The Game is Over Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Sapphira, whose name means “beautiful” or “sapphire,” was the first woman singled out for prominence in Acts. But Sapphira failed God. Throughout the ages, her name has been linked, not with “beauty,” but with deliberate deceit.
Ananias and Sapphira will pay a terrible price for their deception, but if God struck down all of those who pretended to be totally committed to the Kingdom, we would see many empty pews in our churches.
People can be easily fooled, but God is never fooled.
Now let’s look at the discovery of the deception.
Verses 3 and 4 say, But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Peter was prompted by the Holy Spirit to make an examination of the gift. The Holy Spirit most likely gave him a special discernment into the circumstances. When Ananias brought the money, he expected to be commended as others were, but Peter took him to task about it.
There were no witnesses to the crime; however, the Spirit of God in Peter discovered the facts. Probably, no one in the world knew what they had done except the man and his wife; but God knew. If the sin had been caused by some great temptation, Peter would have taken him aside, and told him to go home and get the rest of the money, and repent of his foolishness; but he knew that he had his heart set to do this evil thing, so Peter did not give him the opportunity to repent.
Note that he showed Ananias the origin of his sin when he said Satan filled his heart. Satan had suggested it and even assisted him. The sin itself was that he had lied to the Holy Spirit. The lie was not so much to the apostles, but to the Holy Spirit in them.
There are similar stories in the Old Testament. Allow me to recount just two.
The first is the story of Achan; recorded in Joshua, chapter 7. It begins with the announcement, But the Israelites did not obey the Lord.
There was a man from the tribe of Judah named Achan. He kept some of the things that were to be given to the Lord; therefore the Lord became very angry at the Israelites. When the Israelites attacked Ai, they were defeated, because the Lord did not help them. When Joshua complained to the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua, “The Israelites have sinned; they have broken the agreement I commanded them to obey. They took some of the things I commanded them to destroy. They have stolen and lied and have taken those things for themselves. That is why the Israelites cannot face their enemies. You will never defeat your enemies until you throw away those things.”
The Lord told Joshua to have the tribes present themselves, and He would choose the one who had sinned; the one who had lied and tried to deceive God. That person would be destroyed by fire, and everything he owned will be destroyed with him. Early the next morning, Joshua, had all of Israel present themselves in their tribes, and the Lord chose the tribe of Judah. So the family groups of Judah presented themselves, and the Lord then chose the family group of Zerah. When all the families of Zerah presented themselves, the family of Zabdi was chosen. And Joshua told all the men in that family to present themselves. Then, The Lord chose Achan.
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, tell the truth. Confess to the Lord, the God of Israel. Tell me what you did, and don’t try to hide anything from me.”
Achan answered, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I did: Among the things I saw was a beautiful coat from Babylonia and about five pounds of silver and more than one and one-fourth pounds of gold. I wanted these things very much for myself, so I took them. You will find them buried in the ground under my tent, with the silver underneath.”
So Joshua sent men who ran to the tent and found the things hidden there, with the silver. The men brought them out of the tent, took them to Joshua and all the Israelites, and spread them out on the ground before the Lord. Then Joshua and all the people took Achan to the Valley of Trouble. They also took the silver, the coat, the gold, Achan’s sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, tent, and everything he owned. Then all the people threw stones at Achan and his family until they died. Then the people burned them.
After this, the Lord was no longer angry.
The second story is a familiar one; the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11)
Bathsheba was the beautiful wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was a trusted and loyal commander in the king’s army. Once when Uriah was away on duty in the army, David saw Bathsheba taking a bath, and wanted her. He took her by force and was intimate with her. When Bathsheba knew she was pregnant by the adulterous encounter with King David, she sent word to him.
David brought her husband home from battle, hoping Uriah would enjoy intimacy with Bathsheba and thereby consider himself as the father of her unborn child. When this plan went awry, David arranged for Uriah’s death on the battlefield, then sent his messengers and brought Bathsheba to his palace. David’s deceit was not a secret for long because God revealed it to the prophet Nathan. He confronted David with his sin and David repented and sought God’s forgiveness. But the damage was done, and even though God forgave him, David paid dearly for his sin. The child by Bathsheba died despite David’s fasting and pleading before God. Eventually, they had another son; Solomon would be the next king after David.
The lesson from the stories of Achan, David and Bathsheba and Ananias and Sapphira is crystal clear-God knows everything that is going on in our lives.
Galatians 6:7 says, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Ecclesiastics 12:14 declares, For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
And in Matthew 12:14-16 we read, Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there.
Then in Romans 2:16 Paul wrote, in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
We do not deceive God. We can only deceive ourselves.
Finally, let’s see that the price of deception is high.
Look at what happened to Ananias.
Verse 5 says, Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.
He died on the spot. It doesn’t say whether Peter expected that he would be struck dead or not; however, after he died, he probably did expect that the same thing would happen to Sapphira. This punishment of Ananias may seem severe, but we can be sure that it was just and that it was necessary to uphold the honor of the Holy Spirit. It was a great disrespect that Ananias had shown for the Holy Spirit and it could have invalidated the apostle’s testimony; for if they could not discover this fraud, by the power of the Spirit, how could they discover the deep things of God which they were to teach to the people? Also, his death was an example to the people of how dangerous it was to resist the Holy Spirit; and this experience brought great fear to the other church members.
Now, look at what happened to Sapphira.
Verse 10 says, Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
In this verse, we are told that several hours later, Sapphira came to Peter. She, too, was questioned about the price of the land. She was unaware of her husband’s death, so Sapphira repeated his deceit. Therefore, Peter also charged her with the crime against the Spirit of God. He told her of Ananias’ death and then predicted her own impending death. Immediately, she fell down and died and was buried next to her husband.
The deaths of Sapphira and Ananias stunned and frightened the small congregation. God showed Sapphira and Ananias, as well as the Jerusalem church, that He allows no dishonesty in His relationship with His disciples. Through the tragic story of Sapphira, the “beautiful,” God continues to show women that one’s relationship with the Lord must be based on more than outward beauty and empty promises—that is, upon the integrity of a heart commitment.
Through the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the Bible gives the clear picture that we cannot deceive God.