We are in the Church Stream today and continuing the story of the Apostle Paul. He is in the early stages of his journey to Rome. Today is our final day this week to read from the New International Reader’s Version.
Paul is on an “interlude” if you will – between missionary journey 3 and 4. You might argue that this opening story and his departure from Jerusalem are the beginning of his 4th journey; his trip to Rome. Sometimes y’ feel for this man, wishing he could find a peaceful place to rest besides a prison cell. At any rate,
22:22ff – he has just finished a speech to fellow Jews and they are furious that God has told him to go preach to Gentiles. Well, did they want him to stay and preach to them? Would that make them cease from chanting for him to die? I doubt it. Stay or go, they despise him, and it’s further assertion that he has a ministry that is to affect Western Culture permanently. He was in a tough crowd in Jerusalem that wanted him dead and it was purely emotion; mob mentality. He has broken no law. A Roman is then assigned to take him in and whip him. Paul being of multiple citizenships, among them, he is a Roman citizen. That thwarts this whipping, after a perfunctory conversation.
23 – The Roman then takes him before the Sanhedrin. After some near assaults, Paul is finally allowed to get around to speaking. It turns out that Paul is respectful of the Law. They are simply all bothered with him because he believes in the Resurrection of the dead who will rise in the end to face God. Paul is taken out w/o corporal punishment. That night the Lord appears to him encouraging, in word, to be strong. Paul has testified in Jerusalem. Next he is to testify in Rome. Meanwhile, there is a plot to kill Paul underway. Paul’s nephew heard of it, told a commanding officer who then assembles a crew of 470 people and 70 horses to sneak Paul out of town. An official letter is written to Governor Felix and sent with the party that accompanies Paul to Caesarea. Paul plus “posse” plus letter arrives and Felix is not terribly moved so he holds Paul in Herod’s Palace.
24 – Ananias arrives in Caesarea with some buddies and starts by flattering Felix, then Ananias launches into his hollow charges against Paul. Paul then speaks and gives a cogent rendition of his beliefs, his mission, and his heart for touching lives with the love of God. His agenda is clear. Upon Paul’s finishing this, Felix must have thought, “what is anyone’s complaint with this man?” Felix then cuts him some slack and they speak intermittently throughout the coming months. Felix doesn’t release him completely, but won’t charge him for he has not violated Law. He has only threatened the Sanhedrin and Sadducees since he believes in Resurrection. Felix eventually passes on. He doesn’t let Paul free because he wanted to do the leadership in Jerusalem a favor. Now what?
Paul has certainly come through another harrowing passage in his journey. My husband and I have met hundreds upon hundreds of missionaries in our day and one thing they never testify to is boredom! They deal with alot of variables – but boredom is not on the menu for them. It never has been. We can say this about Paul: it is exciting to walk out his calling over and over again.
Looking back on the week there seemed to be a motif that rang through the passages each day. It could be called, “going through the vortex”. If we were rafting, we could say, that we were in the steep rapids; the class 4 & 5 section all week. If war, we could call this, ‘the thick of battle”
~In Genesis 40-42 Joseph is called from prison to stand before the world’s most powerful man. He is soon “in charge … of the world’s fate” and before long there are his brothers right in front of him going through their vortex. They are hungry, and scared and cannot leave and reckon that the fate of a betrayed brother is haunting them. They must press forward.
~In Samuel wickedness and treachery had overtaken the tabernacle and Eli needed to die – with his sickening sons. The ark is stolen then those who stole it have a horrible lesson to learn. When it is returned, the Israelites are reminded that the Ark is nothing to be trifle with. TOUGH!
~Job sits in front of God who lays out dozens of unanswerable questions for Job. This is far more intense than standing before some apparition on a wall at the end of “The Wizard of Oz”. It is real, it is God, and his voice leaves no one the same. But Job too must pass through this to move into a blessed time in his life.
~Isaiah 40-42 speaks of a time of great blessing and peace but in the finale~ of 41 there is a judgment coming for the generations of disobedient behavior. God does not delight in punishing, but it is something that is inevitable and they must endure this. Obedience would have been better all along but Israel basically wouldn’t
~Daniel 10 was a vision that out did anything that could possible be produced in the zaniest High Definition, Three Dimensional, Virtual Reality setting created at any expense. Daniel has one more vision to receive and share with the world. It wiped Daniel out and took him to the ground, but it had to happen so that all history could know what God was bringing about.
~Matthew 22-23 has Jesus giving the corrupt leaders “the business.” He levels accusations against them that sting like nothing else could. This had to happen. The people need to stop following these quacks in their religious oblivion. Jesus would pay a price for his devastating monologue. But this needed to happen too for their response led to our salvation.
~ Acts 22-24 has Paul within an inch of a “red-headed stepson’s whipping”, He is snuck out by guards so to escape a plot to kill him. He testifies in Caesarea. The experiences are intense. All who hear him out needed to hear him. Everything exciting and painful and frightening had to happen. Praise God that the master plan is never thwarted though we can’t always see more that two steps ahead … or less.
“God strengthen us through the trials. Strengthen our minds and hearts and bodies and souls to do what it is that must be done as You opt to use us to do your Kingdom work. Thank you Jesus. Amen.”