Day 167

Following and Not Opposing God

Wisdom Psalm 74:10-17
New Testament Acts 10:23b-11:18
Old Testament 1 Kings 1-2:12

Introduction

I remember so well the time when Alpha started in the Catholic Church. Bishop Ambrose of Newcastle and Hexham heard what was happening with Alpha in some of the Anglican churches. He became interested and wanted to find out more. However, he did not want to let us know he was interested. So, he sent two Catholic priests to a London Alpha Conference in disguise! They went back to their parishes and started running Alpha, to great success.

As a result of that, Cardinal Hume invited us to hold a conference for Catholics at Westminster Cathedral. The place was packed out with 450 Catholic priests and laity. A few people were very critical of us doing a conference for Catholics. One or two churches even threatened to stop running Alpha if we went ahead with the conference. With hindsight it seems quite extraordinary that anybody could object, but at the time it was of some concern.

On the first night of the conference there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and singing in tongues like we had never heard before. I went home that night and read the passage for today: ‘If God gave them the same gift as he gave us... who was I to think that I could oppose God?’ (Acts 11:17). It was the same Holy Spirit who was poured out on them as on us. I realised that if we did not continue to work together, I would be opposing God.

The most foolish thing that any human being can do is to oppose God. Jesus was opposed: ‘They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen’ (10:39–40). Contrastingly, the most wonderful privilege any human being can have is to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth whom ‘God anointed… with the Holy Spirit and power’ (10:38).

Wisdom

Psalm 74:10-17

10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
  Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
  Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

12 But God is my King from long ago;
  he brings salvation on the earth.

13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
  you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
  and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
  you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
  you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
  you made both summer and winter.

Commentary

The power of God

When you are facing opposition it is good to remember the power of God. The psalmist is faced by enemies who are reviling God’s name (v.10). He recalls the power of God, first in his own life (v.12), and then over all of creation (vv.13–17).

These verses draw on the rich mythology of the ancient Near East. Creation was seen as a victory of the gods over the forces of chaos and destruction, often represented by the raging sea and ‘the monster’, also called ‘Leviathan’ (vv.13–14). The sun and moon were worshipped as gods. Yet, in this psalm the writer sweeps aside those myths and declares that it was God who created and established the world, bringing order out of nothing and ‘establishing the sun and moon’ (v.16).

There is always a temptation to make ‘other things’ more important than your relationship with God. Devotion to ‘other gods’ was one of the key temptations and weaknesses of God’s people in the Old Testament. This psalm reminds us of who God is and why it would be foolish to oppose God by going after other gods.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you are the one true God who brings salvation upon the earth. Help me to resist the temptation to make anything else more important than you in my life.

New Testament

Acts 10:23b-11:18

23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

Peter at Cornelius’s House

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Peter Explains His Actions

11The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Commentary

The Spirit of God

The Holy Spirit led Peter through a vision to the house of Cornelius. When he got there, he discovered that God had also spoken to Cornelius through another vision. On hearing this, Peter ‘fairly exploded with his good news’ (10:34, MSG) – the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all (v.36).

The Greek word for ‘peace’ takes on the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. It means far more than an absence of hostility. It means ‘completeness’, ‘soundness’, ‘well-being’, ‘every kind of blessing and good’. It means harmony and concord between people. It means spiritual well-being, living under the favour of God.

The good news is that you have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross reconciled you to God. He made peace and you have received that peace as a gift.

You too should be a peacemaker as you seek to lead others to peace with God and as you bring peace into your home, place of work, church, community and nation.

Peter goes on to speak about ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him’ (v.38). He told them about the cross and the resurrection, about faith and the forgiveness of sins (v.43).

While Peter was still proclaiming the good news about Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message (v.44). ‘The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews’ (v.45, MSG).

They knew that this was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because what had happened to the apostles on the day of Pentecost was now happening to this group – ‘for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God’ (v.46).

Peter’s response was, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have’ (v.47).

News travelled fast – the Jewish believers were worried that ‘rubbing shoulders’ with these ‘non-Jews’ would ruin their good name (11:3, MSG).

Those who had not been there at the time ‘criticised him’ (v.2). But Peter explains (v.4). He tells the story of how he was led by the Holy Spirit – ‘the Spirit told me…’ (v.12).

He goes on, ‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning… So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”’ (vv.15–17).

‘Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”’ (v.18, MSG). Peter’s explanation was the answer to the criticism. Sometimes, when you are criticised, the answer is simply to give an explanation.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that we see this same gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in you, regardless of what part of the church or denomination they come from. May we never be found opposing you but rather following the guidance of your Holy Spirit.

Old Testament

1 Kings 1-2:12

Adonijah Sets Himself Up as King

1When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2 So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”

3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.

5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 6 (His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)

7 Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. 8 But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah.

9 Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. He invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon.

11 Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? 12 Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.”

15 So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. 16 Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king.

“What is it you want?” the king asked.

17 She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.”

22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 And the king was told, “Nathan the prophet is here.” So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground.

24 Nathan said, “Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. 27 Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

David Makes Solomon King

28 Then King David said, “Call in Bathsheba.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him.

29 The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

31 Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

32 King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. 34 There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.”

36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so declare it. 37 As the Lord was with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord King David!”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?”

42 Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.”

43 “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king. 44 The king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites, and they have put him on the king’s mule, 45 and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon. From there they have gone up cheering, and the city resounds with it. That’s the noise you hear. 46 Moreover, Solomon has taken his seat on the royal throne. 47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.’”

49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”

52 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.”

David’s Charge to Solomon

2When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go 4 and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’

5 “Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. 6 Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.

7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.

8 “And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

Commentary

The anointing of God

Solomon was God’s anointed successor for David. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king over Israel (1:34).

Adonijah made the mistake of trying to set himself up as king without reference to God. ‘He put himself forward and said, “I will be king”’ (v.5). It is a foolish thing to ignore God, and in this case it actually meant opposing God’s plans for Solomon. He did not succeed.

David gave this charge to his anointed successor: ‘I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you – be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go’ (2:2–3, MSG).

David’s words are a great reminder to us. God’s anointing of all believers with the Holy Spirit does not negate your need to obey God’s word. Obedience of God’s word (v.3a) must accompany God’s anointing (v.3b). You are given the Spirit of God to empower you to obey the word of God.

Neither David, nor Solomon, nor any other king of Israel, was able to keep God’s decrees and commands perfectly. It is only Jesus, the final Davidic King, who is the fully obedient, eternal, anointed King. He is the one who does ‘walk faithfully before [God]... with all [his] heart and soul’ (v.4).

The book of Kings is, as Eugene Peterson puts it, ‘a relentless exposition of failure’. Yet God continues to work out his sovereign purposes – often silently and hidden. God’s sovereignty is never cancelled out even by deeply sin-flawed leaders (‘kings’). This means that you can trust his sovereignty in your life, your church and your culture.

Prayer

Lord, help me to follow Jesus, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. As I face ‘opposition and enemies’, I need the power and anointing of your Holy Spirit. Help me never to find myself in the position of opposing God. Help me to be strong and to walk in your ways and to walk faithfully before you with all my heart and soul (v.4).

Pippa adds

1 Kings 1:1–2

‘When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his servants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”’

I have a lot of sympathy with King David – I feel the cold terribly. But I am not sure about the solution for him. I think I’d rather have a hot water bottle!

Verse of the Day

Acts 10:43

‘Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins’.
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References

Eugene Peterson, ‘Introduction To 1 Kings’, The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used By Permission Of Navpress Publishing Group.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

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