devotion 6-18-15

Good Morning, and Blessings on this lovely day!

Acts of the Apostles 5.33-42

33When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. 35Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. 37After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” They were convinced by him, 40and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

As Luke writes Acts as something of a history, it is not surprising to find a reference to a person well known historically. Gamaliel was a leader in the Sanhedrin, a well-respected teacher and interpreter of the law. He was grandson to the famed Hillel, whose writings are still read among the Jews, and has works himself that are still studied. He lived in the first century (as Luke says) and died around 50 AD.

Here, Gamaliel gives a wise opinion to the men of the Sanhedrin. He reminds them of other rebels who have had followers, but whose movements died out with them. He says if what these men are teaching is not from God, it will die out; but if it is from God, there is no point fighting God! Leave them alone, he was saying, and let God sort it out!

We could well take a lesson from Gamaliel. If we are in the midst of God’s plan, it is going to work out; but if we are about saving ourselves, or about our own plans, we will fail. Our first job is always to pray to be in God’s will, and to follow that will. Our second job is to trust God! What comes may not be a part of our plan, but God will make it work into his plan, his will!

And so, they had the apostles brought in again, had them flogged, and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles, leaving the council, rejoiced – not that they were free, but that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus’ name! And they continued teaching and preaching in his name, proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah!

The first Christians were Jews, and they were persecuted, not by the Romans (at first, anyway) but by the other Jews, who considered them heretics. I wonder if I would have the courage to stand up and proclaim Jesus after having been beaten and ordered, by the religious authorities, not to speak? Would you?

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