Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8- Do You Have Hope?

July 8, 2011

Scripture Readings:
1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81; Acts 26: 1-32
Psalm 6:1-10; Proverbs 18:20-21

Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.                           ~Mark Twain

1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81

In our Old Testament reading we read the genealogies of the tribes of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher in the seventh chapter of 1 Chronicles. Chapter eight brings us to the listing for the tribe of Benjamin with a particular reference to Saul and Jonathan.  These genealogical records were important in tracing the heritage of Jesus Christ back to Adam and Eve and to King David from the tribe of Judah.

Acts 26:1-32

Doctors of terminally ill patients will tell you that hope is a key factor in a person being able to extend their life after the diagnosis and during treatment of the disease.  It would be interesting to see what the physiological effects of hope are on the body.  Hope changes the way we look at life. We know it affects our mind, but it must also affect our bodies.  What do you hope for?  Some people place their hope in material things.  Maybe you hope that you will win the lottery.  Could it be that you are placing your hope on getting a new car or a bigger house?  It is easy to place hope in the success of our loved ones. Do you hope that your kids will grow up, graduate high school, and get into a great college?  Do you hope that your family and you will stay healthy?  It is easy to have our joy and happiness based on circumstances.  Maybe you hope that if you have to die, you will die in your sleep without ever getting ill and suffering.  Many hopes are placed in avoiding suffering.  Today in our New Testament reading, we learn where the Apostle Paul has placed his hope.

The prisoner, Paul, is in front of the King Agrippa.  Agrippa does not have the authority to release Paul from prison because Paul has appealed to Caesar who is a higher authority.  This meeting is simply an opportunity for Agrippa to learn more about Paul's case and to hear about The Way.  Christianity has spread like wildfire throughout the territory and Paul's testimony is a way for Agrippa to see what all of the fuss is about.

For the Apostle Paul, this meeting is a chance to fulfill his purpose on earth.  Jesus has personally come to Paul and confirmed that Paul would testify to kings and rulers about Him. There was never a man more ready to fulfill his purpose on earth than the Apostle Paul.

As he begins to speak, one can picture the intensity and earnest tone with which he addresses the pompous and elite crowd.  Paul is relieved to have Agrippa, who is familiar with Jewish customs and controversies, available to hear his appeal. 

Paul begins by recounting how in his childhood he had a thorough and rigorous Jewish education. He grew up to become a Pharisee, which was the strictest sect of the Jewish religion.  Paul points out that his hope as a Pharisee was that God was going to fulfill His promises to his Jewish ancestors. This implies that the Savior of the world would come through the Jews.  Agrippa would have known this, so it was not necessary for Paul to expound further on this point.  Paul points out that the focus of Jewish worship is to have God fulfill that hope. 

Paul admits that he used to believe that it was imperative as a good Jew that he be opposed to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  As a matter of fact, he admits to sending them to prison, condemning them to death, whipping them to try to get them to curse Christ, and hounding them in distant foreign cities.

Paul recalls that on the way to Damascus on a similar mission, he was struck down by a blinding light at noon. It was here on the road that he was confronted by Jesus Christ and appointed to be his servant and witness.  Paul includes that Jesus promised to protect him as he told the world, including the Gentiles, about God and Jesus, turning them from darkness to light and from Satan to God.  The key to his message, according to Jesus,  was to be the forgiveness of sins and the giving of a special place among God's people for those who are set apart by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is appealing to Agrippa, who is a Gentile, to accept this gift.

Paul tells Agrippa that he (Paul)  has been faithful to the vision he has seen. He has gone on many journeys and has been protected by God.  Paul confesses that his hope and his message has been nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen- that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to raise from the dead as a light to both the Jews and the Gentiles.

Upon hearing the claim of resurrection, Festus exclaims that all of his studying has made Paul insane.  But Paul rebukes that idea.  He turns to Agrippa and confirms that Agrippa is familiar with these events.

Has anyone ever thought you were insane because you believed in Jesus?  Have they ever thought you were just plain dumb?

God has placed Paul as a prisoner in front of a king.  God has put a man with no authority to free a prisoner in front of a prisoner who is able to set a king free through the message of Christ.  Although Paul is the person wearing prison garb and standing in chains, he is free from sin and death.  And although Agrippa is a free man wearing royal robes and sitting on a throne, he is truly a beggar in bondage to sin.

Paul is offering hope to King Agrippa.  Paul's hope is in the forgiveness of sins provided by Jesus and in the future resurrection and eternal life one can only receive through Jesus.  Agrippa can only reply, "Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?"  Have you ever had someone stall like this when you offer the gift of salvation to them?

The Apostle Paul's testimony is a great example to you and me.  We should be able to logically and simply tell our story.  In just a few sentences we get Paul's upbringing, his career, his sin, his conversion, his salvation, his transformation, his purpose, and his hope.  We learn the key theme of Christianity that should be included in our testimonies, too.  That theme is that our sins are forgiven by the death of Jesus Christ and because of His death and resurrection we can have eternal life.  This is Paul's hope.  Is this your hope?

Do you know where your hope lies?  Have you written out your personal testimony and are you able to give it if the need arises? Do you respond like Agrippa to the message of Jesus, or have you accepted the gift of salvation? 

Psalm 6:1-10

King Agrippa could have had the hope of salvation, if he could have humbled himself and cried out like the psalmist in this psalm.

Proverbs 18:20-21

The Apostle Paul had the right words at the right time in his testimony to Agrippa.  This brings satisfaction, just as this proverb states.

What did you learn today?


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

1 comment:

  1. Maybe Agrippa came to faith eventually. He certainly "heard" what Paul was challenging to do.

    Great points, Kathy!