PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 7:39–53 (NIV)
“But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.
“Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
“‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things?’
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
I remember once in my law school years, we sat mired neck deep in Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code. The professor rolled on at ninety miles an hour through seemingly endless permutations of commercial transactions and secured liens and on and on. All these laws worked together, precise in their particularity, with the force of an impenetrable logic. All of a sudden the professor brought his lecture to a screeching halt. After a long pause, he put the legal code on the table in front of him and spoke these words I will forever remember,
“In law as in life, a single page of history is worth more than five thousand pages of logic.”
Something clicked and in that moment, a clarity came over me concerning the power of precedent.
No matter how predictable the law may be, people will always be unpredictable. At the same time, no matter how unpredictable people may be, the one certainty is they will break the law.
At this point in the story, I think Stephen essentially says something to this effect, “The best predictor of future performance is the precedent of past performance.” Stephen does not appeal to logic here. He gives them a page out of their history.
Stephen appeals to the history he shared with his hearers when he says, “Our ancestors.” He reminds them of what happened in the wilderness when they “rejected [God] and turned in their hearts back to Egypt.” He reminded them of how the golden calf led them all the way to the exile of Babylon.
Stephen appeals to them, “Can we please not repeat the past again?!” (Although in his mind he knows how this one is going to go.)
So what’s the bottom line here? I know it seems like I am a “binary” kind of guy (i.e., two choices), but it’s hard to argue with Scripture. In life, we get two choices: worship or idolatry. And truth be told, idolatry is worship; just of the wrong god.
Worship of the true and living God happens when we vulnerably trust in the certainty of God for the unpredictability of the future.
Idolatry happens when we seize control of the present scenario and attempt to manipulate it to the end of the future we think is best.
We crave a certain outcome when all we need is the certainty of God, but to have the certainty of God requires we risk the vulnerability of trust. That’s what faith is.
Stephen is telling his people their own story because those who do not remember their own broken story are destined to repeat it.
Think about that today. Ask yourself some harder questions this week, like, “Where is my security rooted? What am I trusting?” Abilities? Wealth? Connections? Jesus? Remember, their history is our history. Without decisive action to break the cycle of the precedent of history, we relegate ourselves to repeat it.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
Do you tend to be a person who vulnerably trusts that God is controlling your life and future or do you tend toward needing to be in control of your life and future yourself, doing whatever it takes to get a certain outcome? Are you trusting in the certainty of God or are you pursuing the certainty of a particular outcome?
We are calling audibles this week from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt