Gamaliel, known as one of the most important rabbis and Pharisees of the time, knew the Law, the Old Testament scripture. But not in the way most of us know some verses from our Bible. He knew it because he had memorized it. Word for word. Rabbis took the Law that seriously. They didn’t have to get the scrolls out of the temple or dust them off. They knew them without looking. That intimate knowledge was one of the tools they wielded over the people – “we know, you don’t, so you must listen and do what we say.”
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Why oh why do we continue to go to His Word as the last resort rather than the first? @Grace_and_Such
In Acts 5, the Pharisees are getting all riled up about these disciples of Jesus who are ‘stirring up the people,’ who are making noise and pulling people away from the Law (and their authority). They were not happy. They were probably thinking that they had put this problem to bed when they killed their leader, ignoring and disbelieving anything that smacked of the resurrection.
So Gamaliel, witnessing all of that and knowing scripture as well as he thought he did (missing the parts that taught of Jesus), tried to calm things down.
For if their purpose is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. ~Acts 5:38
Gamaliel advised them to ‘consider carefully’ what they were thinking of doing. Remember those so-called prophets who came before, men ‘claiming to be someone.’ They failed. These guys would too.
But he also knew, based on the writings of prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel, that if these men were truly from God, they (no matter what earthly authority they possessed) could do absolutely nothing to stop it, and might actually be in big trouble (like the God kinda trouble, the fire and brimstone kinda heat) if they tried.
When we look for direction, when we want desperately to do what God wants us to do, I too often seek after my own counsel first and, embarrassingly, only. I stroke my own ego, as the Pharisees did, thinking I know all that needs to be known, so of course I should just decide myself, based on the wonder that is me. And the direction that the wonderful me comes up, so often dripping with how others will perceive me, what others will think, how to make sure that nothing ruffles feathers. I so value those I can see, that I want my actions to reflect well in their eyes, thus validating me. Somehow.
Gamaliel missed what was happening right in front of his eyes, but at least he sought what he thought God would want them to do. Yes, it smacked of self-importance and preservation of the status quo of power and authority. Yes, it dripped with the arrogance of the intellectually proud. All of that and more. But at least he tried.
In Matthew 6, in his teaching on worry, Jesus teaches us to ‘seek first his Kingdom,’ and everything else will fall in line. God knows what we need. Period.
Drop the mic and walk off stage.
Who are we seeking after? If we know that we know that we know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, why oh why do we seek first the opinion of others, or seek only the prideful ego-drive of our own counsel alone.
Why oh why do we continue to go to His Word as the last resort rather than the first. I am working hard towards being more like a well-informed, Jesus-loving Gamaliel who knows the Scriptures so well that it is a natural thing to think in that direction. First.
Who are you seeking first?