Open to Interpretation

My husband and I recently celebrated our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary, and I think one of the greatest things about being married so long is the knowing. I just KNOW him. And vice versa. I don’t have to ask if he likes green beans or Brussels sprouts. He need not ask if I want to watch a movie or go hiking. When he comes home from work, I catch one glimpse of his face and immediately know to ask about his day or talk about the weather. We don’t interpret each others’ signals correctly 100% of the time, but more times than not, we know in our knower how to respond.My husband and I recently celebrated our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary, and I think one of the greatest things about being married so long is the knowing. I just KNOW him. And vice versa. I don’t have to ask if he likes green beans or Brussels sprouts. He need not ask if I want to watch a movie or go hiking. When he comes home from work, I catch one glimpse of his face and immediately know to ask about his day or talk about the weather. We don’t interpret each others’ signals correctly 100% of the time, but more times than not, we know in our knower how to respond. The same holds true as our children grow up. When that firstborn comes home from the hospital, all bundled in blankets and diapers and bawling, we tend to be clueless—making mistakes of ignorance on this poor little creature. But as we begin to know them, we learn their unique-sounding cries, their developing personalities, their distinctive habits. Suddenly, we’re an expert on this little person that God let us partner in creating…until the teen years hit, and every parent becomes ignorant again! Learning to interpret those around us is more an art than a science. The crucial element of this talent? The ability to consistently focus outward rather than inward—becoming others-oriented rather than self-absorbed. Perhaps the greatest aid in interpreting people and/or situations is to see them through the eyes of eternity…

 Acts 5:17 – “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.”

Author Luke tells us outright that jealousy motivates all the high priest’s actions, and jealousy is at its core self-focused. No interpretation necessary here!

Acts 5:18-21a – “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’ At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.” (emphasis added)

The angel told the disciples to go to the temple courts and tell about their new life. But the disciples waited until daybreak and then began to teach. Of course, I’m dissecting words here, but think about it. To tell about our new life in Christ is the very definition of evangelism, while teaching is more so what we would today call discipleship. But perhaps the apostles did evangelize and then were adept at reading their audience, seeing that they were hungry for teaching. Obedience to God sometimes requires interpreting the leading of the Holy Spirit at the moment of opportunity. The apostles were not bound by the letter of the Law (the angel’s specific words) but were free to be led by the Spirit’s guidance.

Acts 5:21b-24 – “When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this.” (emphasis added)

Let’s point out the angel’s sense of humor. Back in v.19, Luke tells us the angel “…opened the doors…and brought [the apostles] out.” But when the officers went to fetch them, the doors were re-locked and the guards remembered nothing of the prisoners’ escape. Cha-ching! Score 1 for the ornery angel! But the high priest and his officers weren’t amused…or impressed. Instead of responding with praise at witnessing another miracle, or even fear that God’s power was working against them, they simply wondered, “What will happen if they keep this up?” I think that’s Sadducee language for, “How will this affect the cash flow to the temple and our pockets?” They considered only the earthly ramifications, giving no thought to the eternal consequences.

Acts 5:25-26 – “Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’ At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.” (emphasis added)

The captain and high priest may not have been good at interpreting God’s power or direction, but they certainly knew how to read a crowd. Realizing the apostles had captured the people’s attention, they handled the apostles carefully—more afraid of men’s stones than God’s judgment.

  • Lord, I hate to admit it, but in some ways I’m like the high priest. Interpreting human response seems far easier than reading the nuances of Your still, small voice. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent too much time focused on the earthly and familiar. As I set my heart on You, on the eternal, give me a mind that interprets life according to Your will and wisdom. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see—a life attuned to You.

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