Meditations in Acts : 5 : Confusion of Prophecy
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Before I start in here, I think I need to make a statement for clarity sake. I have known the Lord for well over forty years and I’m sure I love Him more today than ever before. Moreover I am blessed by His word and am utterly convinced He is totally faithful and unchanging and His love for me is absolute and unchanging. Now I need to say those things for those who might read what follows and think that I am now doubting the Lord. I am not! I am certain of Him!
But there is something else I have come to see – well two things really, two related things. The first is that so often when we read the Bible, we read it with such little thought and miss so much. The second is that when we read words like we find in verse 8 today, we just don’t realise how confusing they probably were to the disciples. Now I am sure that there are some prophecies that are simple, clear cut and quickly fulfilled, but I’m going to suggest that these are the minority! I have no question about the Lord’s truthfulness when he said through Amos, “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). I think understanding the overall plan of God is a lot easier than understanding individual prophecies.
I’ll start justifying what I’ve just said out of personal experience. I have operated in the prophetic role and watched a lot of others operating in it for many years, and as I have watched people receiving prophetic words I am utterly convinced that 99.9999% of them are not fully understood and the things that they will involve are just not thought about. So why does God speak these things if we are so clueless at understanding them? Because He loves us and wants to share His heart with us. Every prophetic word is an expression of His love, even if we don’t fully understand it. If a father or mother says to their little child, I love you and forgive you, that child will only catch a glimmer of the reality of that love which, under certain circumstances would lay down its life for the child. So it is with God, and His ways are so complex that He doesn’t tell us all the details of what He says is going to work out. Why? It’s because we wouldn’t understand what will be entailed in its fulfilment and we wouldn’t understand His grace that would be there to see us along the path to fulfilment – and so we’d worry!
In the Old Testament the story of Joseph and his dreams (Gen 37-) is a classic illustration of this. If you had told Joseph that to become the Prime Minister of Egypt he was going to have to be sold into slavery and then put in prison with little hope of getting out, I don’t think he would have been blessed.
So now we come to Jesus’ words describing the future of the early church. “God’s power is going to come on you.” Wow! We’re going to be great individuals – maybe just like the Judges when the Spirit came on them and empowered them. Wow!
“And you’ll be my witnesses.” OK.
“In Jerusalem.” Wow, hold on; not so OK! They’ll be out to get us there!
“And in all Judea.” Oh, thank goodness, away from Jerusalem!
“And in Samaria.” Hold on; they’re aliens and we don’t like them; they’re a mixed race people, not real Jews. That’s not so good!
“And to the ends of the earth.” What?
How is that going to happen? Well I’m not going to tell you now but I’m going to allow persecution to come and many of the church are going to flee from Jerusalem and will end up all over the place. Actually if you read the early chapters of Acts – after chapter 2 – it’s not very comfortable. In fact it is downright hostile! Oh yes, all of this is going to be fulfilled but it’s what he doesn’t tell them that is the tough stuff because this is what it is often like being a believer in this Fallen World.
Now do you see what I mean when I say we don’t know half of it when we get a prophetic word? The Lord seems to delight in telling us ‘end products’ but misses out the means to get there. Oh yes, His grace will always be there for us, but do you remember what we said in the previous meditation? He’s working to teach us to trust Him even when we don’t understand what is going on, and the truth of it is, that there’s a lot of that! You’re not going to learn to trust until you’ve been through circumstances that necessitate trust!
Supposing Jesus gave us a detailed itinerary for the next month – this is what is going to happen tomorrow, and then this on the next day…. and so on. Not a surprise on the horizon. We’d probably become a bunch of Jonah’s and emigrate as fast as we could! Or once we’d settled to what was coming, we’d be able to say, “It’s OK this is only going to last until Wednesday. I can handle it on my own until then.” But that defeats the object. The Lord is teaching us to stick close to Him and trust Him. If we knew what was coming in detail, we wouldn’t need Him. So just relax; He’s there and He’s there for you and if He’s said what is coming, rejoice in it, but still realise that you are still going to have to turn to Him for His grace along the way. That’s what this is all about! Have fun!