opposition

The Book of Leviticus

Wednesday: Principles Learned from the Offerings: Leviticus 1:1-24:23

The last offering was the guilt offering, and it was made for damage that was done to another person or to another person’s property. We mustn’t think, of course, that if you damage somebody’s property either deliberately or by negligence, that all you had to do was go to the temple and present an offering. That would be an easy way to get off the hook. No, Leviticus describes very carefully what you have to do. You have to repay it, and then you have to add twenty percent—a fifth of the value—and then you had to give it to the person whom you had defrauded on the very day you went to present your offering.

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Complaints and Opposition

Monday: The People’s Complaints: Numbers 12:3

In the first ten chapters of Numbers, everything seems to be going well. The people are commended for obeying God, and the idea that they did what God commanded them occurs again and again. Yet when we come to the eleventh chapter, the tone is different and the people are complaining. This is a beginning of a series of complaints that’s going to go throughout the whole book.

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Complaints and Opposition

Wednesday: Moses’ Complaint: Numbers 12:3

Starting in verses 10 and following of Numbers 11, we come to something that is not a very attractive moment in Moses’ life. Moses gives vent to his frustration in a long, angry prayer. It’s surprising to find it here, because in the very next chapter he is going to be described as the meekest man who ever lived. Meek? Yes, he really was. But here in this prayer he really expresses his frustration as he is complaining bitterly to God:

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Complaints and Opposition

Thursday: Miriam’s Opposition: Numbers 12:3

In chapter 12, the story becomes one of opposition, hard hearts, and divisions within the camp. The opposition that Moses is now facing comes from within his own family circle, from his brother Aaron and his sister, Miriam, who seems to be the ringleader. The ground for this attack was the fact that Moses had taken a Cushite wife. Moses’ first wife, Zipporah, was from Midian, and so it seems that she had died and that Moses had taken a second wife who was Ethiopian. If this is correct, then Miriam was saying, “I don’t like this black woman in my family.” So it’s not only sibling rivalry, it’s the worst kind of racial prejudice.

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Complaints and Opposition

Friday: Learning from Moses: Numbers 12:3

The story wraps up with two examples of intercession. First, Aaron looks at Miriam and he is aghast at what he sees. He turns to Moses and pleads with him to do something. While he’s interceding with Moses, he confesses his own sin and links himself with Miriam, saying, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed” (v. 11). Maybe he is afraid something is going to happen to him. But he intercedes on behalf of his sister with Moses. Second, Moses intercedes with God, and God answers that He will be gracious and heal her.

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Opposition from Without

Tuesday: Who Is Balaam? Numbers 23:19-20

What kind of a person was Balaam? At first glance he seems to be quite a noble character. He uses the name Jehovah, for example. He is being hired to curse Israel, and yet he maintains what we would probably call professional integrity, saying, “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God” (Num. 22:18), and “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth” (v. 38). Some scholars have studied this story and said very commendable things about Balaam. Did Balaam intend from the beginning to do what was right?

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Opposition from Without

Wednesday: Balaam’s Donkey: Numbers 23:19-20

What is happening in this story of Balaam and the donkey, which we find in Numbers 22:21-35? First, Balaam is pushing the donkey onward until he is brought up short by God’s angel. In exactly the same way Balak, the king of Moab, keeps pushing Balaam onward to curse Israel until he is brought up short by God. Second, just as God opened the donkey’s mouth to speak to Balaam, so God is going to open the prophet’s mouth to speak God’s true words of blessing on Israel. Even though the donkey spoke, she wasn’t a true prophet; so also, Balaam’s speaking doesn’t make Balaam a true prophet, either.

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Opposition from Without

Thursday: A Messianic Prophecy: Numbers 23:19-20

The second oracle is given in Numbers 23:13-26. Kings don’t easily give up, and Balak’s not about to give up. So he tries another tactic. He thinks that maybe he has gotten Balaam in the wrong place. He’s at a place where he could see all the mass of the people. Maybe a different site with a different view will produce a different result. So Balak takes him up to the top of Mount Pisgah where, from this vantage point, he only sees a part of the Hebrew people. Just as they did before the first oracle, they again offer sacrifices. But in spite of the change of location, the sacrifices, and the wishful thinking of the king, the result is unchanged.

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No Other Name

Monday: Opposition

In the fourth chapter of Acts we have a record of the first persecution. I do not know if, on this occasion, Peter remembered what the Lord Jesus Christ had said about persecution. But it might be that when he was dragged before the Sanhedrin he recalled that Jesus had prophesied persecution for all who followed Him.

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No Other Name

Tuesday: The Apostles’ Teaching

In opposition to the early Christians we know that the priests and their families, the police force, and the Sadducees were all part of the opposition. But it is not only these who were involved. In verse 5, Luke lists other people as well, three more categories: 1) “the rulers,” 2) “the elders,” and 3) “the teachers of the law.”

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No Other Name

Wednesday: The World’s Methods

It is interesting to notice the methods the authorities used in their offensive against the disciples. They used the world’s methods. That is, they used force or power, because naked power is the only weapon the world really has.

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No Other Name

Friday: Jesus, the Only Way

As we have already seen, at Peter’s arrest he did not merely try to defend himself. He used the opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ. There were four points to his sermon. We have already looked in detail at the first two points: 1) their guilt in crucifying Jesus, and 2) the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. In today’s study we continue with the second two.

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The Riot in Ephesus

Monday: Opposition

In last week’s study we saw the remarkable success Paul’s preaching had at Ephesus. He stayed there for two years, and he taught every day. As a result of this effort, the Word of God spread from Ephesus throughout the entire Roman province of Asia. But it was not without opposition. In the second half of Acts 19, we see how opposition developed in Ephesus because of all that was being accomplished through Paul’s preaching.

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The Riot in Ephesus

Tuesday: The Gospel’s Success

The riot in Ephesus, described in Acts 19:23-41, was a proof of Paul’s success. If Paul had come to the city and had simply made a tiny, little beginning, with only a few people meeting perhaps somewhere in a home, none of this would have happened. A movement like that would have had no impact on Ephesian society. But the fact that there was a riot and so many people got stirred up in defense of Artemis is proof of how successful the preaching of the Gospel had been.

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The Riot in Ephesus

Wednesday: Appealing to Numbers

There are two spirited defenses of Artemis in this chapter. Demetrius gave his first. We have his speech in the first paragraph, that is, in verses 23 to 27. Then, beginning in verse 35, the town clerk does much the same thing. By this time, he was already quieting the uproar, but he gives many of the same arguments Demetrius used, though in different language.

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The Riot in Ephesus

Thursday: Appealing to Emotions

As we have seen, the appeal to numbers was the argument used at Ephesus. Demetrius said, “Everybody worships Artemis.” Not everybody did, of course. Paul and the other Christians did not. But even if everybody else did, that alone did not make Artemis a true goddess nor her worshipers right. Just because you are told, “Nobody believes that anymore” (or the reverse, “Everybody does it”) doesn’t mean you should be part of the majority.

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The Riot in Ephesus

Friday: Christian Impact in the World

What was the outcome at Ephesus? For one thing, the Christians were vindicated. Paul was not attacked, and he was eventually able to leave Ephesus, seemingly without any trouble. To us that may seem somewhat incidental, but it was not incidental to Luke since he records in detail (as he did at Corinth, where Gallio would not listen to the accusations brought against Paul) how Paul and the Christians were vindicated. Those who were in charge said, “These people have done nothing wrong.”

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Gentiles! Gentiles!

Monday: When God Intervenes

It is good God intervenes like this. Sometimes you and I act wrongly. We are prepared to do wrong things—perhaps with good motives, but quite often with bad motives—and God simply slams the door to the action for us. He will not let us do it, because what we do matters to God, even if at the moment it does not seem to matter a great deal to us.

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Gentiles! Gentiles!

Tuesday: Paul Is Rescued

Paul was arrested as a result of an attempt by a Jerusalem mob to have him killed. Verse 27 says that this began because some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. Asia refers to the Roman province of Asia, what we call Turkey. Its capital city was Ephesus. Paul had spent two years in Ephesus and was well-known there.

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Gentiles! Gentiles!

Wednesday: Paul’s Defense

Paul gave a magnificent defense. He actually used the word “defense” (Acts 22:1). In Greek it is the word apologia, from which we get our word “apology.” It refers to a formal defense of one’s past life or actions.

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Gentiles! Gentiles!

Thursday: Paul Describes His Conversion

The second thing Paul talks about is his conversion, when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul had been consumed by zeal for his religion. It had blinded him to what he was actually doing. But when Jesus appeared to him, he suddenly understood. God had stopped him short. Before this he had thought he was doing God’s work. But when Jesus suddenly appeared to him, he learned that in persecuting Christians he had been persecuting the very Son of God, opposing what He was doing in the world.

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Gentiles! Gentiles!

Friday: Only through Christ

But as soon as he uttered the word “Gentiles,” the mob reacted violently and would have killed him if it could have done it. Why did they object to that word? They were objecting to Paul’s persuasion that Gentiles could be saved without adhering to the law of Moses—without circumcision, without the temple worship, without the sacrifices—without, to put it very simply, first becoming Jews.

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Paul in Roman Hands

Monday: Paul the Prisoner

Paul had been a free ambassador of Jesus Christ for nearly twenty years, but in Acts 22 he passes from being a free man to being a prisoner of the Roman state. We would think that being in Roman hands would be worse than being in Jewish hands. But we soon discover that Paul was better off in the hands of the secular authorities than he would have been in the hands of his own people. They were trying to kill him, after all.

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Paul in Roman Hands

Tuesday: The Role of the State

When we see the Roman government functioning wisely and according to the law, as it did in these circumstances, we see the state functioning as it should function. What is the role of the state? In the Western world, we have fanciful ideas of what we think the state should do for us today. But the role of the state, as the Bible speaks about it, is just twofold. The state exists: 1) to establish, maintain and assure justice; and 2) to provide for the defense of its citizens. Justice and defense.

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Paul in Roman Hands

Wednesday: Before the Sanhedrin

We move to the second stage of the story, and here we find Paul with his own people, represented by the Sanhedrin. This was because the Roman commander, who recognized that he still did not have the full story and could not understand why the Jews were so incensed against Paul, commanded the Sanhedrin to make a case. The text says, “The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews” (Acts 22:30). He must have thought that once he had a concrete accusation he would be able to decide what to do.

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Paul in Roman Hands

Friday: Living in View of the Unseen World

When Paul stood before the representatives of Rome, he appealed to his Roman citizenship. When he stood before the Sanhedrin he appealed to his conscience. But over and above that and at all times, Paul appealed to and relied upon the Lord. If we rely on the Lord, He will be with us also, give us the words we need to speak and bless that witness, however uncertain and stammering, to the conversion of other needy individuals.

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The Plot To Murder Paul

Tuesday: The Christian’s Foe

The story is straightforward. Paul had been attacked by the Jerusalem mob and had almost been lynched. Yet he had escaped from the Jews’ hands because of the Roman troops’ intervention. It was the Romans’ job to keep peace in Jerusalem, especially in volatile times like these, and the soldiers did it very well. Paul was taken into custody, and it would have seemed to all who were in Jerusalem, Jews and Romans alike, that in the keeping of this large military force Paul was now certainly very safe. Yet there were men in the city, known as zealots, who were determined that the apostle should not escape their hands. There were about forty of them, and they got together to take an oath that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul.

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The Plot To Murder Paul

Thursday: The God of Our Circumstances

As we noted in yesterday’s study, God often uses the little things in life to accomplish His purposes. That is the way God operates, and it is worth reflecting on it. Why? Because if that is the way God is accustomed to operate, if God delights in using little things, then God can use us, however small or apparently insignificant we may be.

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The Plot To Murder Paul

Friday: “Still Will We Trust”

I cannot tell you what God is doing in your circumstances, of course. I cannot see the future any more than you can. But God is doing something in your circumstances. And if you are going through dark times, as Paul was, if you are discouraged, if the way seems dark, if you are weary with the struggle, the message of this chapter is to continue to trust in God and serve him regardless. His purposes for you will be accomplished, the day will brighten, and the will of God will be done.

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The Trial Before Felix

Monday: Testifying before Secular Authority

The twenty-fourth chapter of Acts contains the account of the apostle Paul’s appearance before Governor Felix. Paul had finally come to where he was to testify before the rulers of this world. When God sent Ananias to Paul shortly after Paul had seen Jesus on the road to Damascus, He told Ananias, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). There are three parts to that, and Paul had already fulfilled two of them.

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The Trial Before Felix

Thursday: Felix’s Delay

The third charge against Paul was that he had tried to desecrate the temple. In response to the first charge, that he was a troublemaker, Paul pleaded that he was innocent. He was no troublemaker. In response to the second charge, that he was a ringleader of the Nazarene sect, Paul admitted the accusation but rephrased it. In the case of this third accusation, Paul emphatically denied it.

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The Trial Before Felix

Friday: Turning to Christ Today

Felix was a judge, but he died. And when he died, he appeared before that one who will not postpone His judgments and who does not accept bribes. So far as we know from Scripture, Felix is in hell at this moment. One day you will stand before that great Judge too. You will have to give an accounting for what you have done and for what your life has been. How will you stand in that day? Make sure that you are not like Felix. Come to Jesus while there is still time.

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The Trial Before Festus

Monday: God’s Work in the Little Circumstances

One of the amazing things about God’s work in the life of a Christian is the way in which God uses circumstances to bring about His own desirable ends. These are not necessarily large or dramatic circumstances, like the death of someone close to us, an exciting new job opportunity, or a world war. Often it is little things that God uses, like an offhand remark in conversation, a missed appointment, or a “chance” meeting. The apostle Paul has been an example of that many times in the early chapters of Acts. We see an additional unfolding of God’s plan for his life through circumstances in the chapter to which we come to now.

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The Trial Before Festus

Tuesday: The Accusing Jewish Leaders

Acts 25 tells of the trial of the apostle Paul before Festus. Compared to the account of the trial before Felix, which is given in chapter 24, and the account of the trial before King Agrippa, which follows, this narrative is relatively brief, no doubt because what happened here was of less significance for Paul and also because most of what happened has already been covered in the earlier story. In some ways, it is only a repetition of the charges and responses, but before another judge.

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The Trial Before Festus

Wednesday: Governor Festus

Festus was a good administrator. Yet he had his own serious flaw, and in this respect he was much like his predecessor. He wanted to please the people. He wanted to show the Jews a favor. A person might say, “When you’re in charge of something you have to get along with those you govern.” That is true, of course. But this was a legal matter. Paul was on trial. Any giving of favors in this situation was in reality a perversion of justice and the abuse of an innocent man.

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The Trial Before Festus

Thursday: Paul, the Accused

Luke, the author of Acts, says that although they brought “many serious charges against him,” they could not “prove” them (v. 7). So all Paul had to do in these circumstances was deny the charges. The burden of proof rested with his accusers, and Festus, being a perceptive judge at least in this respect, understood it and knew that there were no grounds for condemning the apostle.

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The Trial Before Festus

Friday: Standing for Righteousness

To repeat an important point from yesterday’s lesson, you and I face a world whose value system is hostile to the standards of the Lord Jesus Christ and in which we are constantly pressured to compromise or deny our faith. How are you and I going to stand for righteousness in a world like that? Let me suggest three ways.

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The Trial Before King Agrippa

Monday: Paul’s Third Formal Defense

The account of Paul’s appearance before King Herod Agrippa II begins at Acts 25:13 and continues to the end of Acts 26. It is a large section of the book, so large that it would be desirable to divide it, were it not so clearly a single story. These verses recount the third of three formal defenses of the apostle Paul before the secular authorities subsequent to his arrest in Jerusalem.

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The Trial Before King Agrippa

Tuesday: The Setting for Paul’s Address

When we see the impressive things of this world—positions, power, and pageantry—they usually seem to be what is lasting or stable. Indeed, what could be more stable, more impressive, more weighty than the Roman Empire in the person of those who represented it? Yet Luke is suggesting that all that was seen were fantasies, things that even then were in the process of passing away.

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The Trial Before King Agrippa

Wednesday: Paul’s Story

The apostle Paul had been called by God, and he knew it. He had been given a commission, and he understood his commission. He was not about to be overpowered by the display of the Roman court. Paul’s story has generally been told in three parts, and that is what is done here.

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The Trial Before King Agrippa

Thursday: Paul’s Witness

The third part of Paul’s defense before King Agrippa had to do with his service for Christ following his conversion. Paul stresses a number of things. The first thing he stresses is his obedience, though he couches it in negative form: “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (v. 19). One of the first marks of our conversion is that we obey Jesus Christ. We might even call it the first mark, except that faith itself is the first evidence.

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The Trial Before King Agrippa

Friday: Pursuing What Lasts Forever

The Gospel stirred up opposition on this occasion. Paul did not even get to finish, though he seems to have been near the end of his address. Festus, who had been listening all this time, interrupted, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane” (v. 24). He had never heard anything as crazy as the Christian Gospel in his life.

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