“..who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Thy servant, didst say, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ.’ ” Acts 4:25-26 (NAS)
The apostles, after receiving their first taste of persecution in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, quote Psalm 2, verses one and two, as a prayer for the Lord to intervene on behalf of the fledgling church.
This Old Testament passage is fairly familiar to most. Commentators have noted that the quote found in Luke’s inspired record is virtually word for word from the Septuagint translation. The NASB translation of this passage reads: “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His anointed.” Often we’ve been urged to read the Scripture, memorize Scripture, and pray through the Scripture. Here in Acts chapter four, we have a good example of why sound leaders in the church espouse these exhortations for our benefit. At a critical juncture of the church’s development, the apostles are moved to quote Old Testament passages in a prayer of intercession to God that they would “speak Thy word with all confidence” (Acts 4:29) in the face of strong opposition. They knew they needed to lift their voices to God, citing His word, knowing the Lord would execute His will as revealed in Scripture. Interestingly though, is the name they use to call upon Him. The NASB says this in Acts 4:24: “O Lord, it is Thou who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them” The word we see translated in English as “Lord” is not the typical Greek word used, which is kyrios. It’s the Greek word despota, from where we get our English word “despot”. Our understanding of the word despot is of someone who rules absolutely over someone or something, such as a nation or people. That is what the root meaning of the Greek word means as well. Besides being translated as “lord”, it’s also translated as “master” in the New Testament. Some other passages worth reading to get a complete understanding of its use are: Luke 2:29, 1Tim. 6:1, 2 Tim. 2:21, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18 & 3:6, 2Peter 2:1, Jude 4 and Rev. 6:10. We see then, that the apostles’ statement acknowledged God’s ultimate power to direct all things in this realm and in particular, the ultimate power to deliver them. As Brother Jerod Schaefer has reminded us, we need to seek the Lord through prayer as our first resource and not as a last resort. The apostles provide the pattern from which he speaks. Concerning the fact that there will be powerful worldly forces arrayed against the LORD and His anointed should come as no surprise. From the earliest chapters of the first book in the Bible, Genesis 3:15, we are told that there would be enmity between the seed of the woman (a reference to Christ, and His heirs) and the seed of the serpent (Satan and his sons of disobedience). Since the garden, the Slanderer of old has been hard at work gathering his forces, conspiring to bring down the Lord’s anointed in every era, from David to Christ to the church. From the people who don’t like being fettered from doing what they want to do, to those who reside in powerful positions captivated by the boastful pride of life being told they are not the ultimate authority who rules absolutely over their subjects. Whenever the church stands and proclaims there is a “Lord of Lords” whose name is Jesus Christ, to whom they will answer, you can be assured there will be attempts by them to devise a plan to shut the mouths of the church. Be assured, as the apostles and early church were, that their plans and their stand will be in vain. God’s plans and purposes are what will be brought about and carried to fruition. Turn your requests upward to Him in times of persecution, which are sure to be ratcheted up in the not so distant future, knowing as His anointed He will insure you execute His purpose just as the first century church did. Do you see a threat on the horizon? So does He. So what will you do? Follow the example, turn to our benevolent “despota” and ask, “now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence” (Acts 4:29), citing His word and calling on Him to assist us in fulfilling His will, the purpose entrusted to His servants of preaching the word. Amen.