The Trials of Paul (5)
Pray Psalm 61.1, 2.
Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Sing Psalm 61.1, 2.
(Quebec: Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts)
Lord, hear my cry, heed my complaint! Hear, for my distant heart is faint.
When from the end of earth I sigh, set me upon that Rock on high.
Read Acts 23.1-30; meditate on verses 23-30.
1. How many soldiers were mustered to accompany Paul?
2. Why did Claudius send Paul to Felix?
Claudius took the threat seriously, as we see by his mustering nearly 500 soldiers to accompany Paul to Caesarea (v. 23). How powerful must the Roman garrison in Jerusalem have been, that they could dispatch 500 soldiers north and still have enough power in place to maintain order!
Note Claudius’ opening words to Felix: “Greetings.” Sort of like “Dear ____” today. If you look at Roman correspondence from this period, this is a typical opening line, either “Greetings” or “Greetings and good health.” Compare that with the way Paul began his letters: “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Gospel changes everything, even down to the most mundane social protocols.
And for the sake of getting Paul to Rome, King Jesus mustered Roman military power to begin his westward journey. How cool is that? The common grace of God was at work in that Roman force, ensuring safe passage for the Lord’s missionary.
In this story we are seeing just how powerful Jesus is to accomplish His Kingdom purposes. Look at the way He overruled the Jewish court, revealed the plot to assassinate Paul, and mustered the Romans to protect His witness. Jesus uses even His enemies to do His will, making them feign obedience to Him so that His will prevails over theirs (Ps. 81.15).
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, two hundred spearmen, and horses for Paul to ride was a lot of protection for one man. And yet this militia was what God wanted for Paul, and this is what He got for him.
When the children of Israel were escaping Egypt, Pharoah pursued them with “all the horses and chariots…and his army.” (Ex. 14.9) But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14.13, 14).
When the king of Syria was troubled about things that the prophet Elisha had said, he sent horses and chariots and a great army to encourage Elisha to mend his ways. Elisha’s helper was terrified when he saw the troops amassing. He said to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So, Elisha answered him and said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And then 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” (2 Kgs. 6.14-17).
God is able to care for His own. As Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king” (Dan. 3.17).
And as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1.17). And as Jude wrote, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24, 25).
Our King. Our Savior. Our Protector. Our Keeper.
God’s care may not always look like 500 soldiers, or the defeat of an Egyptian army, or visions of angelic caretakers, or preservation from fiery furnaces; but most assuredly it is always there. His will supersedes over all (Matt. 6.10); and He continually loves and cares for His own. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (Jn. 10.27-29).
We are always and forever His cared-for sheep.
1. How do you need God to care and provide for you today? Tell Him in prayer.
2. What are some ways you can see Jesus at work and ruling throughout the unbelieving world?
3. What evidence have you seen lately of God’s keeping and caring love?
Here indeed the providence of God is seen still more clearly. For even if the tribune’s plan were to seek to avert a public disturbance of which account would have had to be given before the governor, still he executes God’s plan in delivering Paul.John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Acts 23.23
Pray Psalm 61.3-8.
Thank the Lord for His constant protection, care, and provision. Pray that you will know His Presence throughout the day as you serve Him in your Personal Mission Field.
Sing Psalm 61.3-8.
(Quebec: Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts)
You are a Refuge, Lord, for me, towering o’er my enemy.
Let me find shelter ‘neath Your wings, dwell in Your tent eternally.
Lord, You have heard what I have vowed; You have on me Your grace bestowed.
You will prolong my years, my life, keep me alive ‘mid trial and strife.
I will with You e’ermore abide; let lovingkindness take my side.
Let truth preserve me all my days; I will forever sing Your praise!
T. M. and Susie Moore
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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.