The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 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?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 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, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Observations and Reflections
Having received John and Peter back from the council would have been a most joyous occasion. I am sure that many of the disciples expected them to also be crucified. However, the Lord had other plans for them. This believe was reflected in the prayer of the believers, which came from Psalm 2, which when read in full, fits even more seamlessly with the return of John and Paul from the hands of the religious leaders. Psalm 2 is considered a messianic Psalm of David. In other words, it’s prophetic in nature. No doubt, the believers present would have been reciting the rest of the Psalm in their heads, which reads as follows:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
It would seem to the believers present that God is protecting his anointed one(s).
I love the response that the people of God have when faced with persecution and danger. Their immediate response is to pray and turn to the all powerful God who is able to bring comfort, peace and courage during a hard time. They knew what was stake and following Jesus Christ came at a great cost. They knew that opposition and threats would be inevitable and that is why Jesus spoke of these things before they happened in order that they would be prepared. Furthermore it is why the Holy Spirit was sent as a means to lead and guide them.
This was not news that would take them by surprise. They saw the persecution that Jesus faced during His ministry and because of how He was able to overcome it, they are able to find strength in Him to face hard times as well. The Church was far from being shut down. They were united and would stand strong against any threats that would come their way.
The power of the Holy Spirit could not and would not be defeated. Jesus Christ set this plan in motion long before and everything that was prophesied back in the Old Testament had come to pass. In praying the words of the Old Testament in only affirmed God’s sovereign control and filled them with boldness.
Fear could have easily played a major role in the life of the early church. Yet, with prayer and complete surrender to Jesus Christ, they find their courage and strength in Him. Let us also find encouragement in the fact that when we are faced with hard times, prayer to the almighty God is what will lead us to finding strength, courage and peace. He was and is able to provide courage to the early church and will continue to do so today.
[Featured image: by Cole Thomas, “The Course of Empire Destruction”, 1835]