Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.
Chiffon Margarine had a series of commercials in the late 1970’s in which “Mother Nature” would appear and taste what she thought was sweet cream butter. The announcer’s voice would then reveal to her that she had not sampled real butter but stick margarine. Mother Nature would then deliver the tag line “It’s not nice to fool with mother nature”, and with a wave of her arms, thunder clapped and natural calamity followed. For those who fool with the Holy Spirit, supernatural calamity follows.
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Posing is temporary. The Holy Spirit who reveals truth (John 14:17, 16:13) to those He fills, cannot be fooled and fools should beware of Him. Ananias and Sapphira misrepresented their generosity with the offering they laid at the apostles’ feet, but their duplicity was short-lived. Ananias died under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit as Peter questioned him. Carefully constructed facades can only mask unsightly deceptions for a short while when an all-knowing God is involved.
Posing is ugly. Sapphira’s name means beautiful, but her full participation in her husband’s lie shows us that beautiful people can sometimes do very ugly things. Just like Ananias, so also was Sapphira called to account. Both were offered an opportunity to tell the truth and repent, but both persisted in their deception. When Sapphira affirmed the lie, “Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.” Her body fell to the place of submission, the same location offerings were laid—at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-36). God was not mocked, but in his justice He was satisfied. God the Spirit is beautiful in His holiness, but when He judges sin it is ugly.
Posing is strange fire. Ananias and Sapphira have an Old Testament counterpart. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were priests like their father. However, unlike their father, they made an unauthorized offering to the Lord of fire mixed with incense, and they knew better (Leviticus 10:1-7). God’s justice was swift, poetic, and horrible. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them. Moses then turned to his grief-stricken brother and offered these words, ““This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” Notice that both of these incidents center on the disposition of the ones making offerings to holy God. Both Nadab and Abihu and Ananias and Sapphira made offensive offerings. They were not motivated by the Holy Spirit nor by faith, but rather foolishness, so their offerings were lies. One may rightly reason that those who offer strange fire, get burned.
How can we be sure we won’t get burned? To the woman at the well, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). We must worship God in spirit and truth, but how can we be sure we are? Jesus is the answer. His person and work is the centerpiece of Christian worship. His Spirit lives in His Church and leads His worshippers into truthful worship of the Father. We have a relationship of total dependency on Christ, our mediator; he is our true fire screen before the consuming fire of holy God.
My friend David loved to take me to visit his grandmother and great grandmother. A dear soul, his great grandmother was nearing ninety years of age and was as fragile as one might imagine. On cold winter mornings, she liked to warm herself by the fireplace, but on one such occasion she could not feel the heat very well so she removed the fire screen to stand a little closer. Unfortunately, she got a little too close and her clothing was set ablaze, badly burning a large portion of her skin. She was able to make an arduously painful recovery, but I have never forgotten her.
Jesus is our fire screen before holy God. We need Him to keep our worship honest so that we don’t stand too close the fire.