JUDGMENT is Good! (Last in the series)

Micah 6-7

Corruption, it seems, is alive and well.  We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia, typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States,  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions,  When people make stupid decisions, and over a lifetime of 76 years, I’ve made plenty–they have to face the consequences.

Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like maybe fire and brimstone?

Usually, yes; that is unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for immorality in the Book of Micah.

Let’s look now at the last two chapters in Micah.

Micah 6:1-8

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama:  “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

THE SCENE IS SET –

I can just hear a lawyer yelling this now–“God is demanding that the people explain their actions.”

At this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt.

A REVIEW OF MICAH –

Chapter 2:8-9  (NIV)

[8] Lately my people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without care, like men returning from battle.

[9] You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes.  You take away my blessing from their children forever.

Chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically:  verses 1-3

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics!  verses 2-3

[2] The faithful have been swept from the land; no one upright person remains.  Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.

[3]  Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

So in Micah 6:1-8, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen.  They are the JURY!

[1]  “Hear now what the Lord says:  Arise, contend and plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  [2] Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and you strong and enduring foundations…”

The book of Luke in the Bible says that if we’re all silent the rock themselves will cry out in praise–so I don’t think it’s a reach that they could serve as a jury if asked by their Creator.

He then begins to list off what he has done, when it says in verse 5, God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous and saving acts of the Lord” (AMP).

What comes next is such a human action!  The people want to jump to the extreme!

They got from not listening to God’s Word at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and their first-born child (vs. 7)?

Really?  That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?  But this is how they thought!  They were like the criminal when, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.  And in my opinion, the Israelites deserved every one of those things.

They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to simply point His finger and ZAP THEM with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone.

But He doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what He wants:  That’s it!

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“…to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

God doesn’t care about these huge outward displays of guilt.

He’s God!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not!

All He wants is for you to follow Him in all of His ways.  That’s the very definition of MERCY.

Going back to the courtroom for a moment…

This would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing.”

What if in the military trials, with suspected terrorists, ended like that?  “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.”  That would never happen, right?

But God’s MERCY is so much greater than ours that we can’t really understand how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again!

That’s right–after all this, after the courtroom, the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK!  I’ll continue to bless you, and this is how.”

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV)

[11]  The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

So what does this mean for us today?  It means if you sin, if you do anything to disrespect God, to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.

When you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in self-pity and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep.

Just be honest with God–admit you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.

THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!

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CREDITS –

Credit:  Law and Order (1990-1991) Theme – Youtube video

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search – settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV).

 

 

 

JUDGMENT Is Good! (Part Two in Series)

In this continued study, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15

JUDGMENT HAPPENS BEFORE REVIVAL

Just a brief review of Micah, the man.

  • His name means, “Who is like Jehovah?”
  • He was from Moresheth-Gath, 20-25 miles SW of Jerusalem.
  • He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah.

MICAH the book…

  • The prophecies that occurred in the book were around 735-700 B.C.
  •  The Prophecies were directed both to Israel and Judah.
  •  The general theme appears to be “present judgment, with the blessing that follows.
  •  The JUDGMENT pronounced by God through the Prophet upon Israel and Judah found in Micah 1:2-16; 2:1-13.

In Part Two of this series, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15.  This second message has much more to say about the future hope, especially regarding the Messiah–Jesus Christ.

But it begins with God’s condemnation of Israel’s leaders (Micah 3:1-3)

The INDICTMENT of Civil Leaders:

  • They HATE good and LOVE evil.
  •  They consume the people (i.e., ‘oppress them’).

The JUDGMENT to befall them in Micah 3:4:

[4]  Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them.  At that time He will hide His face from them because of the evil they have done  (NIV).

This was one example of God’s judgment against corrupt leaders.  When they cried out for God’s help, the LORD would remain silent.  One aspect of The Blessing (different from ‘a blessing’) promised by the priests of Israel was asked the LORD to make His face shine upon you (Numbers 6:25).  Here, Micah promised the opposite of this Blessing–that God would even hide His face from them.

Israel’s Religious Leaders aren’t ignored either!

The judgment to come upon the false prophets (Micah 3:5-7) was to come because they lead God’s people off course and away from God’s Word.  With no vision, they shall be made ashamed!

This action by our religious leaders of today; from the pulpits across the land spewing false doctrine will receive judgment as well.

Micah’s Own Ministry contrasted to that of the False Prophets of his day (Micah 3:8).

Micah finds himself full of the power of the Spirit, justice, and might and declaring the transgressions and sin of Israel.  Without the empowerment, he just becomes another critical church member.

Micah gets specific in his indictment of Israel’s leaders and addresses once more the rulers of Israel, their sins being categorized (Micah 3:9-11).

  • They abhor justice and pervert equity (fairness).
  • They build up Jerusalem with bloodshed and iniquity.

Whether judges, priests, or prophets, they do what they do only for the money, ignoring their claim to trust in the LORD.

And because of their misguidance, judgment comes upon Israel because of them (Micah 3:12).

“Therefore shall Zion on your account be plowed like a field.  Jerusalem shall become heaps [of ruins], and the mountain of the house [of the Lord] like a densely wooded height.”  (AMP)

[This prophecy of Micah was fulfilled when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (c.f., 2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  But his message isn’t finished; as ominous as it was in proclaiming the coming judgment, Micah now continues with a glimpse into the future]

The Future of Zion and the Messianic Hope!

A GLIMPSE AT WHAT WILL HAPPEN “IN THE LAST DAYS”

  • The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is established and many people will want to be there.  (Mic. 4:1-2)
  • The people will want to learn God’s ways, the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem.  (Mic. 4:2)
  • The LORD will judge nations and there will be peace.  (Mic 4:3)
  • Everyone will be content, walking in the name of the LORD forever!  (Mic. 4:4-5)

Isaiah had a similar prophecy – (Isa. 2:1-4).

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY –

Prophecy is much like peeling an onion; it comes with many layers.  In Micah’s prophecy, the fulfillment is layered.

Some believe it is all yet to come (e.g., premillennialists).

Some believe it is all past (e.g., some amillennialists).

Me personally?  I believe there is past, present, and future elements.

It began in Jerusalem preaching the gospel on Pentecost.  For Peter identifies the events of that day as beginning the fulfillment of what would occur in the “last days”  [cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17].

For Jesus said the gospel would go forth from Jerusalem as prophesied [Lk. 24:46-47; cf. Mic. 4:2; Isa. 2:3].

The “judging among many people” may be both in the present and in the future.

The book of Revelation reveals the Lord as judging the present and in the future – [cf. Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 17:14; 20:11-15].

Peter viewed some of Isaiah’s prophecies as yet to be fulfilled – [ 2 Pe. 3:13; cf. Isa. 64:17-19; 66:22].

Therefore Micah 4:3-5 may find some of its fulfillment in the eternal destiny of the redeemed, part of the “New Jerusalem” of the “new heaven and new earth” as described in Revelation 21-22.

As Micah continues, he describes what will occur “in that day” – Mic. 4:6-8

The Lord will assemble a remnant of those He afflicted.

Romans 11:5 (AMP) – “So too at the present time there is a remnant (a small believing minority), selected (chosen) by grace (by God’s unmerited favor and graciousness).”

He will reign over them forever – [cf. Lk. 1:30-33].

The fulfillment of this prophecy, I understand, began with the first coming of Christ and that the church is a spiritual kingdom in which the “former dominion” of Israel has been restored and given to Jesus who reigns in heaven.  [Cf. Mt. 28:18; Ac. 1:6-8; 2:30-36; Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 3:21].

The Coming Messiah

In Micah 5:2 we find the prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace [cf. Mt. 2:1-6] some 700 years before the birth of Jesus in a small village called Bethlehem.

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrata–He would become the ruler of Israel [Cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Lk. 1:30-33].

His “goings forth have been from old, from everlasting” [Cf. John 1:1-3].

The Messiah will lead His people in peace [Micah 5:3-5 a.].

Though first, they (Israel) must be given up for a short time (Babylonian captivity).  Then a remnant shall return when the Ruler shall feed them in the strength of the Lord.

Further Judgment On Israel and Her Enemies

Some take this section to be Messianic.  I tend to take it as pertaining to Micah’s day and those who followed shortly after…

The Assyrian threat is proved to be no real threat for Judah – [Mic 5:5 b. -6; cf. Isa. 36-37].

When the remnant is scattered (as a result of Babylonian captivity), they shall be a lion among the flocks of sheep – [Mic. 5:7-9; (e.g., Daniel, Esther?).].

God would cut off her false strengths (such as horses and chariots), [Cf. Isa. 31:1]  and her idolatry – Mic. 5:10-15.

Future Blessings

With the recurrent theme of his messages (judgment now/future blessings), Micah’s purpose appears to be two-fold…to warn the people that they may repent as necessary…and to encourage the people that their HOPE for the future might help them to endure in the hard times to come.

A similar two-fold message is found in the New Testament as well…warnings to persevere lest we fall away – [Hebrews 4:1, 11].  Promises to encourage us for whatever lies ahead – [e.g., 2 Peter 3:13-14].

In Today’s World…

Today, we have an advantage over the Israelites of Micah’s day…we’ve already seen much of his prophecy fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah.

As Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic word made more sure”  (2 Peter 1:9).  Made surer by virtue of its fulfillment, it can serve to comfort us and strengthen our hope regarding any future promises of God – Cf. Rom. 15:4.

If God kept His promise concerning the first coming of His Son, we can have confidence He will keep His promise concerning His return!

By careful study and consideration of the prophets, both Old Testament and New Testament, our hope for the future is strengthened.

Revelation 22:20 (Contemporary English Version)

The one who has spoken these things says, “I am coming soon!”  So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!

AMEN!

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CREDITS

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in the text.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search–Settings, advanced search.

The Bible Almanac by J.J. Packer, – Merrill C. Tenney – William White Jr. [Thomas Nelson Publishers]

JUDGMENT is Good! (Part One in Series)

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH

Scripture:  Micah 1:1-9; 1 Peter 4:17-18

Micah 1:1 (NIV)

[1]  The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah– the vision saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

The word here translated as “came” speaks of the Word ‘happening’ to Micah.  It was a ‘happening’–as unplanned and spontaneous.  It was a revelation!

Has that ever happened to you?  God speaks to you and a revelation occurs.

A PERSONAL ‘God-moment’ STORY:

Several years ago, the pastor at a church I was attending called me and asked if I could write a play, a skit, for the upcoming Easter season.  I tried to explain to him that my experience in stage productions was acting in a limited fashion, but writing a play?  His reply, “Do the best that you can,” and hung up the phone.

So for the next three days, I fervently prayed for direction and guidance from the Lord but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.  Until one very early morning, around 3 A.M., I felt a hand on my shoulder.  A clear, soft voice said, “Mel, wake up.  I’ve heard your prayers.”  Thinking I was dreaming, I rolled over to my other side.  Again, the hand and the voice,  “Get up and go into the dining room with paper and pen.  I have heard your prayer.”  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I put my feet on the floor and quietly proceeded to the God designated room with paper and pen and sat down at the table in obedience.   Was all this a dream, was this really happening?  Time passed by quickly and at 6:30 A.M., “Mercy On Trial”, a three-act play on Christ’s death sentence, death, burial, and resurrection was written down in a draft.  Also, a clear picture that I could sketch on paper for the set design, costumes, and props.

What was absent to my dismay was a script.!  “What now, Lord?” asking out loud.

Silence.

And then a thought was placed in my spirit.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a major in communication and theater. Thank You, Lord.

I called her later that morning with my vision, God’s creation with directions and asked her if she could write God’s play with a script?  Her answer:   “How can I refuse?  When do you need it?”  ”

Would next week be too soon?” I asked sheepishly.  She giggled and answered,  “I’ll try.”   One month later after casting, set building, costuming, “Mercy On Trial” was performed for the first time on Easter morning.

Not everyone thinks in tidy terms, nor in a form of Systematic Theology that’s suppose to bring the orderliness to the Bible.  [*See https://www.theopedia.com/systematic-theology]

Micah not only had the Word of God “come” or “happen,” to him; it was the Word of God “which he saw.”

It’s not just that he heard God’s voice, but he was enabled to see into God’s mind.

The origin of the word describes the impact of pictorial thinking.  What Micah has now experienced and visualized, he now must translate into words to convey God’s message to man.

Micah’s prophecies began during the reign of three successive kings of Judah.

So in seven short chapters, we can see a summary of some fifty years of ministry.  I’d call that a ‘study in brevity’!

Micah’s prophecy concerned Samaria and Jerusalem, two capital cities in divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  However, Micah isn’t limited to time and space.  God’s Word never is.

The prophet goes on to address ALL people on the whole earth (verse 2).

[2]  “Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the SOVEREIGN LORD may bear witness against you, the LORD from His holy temple.”

According to 1 Peter 4:17-18, Micah seems to say that if the LORD deals with His own people, what shall the end of those be who oppress them!

Who does God call as the witness against the peoples?

He calls Himself, even the LORD from His holy temple (Micah 1:2-3).

He comes out of His place in heaven, from His holy temple, and treads upon the earth–the towering places of the earth where idolatry is widespread.

What is Idolatry?  Is it something that was just practiced in the Old Testament of the Bible?

“Idolatry” is “anything that is placed before or above the One, True God” [Footnote [i].]

Martin Luther is right; our hearts are idol factories, mine included.

At the time of Micah’s writing, the Assyrian armies were on the march.  As the instruments of God’s judgment, the whole earth shook before them.

Samaria would surely fall, her idols would be beaten to pieces.  The enemy reached even to the gates of Jerusalem, which the prophet vividly described to Judah’s high place.

The Reality of God’s Judgment.

God’s judgment on the world can be comparable to the verdict of a judge in a courtroom.  God’s universal position entitles Him to act as JUDGE.  And when God acts as JUDGE, it takes powerful and decisive actions (verse 4) –

Micah 1:4 (AMP):  And the mountains shall melt under Him and the valleys shall be cleft like wax before the fire like waters poured down a steep place.

These images portray God who comes to judge His people at His command ALL the powers of the universe.  From the beginning of Israel as a nation, God demanded absolute obedience to Him.  He prohibited allegiance to idols (Exodus 20:3).  Even in a casual reading of Samaria’s history, it discloses allegiance to idols.

Israel kept some idols of Canaan and they also utilized some of the idols of their foreign neighbors.  The LORD wouldn’t tolerate rivals; He responded in judgment.

IDOLATRY IS NOT OUTDATED!

It doesn’t belong to the superstition of ancient people.  Anything…and I mean anything that takes the place of God is an idol and the cause of God’s judgment of sin (verse 5).

[5]  All this is because of the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel.  What is the transgression of Jacob?  Is it not [the idol worship of] Samaria?  And what are the high places [of idolatry] in Judah?  Are they not Jerusalem?  (AMP)

God’s people had committed sins against the LORD.

Micah didn’t name the specifics; he simply accused both Israel and Judah of offending God.  They deliberately rebelled against the LORD and failed to live up to His expectations.  Failing to attain God’s goal and plan for their lives made the people liable to the prosecuting action of the Judge.

God’s judgment isn’t simply an outburst of rage; one that we sometimes display as parents when our children are disobedient and rebellious.  God’s judgment is a settled disposition that resolves the issue of rebellion.  When we rebel and choose to go our own way, we can expect judgment from the LORD.

Learning from the Tragic Effects of Judgment (verses 6-7)

God’s judgment brings destruction

Micah referred to the destruction of the impressive city of Samaria in verse 6:  “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble”

This impressive city, the reputation for its beauty and military strength, became nothing more than a hill.  The city wall toppled.  Future generations used the site to plant vineyards.

Human beings must beware of what they call security.

Feeling secure in wealth and military might lead to destruction.  Armies can be bested and cities can be destroyed.

God’s JUDGMENT can bring disappointment

The Israelites gave their allegiance to the idols of the day, and the idols were destroyed by the Assyrians.  They then had no place to turn.  They were not only defenseless but bitterly disappointed in their so-called gods.

God’s great grief in His judgment (v.v. 8-9)

God discloses His aching in judgment in verse 8:

“Therefore I [Micah] will lament and wail; I will go stripped and [virtually] naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a lamentation like the ostriches.”  [AMP]

God’s is portrayed by Micah as one distraught with grief by vivid pictures such as jackals howling and ostriches crying in the night to illustrate intense grief.  Micah draws back the veil that allows us to see God’s great grief over sin.

God discloses His sadness over one person’s failure and to learn from another person’s mistake.  (v. 9)

“For [Samaria’s] wounds are incurable and they come even to Judah; He [the Lord] has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.”  [AMP]

Not only was God hurt over Samaria’s failure, but He was also sad that Judah failed to learn from their neighbor’s mistake.

JUDGMENT WAS ABOUT TO COME!

Jerusalem was to face the consequences of judgment in the same way as Samaria.

God’s people stand at a unique place and time in history.  We possess the story of former generations.  The lesson is obvious; we ought to learn from the errors of their ways.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  “What Does dolatry Mean?” by Jack Wellman, The Christian Crier.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, Settings advanced.

Youtube:  Law & Order theme music from television.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), or where noted.

Vine”s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine and Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…

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CREDITS

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.