Measuring Stick

I hate trick questions. Can God create a rock too big to move? Ummmmm. I’ll bet that one never makes it to Jeopardy. How about: Have you stopped nagging your husband? Or worse: Have you stopped beating your wife? There are no good answers for those questions. Speaking of beating your wife…rough transition, but go with me…I hate trick questions. Can God create a rock too big to move? Ummmmm. I’ll bet that one never makes it to Jeopardy. How about: Have you stopped nagging your husband? Or worse: Have you stopped beating your wife? There are no good answers for those questions. Speaking of beating your wife…rough transition, but go with me…I recently discovered the controversial origin for the catch-phrase, “Rule of Thumb.” A British judge in the late 1700’s is said to have ruled that a husband could beat his wife as long as the stick he used was no thicker than his thumb. Once again, a no-win situation. But think of all the measuring tools we live with each day. Clocks, speedometers, odometers, thermometers, calendars—not to mention all the kitchen tools we’ve become so accustomed to. We measure talent with TV shows, beauty with pageants and skill with competitions and games. But how do we measure people? How do we measure ourselves? How do we measure God? Hmmm. These are the things Peter and the apostles will notice in the Sanhedrin…

Acts 5:27-28 – “Having brought the apostles, [the guards] made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’” (emphasis added)

Author Luke determines in 5:17 that the high priest’s anger was motivated by jealousy, and here we gain more insight on the Temple’s top dog. He doesn’t seem at all concerned that he’s offended God by his disobedience, stubbornness and hypocrisy, but rather seems desperately afraid of “looking bad” to the crowd. His measure of success/failure is completely determined by human opinion.

Acts 5:29-32 – “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’”

Peter and the other apostles keep their hearts and minds focused on the bigger picture—their eternal mission reaching beyond human opinion into the hearts of their hearers. The apostle’s measure of success and their sole motivation is obedience to the calling and command of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 5:33-34 – “When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.” (emphasis added)

Gamaliel was measured as a wise man because he was “honored by all the people.” So, even though the High Priest and his other Sadducee friends hated the Pharisees, they listened to Gamaliel and respected his opinion. The High Priest respected and trusted a Pharisee on men’s recommendation, but refused to believe the apostles—in spite of God’s repeated miracles to convince them. On whose recommendation do you choose people to trust?

Acts 5:35-39 – “Then [Gamaliel] addressed them: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’” (emphasis added)

Great advice, Gamaliel! The greatest test of authenticity is indeed the test of time. Shooting stars burn out, and a sprinter was not intended for a marathon. It is often the endurance of a decision, plan or commitment through which God proves his faithfulness and reveals His truth.

Acts 5:40-42 – “His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (emphasis added)

If the High Priest was measuring the apostles’ commitment by having them flogged, his test back-fired. The men who returned after their first arrest to pray with the believers, now boldly rejoiced in their sufferingand amped up their preaching to include house visits! By anyone’s measure, the disciples were operating under a powerful motivation beyond anything the Sanhedrin (or any other human) could contain.

  • Lord, I’ve often looked at the early church leaders and marveled at their bravery, but I’m convinced that I’ve been trying to measure sugar with a meat thermometer—totally inappropriate. Their bravery was a byproduct, not the source. The measure of their effectiveness came from the extent to which they allowed Your Holy Spirit to work in and through them. That same Holy Spirit indwells me at this moment. Measure me, Lord, and then remind me to dish out heaping cupfuls of Your power as You give clear direction.

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