And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.…
The Church, on hearing of the recent events, break out into expressions of joy. As usual on such occasions, the voice of ancient sacred song becomes their voice.
I. OUR HELP IS IN THE CREATOR. Man's need and weakness lead him now to shun and now to seek almighty power. There are awful moments when the soul's sin seems to have called the lightning and the thunder from the sky, to have awoke the threat of the earthquake, the storm, and the sea. Other exultant moments, when the solemn sounds of the deep heart of nature are like the cannon of a friendly force advancing to a beleaguered city's aid. The most powerful conqueror, like Napoleon amidst the snows of Russia, may be in turn conquered by the physical forces of nature. The moral forces represented in the will of the Almighty and All-Holy cannot be successfully resisted. This is the deep truth in the Davidic psalm.
II. PHYSICAL FEEBLENESS WITH MORAL MIGHT.
1. In the case of David and his kingdom. Study the historical circumstances reflected in the psalm. Look at the tiny kingdom of Judah, placed amidst great foes on every hand. She led a threatened life for ages; it seemed impossible she could survive. Yet the small one became a thousand, the vine grew in spite of every cropping fox or wasting boar, the little lodge in the garden was not overthrown till it had sent forth a ray of light over the lands. Moral life, derived from the immediate inspiration of God, was in her. The enmity of the world served but to elicit and mature that life.
2. In the case of Christ and his kingdom. The like relation is repeated in another form. Corrupt Israel joins with pagan Rome in the attempt to suppress the truth and resist the will of God. David, the anointed king of Jehovah's selection, is the type, in a lower relation, of Jesus, the anointed Prince in the higher and purely spiritual relation. Upon this analogy hope is firmly built. As the great prince of olden time had risen in Jehovah's might superior to all his foes, so might his Antitype be expected to lay prostrate faithless Israel's and proud Rome's might beneath his throne of moral majesty.
III. PRAYER THE INSTRUMENT OF WEAKNESS AND OF STRENGTH. Of weakness, for it implies dependence; and were our wishes convertible into facts, there would be no prayer. Some form of helplessness alone brings men to their knees. Yet it is the expression of strength; for strength in weakness is the very secret and heart of moral energy and of Christian piety.
1. The aim of prayer. It is that the human spirit may be united with the Divine, whether in action or in suffering. Action lay before the suppliants now - action chiefly or wholly by utterance, which is ever the special action of the Christian witness. Boldness in that utterance - the very thing which had impressed the Sanhedrim in Peter and John - was the thing needed. The renewal of strength must come in prayer. God grants at one time only sufficient for that time. He does not allow the accumulation of capital. He lends that we may spend and come to him again. But boldness must rest upon the knowledge of facts. So closely does courage link with knowledge that the Greek philosopher even said they were identical. Without some evidence that God is on our side, we cannot have the heart to go on. Where, then, may we look for such evidence? The apostles sought it in the manifestation of Divine energy to cure. This was the significant symbol of his presence and of the intention of the gospel in those days. They were justified on the ground of experience, clear, repeated, and definite, in expecting this kind of encouragement. We, on the ground of our experience, are entitled to expect something different, but equally in its way real. Divine energy to heal through ways and means not less Divine because natural, we are to seek and make an object of our prayer.
2. The answer to prayer. In this case it came in a manner not to be mistaken - by an immediate impression on the senses and on the inward consciousness of all The house trembled; their spirits vibrated to the inner touch of God; their tongues were loosed, and the sought-for fluency and confidence were given. How can we apply this to modern times? No sober Christian teacher dares to encourage the expectation of such "signs and wonders" now. They belong to a past mode of religious consciousness, a disused mode of revelation. For "God fulfils himself in many ways." How important to know in what direction to look for God - the point on our horizon where he may be expected to appear. Much, the greater part, must be left to individual experience. Let every worshipper seek for the Shechinah in his heart. And in general, let us teach that no special manifestation of God is to be expected out of the lines of clear intelligent experience. Experience is itself the ordinary and most precious revelation of God's will. And the experience of every soul, devoutly read, contains past wonders, and prophesies their recurrence. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.