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Obeying God

And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.

There is a legend in Greek mythology about an old sailor who was piloting his ship through the rough waters of a stormy sea. In his extremity he stood erect and cried to the gods, "Father Neptune, you may sink me if you will, or you may save me if you will, but whatever happens, I will keep my rudder true!" While sailing the tempestuous Aegean Sea, this old captain exhibited the kind of determination necessary for anyone who would stand by his convictions.

In the development of the early Church, the apostles and early followers of the Lord Jesus frequently found themselves at odds with the Roman government and with the Jewish religious establishment. Acts 5 records that the high priest rose in indignation, accompanied by the Sadducees, and cast the apostles into the common prison for preaching in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. But while they were incarcerated, an angel of the Lord appeared, opened the prison doors during the night, and set the apostles free. The command of the Lord's angel was, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." With renewed freedom and determination the apostles "entered into the temple early in the morning and taught" (Acts 5:21). Although they knew that teaching in the name of the Lord Jesus would most certainly mean additional imprisonment, these apostles obeyed the word of the Lord rather than the wishes of man.

When it came to the attention of the religious officials that these apostles were again teaching in the temple, the indignation of the Jews rose to a fever pitch. The captain of the temple and the chief priests once again brought them before the council and the high priest asked, "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Now the situation worsened; the apostles were faced with the decision whether to defy the direct orders of the religious senate and avoid persecution or to accept the persecution as a consequence of standing up for their beliefs. As usual, Peter was the spokesman, and he said, "We ought to obey God rather than man." The die was cast. Unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, these apostles chose certain imprisonment rather than disobey the direct command of God to preach in the name of Jesus.

Frederick the Great once invited some notable people to his royal table, including his top-ranking generals. One of them was Hans von Zieten, a devout Christian. Von Zieten declined the emperor's invitation because he wanted to attend a communion service at his church. At a subsequent banquet Frederick the Great and his guests mocked the general for his religious beliefs and derided the Lord's Table. In great peril of his life the officer stood to his feet and said respectfully to the monarch, "My lord, there is a greater king than you, a king to whom I have sworn allegiance even unto death. I am a Christian and I cannot sit quietly as the Lord's name is dishonored, His character belittled, and His cause subjected to ridicule. With your permission I shall withdraw." The other generals present at this occasion trembled in silence, knowing that von Zieten might well be killed for his stand. But to their surprise, Frederick grasped von Zieten's hand, asked his forgiveness, and requested that he remain. Frederick promised that he would never again make light of such serious spiritual matters.

Occasions do arise when we must obey God rather than men. When they arise, we must be willing to suffer the consequences, whether it be ridicule, as in the case of Hans von Zieten, or even imprisonment, as in the case of the apostles. That to which we are subjected because of our stand for Christ is not our concern. Our concern is that we take the stand.

MORNING HYMN Stand up, stand up for Jesus, The trumpet call obey; Forth to the mighty conflict In this His glorious day. Ye that are men now serve Him Against unnumbered foes; Let courage rise with danger And strength to strength oppose.

Devotional is used with permission from the author. It may be used solely for personal, noncommercial, and informational purposes. Republication or redistribution of this devotional is prohibited.

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