January 3

Questions with Strange Answers: Acts 1

Acts 1:6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Psalm 139:1-2 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.

Jeremiah 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.

This exchange is the model for all subsequent “Questions with Strange Answers” entries in this devotional. There is a question coming from one perspective, and an unexpected response coming from another, more godly perspective. In between the expectation and the answer is the good stuff.

As Jesus did here with His disciples, God doesn’t always answer us according to how we pose questions to Him. Yet His answers are His answers, and we must pay attention to them. We often accuse God of not answering our prayers when in fact He has answered—just not along the lines of how we phrased the question.

In this instance, the disciples had gotten the mistaken impression, along with many of their countrymen for many years, that Messiah was going to be a military and political figure like King David, throwing off the yoke of whatever rulers were oppressing them at the time. In the time of Jesus, it was Rome.

Jesus could have made this exchange another teachable moment, as He had done with so many of their other questions. He could have taken the time to talk about the Suffering Servant, or that His Kingdom was not of this world. Instead, He looked into their minds and hearts and answered them with as much precision as He could.

He first pushed away the blatant error: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons….” Then He answered the more important question that lay at the bottom of their inquiries: “What do You wish us to do to extend Your Kingdom?” To that question, He provided a clear picture: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….” This was how the kingdom was to be extended.

The disciples were unable to understand life on the other side of the Holy Spirit outpouring at Pentecost until it happened. Jesus knew that, and didn’t bother trying to explain it to them; they were going to have to experience it themselves. Then they would know what to do.

The Lord is still answering us that way. His response to our prayers is often: “It’s not for you to know. It’s for you to do.” When we want to know, we need to listen closely to His answer. It may well be direction or instruction instead of knowledge. But as with the disciples, when they obeyed, they also came to understand.

Prayer: Father, help me to hear what You’re saying as I bring things to You in prayer. Change my heart and my mind so that I can more easily receive what You’re saying to me, no matter what it may be. Thank You that You hear me, and that You know what is best for me to do.

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