Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11 NIV
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Acts 10:9-19 NIV
The book of Acts unfolds the incredible story of how the gospel spread from Jerusalem, to all of Israel, and then to many parts of the Roman empire. In the beginning, the message was given to Jews, but Gentiles heard the gospel also. In Acts 9:43 we see that, “Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” This was unusual for a Jewish believer at this time. Because a tanner spent his day working with animal skins, his job was considered unclean and so was often despised by Jews who were concerned with remaining ceremonially clean. Yet, Peter was living with an “unclean” tanner in Joppa.
In Acts 10:9, we read that, “Peter went up on the roof to pray.” He was posturing himself to talk to God and to listen to him. This reminds me of the story in I Samuel. “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening,’” I Samuel 3:8b-10.
Peter showed a willingness to associate with an “unclean” person by staying with Simon the Tanner. Next, he prayed and God gave him a vision about clean and unclean animals. During the vision Peter is instructed to eat animals Jews considered to be unclean. Peter said, “‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,’” Acts 10:14-15. Peter pondered the meaning of the vision, then invited the gentile visitors into the house, and traveled with them to Caesarea to share the gospel with Cornelius the next day.
Peter’s vision and Samuel’s calling were unexpected, but both postured themselves to listen to God’s leading. We need to do the same. This week spend some time in prayer – using a psalm as a guide. Psalm 25 and 37 are conversations that include prayer requests, praise, worship, and answers God gives to the psalmist. Try reading and praying through one of these psalms. Pause to listen to what God is telling you from his word.
By Grace Hunter