STAND FIRM, BE BOLD AND DO NOT BE SILENT IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT! - Acts 4:1-31

21st of the 3rd month 2016/2017

Shabbat Shalom all,

Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 1:17 “Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not break down before their faces, lest I break you before them.

These were the words that יהוה spoke to a young Yirmeyahu and are words that are still alive and applicable to each and every one of us today; to us who are a called out and chosen people who are to be faithful ambassadors of the coming reign of our King! In these darkened days where depravity is on the increase we are to gird up our loins and speak the Truth and not be afraid to do so! Meleḵ

The phrase, ‘gird up your loins and arise’ is written in the Hebrew as: תֶּאְזֹר מָתְנֶיךָ וְקַמְתָּte’zor matheneyḵa veqam’ta, which comes from the following root words:

1) אָזַר azar – Strong’s H247 which means, to gird, encompass, equip, clothe and is metaphorical of strength!

2) מֹתֶן mothen – Strong’s H4975 which means, loins, back, body, heart, hips, waist.

3) קוּם qum – Strong’s H6965 meaning, to arise, stand up, stand, and in the tense this is written in, it can render the clear meaning, to rise, to become powerful, to stand firm,  to be established, endure.

This instruction given to Yirmeyahu to ‘gird up his loins’ meant that he was to ‘brace himself for action’! He would not be able to stand up and be ready for action if he had not been properly equipped in the Word! יהוה had equipped him with His Word and now he was to rise up, stand firm and endure with his loins properly girded with the Truth!

This call to stand up and be girded with the Truth is one we are all to hear and diligently respond to with great faith and not get discouraged by circumstances that may seem unbearable or unfavourable! Tonight in a message called, ‘STAND FIRM, BE BOLD AND DO NOT BE SILENT IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT!’ I want to encourage you all to hear these faith equipping words of our Master and Elohim and be bold ambassadors who obey the instructions of Elohim and are not afraid to speak the Truth boldly in His Name! As I considered this action of girding up one’s loins and stand up for the Truth I certainly was reminded of the image of the Armour of Elohim that we are to be dressed in, in order for us to properly stand and continue to stand, having girded our waist with Truth! Standing armed with the belt of Truth is a militaristic type picture of one being a faithful soldier of Messiah, being dressed in righteousness and guarding His commands spotlessly!

This picture of standing up and being girded about is also a great lesson of how we are to apply the Word that we hear by faith. As taught ones of the Messiah there is a time when that which we have learnt must be applied by faith, according to the clear instructions of the Word, without wavering through compromise! We come to sit at our Master’s feet to learn and then we are to stand up girded about with His Truth that we have learnt and boldly proclaim His Truth in all we say and do, doing all in His Name as faithful ambassadors of our righteous King whom we represent!

Our Master tells us in:

Luqas/Luke 12:35 “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning

This command in itself carries immense insight and instruction when understood from a true Scriptural perspective, and as we look at the words contained herein we are able to see why!

The Greek word translated as ‘let’ is ἔστω estō – Strong’s G2077 which is the imperative of εἰμί eimi – Strong’s G1510 which means, I exist, I am, stay, remain; and so what we see here in this phrase is the clear command to ‘exist in’ or ‘stay’ dressed for action!!! This instructs us to be in a continual ready state of complete service and obedience, with our ‘loins girded’ and our ‘lamps burning’! If we are not found to exist in the proper ‘clothing’ – that of righteousness (which is our guarding to do all He commands us to) and are not ‘dressed for action’, then we shall be rejected by Him and told to depart from Him!

The Greek word for ‘loins’ is ὀσφύς osphus – Strong’s G3751 which means, hip, loin, gird about, and literally refers to the lower region of the back, the hips, and the reproductive organs; and the term, ‘to have loins girded’ means to be in readiness for anything! The expression “to gird up one’s loins” means to belt the garment which is worn ungirded in the house or in times of relaxation, with a view to greater mobility for work, for travel, or for battle etc. And here we are able to see that we are not to be ‘relaxed’ in our duties and responsibilities of a set-apart priesthood, but are to be continually watchful and alert, ready to fight the good fight of belief at all times. In speaking of Messiah, we are told what His girdle is:

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 11:5 “And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and trustworthiness the girdle of His waist. 

Now if this is His girdle, then it is our girdle, for we are His Body – the ones who stay in Him!

The word used here for ‘girdle’ is אֵזוֹר ezor – Strong’s H232 meaning, girdle, belt, waistband and we see from this that Truth must be a belt for us – strapped around our waist and loins so that we continue to walk in righteousness and not stray, for it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all that יהוה our Elohim has commanded us. (Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25)

Standing firm in the Master and having our loins girded is a clear command that is given to us and is for the clear purpose of proclaiming the Truth, no matter the circumstances we may find ourselves in!

We cannot allow circumstances to dictate our ability to stand up and have loins girded with Truth, lest we find that unfavorable circumstances causes us to be incorrectly dressed with the cloak of compromise that has loosened the grip that the belt of Truth ought to bring. This is a call to be strong and not be discouraged! Despite living amidst much rebellion to the Truth we must not allow the girded belt of Truth to be loosened from our loins! Listen to the words that יהוה our Elohim spoke to Yeḥezqěl:

Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 2:6-8And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions. Do not be afraid of their words or discouraged by their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 “And you shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. 8 “And you, son of man, hear what I am speaking to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house, open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

Being girded about with Truth and armed in the Word of Elohim we must not be discouraged by the rebellious as we must be bold in speaking the Truth, even if they refuse to listen! What we also take note of is that with the boldness that we are to speak we must make sure that our actions line up with what we speak and not be found compromising the Word by faithless actions of compromise and sin.

We have great examples that are given to us in the Scriptures, of mighty and bold servants of our Master and Elohim, as well as examples of many who were not as bold and faithful as they should have been and we need to learn from these to ensure that we remain faithful and are able to always stand firm in our Master, be bold and not be silent, especially in the midst of much chaos, rebellion and conflict that we may often find ourselves! We must always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Messiah!

Tonight I want us to look at the boldness and courage of some of the early emissaries/apostles, and learn from their example how we too must be bold and of good courage, no matter what we may be facing or who we may be speaking to.

As good and faithful soldiers of our Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah, we must be willing to stand and keep standing, girded with the Truth and not turn back from living in complete set-apartness when the battles we face get tough!

Our Master tells us that the one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the reign!

The French foreign legion has a motto that states: “If I falter, push me on; if I stumble, pick me up; if I retreat, shoot me!

This statement certainly carries much boldness in it as the motto emphasizes the fact that retreating or giving up is not an option. Their motto echoes the kind of boldness that we see Sha’ul writing about, in:

Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 10:38-39But the righteous shall live by belief, but if anyone draws back, my being has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of belief to the preservation of life.

 

While the French foreign legion may have a very inspiring motto we take note of the inspiring examples of the men and women of faith that we have been given to equip us to not retreat from set-apartness and our need to be continually girded in the Truth! Let us take a closer look at one such example whereby we can learn some key lessons of how we are to be faithful in standing firm always! Please turn with me to Ma’asei/Acts 4:1-31 (read).

Now we know that Kěpha and Yoḥanan were not part of the French foreign legion, but they certainly are an example for us of those who demonstrated the determination of not backing down from doing what a true ambassador of Messiah ought to do, after all they were enlisted in to a greater army – that of our Master and Elohim.

After being used by Elohim to heal a man who was crippled from birth and then teaching and preaching to a crowd, they were arrested, jailed, threatened and warned never to speak in יהושע’s Name ever again! What was their response to this?

They made it clear that it is impossible for them to not speak of what they had seen and heard as they responded to the elders with a clear choice of whether they thought that it was right in the sight of Elohim to listen to them more than Elohim! Putting their response into today’s terms I would suggest that there answer could have been rendered as something like this: No way – were gonna keep on; there’s no question about it! We will not stop!

We all need to learn from the example of their choices to stand firm and we must follow their example and learn from the Word of Elohim how to remain steadfast in the face of trouble and persecution.

In standing firm as faithful ambassadors of our Master we can learn some vital lessons of Truth from the events that took place in this Chapter, in regards to the strength and steadfastness of the early believers; and so apply these truths to our lives in our own effort to continue to stand firm, be bold and not be silent in the midst of conflict!

Tonight I would like to highlight 6 lessons that we can learn from the example of Kěpha and Yoḥanan on how to stand firm as a faithful witness of our Master, Elohim and Saviour, יהושע Messiah.

1 – WE SHOULD EXPECT MIXED REVIEWS

As believers in Messiah who stand firm with loins girded in the Truth we must realise that we are often going to be misunderstood, mistreated and even ganged up on at times! Have any of you ever felt like you have been misunderstood, mistreated or ganged up on, for simply standing firm as you walk in יהושע Messiah and stay in Him?

In verse 3 we see Kěpha and Yoḥanan being seized and put in jail for the night with the hope of shutting them up! Sometimes we are treated wrongly purely because of a misunderstanding. Let’s face it, whenever we communicate there is always place for misunderstanding. A philosopher once said, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.”

They may have been misunderstood but that was because those who refused to hear the Truth were rebellious and denied Messiah. When one refuses to hear the Truth and submit to it then they will never understand the Truth, which will cause them to misunderstand those who proclaim the Truth and in doing so will react harshly to the Truth! People who misunderstand you when speaking the Truth will get nasty and harsh in word or deed or in both!

There are going to be people who misunderstand us and the truths of the Good News because of their background; and the efforts of our enemy, Satan, who is the author of confusion, who will always be trying to work against us and the witness of our lives! Often people will distort what we say, distort our motives and reject our witness. How many times have you had someone twist what you say and then try to tell others that you advocate what you do not?

Still, at other times, when people are confronted with a message they don’t like, they tend to resort to violence or passive aggression, which can at times be even more dangerous!

As a believer and ambassador of Messiah we must expect to have mixed responses to the message that we are living out in our witness and lifestyle, as we do all, whether in word or deed, in the Name of יהושע Messiah!

Do not let mixed reviews discourage you from standing firm in the Truth! What we take note of here in this Chapter is that despite the negative reviews of a misunderstanding people there were many who heard the Truth and believed! Take note that there will be some who will hear your message and respond in the right way, no matter how many may misunderstand you!

 

2 - WE SHOULD LEARN TO SEE OPPOSITION AS OPPORTUNITIES

How we view things, in many ways, determines what we deem to be reality, for outlook often determines outcome! If you look at this event that we are discussing today through the view that the glass is half empty, you could easily find yourself focusing on the emissaries discomfort and mistreatment. After all they were arrested for speaking the Truth and boldly proclaiming the reign as our Master commanded! They were mistreated for obeying יהושע! They spent a night in an uncomfortable jail cell! Then they came face to face with the same people who sentenced יהושע to death! A whole lot of negativity to focus on, if that is what your focus is on! Our attitude however needs to be different; we need to see it as יהוה opening an opportunity to present the Good News: יהושע Messiah – the very Name that most do not want to hear!

They were given a one on one, face to face opportunity to present the Good News and Truth to the very leaders who had, within their own man-granted authority, the ability to help in opening the door for the Good News to be told to others.

Kěpha and Yoḥanan were unlearned, ordinary men who were now given an opportunity to speak with the elite in the land.

We must always see the opportunities יהוה enables us to have when facing opposition; instead of trying to bail out and give up! We are to stand firm, be bold and witness and not be afraid of the faces of the rebellious!

Kěpha and Yoḥanan were not stupid! What the elite of the land saw was two men who were unschooled in their rabbinic system, yet these two men were very learned in the Torah of Elohim, having sat under the proper teachings of יהושע Messiah, the Author and Perfector of our faith and His Torah!

We must never be intimidated by those who are learned in the theologies and dogmas of man but must exercise boldness in our study of the Torah that we meditate upon day and night upon, and not be afraid to speak the Truth that our Master teaches and equips us with through His Word, as we are led by His Spirit! We must see any opposition that is brought by those who claim to be learned in the theologies and doctrines of man as opportunities to plainly witness the clear Truth!

 

3 - WE NEED TO LET יהוה DO THE WORK THROUGH US

Kěpha wasn’t speaking “on his own”; but was being led in what to say by the Spirit of Elohim. The prophetic words of יהושע in Mattithyahu/Matthew 10:17-21 was being fulfilled! Listen to this:

Mattithyahu/Matthew 10:17-20 But beware of men, for they shall deliver you up to sanhedrins and flog you in their congregations. 18 “And you shall be brought before governors and sovereigns for My sake, as a witness to them and to the gentiles. 19 “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it shall be given to you in that hour what you shall speak, 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.

When we faithfully walk according to the Spirit, which is to walk in the Truth according to the Word without compromise, then we shall always be ready to be given what we shall speak. These two men could speak of what they knew and what they had learned from the Master, yet their boldness came from being filled with the Spirit of Elohim! We too must always be ready to speak up and not be afraid that we will not know what to say. As we meditate on His Torah day and night and make His Word our daily study then the Spirit of Elohim will give us His Truth to speak and quickly bring to remembrance the Truth that we have learned! How often have you found that when you are witnessing to others that the Truth just flows and afterwards you stand amazed at how you could remember all the things that you spoke? This is what happens when we are bold in proclaiming the Truth and allow His Spirit to lead us and bring to remembrance His Word that is to be upon our hearts and in our mouths, to do it!

When confronted with questions of the Truth do not fret about what you should say but be at peace and stand firm in the knowledge that our Master will give you what you need to say! What we must also recognise here is that those who are not making the Word of Elohim their delight and who neglect to study and meditate upon it will not have boldness to be led in Spirit and Truth, for the Truth is not in them!

4 – WE MUST NEVER COMPROMISE

Compromise is a dangerous thing. Our approach may vary but our message must always be the same. Kěpha and Yoḥanan did not compromise their message of the Truth in any way, when confronted by the elders! They did not back down or water down their approach in order to appease the ears of their accusers! We can never compromise the Good News in fear of offending anyone who is listening! So many remain silent when they ought to stand up and be firm and bold in proclaiming the Truth and this is not an option for a true ambassador of the reign! We have been given a purpose and that is to proclaim the reign of our Master and keeping silent for fear of what others may say is nothing more than compromising one’s witness and renders one unfit to be called a witness of the Good News!

Kěpha and Yoḥanan did not compromise their message just because they stood before the elders and those who accused them for doing good! Kěpha’s message to the elders and rulers was the same as what he gave to the crowds, which was simply this: יהושע is the Messiah that you have been waiting for, there is no other! You are the reason that He died! He was raised from the dead! We are witnesses of Messiah and our lives have been changed because of Him! He is the Only Deliverer and it is only in His Name that men can be saved!

The message may certainly have contained more details when talking to the seeming intellectuals of the day yet the message of salvation was the same. We can never compromise the pure message of our Master by compromising our witness in any way. We cannot and must note change our witness, whether in word or deed, before others who may try to intimidate us!

5 - WE MUST CONTINUALLY SEEK יהוה TO STRENGTHEN US WITH BOLDNESS AND NOT BREAK DOWN BEFORE THE REBELLIOUS!

What you will notice is that Kěpha and Yoḥanan were noticed by their accusers for their boldness in verse 13, then after they had been released and had reported back to the other believers what the elders had said to them, they prayed to יהוה and asked that He give them boldness to speak His Word and then in verse 31 we see that all the believers were filled with the Set-Apart Spirit and they spoke the Word of Elohim with boldness!

Do not rely on ‘past victories’ but always rely on יהוה, continually seeking Him with your all, in order to be strengthened with His joy to boldly proclaim His Word!

Boldness is one of the key elements that we see in this chapter and the Greek word that is used here for ‘boldness’ is παρρησία parrēsia – Strong’s G3954 which means, freedom of speech, confidence, boldness, publicly’.

Boldness (παρρησία parrēsia – Strong’s G3954) is possible as a result of our guilt having been removed by the blood of Messiah:

Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 4:16Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of favour, in order to receive compassion, and find favour for timely help.

Boldness is not arrogance! It is confidence in the Master and is an active expression of our belief and trust in Him!

Eph’siyim/Ephesians 3:12 “in whom we have boldness and access, with reliance, through belief in Him.

If our trust and belief/faith is weak we will not be equipped with a proper boldness to speak His Word and perhaps one of the reasons why so many lack the courage and boldness to speak the Truth is that their belief/faith in the Master is weak, especially as they get intimidated by unfavourable circumstances or the threatening presence of unbelievers! For this reason it is important that we pray for each other to be filled with much boldness in speech and word, as we take note of Sha’ul’s words in reference to the Armour of Elohim that we are to take up, be girded in and stand firm in:

Eph’siyim/Ephesians 6:17-20 “Take also the helmet of deliverance, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of Elohim, 18 praying at all times, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, watching in all perseverance and supplication for all the set-apart ones; 19 also for me, that a word might be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to be bold in making known the secret of the Good News, 20 for which I am an envoy in chains, that in it I might speak boldly, as I should speak.

Having the helmet of deliverance speaks of our confidence in the Master’s redemptive work in our lives and having a secure mind in the Master equips one to pray and watch with perseverance. We take note of the responsibility we have to pray for one another, so that we all may be bold in proclaiming the secret of the Good News!

Sha’ul proclaimed the Master with much boldness, no matter what he went through and we take note of the last two verses in the book of Ma’asei/Acts:

Ma’asei/Acts 28:30-31 “And Sha’ul stayed two entire years in his own rented house, and was receiving all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the reign of Elohim and teaching about the Master יהושע Messiah with all boldness, unhindered.

Nothing hindered his boldness in proclaiming the reign of Elohim and teaching about our Master יהושע Messiah! Nothing should hinder our boldness in doing so too! We too can have boldness in our walk and witness if we feed on the Word, pray and serve and worship the Father in Spirit and Truth! When we display true confidence and trust in Messiah we can make a difference and be bold in our proclamation of Him and His coming reign, however when we allow circumstances and people to hinder our confidence and faith then we will not be as bold as we should and have no effect on others!

Do you display confidence and trust in the Master or do you allow trials and tough situations get you down?

Is your belief/faith in the Master evidently seen in your life or do others not know what you believe?

We can make a difference through our character, and guess what – trials develop character, praise יהוה for them! Do people notice the character of Messiah in you, especially as you go through trials?

We can be bold in presenting the truth – why – because it is the truth! We must never back down, be silent or timid in our presentation of the truth, and this is true for every area of your life. Stand firm, be bold in Messiah and do not be silent!

 

6 - WE NEED TO REJOICE AT THE VICTORIES יהוה BRINGS

I think that one of the most important things that is often overlooked and neglected is the proper praise and rejoicing that we ought to have in the victories that our Master brings! All too often we may find that troubles and hardships become the focus of our attention which causes us to overlook the victories that should be rejoiced in! It is important for us to stop and thank יהוה for the victories and blessings He brings. We must always have an attitude of gratitude.

Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in all circumstances give thanks, for this is the desire of Elohim in Messiah יהושע for you.

There was much to celebrate in the events that we see taking place here in this Chapter 4 of Ma’asei/Acts! A man who was over 40 years old and had been crippled from birth was healed! Kěpha and Yoḥanan got the opportunity to proclaim Messiah before the elders and intellectuals of the day, and did so with much boldness! They did not focus on the hardships but rejoiced and prayed and went with much boldness and declared the Truth and were willing to die for it!

When we neglect to rejoice and give thanks to יהוה the danger of allowing the circumstances and threatening looks of others to affect us can cause us to compromise our need to be bold and our obedience can be hindered!

When commanded not to speak in the Name of יהושע they did not get discouraged but remained strengthened in the Truth of obeying Elohim who calls us to proclaim His Name, make known His Name and boast in His Name!

 

In the next chapter we again see Kěpha and the other emissaries speaking with boldness and declaring that they have to obey Elohim rather than men!

Ma’asei/Acts 5:29 “And Kěpha and the other emissaries answering, said, “We have to obey Elohim rather than men.

We cannot allow the fear of man to grip us and cause us to be silent! An example that we can learn a vital lesson in this regard is from the poor example of the wicked king Sha’ul who disobeyed the voice of יהוה because he feared the voice of man and did not obey the instruction of putting all Amalĕq under the ban, but kept the sovereign of Amalĕq, Aḡaḡ, alive and kept the best of the sheep, and the cattle, and the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not put them under the ban. But all goods despised and worthless, that they put under the ban. Sha’ul claimed that he had kept the best to slaughter to יהוה in an attempt at excusing away his disobedience to the clear instructions of יהוה.

Shemu’ĕl Aleph/1 Samuel 15:22-26Then Shemu’ĕl said, “Does יהוה delight in burnt offerings and slaughterings, as in obeying the voice of יהוה? Look, to obey is better than an offering, to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of יהוה, He also does reject you as sovereign.” 24 And Sha’ul said to Shemu’ĕl, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the command of יהוה and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25 “And now, please pardon my sin, and return with me, and let me bow myself to יהוה.” 26 But Shemu’ĕl said to Sha’ul, “I do not return with you, for you have rejected the word of יהוה, and יהוה does reject you from being sovereign over Yisra’ĕl.

Sha’ul feared the people and compromised his obedience and this rebellion is as the sin of divination! I often think that many do not realise just how wicked compromise is; for if they did then they would not get flustered by the fear of others and compromise their obedience, but would stand firm, be bold and speak and do the Truth unhindered!

Kěpha and Yoḥanan had gone through a difficult experience, but they came through it stronger than ever, why? Because they stood firm through the conflict; they realised that they would have mixed reviews; they learnt to see opportunities in opposition; they allowed יהוה to work through them in confident and bold faith; they never compromised; they were confident in יהוה’s ability above their own and they rejoiced in the victories that יהוה brings and made known the Name of יהושע Messiah!

As we consider the boldness of Kěpha and Yoḥanan, Sha’ul, Yirmeyahu and Yeḥezqěl to name a few, along with the example of rebellion displayed by king Sha’ul, let us take care in recognising our need to:

STAND FIRM, BE BOLD AND DO NOT BE SILENT IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT!

 

Will you be a faithful taught one of the Master and gird up your loins and arise and speak His Truth! The harvest is plenty and the workers are few, will you be bold in proclaiming and not let anything or anyone cause you to compromise your message, in word or deed? Will you pray for the other set-apart ones and continue to give thanks to Elohim and obey Him without compromise? Then…

STAND FIRM, BE BOLD AND DO NOT BE SILENT IN THE MIDST OF CONFLICT!

יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show favour to you; יהוה lift up His face to you and give you Shalom!!!