when ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. and great fear came upon all who heard of it. the young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. [acts 5:5-6]
ananias did not fear the Lord–he did not heed the words found in the law and the prophets. he undoubtedly would have known, and should have listened to the words of the prophet jeremiah:
be appalled, o heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. [jeremiah 2:12-13]
ananias and sapphira conspired, committing these two evils–first, ‘they [forsook] the fountain of living waters”–God’s providence and gift of Jesus, the Holy Spirit that indwelt within them–they sought their own glory, seeking recognition that was due to God, believing that God could not provide something better than recognition or money. second, they “hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”–they believed that keeping money back from the assembly would benefit them financially, even though these ill-gotten gains would have only provided fleeting pleasures.
we are not told if ananias was a true believer–ananias’ instant death in some ways could have been a mercy to him–when we violate God’s commands and turn away from him, what we deserve is eternal damnation–if he was a believer, any death followed by paradise is much preferred to the alternative.
comfort in death
ultimately, the reason why ananias (and his wife) died was to demonstrate the holiness and glory of God–this death was meant to appall, astonish and shock the new believers, they would feel the desolation of their sin and repent. we are to be in awe of and to fear God–this fear leads to a lifestyle marked with confession, repentance and running to Jesus!
so read this and fear o christian, but do not stop there–take comfort brothers and sisters that God orders even our life and death–the heidelberg catechism begins this way:
q. what is your only comfort in life and in death?
a. that i am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
he has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. he also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
because i belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
let us in our fear by driven to the only one who can save us, Jesus, and be comforted that he holds us in our life and our death–let us live and die for the glory of Jesus!