Acts Devotionals

The Greater Picture

There is something we Christians need to grasp and understand in our hearts and minds. It is this … the Christian God is the God of the Bible, the God who created all things from absolutely nothing and is the only true, living God. There is no other. He is the One who came to planet earth to correct the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. He took on flesh, yet remained sinless. He was executed in the place of all He chose before the creation of the world so that their sin might be pardoned and erased, that they might be redeemed and adopted into His eternal Kingdom to be with Him in His heaven when their earthly life is completed. We are His children and He shall care for us. We are His children and He shall hold our hand as we journey through this life with all its pitfalls, hardships and sufferings. He shall bring us, however bruised and battered we are, safely into His heavenly Jerusalem to be with Him. As we continue in the Book of Acts with particular reference to Paul and his service for God, we see how God held his hand and how God stood with him. Let’s remember the above and continue in life focused on the crown of glory and not upon the many distractions of the here and now.

1) We concluded yesterday speaking about “oath takers”, bringing a curse upon themselves should they not kill Paul. Would it be true to say they failed? Or would it be better put that God out foxed them?

Ac 23:12 The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

Here’s the glorious issue about man versus God. Man makes plans but should they be outside the will of God these plan shall fail!

Pr 19:21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.

Surely God is aware of the thought before it is in the mind and the word before it is on the tongue. This being so, surely He is many steps ahead of those seeking to foil His plans for the Gospel. Did these wicked Jews believed in the Sovereignty of God? After all, they declared:

Dt 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Verse 4 is known as “the Shema. Shema is a Hebrew word meaning “to hear or listen”. Surely they were only Jew in name and birth but not in the heart!

2) Family to the rescue … or rather, Paul’s God and Father to the rescue!

Ac 23:16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

How did Paul’s nephew hear of this plot? We may speculate but will eventually arrive at the conclusion that the Lord who “stood near” to Paul in the barracks allowed the nephew to be at the right place, at the right time, to hear of this wicked plan and relay it to Paul. One cannot but see this as the Sovereignty of God at work. The comfort to us is that God in His Sovereign grace is always conscience of our present and future situations. Like with Paul, He always works a plan for us … we only need to be ready to see the plan!

3) Paul takes action.

Ac 23:17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.”

You might have a question to ask here. Something like … “Why would Paul try to prevent being lynched and save his life when if he died he would be in the presence of the Lord Jesus? Did he not say he believed in the resurrection from the dead?” True … but our Lord had a mission for him. He needs to reach Rome and present the Gospel there. This means he is required to do his part in fulfilling Jesus’ plan for him and protect himself. In many different ways we could place our lives in jeopardy, which could well mean us not being able to fulfill God’s will for us. There are many ways we could consider doing our part in protecting ourselves by considering how we drive, where we drive, not permitting ourselves to be in dangerous situations and generally, not being foolish about what we do and where we go. Paul calls a centurion (Roman soldier) requesting his nephew be taken to the commander.

4) Paul’s nephew is taken to the commander who agrees to an interview.

Ac 23:18 So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” 19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?” 20 He said: “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.” 22 The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

(1) The commander gives the nephew permission to talk by saying … “What is it you want to tell me?”

(2) The nephew relates the story brought to his attention. The reality of such an incident would be most dangerous for the commander because his duty was to protect Paul, the Roman Citizen. His future could be death should he be found responsible for losing a citizen of the Empire, especially when in his custody. If this young man, Paul’s nephew knew of the plot, his family would as well. Should Paul be lynched and killed, the family could blame him and this would not look good when it came to his superiors.

(3) In sending the young man away, the commander says … “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.” Naturally this was to protect the nephew but more, to protect Paul. He immediately formed an action plan … which we shall get to tomorrow. But for today … there is a fine line as to how we do storytelling. It is our duty to protect the Christian Church. This we need to do at all costs. It does not matter which Church it is as long as the Church teaches the Bible faithfully and proclaims the Gospel to needy souls, showing the way of salvation. Gossip though must be withheld and deleted from the memory, but when we hear of things that could endanger a Gospel outlet we need to stand up and support it in any way we are able. Never see a true Christian Church as an opposition. We are working on the same side, serving the same Lord and moving in the same direction … to Glory.

Our Father, help us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even when we are not in the same Church, cause us to see the greater picture of working towards Your Kingdom’s growth, nourishment and protection. Amen.

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