“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 23

‘Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.’

Acts 10:17-23

Are you at the place where you are wondering: “Okay, what comes next? Because I have no idea, and I don’t even know what the next right, or good, thing is!”

Just before this story from Scripture, Peter has been given one piece in a large puzzle that God is putting together. Peter’s piece of the puzzle is a vision he just received: The heavens opened; a large sheet – like a tablecloth – descended; and, in it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice says: “You can eat what you want.”, but Peter won’t have it: He is a Jew who obeys strict laws, laid down in Scripture, about clean and unclean food. Then the voice speaks a second time: “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15)

Peter must have thought something like: “This just cannot be…  It can’t be true. This does not match up with what I know about God in Scripture…”  And yet, Peter can’t deny that he’s been given something in this vision. What can he do, but wait for God to act – to confirm in the world, what God gave in the vision.

That is crucial, isn’t it? We can be so possessed by a vision – a picture of the way things should be – that we think it must be from God. And yet, if there is no confirmation in reality; if an event does not fulfill the vision; if we are not sent someone by God, who says “Amen” to our vision, then it may not have been from God at all.

Peter, though, has been given something by God: a puzzle piece that God will use to build his Kingdom. The vision, Peter discovers, is about who he can eat with. Seems trivial, but that’s the significance of the different animals he sees in the vision: If Peter can eat those animals, he can eat with the people who prepare and eat those foods – Gentiles, and not just Jews. In Jesus Christ, the covenant that God began with Israel, is now opened to the world: If Jesus is your King, you are welcome at the Lord’s Table. We know this is the meaning of the vision, because the Cornelius’ men appear and the Lord speaks to Peter: “Go with them, for I have sent them.” The Lord will put this all together, one piece of the puzzle at a time.

God is piecing his Kingdom puzzle together, revealing his purposes to Peter and Cornelius, so that we – almost two thousand years later – can know that this is often how God works. Trust God to provide each piece, for each step on the way. God will give a new vision, and then will provide friends and opportunities to do the new thing that He wants to do. Though you might look at the piece you’re currently holding, and wonder: “What am I supposed to do with this?”, sooner or later, God will provide the next puzzle piece, and you, and He, and your new friends in Christ, will step into the new thing that God wants to do.

Prayer: Lord, I’m stuck. I don’t know what comes next, but I have to admit that it seems like you’ve given me the piece of the puzzle that I’m holding now. Father, help me to see what I should do. Help me to reach out to the person – or the people – you are sending my way. I believe I’m involved in something much bigger than just me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! Amen.

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