We are going to look at Acts chapter two, but first let's discuss David, and you'll understand the connection soon. David was the king of Israel approximately a thousand years before Jesus. He was an exceptional king, chosen by God. David was not only an incredible leader, strong, and gentle, but he was also a poet and songwriter. Today, we mostly know him through his writings. Although we don't have the melodies of his songs anymore, the lyrics remain, and they are perhaps some of the most read poetry even today.
As many people continue to appreciate his poetry, there are moments in the Psalms when you might think, "What did David mean by that?" With our modern perspective, we might decipher some meanings, but imagine the ancient reader's confusion when they encountered these enigmatic passages. David's writings contained statements that puzzled scholars for centuries, leading to numerous debates.
Take Psalm 16, for instance. David writes:
"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow your Holy One to see decay." (Psalm 16:8-11)
While parts of this passage are clear, the mention of the soul not remaining in Sheol and not seeing decay raises questions. What exactly did David mean? We know David was mortal, and he faced a human end. This statement left readers with a mystery that sparked debates for centuries.
Another perplexing verse is Psalm 110:1:
"The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" (Psalm 110:1)
The latter part of this verse might be understandable, symbolizing victory over enemies. But the beginning, where David mentions "The Lord said to my Lord," is intriguing. It implies a hierarchy, with David referencing a Lord above him (likely God) and yet another Lord under God but above David. What could this mean?
Both verses highlight the mysteries and depths of David's writings, challenging readers and scholars alike to seek understanding.
When people read certain verses, they might wonder, "What is this about? Did he misspeak?" Such verses have been debated for generations. Another mysterious passage is found in 2 Samuel, where a prophecy is delivered to David. The prophecy states:
"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers…I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
At first glance, this prophecy seems to be about Solomon, especially when it mentions building a house for God's name. However, the part about the throne lasting forever doesn't align with Solomon's reign, which eventually ended. The subsequent rulers took over, the kingdom was divided, and ultimately, the throne was dismantled and carried off. This prophecy adds to the enigmatic statements associated with David.
For centuries, rabbis debated these mysteries. "What did David mean?" was a question many tried to decipher. While one might expect a prominent scholar to clarify everything, the real answer unfolds differently.
In the Book of Acts, particularly chapter two, we find some clarity. To give context, Jesus had been crucified, resurrected, and after spending forty days on Earth, ascended into heaven. Ten days after His ascension, Pentecost occurred, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Christ. This chapter of Acts continues on the same day, referencing the phenomenon described as "tongues of fire." Whether this appeared as literal fiery tongues or something different is open to interpretation.
When discussing the miraculous event of the tongues of fire, it's crucial to understand the accompanying message. As we delve into the teachings of Peter, he emphasizes the link between miracles and messages, starting from verse 22 of Acts.
In Acts 2:22, Peter proclaims, "Fellow Israelites, listen to these words. This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles." This highlights the importance of Jesus's miracles in substantiating His message. Miracles weren't just for spectacle; they authenticated Jesus's identity.
Peter reminds his audience—many of whom likely witnessed or even called for Jesus's crucifixion—of their role in Jesus's death. With conviction, he states that they condemned the Son of God, the very sign sent by God Himself.
However, in Acts 2:23, there's a twist. Peter acknowledges that although they conspired against Jesus, it was all part of God's divine plan. This evokes the sentiment from the story of Joseph: what they intended for harm, God used for good.
By verse 24, Peter declares, "God raised him up, ending the pains of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it."
What follows is particularly intriguing. Peter cites a familiar scripture, connecting David's writings to Jesus's resurrection. He quotes, "For David says of him, 'I saw the Lord ever before me because he is at my right hand. I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope because you will not abandon me to Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. You have revealed the paths of life to me and will fill me with gladness in your presence.'" (Acts 2:25-28, referencing Psalm 16)
When we encounter quoted scriptures within a Biblical narrative, it's essential not to gloss over them. These citations often provide deeper understanding and connections between events, prophecies, and their ultimate fulfillment.
Peter, amidst the gathering, made a profound statement. Drawing from ancient scriptures, he connected a millennia-old debate to Jesus. Despite the numerous interpretations by esteemed rabbis across generations, Peter, an untrained fisherman, clarified the meaning. His understanding didn't stem from scholarly teachings but from his time with Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In an almost expository manner, he referenced scripture. In Acts 2:29, Peter said, "Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David. He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." Peter mentioned David's tomb to emphasize that the Psalm wasn't about David's immortality but was prophetic in nature.
The logic he presented was clear. In Acts 2:30-31, Peter continued, "Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to see one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah. He was not abandoned to Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay."
Peter explained that David's Psalm was a foretelling of Jesus's resurrection. It wasn't about David but a prophetic vision of the Messiah. The essence was that Jesus wouldn't remain in the grave, and His body wouldn't decay but would rise.
Peter's revelation emphasized the intricacies of prophecy. These predictions are penned with enough ambiguity to prevent deliberate fulfillment. Yet, in retrospect, they become clear. As stated in Acts 2:32, "God has raised this Jesus, and we are all witnesses of this." By "we," Peter likely referred to the close group of disciples, underlining their testament to Jesus's resurrection.
Peter, addressing the assembly, emphasizes that many have witnessed Jesus's resurrection. He highlights a significant difference between Christianity and other religions: In all other religions, followers trust the supposed private experiences or private revelations of their religious leaders. But in Christianity, as Peter mentions, it isn't about something that took place privatley, but publically. He has multiple witnesses who can vouch for Jesus's resurrection, making their testimony more reliable and collective. This collective testimony distinguishes Christianity from all other faiths.
In Acts 2:33, Peter states, "Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear." Here, he refers to the recent miracle of the tongues of fire, explaining its significance in the context of ancient prophecies and their recent experiences.
He continues with another quote, referencing a confusing passage, "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool" (Acts 2:34-35). Peter illuminates the verse, suggesting that David wasn't just referring to his relationship with God but was hinting at the Trinity, understanding both God the Father and God the Son. This early acknowledgment of the Trinity by David is profound, considering the concept would be debated for centuries after the New Testament's composition.
Peter then offers a chilling warning, referencing the "enemies of the Lord's Son." He implies that those who opposed and killed Jesus might face dire consequences, as God has declared to make His son's adversaries His footstool.
Concluding his sermon in Acts 2:36, Peter declares, "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." His powerful message is made even more remarkable given his humble beginnings as a fisherman. But now, filled with the Holy Spirit and with his years spent with Jesus, Peter speaks with unparalleled conviction and clarity.
This man's conviction and strength emanate from his connection with the Messiah. Upon hearing Peter's words, the crowd reacts profoundly. In Acts 2:37, they respond, "When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, 'Brothers, what should we do now?'"
It's essential to reflect on their inquiry. Peter had just conveyed that they had positioned themselves as adversaries of God. Their pressing question is not merely about seeking salvation but a deeper need to make amends. The weight of realizing they had a role in the death of the Lord compels them to seek a way to rectify their actions. While many might interpret their question as a quest for salvation, it appears to be more about reconciliation. We'll delve into Peter's answer in our next discussion, as it warrants a thorough examination.