Peter and John gave a lame man a new life when they healed him at age 40 (v. 22). 40 is the number of testing (Ex. 24:18; Num. 14:33,34). So the healing of this 40-year-old means Israel was being tested to see if they’d accept the Spirit through the message of the Spirit-filled disciples (Acts 2:4).
The lame man lay each day outside the temple, but didn’t have the strength to enter (Acts 3:2), a type of the nation Israel, who was just outside the kingdom, but didn’t have the strength to enter it. But the only reason the people of Israel were being tested is because they failed to receive the Lord’s offer to escort them into the kingdom, typified by the lame man that He healed (John 5:1-8). He was lame 38 years; the apostles healed a man “above forty,” or 41. That three-year difference symbolized the Lord’s 3-year ministry. They could have been offered the kingdom 3 years earlier!
Peter told the Jews to save themselves from that generation (Acts 2:40) just like the Jews in Moses’ day had to be saved from the generation that died in the wilderness (Num. 32:13).
Most Christians today would pray, “Lord protect us from the rulers who are threatening us,” but the apostles didn’t. They started their prayer by acknowledging God was creator of all things and could save them if He wanted (Acts 4:24), just like Hezekiah did when the King of Syria threatened him (II Ki. 19:15). But they didn’t ask for deliverance like he went on to do, for they knew where they stood in God’s program.
We know that because they quoted Psalm 2 (Acts 4:25,26). This shows they knew they were living in the time when the rulers of the Jews would get together with the kings of the Gentiles to kill the Lord. They call Him God’s “child” (4:27) to emphasize the enormity of Israel’s crime. Only a monster kills a child! They were telling God they understood why He was about to judge the world, as Psalm 2 went on to predict.
The Lord had to die one way or another, as they point out in Acts 4:28, but God wanted them to recognize their messiah and execute Him in faith, not crucify Him in unbelief. That didn’t give the Jews or Gentiles any excuse for crucifying Him though, any more than it excused Judas (Luke 22:22).
The disciples asked God to notice the threatenings of the leaders for the same reason Hezekiah asked Him, to get Him to do something about it (Acts 4:29 cf. Isa. 37:17,20). So why didn’t they ask for deliverance like he did? It was because, like him, they knew where they stood in God’s program.
Hezekiah lived under the law, which said that if Israel was good, God would save them from their enemies. They’d been good, so he asked God to keep His promise, and He did (Isa. 37:26). But the apostles knew the Lord had said it was time for them to be killed (Mt. 24:3), not delivered.
Of course, not all believers will die in the Tribulation. So why didn’t they ask to be among those who will be delivered? It was because they knew it was more important to ask for boldness (Acts 4:29).
God hasn’t promised to deliver you from anyone’s threatenings either. In fact, the apostles were wrestling with their earthly rulers while we wrestle with the fallen rulers of Satan’s unseen kingdom (Eph. 6:12) who teach “doctrines of devils” through preachers (I Tim. 4:1). So we should ask for the same boldness Paul did (Eph. 6:18,19).
As we read on, we see the disciples still called the Lord “child” (Acts 4:30) because they preached the resurrected Christ, and resurrection is a new birth (cf. Acts 13:33). It was their way of saying they were thinking like God, that the slate had been wiped clean, and Israel was being given a fresh chance to receive the “child” mentioned in Isaiah 9:6.
The apostles prayed for miracles to help them be bold (Acts 4:30) because the Lord had promised to give them (Mark 16:17-20). Do you see the importance of praying according to God’s will? If not, notice that when the Lord was threatened He prayed, then chose the 12 (Lu. 6:11-13). That means He probably didn’t pray to be delivered from them. Since He knew He had to die, He likely prayed for help choosing the 12 as Isaiah 8:14-16 told Him to do after they rejected Him.
Video of this message is available on YouTube: Life Begins at Forty – Acts 4:22-31