June 21

Acts 5:1-16

In chapter 4 we read about the early church under persecution, coming together to build Christ’s kingdom. In chapter 4:34, we read that those with land sold the property and gave the money to the apostles to distribute and care for the Christians. Keep in mind that Jesus had been crucified, Peter and John had been arrested, the Jews relationship with Rome was heating up, and many early believers thought Jesus would be returning to the earth to reign as king in their lifetime. They were helping each other survive.

In chapter 5, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, decide to sell their property and give it to the apostles. That was a generous thing to do, so why did judgment cause their death? The judgment came in the deception. As Peter said, “You have not lied to men, but to God.” The couple said they would give the amount from the land as an offering, but they secretly held some of it back for themselves.

Some may think this sounds like Old Testament judgment and not New Testament grace. However, as people who read through the entire Bible, we realize that God was also very gracious under the Old Testament and sometimes we hear of judgment under the New. Could it be that perhaps God is the same in the New Testament as He is in the Old? In fact, in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”

If God didn’t change, what did change from old to new covenants? One, under the old covenant, the debt to sin had not been paid, and sin brought judgment. Sin still brings judgment, but the way to salvation is different.

Two, under the old covenant, Jesus had not yet removed the penalty for sin, so relationship with God was based on performance and the insufficient blood of animals. Under the new covenant, salvation is based on Jesus’ blood and our surrender and obedience. Our initial surrender to His Lordship removes the penalty of sin against us, recreates our spirit in the image of God, gives us right standing with God, and our heart opens to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Then we continue to live surrendered to the Father’s love and grace through our continual faith (our obedient surrender).

When a Christian understands the new covenant in Christ’s blood, and knowingly rebels against it, judgment will follow. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:30-31, many believers were sick and dying for their sin. See Galatians 6:7-8, a warning for reaping corruption for the sin of the believer.

Should this scare us? Should we warn others? Should we be known as people who are “hard” on sin?

Should this scare us? We should have a healthy reverence for God, not an unhealthy fear. He isn’t looking for perfect behavior, for the Mosaic Law taught us that it is impossible to keep it to earn our own right standing with God. To try to perform well in order to think God owes us His mercy is pride. To focus on our ability is a religious self-sufficiency. God is looking for humility and surrender that will act from a place of reliance. Surrendered is a good place to be. Let me remind you of 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect (or complete) love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Sin is not surrender. Ignorance is not an excuse. Every believer is instructed to study the Word of God, to know it.

Should we warn others? Should we be hard on sin? The Bible tells us we are to speak truth in love. It says Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, speaking of the Father’s love in sending Christ. It also says, “He that wins souls is wise.” A short answer is “Yes, we should warn others, but with wisdom, love, and grace.” Why? Jesus would not put out a weak flame on a candle or break a tender reed. What does that mean? Jesus was careful with hurting, damaged people under the guilt, shame, and fear of sin and its effects. He knows they carry a fear of rejection. He came to show acceptance. Does that mean that Jesus is accepting of sin? Never! Jesus ate with prostitutes and sinners. Doesn’t that mean Jesus compromised truth to allow harmful behavior? Absolutely not. Jesus loved people, and so should we. Jesus went to where people were, and so should we. Jesus took time to express His heart, and so should we. The hurting were drawn to His love. The broken were drawn to His healing. The hungry were drawn to His truth.

Ananias and Sapphira plotted to lie and deceive the apostles. They died on the spot, showing the power of God and the danger of sin. That event caused a holy reverence for God to spread among the people. In addition, keep in mind that the apostles were walking with a strong anointing on their lives. We don’t want to bring anything unholy into the Presence of God. The glory will drive out sin like turning on a light in a room will drive out darkness. Let’s have a reverence for the glory and the power of God.

Esther 1-3

Esther was married to King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes I), king of Persia. By this time, Jews had been freed for fifty years to return to Jerusalem, the same time period as Nehemiah. Many Jews still live in Persia. The book was most likely written shortly after 465 BC.

In chapters 1-3, the book tells of Esther’s selection to queen, cousin Mordecai’s loyalty to the king through uncovering a plot, and Haman’s conspiracy against the Jews.

Esther was most likely a teenager, chosen for her beauty. She went through 12 months of preparation and beautification as a candidate for queen.

Mordecai was a devote Jew. He reverenced God. He was a leader to the Jews in the Persian Empire and later becomes prime minister. He also raised Esther when her parents died.

Haman was an Agagite, most likely a descendant of Agag, king of the Amelekites, a long time enemy of the Jews. King Saul was supposed to kill them all, but he didn’t. Saul’s disobedience led to the loss of his kingdom, as well as trouble for generations afterward, as here in Esther. Haman was second in command to the king. When Mordecai refused to bow to him, Haman wanted to eradicate the Jews from the land, which includes the Jews in Jerusalem that had been working on building the temple and the walls.

Lots were cast to determine the best day for Haman to carry out his plot against the Jews. This was like throwing dice. They called it casting “Pur.” Haman told the king that the Jewish people had different laws, saying it would not be fitting to let the Jews remain. The king gave Haman his signet ring, which was symbolic that he was delegating full royal authority to Haman. It was degreed that all Jews everywhere were to be killed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is Adar. The Feast of Purim will come from this casting of Pur or lots. The Lord helps the Jews to defeat their enemy on the 13th. They rested on the 14th. The feast is celebrated on the 14th of Purim. It was instituted to remember their deliverance.

In 3:12 we read of three levels of Persian authority. Satraps were rulers over provinces. Governors were assisting leaders over the province of individual cities with them. Officials were tribal chieftains.

Mordecai respected the Lord’s authority as higher than any earthly authority, and when authorities conflicted, Mordecai chose the Lord over the king. This is a good lesson for us as well. We are to respect earthly authority as long as it doesn’t go against the Lord. If we are forced to choose between God and mankind, we are to go with God.

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