Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed” — for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. – Acts 4:24-30 ESV
Peter and John had been arrested by the high priest, Annas, given a stern warning to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and then released. And upon returning to their fellow disciples, they offered a corporate prayer to the sovereign Lord. They recognized His divine oversight of any and all circumstances. They acknowledged His sovereign plan that had included the arrest, trials and, ultimately, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Even Herod and Pliate had been little more than pawns in the hand of God as He accomplished His will regarding the death of His own Son. So when Peter and John had been threatened by the high priest, they knew that even that was all part of God’s plan. Jesus had predicted it. Interestingly enough, they did not ask God to remove the threats or lighten their load. They asked God “to grant your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness”. They didn’t ask for a change of circumstances, but for a change of attitude. They asked for boldness in place of fear, peace in place of anxiety, faith in place of doubt. They wanted God to work through their circumstances, not in spite of them. They knew that God was going to continue to do miracles, stretching out His hand to heal, and performing signs and wonders – all through the name of Jesus. Peter and John had healed a lame man, which is what had gotten them in trouble with the high priest to begin with. They knew that they had power at their disposal that would allow them to accomplish the impossible.
When interrogated by the high priest regarding and demanded to explain by whose power they had healed the man who had been lame since birth, Peter had boldly exclaimed, “you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 2:14-16 ESV). They had killed the Author of Life, and yet God had raised Him back to life. And as proof, Jesus had made possible the healing and perfect health of a man who had not taken a single step in his entire life. This was all the sovereign work of God. They had denied Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. They had attempted to destroy Him. But God had bigger plans. He had planned all along that His Son would die. His death at the hands of sinful men would be the key to mankind’s redemption. His sacrifice would pay for man’s sins and satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God. The penalty for sin was death. The payment required a sinless sacrifice. Only Jesus, the Son of God, met the requirements. Only Jesus could die a death that could propitiate or satisfy God’s demands and make possible forgiveness rather than condemnation.
It was this message that Peter, John and the disciples were commissioned to share. They had good news to share with all those who found themselves living in darkness and without hope. And all they asked for from God was the boldness to declare that message in the midst of threats, repeated rejection, increasing animosity and ongoing trials. They knew they were going to need strength. The threats of the high priest were real. The possibility of harm and even death was far from remote. But they knew they had a job to do. They had the answer to the world’s problems and the God-given obligation to share it. They had already seen God do great things. They had watched Him perform miracles. They had seen the resurrected Lord. They had experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. Life for them could no longer be business as usual. The Savior had come. The Kingdom of God had drawn near. The battle for the souls of men had commenced and they viewed themselves as soldiers in the army of the Most High God. What a timely reminder for those of us living in this age. We live surrounded by darkness. The people with whom we associate each and every day are searching for hope and longing for healing, and we carry the Light of the world within us. What we so desperately need is boldness. What we should be praying for is strength to carry out our God-given task to act as salt and light, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with any and all we meet. We will be hated. We will face rejection. Those things should not surprise us, but neither should they deter us. May our daily prayer be, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”