Devotional: November 12, 2020
When they heard that, they were furious and wanted to kill [Peter and the apostles] on the spot. But one of the council members stood up, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, a teacher of God’s Law who was honored by everyone. He ordered the men taken out of the room for a short time, then said, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. Not long ago Theudas made something of a splash, claiming to be somebody, and got about four hundred men to join him. He was killed, his followers dispersed, and nothing came of it. A little later, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and acquired a following. He also fizzled out and the people following him were scattered to the four winds.
“So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”
Acts 5: 33-39 The Message
Many of us have different viewpoints on lots of subjects, especially in the political realm. There are some who see differences as just part of life. Others decree that those with a different opinion are arch enemies. What’s more, there are some who have advocated blacklisting, protesting, or even violence against those individuals with whom they disagree.
Fortunately, the scriptures provide us with other models for dealing with our neighbors, and even our “perceived” enemies. Gamaliel was a member of the Jewish High Council, led by the Chief Priest. This group had already imprisoned Peter and the other apostles. The Lord had a greater hand in the situation, and Peter the other apostles were miraculously freed by the Lord.
When the members of the council hear about this miraculous jailbreak, they want to murder Peter and the other apostles. Fortunately, Gamaliel points out that sometimes it is better to not lash out in anger. What seems like an immediate threat now could amount to nothing. Gamaliel gives a couple of real life examples of Messianic pretenders who would have been well known to his listeners.
He ends his argument by pointing out that if the movement behind Peter and the apostles is only of human origin, it will surely fail. Yet if God was behind these men and their ministry, no force in the world would be able to stop them. The High Council whipped the apostles and instructed them to not speak about Jesus. Yet in the end, they did heed Gamaliel’s words by releasing Peter and the other apostles.
How did Peter and the other disciples repond to being whipped? Were they bent on revenge for the ill treatment they received from the High Council? No! They praised God for the privilege of suffering for the Lord! They also paid no attention to the Council’s “cease and desist” order. They went right back to their ministry. Already acutely aware of the Lord’s protection, they claimed it anew. They knew they were on the Lord’s side, and would continue to be under His protective wings.
There are many times when it might be wise for us all to heed the wise words of Gamaliel. While there is a time for fighting for what you believe, we also remember that the Lord will determine final outcomes. This may require a great deal of patience. Thankfully, we have a patient Lord. The Lord’s time frame might not be the same as our time frame. Gamaliel helped his fellow council members see that in fighting against Peter and the apostles, they might well be fighting against the Lord. In other words, they decided to let God have the final word, which is not a bad approach to life!
God of mercy,
Help me tune my eyes, ears and heart to You. Shield me from the voices attempting to lead me away from You. Remind me once more that You are in control of our world, and the entire universe. Help me to trust in Your timing and Your wisdom, especially in the midst of heated disagreements. Remind me that Your call is not to hatred and revenge, but to love and forgive, just as you have done with me. May I live up to that call. With a heart full of gratitude, I pray this prayer in the name of Your son and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.