Acts Day 262 - A Conspiracy
23:12 When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who formed this plot. 14 They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.”
No matter how many times I read these stories I have to keep reminding myself that these men are followers of God. They are likely husbands and fathers. They have memorized the words of God that He wrote with His own finger on tables of stone. Among those words were and still are these: "You will not kill". If they were devoted Jews they even had the words written on a tiny scroll and strapped inside a tiny box on their forehead or forearm.
In spite of all that they are not just prepared to kill, they have made an oath that they will kill. As if that were not enough they have made their plan know to the chief priests and elders, the very men who are supposed to be teaching them not to kill.
Today there has been an explosion of conspiracy theories, everything from the moon landing was a hoax to Hilary Clinton being part alien. On the other hand there has been a huge backlash against all these theories and this is equally crazy. No there is not "more to the story" behind every event that happens but sometimes there is. History has taught us that sometimes men in powerful and responsible positions, positions of honour and trust commit horrible crimes. They have used their position and the faith placed in them to do reprehensible things. Yet as bad as those realities are, it is infinitely worse when it is done in the name of God, a God who wrote with His own finger "You will not kill."
The burning question is why? Why would men with wives and children who attended the synagogue week after week commit to the murder of a man. What drove them to swear they wouldn't eat or drink until the task was completed? Think about it. Paul never did anything that affected them personally. They barely knew him. Most of his life had been spent far from Jerusalem.
It wasn't Paul they were trying to kill. Not really. It was what he represented. He was a threat to their ideas. He was a threat to their culture, their nation, and their religion. People "like him" could "ruin" them.
They weren't really followers of God at all. Jesus had already exposed them. They were followers of their father the devil. He was a murderer from the beginning and they were just like him. They had murder in their hearts. Nationalism, patriotism, and devotion to manmade religion were their gods. Self-preservation was their highest calling.
The same scenario has repeated countless times throughout history. Someone rises up who is perceived by their ideas as a threat to the status quo and he must die.
It started with Cain and Abel. It escalated to the point that we killed the Son of God. Nothing should surprise us after that and yet it still does. Man's inhumanity to man seems to know no limits.
Our hearts either belong to God or they become as hard as steel. Who has your heart?
Acts Day 263 - When the Enemy Makes Plans
23:16 But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.” 18 So he took him and led him to the commander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.” 19 The commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, “What is it that you have to report to me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. 21 So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the summons from you.” 22 So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, “Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.”
Be sure your sins will be uncovered.
Way back in 2 Kings 6 the king of Syria is furious because every time he sets up an ambush against Israel or plans some kind of attack his plans are discovered before he can ever carry them out. Finally he became convinced that one of his own men was in informant. When he confronts them they deny any wrongdoing. They know what the problem is. "King it is that prophet in Israel (Elisha). He knows the words you speak in your own bedroom."
God knows. God sees. God hears. You can take it as bad news if you wish. I do not. I'm glad God is ahead of me. I'm thankful He tries to thwart my plans to sin. Even more than that I am thankful He has an eye on the enemy of my soul. I'm grateful to know the ambushes the devil would love to set beside my path are exposed and dealt with by God before I ever have to face them.
If you have any plans at all to follow Jesus you can be certain Satan wants you dead but you are still here. Why? Because Jesus knows the words Satan speaks "in his own bedroom".
"The Lord camps around those that fear Him and He delivers them." Psalm 34:7
2 Kings 6:14 Therefore he (the king of Syria) sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city(where Elisha was). 15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."
If God is for us (and He is) who can succeed against us? (Romans 8:31)
Acts Day 264 - This Couldn't Happen to Me, Right?
23:23 And he called to him two of the centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.” 24 They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor. 25 And he wrote a letter having this form:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings.
27 “When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. 28 “And wanting to ascertain the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their Council; 29 and I found him to be accused over questions about their Law, but under no accusation deserving death or imprisonment.
30 “When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing his accusers to bring charges against him before you.”
Bizarre isn't it?
Everywhere Paul has been in Asia and Greece and beyond people were praying for him. They didn't think they would ever see him again. They thought Jerusalem would be his last stop. It almost was. Even with the leadership of the church supporting him and hatching a plan to try and convince the masses that he was not what they thought, they nearly killed him.
As if being almost killed by your own fellow believers isn't bizarre enough, what happened next was far more strange. Paul was not rescued by angels in chariots of fire like Elisha was. He was rescued by Romans - pagan Romans. Did you see the military force that was gathered to escort him from the city so Paul could meet with Felix the governor and have a fair hearing on neutral ground? The operation was even carried out during the night to increase the chances for Paul's safety.
Let's review again so it has a better chance to impact our thinking:
A man of God who was being prayed for by believers who loved him went to the capital city, the birthplace of his nation, and of the Christian faith. There he was attacked and nearly killed by his own people, the church, "God's people". In order to rescue him and answer the prayers of believers all over Asia and Greece God sent a Roman commander, a pagan Roman commander to give him protection and a place of safety.
Paul was safer by an immeasurable amount in the hands of pagan soldiers than he was in the hands of his own fellow believers.
If that doesn't give you reason to pause and reflect I'm not sure what would.
Jesus said "They will hate you because they hated Me first."
Solomon wrote: "What has been will be again, there is nothing new under the sun."
Here is the thought that has stopped me in my tracks. It is possible for me while believing I am a Christian to be so far from Christ that I believe His true followers to be enemies...