ACTS3v17to26: GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE.
(A) Introduction (Read the passage.)
As Peter continues his message to the curious crowd in the temple of Jerusalem he deals with God's design in the past, the present and for the future.
(B) God's wisdom in the past.
God's wisdom is revealed:
Peter says, "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer." v17and18. I think Peter is guilty of some exaggeration in asserting that all the prophets forecast the suffering of the Messiah. Isaiah certainly did - notably in Isaiah 53. It is the law and festivals that anticipate Jesus' saving work. The sacrificial system, the Passover and Day of Atonement all foreshadow the perfect, sufficient and final sacrifice for sin made by Jesus at Calvary.
God did not encourage men to crucify Jesus. He did not manipulate men like some sovereign puppet master to achieve his purpose. The Jewish leaders were not compelled to kill the Holy and Righteous One. Fallen, flawed, humanity and Satan conspired to put out the Light of the World because they preferred darkness to light. Yet Christ's ignominious death was part of salvation's plan. It was God's set purpose for Christ's shed blood to wipe away the sins of all those that repent and exercise faith in him.
(b) In the timing of Christ's advent.
Many men have had ideas or suggested innovations that were before their time and came to nothing. A cure for scurvy was suggested 200 years before it was at last, adopted by the British navy! Timing is everything. God's timing is just right. We see this throughout history from the Reformation to the remarkable peaceful collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Who would have dreamt that in the space of a few short years the countries of Eastern Europe and the Republics of the USSR would gain independence without bloodshed. We see it, too, in the lives of individuals. I qualified as a teacher just as a long serving Geography master at the King Edward the Sixth in Bury St Edmunds retired. So I was able to go home and support my parents in their final years of ministry and old age. My life would have been completely different if I had graduated a year earlier or a year later. So, too, would my parent's lives! I am sure God's will was done.
(c) In raising up a prophet.
The Israelites were very uneasy when God appeared to them on Mt Sinai. God spoke out of fire and cloud and deep darkness. The people were relieved to hear that dread voice and live. The elders approached Moses and said, "Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey." Dt5v24to27.
When God wanted to make a new agreement with men he sent a man like Moses from among the Jewish people. God made a concession to our weakness and the babe was born at Bethlehem. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John1v14. All through the succeeding years men have seen him. Our hearts go out to him because we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Heb4v15. So, so, many have loved Jesus. The Israelites at Sinai feared God. Mary Magdalene on the resurrection morn threw herself in rapturous devotion at Jesus feet.
God in his wisdom realised how important it was for us to have a Saviour and Lord we could identify with. We need a leader who understands and cares about us.
I have just finished reading the biography of Ernest Shackleton the great Antarctic explorer. He had four outstanding qualities that made him a leader of men. He was incredibly optimistic and by his unquenchable cheerfulness kept up the spirits of his men. Shackleton did not have any cronies - no obvious favourites amongst his party. He accepted, and allowed for, people's limitations. He did not expect more from a man than he was capable of giving. He trusted his men and was pleased by what they achieved. Finally, if Shackleton suspected that a man was dispirited he would take him aside for an intimate talk. On such occasions Shackleton was very solicitous and the man to whom he chatted felt that of all men on earth he was the most important to his leader.
Jesus gives his followers hope. He has no favourites. We are all precious to him.
James writes: Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James2v5.
Jesus knows our limitations and he is as pleased with the man who faithfully uses two talents in his service as the man who expertly employs five. Both received the invitation: "Come and share your master's happiness." Mt25v21and23.
Finally there are times that Jesus by his Spirit does reassure us of his concern and enduring support. As Paul said when writing to Timothy: But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength. .... The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. 2Tim4v17and18.
Peter mentions three things God does for the followers of Jesus:
There are sins we are deeply ashamed of, sins we can never forget, sins we can never forgive ourselves for committing. I shall regret to my dying day slapping my poor demented father to try and bring him to his senses. I slapped him in my fear, frustration and lack of faith in God's provision. God wipes away the sins we cannot forgive ourselves. See the story about the Victoria who wiped the slate clean.
He sends them times of refreshing. v19: that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Christians suffer from spiritual dryness; enthusiasm wanes, God is unreal, faith falters and the lamp of devotion burns dim. At such times we sing the old hymn with little conviction:
Well God does refresh us. I find testimonies to the saving power of Jesus one of the greatest of all spiritual tonics. It is so beneficial to read a biography or autobiography of a Christian or to listen to a believer speak well of Jesus on TV or the radio. (See story about Gerald Priestland.)
Sometimes God refreshes us with a word of encouragement. My enthusiasm for labouring away at this web site benefited when it began to feature in the search engines and one of them described my stories as inspirational! It is a pity Christians do not encourage each other more.
I have been blessed many, many, times in our small prayer meeting. It is the spiritual equivalent of playing cricket! It is lovely to hear others pray from the heart. It does me good to hear Edward, Peter, Carolyn, Margaret, Ron and Ivy pray. The mercy drops round me are falling when they pray.
(c) He blesses his own. v25: "And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will blessed.' When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."
The Antarctic explorers Scott and Shackleton needed someone to put them right about travelling with ponies and on foot during their treks across the ice. They should have used dogs and skis. As it was Scott's expedition to the South Pole ended in disaster.
Saul of Tarsus was on the broad road that leads to destruction before he encountered Jesus on the way to Damascus. What a relief it was for Saul to stop kicking against the goads and surrendered to the authority of Jesus. The Master turned him from his wicked ways, pointed him in a new direction and made him a champion of the Christian faith.
The grace of God, mercy of Jesus and intervention of the Holy Spirit have arrested millions in their headlong and headstrong descent to destruction. It is the supreme blessing to be turned around, away from the rocks, and to commence sailing towards the heavenly harbour.
(D) God's plan for the future.
We all need something to look forward to. During the last years of my teaching career I used to look forward every day to getting home and relaxing with a cigar and a glass of sherry. My friend Tommy has three or four foreign holidays a year. This gives him something to look forward to. All through the dark days of winter I long for the spring. I love those harbingers of spring - the snowdrops, crocuses and blackthorn blossom. A few weeks ago I met up with an old colleague that I had not seen for 15 years. I anticipated the reunion with eagerness. How my mother rejoiced when her lover, my father, travelled up to London to see her during the days of their courtship!
Christians have a great event to look forward to. The springtime is coming after winter's night. The bride awaits her groom. Jesus is coming again.
Jesus is coming, is coming again!
Jesus is coming, is coming again!
Peter is thinking of the second coming when he says: "that he (God) may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you - even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore every thing, as he promised... v20and21.
What a wonderful day that will be when Jesus comes to restore everything - to bring the believers back to life, to fellowship with himself and one another and to revel in the new creation. The rapture will be unalloyed at the marriage feast of the lamb!
O! the crowning day is coming -
O! the crowning day is coming -