Acts 5-6, Psalm 121
In today's reading we read of a swift and apparently harsh judgment on Ananias and Sapphira. We should all ask ourselves the question: How many of us would be alive today if our sins were judged like theirs? But a mistake that is often stated in cases such as this is people question God's fairness. But that is where the mistake is made. We are all alive today because of the endless mercy and patience of God. Our sins, like Ananias and Sapphira deserve punishment, but God in His mercy allows us to continue. Too often we mistakenly evaluate God according to our human standards and norms, missing just how much greater and higher His ways are than our ways.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira really begins in the chapter before where we read in Acts 4:32, "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common." This chapter culminates with Barnabas in 4:36-37, "...a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." We now come to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:2 where we are told they sold a possession, "And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet." His sin was not greed or selfishness, but hypocrisy. He could have kept and given whatever he wished, but he pretended in order to appear righteous to be giving it all. Peter filled with the Holy Spirit says in 5:4 in reference to the land, "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God? This section continues with the immediate and dramatic death of both he and his wife 3 hours apart. God often judges sin quickly and severely at the beginning of a new period of salvation history to illustrate just how serious He is concerning sin. Consider the outcome of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons when they presented profane fire before the Lord at the beginning of when the priest's were to start their ministry in the Tabernacle in Leviticus 10:1-3. Consider the swift judgment on Achan when he disobeyed the command of God in Joshua 7 when the Israelites had just entered the promised land.
What happened to all of those Biblical characters were both just and fair before a Holy God. Unfortunately, we tend to minimize sin because we minimize just how bad it is since we are all guilty of it. Contrasted to the stories above, consider Samson who had been given so much by God, yet squandered it all on loose living. Every time he was forced to act in strength, God mercifully responded. So, Samson took God more and more for granted, until we read in Judges 16:20 after Delilah cut his hair, "...So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him." God hates sin and just because we all do it, it doesn't make it right. Jesus especially disliked hypocrisy which was the focus on His statements against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Scottish minister and author, George Macdonald said, "Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not." So when we come across a story like this rather than questioning God's fairness or justice, we should all fall on our knees realizing that we could and should suffer the same fate if it were not for His mercy, patience and grace. May we also never forget just how costly our sin is. It cost Jesus His life as He died for us on the cross.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: