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The Scriptorium

Hatred and Lies

Are we ready for this? Acts 21.27-36

Paul’s Legacy (12)

Pray Psalm 85.4-6.
Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your anger toward us to cease.
Will You be angry with us forever?
Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?
Will You not revive us again,
That Your people may rejoice in You?

Sing Psalm 85.4-6.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
Restore us, O God, renew us in peace, and cause all Your wrath against us to cease.
Will You evermore all Your wrath to us show? Revive us that we may Your joy again know.

Read Acts 21.1-36, meditate on verses 27-36.
Preparation
1. What was said about Paul?

2. How was Paul rescued from the mob?

Meditation
The “Jews from Asia” may have been from any of the cities where Paul had ministered, perhaps Ephesus (since they recognized Trophimus the Ephesian, v. 27). They found Paul in the temple and, shouting lies and pointing fingers, provoked the mob to seize and beat him (vv. 27, 28, 30, 31).

By the time the Romans arrived, Paul was doubtless a bloody mess. The mob understood who’s in charge in Jerusalem – not the religious leaders but the guys with the swords. They kept shouting and demonstrating, but they left off beating the apostle (vv. 31, 32). The Romans, more reasonable perhaps, decided to isolate Paul so they could get at the truth of this situation (v. 33). Which they intended to do by flogging it out of him.

The amazing thing in this incident, which begins the denouement of the book of Acts, is the way Paul managed to keep his composure, as we shall see. This situation didn’t sneak up on Paul. He had factored it into the possibilities involved in going to Jerusalem, and doubtless prepared himself for it, so that, long before the event, he was thinking, praying, and strategizing how to respond.

Paul didn’t let past bad experiences – as in Lystra, Philippi, and elsewhere – keep him from pressing forward for Christ. He was not trapped in his past, but, looking to Christ and keeping His promises in view, Paul lived toward these (Phil. 3.7-14). Christians who live toward the future will know how to conduct themselves when it gets here, come what may.

Everything erupted into noise, violence, and irrationality as a mob formed and began beating Paul. Thank God for the Romans, eh? And for Roman citizenship for Paul, as we shall see. The goodness of God is in all the earth (Ps. 33.5), even, sometimes, in corrupt authoritarian governments (Rom. 13.1-4).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul went to Jerusalem, knowing that challenges awaited him there. He was trusting in Jesus’ promise that: “when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10.19, 20).

I’m sure he had thought through his response to the prediction of Agabus that he would be bound and given into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts 21.11). But humanly speaking, this scene must have been extremely disquieting and terrifying. “And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut” (Acts 21.30). Bang! Shut tight. He had been thrown to the wolves, who were viciously beating him.

You could have studied long and hard about big grizzly bears and how to handle a confrontation with one; but I imagine when you are looking into that big hairy toothy face, knowledge or no, it would be exceedingly frightening.

The same for Paul. And yet, what he wrote to the Philippian church was no doubt as true for him then as when he faced persecution: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4.6, 7). Peace, in these situations, does surpass all understanding because it is not a natural occurrence. It is extraordinary. And it is a gift from God.

Jonah must have felt the same way – the light of day shut off from him, surrounded in the deep, enclosed in the belly of that big fish. But he prayed: “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O L
ORD, my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple” (Jon. 2.5-7).

For all the saints past and present, God is our promised help in every situation of life: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Ps. 46.1-4). “Be still and know that I AM GOD” (Ps. 46.10).

Even if the doors are shut on us.

For reflection

1. How should you prepare for situations where your faith is challenged?

2. Do you really believe God can provide the words you will need at such a time? Explain.

3. Why do you think the Gospel disturbs and troubles some people?

[The Jews from Asia] cry out as if they are in extreme danger and call on all to bring help, as if their whole religion is in peril. That lets us see how inflamed they were with fierce hatred against Paul, simply because in warning that the full and genuine truth is found in Christ, he was teaching that an end has been put to the figures of the Law. John Calvin (1509-1564) Commentary on Acts 21.27

Pray Psalm 85.7-13.
Call on the Lord to help you gain a greater measure of your salvation today. Thank Him for meeting your needs and being present with you always. Look to Him to guide your path and empower your work today.

Sing Psalm 87.7-13.
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
Lord, show us Your love; restore us, we pray! And help us to hear the words that You say.
Speak peace to Your people; in truth let us stand. We fear You; let glory and grace fill our land.

In Jesus God’s grace and truth are combined; both goodness and peace in Him do we find.
Truth springs from the earth as He walks in our midst, and righteousness flows from the heav’ns as a gift.

The Lord by His grace will give what is good; our land will produce abundance of food.
And righteousness will go before the Lord’s face, and make of His footsteps a way in this place.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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