An Explanation of Lessons from Lent
In the next 40 days (22 now because you have already accomplished eighteen), 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 11, 2015 ~~ Acts 7-11
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.
And the high priest asked [Stephen], Are these charges true?
2 And he answered, Brethren and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before he [went to] live in Haran,
3 And He said to him, Leave your own country and your relatives and come into the land (region) that I will point out to you. 4 So then he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, [God] transferred him to this country in which you are now dwelling. 5 Yet He gave him no inheritable property in it, [no] not even enough ground to set his foot on; but He promised that He would give it to Him for a [a]permanent possession and to his descendants after him, even though [as yet] he had no child.
6 And this is [in effect] what God told him: That his descendants would be aliens (strangers) in a land belonging to other people, who would bring them into bondage and ill-treat them 400 years. 7 But I will judge the nation to whom they will be slaves, said God, and after that they will escape and come forth and worship Me in this [very] place. 8 And [God] made with Abraham a covenant (an agreement to be religiously observed) [b]of which circumcision was the seal. And under these circumstances [Abraham] became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac [did so] when he became the father of Jacob, and Jacob [when each of his sons was born], the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs [Jacob’s sons], boiling with envy and hatred and anger, sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt; but God was with him, 10 And delivered him from all his distressing afflictions and won him goodwill and favor and wisdom and understanding in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Then there came a famine over all of Egypt and Canaan, with great distress, and our forefathers could find no fodder [for the cattle] or vegetable sustenance [for their households]. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our forefathers [to go there on their] first trip. 13 And on their second visit Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and the family of Joseph became known to Pharaoh and his origin and race.
14 And Joseph sent an invitation calling to himself Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, where he himself died, as did [also] our forefathers; 16 And their [c]bodies [Jacob’s and Joseph’s] were taken back to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of [silver] money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 But as the time for the fulfillment of the promise drew near which God had made to Abraham, the [Hebrew] people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18 Until [the time when] there arose over Egypt another and a different king who did not know Joseph [neither knowing his history and services nor recognizing his merits]. 19 He dealt treacherously with and defrauded our race; he abused and oppressed our forefathers, forcing them to expose their babies so that they might not be kept alive.
20 At this juncture Moses was born, and was exceedingly beautiful in God’s sight. For three months he was nurtured in his father’s house; 21 Then when he was exposed [to perish], the daughter of Pharaoh rescued him and took him and reared him as her own son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was mighty (powerful) in his speech and deeds.
23 And when he was in his fortieth year, it came into his heart to visit his kinsmen the children of Israel [[d]to help them and to care for them]. 24 And on seeing one of them being unjustly treated, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian and slaying [him]. 25 He expected his brethren to understand that God was granting them deliverance by his hand [taking it for granted that they would accept him]; but they did not understand.
26 Then on the next day he [e]suddenly appeared to some who were quarreling and fighting among themselves, and he urged them to make peace and become reconciled, saying, Men, you are brethren; why do you abuse and wrong one another? 27 Whereupon the man who was abusing his neighbor pushed [Moses] aside, saying, Who appointed you a ruler (umpire) and a judge over us? 28 Do you intend to slay me as you slew the Egyptian yesterday?
29 At that reply Moses sought safety by flight and he was an exile and an alien in the country of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 And when forty years had gone by, there appeared to him in the wilderness (desert) of Mount Sinai an angel, in the flame of a burning bramblebush.
31 When Moses saw it, he was astonished and marveled at the sight; but when he went close to investigate, there came to him the voice of the Lord, saying, 32 I am the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. And Moses trembled and was so terrified that he did not venture to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground and worthy of veneration. 34 Because I have most assuredly seen the abuse and oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their sighing and groaning, I have come down to rescue them. So, now come! I will send you back to Egypt [as My messenger].
35 It was this very Moses whom they had denied (disowned and rejected), saying, Who made you our ruler (referee) and judge? whom God sent to be a ruler and deliverer and redeemer, by and with the [protecting and helping] hand of the Angel that appeared to him in the bramblebush. 36 He it was who led them forth, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and during the forty years in the wilderness (desert).
37 It was this [very] Moses who said to the children of Israel, God will raise up for you a Prophet from among your brethren as He raised me up. 38 This is he who in the assembly in the wilderness (desert) was the go-between for the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and our forefathers, and he received living oracles (words that still live) to be handed down to us.
39 [And yet] our forefathers determined not to be subject to him [refusing to listen to or obey him]; but thrusting him aside they rejected him, and in their hearts yearned for and turned back to Egypt. 40 And they said to Aaron, Make us gods who shall [be our leaders and] go before us; as for this Moses who led us forth from the land of Egypt—we have no knowledge of what has happened to him. 41 And they [even] made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol and made merry and exulted in the work of their [own] hands.
42 But God turned [away from them] and delivered them up to worship and serve the host (stars) of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you [really] offer to Me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness (desert), O house of Israel? 43 [No!] You took up the tent (the portable temple) of Moloch and carried it [with you], and the star of the god Rephan, the images which you [yourselves] made that you might worship them; and I will remove you [carrying you away into exile] beyond Babylon.
44 Our forefathers had the tent (tabernacle) of witness in the wilderness, even as He Who directed Moses to make it had ordered, according to the pattern and model he had seen. 45 Our forefathers in turn brought it [this tent of witness] in [with them into the land] with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God drove out before the face of our forefathers. [So it remained here] until the time of David, 46 Who found grace (favor and spiritual blessing) in the sight of God and prayed that he might be allowed to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
47 But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says, 49 Heaven [is] My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What [kind of] house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest? 50 Was it not My hand that made all these things?
51 You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always [f]actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]! 52 Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? And they slew those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, Whom you now have betrayed and murdered—53 You who received the Law as it was ordained and set in order and delivered by angels, and [yet] you did not obey it!
54 Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].
55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; 56 And he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!
57 But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit! 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [g][in death].
And Saul was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was [a]pleased and [b]entirely approving]. On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers).
2 [A party of] devout men [c]with others helped to carry out and bury Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison.
4 Now those who were scattered abroad went about [through the land from place to place] preaching the glad tidings, the Word [[d]the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God]. 5 Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ (the Messiah) to them [the people]; 6 And great crowds of people with one accord listened to and heeded what was said by Philip, as they heard him and watched the miracles and wonders which he kept performing [from time to time]. 7 For foul spirits came out of many who were possessed by them, screaming and shouting with a loud voice, and many who were suffering from palsy or were crippled were restored to health. 8 And there was great rejoicing in that city.
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had formerly practiced magic arts in the city to the utter amazement of the Samaritan nation, claiming that he himself was an extraordinary and distinguished person. 10 They all paid earnest attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that exhibition of the power of God which is called great (intense). 11 And they were attentive and made much of him, because for a long time he had amazed and bewildered and dazzled them with his skill in magic arts.
12 But when they believed the good news (the Gospel) about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) as Philip preached it, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed [he adhered to, trusted in, and relied on the teaching of Philip], and after being baptized, devoted himself constantly to him. And seeing signs and miracles of great power which were being performed, he was utterly amazed.
14 Now when the apostles (special messengers) at Jerusalem heard that [the country of] Samaria had accepted and welcomed the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then [the apostles] laid their hands on them one by one, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 However, when Simon saw that the [Holy] Spirit was imparted through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he brought money and offered it to them, 19 Saying, Grant me also this power and authority, in order that anyone on whom I place my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. 20 But Peter said to him, Destruction overtake your money and you, because you imagined you could obtain the [free] gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is all wrong in God’s sight [it is not straightforward or right or true before God]. 22 So repent of this depravity and wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this [e]contriving thought and purpose of your heart may be removed and disregarded and forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in [f]a bond forged by iniquity [to fetter souls]. 24 And Simon answered, Pray for me [beseech the Lord, both of you], that nothing of what you have said may befall me!
25 Now when [the apostles] had borne their testimony and preached the message of the Lord, they went back to Jerusalem, proclaiming the glad tidings (Gospel) to many villages of the Samaritans [on the way].
26 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, Rise and proceed southward or at midday on the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza. This is the desert [[g]route]. 27 So he got up and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship. 28 And he was [now] returning, and sitting in his chariot he was reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.
29 Then the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, Go forward and join yourself to this chariot. 30 Accordingly Philip, running up to him, heard [the man] reading the prophet Isaiah and asked, Do you really understand what you are reading? 31 And he said, How is it possible for me to do so unless someone explains it to me and guides me [in the right way]? And he earnestly requested Philip to come up and sit beside him.
32 Now this was the passage of Scripture which he was reading: Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so He opens not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation [h] He was taken away by distressing and oppressive judgment and justice was denied Him [caused to cease]. Who can describe or relate in full [i]the wickedness of His contemporaries (generation)? For His life is taken from the earth and [j]a bloody death inflicted upon Him.
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, I beg of you, tell me about whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this portion of Scripture he announced to him the glad tidings (Gospel) of Jesus and about Him. 36 And as they continued along on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch exclaimed, See, [here is] water! What is to hinder my being baptized? 37 [k]And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart [if you have [l]a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah and accept Him as the Author of your salvation in the kingdom of God, giving Him your obedience, then] you may. And he replied, I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he ordered that the chariot be stopped; and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and [Philip] baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord [[m]suddenly] caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the good news (Gospel) to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Meanwhile Saul, [a]still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem.
3 Now as he traveled on, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, 4 And he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me [harassing, troubling, and molesting Me]? 5 And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. [b]It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance]. 6 Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
7 The men who were accompanying him were unable to speak [for terror], hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank [anything].
10 Now there was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he answered, Here am I, Lord. 11 And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying [there]. 12 And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias enter and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. 13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name.
15 But the Lord said to him, Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel; 16 For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.
17 So Ananias left and went into the house. And he laid his hands on Saul and said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you along the way by which you came here, has sent me that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18 And instantly something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes, and he recovered his sight. Then he arose and was baptized,
19 And after he took some food, he was strengthened. For several days [afterward] he remained with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests. 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by comparing and examining evidence and proving that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah).
23 After considerable time had elapsed, the Jews conspired to put Saul out of the way by slaying him, 24 But [the knowledge of] their plot was made known to Saul. They were guarding the [city’s] gates day and night to kill him, 25 But his disciples took him at night and let him down through the [city’s] wall, lowering him in a basket or hamper.
26 And when he had arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate himself with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe he really was a disciple. 27 However, Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and he explained to them how along the way he had seen the Lord, Who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached freely and confidently and courageously in the name of Jesus.
28 So he went in and out [as one] among them at Jerusalem, 29 Preaching freely and confidently and boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and discussed with and disputed against the Hellenists (the Grecian Jews), but they were seeking to slay him. 30 And when the brethren found it out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus [his home town].
31 So the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was edified [growing in wisdom, virtue, and piety] and walking in the respect and reverential fear of the Lord and in the consolation and exhortation of the Holy Spirit, continued to increase and was multiplied.
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he went down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedfast for eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [now] makes you whole. Get up and make your bed! And immediately [Aeneas] stood up. 35 Then all the inhabitants of Lydda and the plain of Sharon saw [what had happened to] him and they turned to the Lord.
36 Now there was at Joppa a disciple [a woman] named [in Aramaic] Tabitha, which [in Greek] means Dorcas. She was abounding in good deeds and acts of charity. 37 About that time she fell sick and died, and when they had cleansed her, they laid [her] in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa [however], the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him begging him, Do come to us without delay.
39 So Peter [immediately] rose and accompanied them. And when he had arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood around him, crying and displaying undershirts (tunics) and [other] garments such as Dorcas was accustomed to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out [of the room] and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, Tabitha, get up! And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she raised herself and sat upright. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling in God’s people and the widows, he presented her to them alive. 42 And this became known throughout all Joppa, and many came to believe on the Lord [to adhere to and trust in and rely on Him as the Christ and as their Savior]. 43 And Peter remained in Joppa for considerable time with a certain Simon a tanner.
Now [living] at Caesarea there was a man whose name was Cornelius, a centurion (captain) of what was known as the Italian Regiment, 2 A devout man who venerated God and treated Him with reverential obedience, as did all his household; and he gave much alms to the people and prayed continually to God.
3 About the ninth hour (about 3:00 p.m.) of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God entering and saying to him, Cornelius! 4 And he, gazing intently at him, became frightened and said, What is it, Lord? And the angel said to him, Your prayers and your [generous] gifts to the poor have come up [as a sacrifice] to God and have been remembered by Him. 5 And now send men to Joppa and have them call for and invite here a certain Simon whose surname is Peter; 6 He is lodging with Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.
7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a God-fearing soldier from among his own personal attendants. 8 And having rehearsed everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 The next day as they were still on their way and were approaching the town, Peter went up to the roof of the house to pray, about the sixth hour (noon). 10 But he became very hungry, and wanted something to eat; and while the meal was being prepared a trance came over him, 11 And he saw the sky opened and something like a great sheet lowered by the four corners, descending to the earth. 12 It contained all kinds of quadrupeds and wild beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, saying, Rise up, Peter, kill and eat.
14 But Peter said, No, by no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean. 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding and calling common and unhallowed or unclean. 16 This occurred three times; then immediately the sheet was taken up to heaven.
17 Now Peter was still inwardly perplexed and doubted as to what the vision which he had seen could mean, when [just then] behold the messengers that were sent by Cornelius, who had made inquiry for Simon’s house, stopped and stood before the gate. 18 And they called out to inquire whether Simon who was surnamed Peter was staying there.
19 And while Peter was [a]earnestly revolving the vision in his mind and meditating on it, the [Holy] Spirit said to him, Behold, three men are looking for you! 20 Get up and go below and accompany them without any doubt [about its legality] or any discrimination or hesitation, for I have sent them. 21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, I am the man you seek; what is the purpose of your coming?
22 And they said, Cornelius, a centurion (captain) who is just and upright and in right standing with God, being God-fearing and obedient and well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, has been instructed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house; and he [b]has received in answer [to prayer] a warning to listen to and act upon what you have to say. 23 So Peter invited them in to be his guests [for the night]. The next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for and expecting them, and he had invited together his relatives and his intimate friends. 25 As Peter arrived, Cornelius met him, and falling down at his feet he made obeisance and paid worshipful reverence to him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, Get up; I myself am also a man.
27 And as [Peter] spoke with him, he entered the house and found a large group of persons assembled; 28 And he said to them, You yourselves are aware how it is not lawful or permissible for a Jew to keep company with or to visit or [even] to come near or to speak first to anyone of another nationality, but God has shown and taught me by words that I should not call any human being common or unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean. 29 Therefore when I was sent for, I came without hesitation or objection or misgivings. So now I ask for what reason you sent for me.
30 And Cornelius said, This is now the fourth day since about this time I was observing the ninth hour (three o’clock in the afternoon) of prayer in my lodging place; [suddenly] a man stood before me in dazzling apparel, 31 And he said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and harkened to, and your donations to the poor have been known and [c]preserved before God [so that He heeds and is about to help you]. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is surnamed Peter; he is staying in the house of Simon the tanner by the seaside. 33 So at once I sent for you, and you [being a Jew] have done a kind and [d]courteous and handsome thing in coming. Now then, we are all present in the sight of God to listen to all that you have been instructed by the Lord to say.
34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons, 35 But in every nation he who venerates and has a reverential fear for God, treating Him with worshipful obedience and living uprightly, is acceptable to Him and [e]sure of being received and welcomed [by Him]. 36 You know the contents of the message which He sent to Israel, announcing the good news (Gospel) of peace by Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all—37 The [same] message which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee after the baptism preached by John— 38 How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the [Holy] Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about doing good and, [f]in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are [eye and ear] witnesses of everything that He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And [yet] they put Him out of the way (murdered Him) by hanging Him on a tree; 40 But God raised Him to life on the third day and caused Him to be manifest (to be plainly seen), 41 Not by all the people but to us who were chosen (designated) beforehand by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He charged us to preach to the people and to bear solemn testimony that He is the God-appointed and God-ordained Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets testify (bear witness) that everyone who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him, giving himself up to Him] receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the message. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised [the Jews] who came with Peter were surprised and amazed, because the free gift of the Holy Spirit had been bestowed and poured out largely even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them talking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and extolling and magnifying God. Then Peter asked, 47 Can anyone forbid or refuse water for baptizing these people, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? 48 And he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (the Messiah). Then they begged him to stay on there for some days.
Now the apostles (special messengers) and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard [with astonishment] that the Gentiles (heathen) also had received and accepted and welcomed the Word of God [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God].
2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party [certain Jewish Christians] found fault with him [separating themselves from him in a hostile spirit, opposing and disputing and contending with him], 3 Saying, Why did you go to uncircumcised men and [even] eat with them?
4 But Peter began [at the beginning] and narrated and explained to them step by step [the whole list of events]. He said: 5 I was in the town of Joppa praying, and [falling] in a trance I saw a vision of something coming down from heaven, like a huge sheet lowered by the four corners; and it descended until it came to me. 6 Gazing intently and closely at it, I observed in it [a variety of] four-footed animals and wild beasts and reptiles of the earth and birds of the air, 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, Get up, Peter; kill and eat. 8 But I said, No, by no means, Lord; for nothing common or unhallowed or [ceremonially] unclean has ever entered my mouth.
9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, do not you defile and profane by regarding or calling it common or unhallowed or unclean. 10 This occurred three times, and then all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And right then the three men sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house in which we were. 12 And the [Holy] Spirit instructed me to accompany them without [the least] hesitation or misgivings or discrimination.
So these six brethren accompanied me also, and we went into the man’s house. 13 And he related to us how he had seen the angel in his house which stood and said to him, Send men to Joppa and bring Simon who is surnamed Peter; 14 He will give and explain to you a message by means of which you and all your household [as well] will be saved [[a]from eternal death]. 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning. 16 Then I recalled the declaration of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with ([b]be placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit. 17 If then God gave to them the same Gift [equally] as He gave to us when we believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I and what power or authority had I to interfere or hinder or forbid or withstand God? 18 When they heard this, they were quieted and made no further objection. And they glorified God, saying, Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance [c]unto [real] life [after resurrection].
19 Meanwhile those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen had traveled as far away as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, without delivering the message [concerning [d] the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] to anyone except Jews.
20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on returning to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, proclaiming [to them] the good news (the Gospel) about the Lord Jesus. 21 And the presence of the Lord was with them with power, so that a great number [learned] to believe (to adhere to and trust in and rely on the Lord) and turned and surrendered themselves to Him.
22 The rumors of this came to the ears of the church (assembly) in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart. 24 For he was a good man [[e]good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith (of his [f]belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation). And a large company was added to the Lord.
25 [Barnabas] went on to Tarsus to hunt for Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For a whole year they assembled together with and [g]were guests of the church and instructed a large number of people; and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 And during these days prophets (inspired teachers and interpreters of the divine will and purpose) came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and prophesied through the [Holy] Spirit that a great and severe famine would come upon the whole world. And this did occur during the reign of Claudius.
29 So the disciples resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability [in proportion as he had prospered], to the brethren who lived in Judea. 30 And so they did, sending [their contributions] to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
And we join our voices, lift our eyes, and declare the Amen
The words of Joseph, sold by his brothers and used by God to rescue His chosen people, echo through my mind as I come to the conclusion of these passages . . .
As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day. Genesis 50:20 AMP
You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Genesis 50:20 HCSB
As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. Genesis 50:20 NET
No matter what translation of the Bible we look at the words that fell from the lips of Joseph ring out the eternal truth: God is always doing the good thing. And it seems to be just as true that no matter how many times I see that reality wear skin . . . I need the reminder, I need to hear the voice of Joseph in my head, when I face the tough stuff.
God going to so much trouble to line up one bleak circumstance after another that results in the beyond-my-wildest-imagination-beauty-from-the-ashes good thing in these Scriptures, tells me I might not be the only one who needs the reminder.
This group of passages starts off with the horrific death of Stephen – stoned by the very people he desired to serve. What good can come of that?
57 But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:57-58
Saul used the anger and indignation the speech of Stephen aroused in the Sanhedrin to intensify his persecution of the church. What beauty could be found there?
3 But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3
Death and destruction – the acts of sinful man – look at first glance beyond redemption. Don’t you praise the Holy One that He is not limited by what we see.
The stoning of Stephen and the cruelty of Saul certainly served to chase the disciples of Jesus from Jerusalem . . .
On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers). Acts 8:1
But rather than become smaller in number the Body of Christ, broken into pieces was multiplied and the Gospel message of Jesus continued to spread . . . Can you hear Joseph? What you intended for harm God has used to save many lives.
The Scripture doesn’t tell us this but it makes sense to me that news of the spreading fame of Jesus Christ and the increasing numbers of those who belonged to the Way reached the ears of the priests and elders in Jerusalem. And it might have been that very news that prompted Saul, who had looked on with approval at the death of Stephen, to petition the council to go beyond Jerusalem in his attempts to put the Gospel in chains.
Meanwhile Saul, [a]still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1
Certainly the reputation of Saul would have preceded him. The disciples would have dreaded his coming and while they may have determined in their spirits to stand firm we know that they were well aware of the pain he had inflicted. From the mouth of Ananias springs forth voice to what the lovers of Christ must have been thinking . . .
But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name. Acts 9:13
Surely, the Faithful in Jesus had to wonder what glory would come from the evil pursuit of the persecutor? What noble purpose would be redeemed from the suffering he had inflicted?
And we see the Holy Answer flood across the pages and the pain take on purpose as the life of Saul is transformed from murderer to messenger . . .
20 And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests. 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by comparing and examining evidence and proving that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). Acts 9:20-22
From our vantage point in time, we know that Saul, renamed Paul, was appointed and heralded as the teacher of the Gentiles and that the words God penned through his hand have reached far beyond his time. But might it be that in the present time, the followers of the Way, were still uncertain? It’s difficult when we’re in the midst of pain and suffering to see the beauty of any of it. Hindsight may lend us a clearer view, but ultimately, in the moment—the hot intensity of it all—we simply have to trust God that the good thing is firmly in His Hand. He will reveal it in His time.
23 They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now proclaiming the very faith he once reviled and which he set out to ruin and tried with all his might to destroy. 24 And they glorified God [as the Author and Source of what had taken place] in me. Galatians 1:23-24
I firmly believe that in every situation, despite the immediacy of the suffering, God works for the good of those who love Him. And rather it is here or in Glory, if I lean in close, if you lean in close Beloved, we will hear the voice of Joseph–
As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. Genesis 50:20 NET
And if you’re straining with everything you have and your ears fail to hear then, Girlfriend you lift your eyes to the Heavenlies and see your Savior. The One who endured the death, the destruction, the evil, and the suffering and brought the VERY GOOD THING to us. He is our guarantee that God is always at work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The Messiah is our proof that we don’t simply make ourselves feel better by believing that there is purpose – noble, holy, good, eternal purpose—in our pain, in our suffering, in our despair.
Sister, our God does not change and our Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God has always been, will always be, and is today doing the good thing. Bringing the beauty from the ashes. Bringing life from death. Bringing purpose from pain. Hear the voice of Joseph . . .
God does the very good thing . . . #lessonsfromlent