Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “ ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. – Acts 4:18-26
A lot has happened since Jesus ascended into heaven leaving His disciples wondering what to do next. Peter and John have been released by the religious leaders after getting a serious grilling about this resurrection ruckus they are causing by “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead”. They are also healing people in Jesus’ name. How dare they do something so radical as to heal the sick and lame in Jesus’ name.
The religious leaders have a problem, this Jesus thing is spreading despite the leader’s crucifixion. They try to convince Peter and John to stop doing things in Jesus’s name, they rightly refuse. This is about power and control. They want to be able to be the ones who can take credit for healing and forgiveness from God.
They are released from prison and tell about their experience to the fellow disciples and believers that have gathered. This must have been a bit of a “David and Goliath” moment. Challenging the chief priests and the elders and winning. Their ace in the hole was the Holy Spirit which they had made room for in their hearts. This, and the fact that they were bearing witness to Jesus and healing in His name, is why they were effective and more powerful than the religious leaders. To quote Yoda from Star Wars :
They have the correct posture and perspective, they pray and thank God for His wisdom and provision, “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” This is the water reference here, “the sea” which God made. They are acknowledging that God made everything! They go on to say something a bit strange “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David”. Certainly at the time of David there was no recognition or realization of the Holy Spirit, yet John and Peter are saying that the Holy Spirit was guiding David. The same Spirit that is guiding them, ultimately God.
The prayer then take a somewhat convicting and confusing turn, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one”. I suppose on one level they are praying about the obstinate chief priest and elders that recently imprisoned them for following God, but I think their prayer bends time a bit and really applies to all nations and forms of government that attempt to control people’s hearts and souls. Their rhetorical question “Why do the nations rage?” is profound, and one that has been playing out pretty much since human history began.
I think the answer is equally profound, confusing, and convicting – because the nations (and individuals) can get away with it, at least for now. God has given us, and to some extent nations, the freedom to choose. We, and the nations, can rage all we want but in the end God wins. We can plot a course wherever we want in this land of oblivion, God just hopes that it is toward Him. He has made some amazing sacrifices to convince us that our journey home begins and ends with Him.
Prayer: God help us trust in You and not rage as individuals or as nations in ways that lead us away from You.