re the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And God, who had moved as Fire through death as a guarantee of His promise, would relent.
Isn’t it interesting that when God delivered the Israelites He led them toward the Promised Land with a Pillar of Fire by Night? Might it be that the fire in front of them was a daily assurance from God that He remembered? And while we don’t have time to look at the full of it, how badly do you think it would’ve grieved the heart of God to have the people He had just freed from bondage create an idol by fire? He’s about to let them feel His wrath when the voice of Moses intercedes . . .
13 [Earnestly] remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self and said to them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. Exodus 32:13
I think Moses had to have a quiver in his voice when he asked God to remember His own Fire – don’t you? See how the Covenant, the Promise of God—that Fire that moved between the pieces—protected the Israelites from His wrath.
Now at this point you might be thinking how wonderful all of that is . . . for the Israelites. How does the Fire that moved between the pieces, the promise of untold inheritance for the children of Abraham, affect you and I? We can’t trace our roots to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How do we hope to enter into the protection and the provision of the Promise?
Well Sweet One, let the trumpets sound because the Promise has been kept and the Promise has a Name — His Name is Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the promise of God to give His life so that Abraham would have more descendants than He could count. Jesus Christ became like the dead pieces so the Promise of God to provide a great reward, a beautiful inheritance would be kept in ways Abraham’s limited human vision could never fully comprehend. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ opens the door for you and me to enter into the Promise and experience the protection and the provision pledged to the descendants of Abraham. Paul makes clear in Galatians 3 that we, you and I, are the children of Abraham . . .
6 Thus Abraham believed in and adhered to and trusted in and relied on God, and it was reckoned and placed to his account and credited as righteousness (as conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action). 7 Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by faith who are [the true] sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed. 9 So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship] with the believing and trusting Abraham. Galatians 3:6-9
But before Paul said it in the New Testament, I think God demonstrated it. God never intended for the Covenant Fire to be limited to one nation, it was always His intention to spread the Blaze over every dispensation of time and every people group. Jesus, fully man and fully God, hung on the cross and fulfilled the Promise of God to give His life – the Fire said He would. God raised Jesus to life and the Flame, the Light of the World, showed that He could not be extinguished.
Oh Beloved, the Covenant Fire still burns and it still blesses the children of faith. What greater inheritance could there be for the descendants of Abraham than to have the Flame their ancestor saw at a distance burn hot within them?
And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit [a]kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words]. Acts 2:1-4
Do you see it? The Fire of God still burns and the Promise still stands! All who will believe can enter into the great protection and great provision of the Father through the One who is the Promise—Jesus Christ! And all those who have faith, the children of Abraham, will be filled, diffused throughout their souls, with the fire of the Holy Spirit! Oh Sweet Sister, the Covenant Fire burns within us!
Girlfriend, that has got to make us shout the Hallelujah! The God of Glory never ceases to be Himself! Our God never changes—He is always faithful –what our God has declared He will do . . He will do. Don’t you love Him so?
The Covenant Fire still burns . . . #lessonsfromlent