“How We Hope in Uncertain Times” Acts: To the End of the Earth
Scripture: Acts 1:15-20
Acts 1:15-26 is the only place in the entire Bible that records the events between the ascension and the day of Pentecost. It’s worth slowing down and taking our time reflecting on these verses. From our story today we learn that Christians should draw hope in uncertain times from God’s right purposes and his righteous anger.
#1: God’s Right Purposes
Peter addresses the gathering of believers and brings their attention to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and the subsequent arrest. Judas not only betrayed a man he lived with and followed for three years but he betrayed the Son of God. His actions led to the death of the Author of Life! What could be more evil and treacherous than to sell the Savior of the world for a bag full of coins? And yet Peter says about this “the Scripture had to be fulfilled.” He then goes on says it fulfilled the psalms which are ascribed to King David. This means Judas’ betrayal was predicted and planned almost a thousand years before Jesus. But Peter goes further and says the ultimate author and originator of this was the Holy Spirit. This is because it was God who sovereignly and mysteriously purposed this to happen. Even Judas’ incredibly wicked act was all God-ordained.
It is tough for people to accept that God not only allowed this tragic and terrible event to happen, but he purposed it. Yet out of something so evil, God was able to work out something very good. Out of his own suffering and loss he worked out our salvation and life. It is not easy to believe that even the most confusing and chaotic things in our lives are part of God’s good and right purposes. But we must remember that God worked something out of the worst and most evil act in history so he can and will work something out of whatever we’re experiencing in our most uncertain times. Things do not happen in God’s world because he has let go of the reigns of history or because he has fallen asleep on his throne. He has purposed all things and although not always clear and understandable to us, they are always right and for good.
#2: God’s Righteous Anger
When Peter’s speech ends, Luke inserts his own authorial remarks. He chooses to describe a part of Judas’ death that differs than Matthew’s gospel. Luke does this in order to make a connection with the story of Ahab who murdered innocent Naboth and acquired a field. Ahab received God’s judgment and died. The point of this connection is to show us that just as God judged Ahab in righteous anger, so too God judged Judas in righteous anger. This is a theme Luke develops in Acts. It appears in the stories of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and King Herod in Acts 12. God does not let sin and evil go unpunished but he acts against it. We need a God who is not only kind and tender but who also gets righteously angry at sin.
To say that God has righteous anger against sin and evil is only good news to those who have their hope in Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, we know that God’s anger against our sin is satisfied and turned away. Now when we behold the face of God we know he is smiling down upon us. But God’s face is not always smiling! When he sees the sin and its effects running rampant in his world, he is righteously angry. God responds. In John 11 Jesus is at the funeral of his good friend Lazarus. Coming to the tomb, he is deeply enraged at death because death is an intruder and unwanted guest in his world. Jesus is angry enough at sin that he goes to the cross in order to defeat it. By doing so, he conquers sin and death through his resurrection and promises us that on the final day death, mourning, crying and pain will be no more. This gives us incredible hope that God is at work to eradicate and exterminate all sickness, suffering and sin from his world. There is incredible hope in knowing his righteous anger against sin.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- How are you processing and handling all the news and updates concerning the coronavirus pandemic? What has been helpful and what has been unhelpful?
- What are you thinking about God in the midst of all of this? Is your hope in him increasing or decreasing? What idols (false hopes) are being exposed at this time?
- Which do you think you need to meditate on more at this moment: God’s right purposes or God’s righteous anger? How can you continue to hope and trust in God more at this time?