Friday 3rd June 2022

ACTS 1

The Book of Acts could be subtitled: “Jesus – Part Two”.  Written again by Luke, it begins:  “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all the Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”  (vv1-2).  Jesus continued to ‘do and to teach’ through his church then and he continues through us now.

Luke makes clear that the Resurrection was no mere figment of some impressionable persons’ imagination, nor Jewish wishful thinking; it was based upon sound evidence, of a reliability strong enough to be accepted by the most stringent court of law or the most demanding of historians.  Many disciples experienced appearances by the same Jesus whom they had known well and loved, on many occasions, over a period of forty days.  This was no ‘flash in the pan’!  If you cannot accept the Resurrection as historical fact, then you probably cannot accept any ancient historical fact at all.  In reality, it is rarely the evidence that is a stumbling block to unbelievers; it is more often the fact that it contradicts their atheistic / humanist world view, and they therefore will not accept the possibility of any afterlife.

Jesus’ final teaching to his disciples was an instruction to stay put and to wait… for the Holy Spirit to fall upon them in a new kind of ‘baptism’.  This baptism became known as “The Gift of God” by the early church and it marked the birth of the church.  The infilling of the Holy Spirit brought them power to perform supernatural acts and to become persuasive witnesses to the gospel.  In Matthew 28:18-20, we read some additional instructions that were longer-lasting, and which gave the church its life-long ‘Job Description’ on earth.

Having given them these last orders, Jesus ascended physically and spiritually into Heaven and was not seen again by them.  He had been with them for forty days after his resurrection.  A couple of angels asked the apostles what they were staring at  – and promised that Jesus would return eventually the same way.

Whilst awaiting the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the apostles spent the time constantly in prayer in Jerusalem.  The other thing that they did was to appoint a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot.  The criterion was that the replacement had to have been with Jesus during his earthy ministry and had to have been a witness to the resurrection.  Two men were nominated, and they drew lots to determine which one it was to be.  This is the last time that it is recorded that the early church made a decision by drawing lots, and it is the last time we ever hear of Matthias.  My personal view is that Peter ‘jumped the gun’ and should have waited longer to fulfil Psalm 109:8.  With hindsight, the real replacement for Judas was the Apostle Paul, chosen specifically by the Lord to take the gospel to the Gentile world.

2 SAMUEL 5

When you read two accounts of an event by two different authors, it adds interest and depth to that event.  It is rather like looking at the same object through your right eye and then your left one.  Binocular vision gives an extra dimension to the way we see the world, and in the same way, multiple biblical accounts give new dimensions to the Word.  Of course, in the New Testament, we have four gospels doing the same kind of thing to the account of Jesus’ life and ministry. 

David becoming king over all Israel (having already been made king for over 7 years by his own tribe in Judah) is a case in point.  2 Samuel 5 and 1 Chronicles 11 were written before and after the return from exile and have different emphases.  Chronicles keeps using the phrase “all Israel”, to underline the importance of national unity and spiritual purity across all the returning exiles.  The difference between David’s reign over only Judah in Hebron and his later reign over all Israel is deliberately ‘glossed over’.  The key events become the accession of David to the throne of Israel and the capturing of the Holy City, Jerusalem.  Three reasons are given for the Northern tribes receiving David as king:  (1) He is a biological relative of theirs;  (2) He is already their national hero who led Israel’s armies;  (3) The Lord has promised David that he will be the king.  So David made a covenant with them all which lasted throughout his and Solomon’s reigns, but which was then not renewed with Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who demanded terms that were far too harsh (1 Kings 12:1-16).

Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites and was situated on the border between Judah and Benjamin, but controlled by neither tribe.  It had not been captured during Joshua’s time (see Joshua 15:63) and had only been fleetingly captured and occupied during the time of the Judges (see Judges 1:8, 21).  The Jebusites were a Canaanite people who had lived there for a very long time.  They called it ‘Jebus’.  The fortress of ‘Zion’ was the name given to the steep-sided southernmost hill that was the easiest to defend and which had its own water supply from the spring of Gihon.  David’s army probably knew of an underground entrance that followed the route of that water supply.  Joab was the commander who led the attack and who captured the city, so he became David’s permanent commander-in-chief of the army from then on.

David was surrounded by bands of great warriors who were awesome in battle and brave of spirit.  Most importantly, they were completely submitted to the king.  It is no good having powerful spiritual gifts in the church today if you are unsubmitted to the Lord and to his appointed leaders!  These bands were variously named ‘The Three’, ‘The Thirty’, ‘The Three Hundred’ – and they did great exploits in God’s power, against seemingly impossible odds.  Notice that Uriah the Hittite is included amongst their number; his name will appear later in a much less acceptable event in David’s life!

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