8 July 2019Acts 4:23-31
”And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness.” (v. 29)
Psalm: Psalm 119:129-144
The back-story here is the arrest of Peter and John for preaching that it was the resurrected Jesus who had enabled them to effectively offer mobility to a man lame from birth. They were then ordered not to speak of Jesus in future and, although they would not agree to that, the authorities had had to release them for fear of populism. Now they go straight to “their friends” (v.23) – the text literally says “their own” – and would normally mean one’s family but for them this is now the family of faith and specifically the apostolic leadership group. On hearing the report of what has happened, prayer becomes the immediate response.
Note that the prayer starts with praise of God, specifically focussing on God’s sovereignty over all that happens, and the requests at the end are not for protection nor are they against their opponents, but are for courage to continue to speak boldly about Jesus. The scripture reference that the group recalled in verses 25-26 is the opening of Psalm 2, quoted in the Greek translation familiar to Luke rather than the somewhat different Hebrew original which would have been better known by this Aramaic-speaking group. They would have had in mind how verse 3 of that psalm describes God’s reaction to such political posing as having a good laugh! It is clear that they saw the pattern of Psalm 2 played out in the passion of Jesus, and were confident that it would continue to operate similarly in their own situation, that secular power-gestures and threats only had their place within what God had pre-determined.
Just as the lame man’s mobility had been a sign to support their previous preaching of new life through the resurrected Jesus, they now pray for further signs and wonders to support their spoken message. Verse 31 suggests their prayers were immediately answered, and chapter 5 provides much fuller evidence.
- When you are on the receiving end of negativity from others, do you turn to prayer? If so, in what sense is your praying like, or unlike, that demonstrated in this passage?
- The prayer begins, “Sovereign Lord …” because sovereignty is the aspect of God’s nature most relevant to their circumstances just then. When praying, do you use a thoughtful address for God or simply a stock one? Indeed, which words of address to God do you most usually use, and why?
- Whether or not you are yet a Christian, what kind of signs and wonders would offer the most useful confirmation of the life-affirming truth of the gospel in the places where you spend your time and relate to others?