A sermon by Lay Reader, Ian Lawrie 20 July 2014
God’s wisdom and logic Acts4.1-22, Kings 2.10-12, 3.16-end
Our lessons from 1Kings 3 and Acts 4 give us an insight into a distinction between God’s wisdom and man’s. As we heard, King David had died and Solomon, Bathsheba’s son became king while he was still very young. In a dream, God offered Solomon a gift and unlike many of his age who would have chosen wealth, Solomon asked for wisdom. And it is for wisdom that he is renowned. It is in our OT reading that we read of this wisdom being put into action It is, as we hear the way that Solomon settled the dispute between these two women over the ownership of the child, ,that we surely recognise that here is a judgement which transcends what any court today could even imagine. It was a judgement which quickly and clearly resolved the issue at hand. It has a wisdom and a logic which reaches beyond the mind of man and can be truly attributed to God’s gift to Solomon. At the heart of the judgement was of course the love of the woman for her child. It is from this thought that we must recognise the limitations of our logic, our reason and our wisdom and rely on God’s provision on a number of occasions.
When we examine the issue set before Solomon, there was not a great debate; there was not a mass of lawyers, or details of medical history and psychological reports. In fact, Solomon said very little, but what he did say dramatically resolved the matter. The words were powerful but it was love that brought truth and justice to the fore. We live in a world which is increasingly being clouded by a multitude of words and opinions offered both in good faith or designed to obscure. And yet if we spend the time to listen, through all this noise, we may still hear God speak out his words of wisdom. It does, however, require that the speaker should walk closely with God and have the boldness and courage to speak out plainly.
And that is just what happened to Peter as we heard in our NT lesson. What had happened was that as Peter and John went up to the temple, a man, lame from birth, lay on the steps asking for alms. Peter’s response was ‘Silver & gold have I none but in the name of Jesus rise up and walk. The man was healed to the amazement of the crowd. The authorities did not like this and Peter & John were taken to court. So through circumstances, not of his own choosing, Peter had a captive audience of the most senior members of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Peter had walked and talked with the Lord for over three years. Peter knew that even after the terrible sin of betraying Jesus, he was forgiven and restored in his relationship with God. Peter knew that he had a special calling to follow Jesus and that, in a most unforgettable way; God had come upon him in the power of the Holy Spirit. And here was Peter’s opportunity to speak.
Now Peter could have done the ducking and weaving that we have grown used to from those who are called to account. He could have spoken about the failures of previous medical services to heal this man, and the coincidence that he happened to be on the Temple steps at this time. He could have shared their amazement at what his few kind words had achieved and stood back as though one of the crowd. But that is not what happened. With a boldness and clarity inspired by the Holy Spirit Peter simply declared the truth of what had occurred. He did not seek to gain favour or defend his actions or his words. The man, lame from birth, had been healed by the power of the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom the authorities had crucified, and who had risen from the dead. And the man who had been healed stood before them as witness.
If that had been all that Peter said, it would have been half the message, because those words would have left them condemned with no way out. However, the crunch was still to come – the words of God’s love, the way out. This Jesus has become the head of the corner, and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Here was the way out offered by God in love to all men to receive. Moreover, this has remained the message of the church through the ages. How God in his mercy deals with those who do not acknowledge Jesus is for God to judge. For us as Christians the message of the Bible is quite clear.
The authorities had nothing to say in opposition. They could not refute all that Peter had said. But rather than accept it, after conferring together, they decided on damage limitation. They demanded that the apostles keep silent. And again, the wisdom of God showed forth in the words of Peter and John. “You must judge whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to God or to you, but we must speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Such was the continuing character and boldness of the early church. There was to be no compromise on the basic message of salvation in Jesus and many have been and continue to be martyred for their faith.
Now we may not be Peter or John, but remember, they were, as the authorities would describe them, uneducated common men, in other words ordinary people. But surely, both our OT & NT lesson point us towards a need to so listen to God that our words may more boldly speak out our faith when the opportunity arises. The words that Peter spoke are a fulfilment of Jesus promise that the HS would give him the words to speak. Moreover, that promise is to all who acknowledge him. And, if you are thinking, “We do not get the opportunity”, ‘Lead us not into temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer does not mean that we cannot ask God to give us opportunities. May God give us ears to listen to his voice and boldness to speak out about what we know and believe.