Year 2 Day 96
Read - Acts 24v1-21
Message - Scott Woodburn
Having failed in their attempt to assassinate Paul his enemies move to a legal process. The high priest Ananias and a delegation come and address the governor highlighting their issues with Paul (v1). They play the game well reminding Felix that has brought peace to the region and reforms are being brought to the nation (v2). The delegation tell Felix that they are incredibly thankful for all that he has done (v3).
These pleasant platitudes are a nonsense. The Romans were despised and no doubt Ananias would have much preferred a land free from the boot of Rome. However, at this stage, the pressing problem was Paul and as the old saying goes…you get more with sugar than you do with vinegar.
With much sugar poured out the issues against Paul are revealed. If Felix has brought peace then Paul has stirred up riots everywhere he has gone (v5) and when he arrived in Jerusalem he attempted to profane the temple (v6). Paul’s accusers have done everyone a favour by seizing him and now Felix can see for himself that Paul is a plague (v8).
None of this is true and Paul is able to fight his corner. He is clear that he hasn’t stirred up any riots either in the temple, synagogues or the city (v12). They have no proof against Paul (v13). Instead the attacks of his opponents find their source in theology. Paul believes in God and accepts the law and prophets (v14). Paul in entirely orthodox in his views. He believes in the resurrection of both the just and the unjust (v15). Paul is not lying. He has a clear conscience before God and man (v16). As far as Paul is concerned he is on trial not for rebellion but because he holds certain religious beliefs (v21). Under Roman law Paul had done nothing wrong, a man’s religious beliefs were not grounds to have him executed or assassinated.
Paul’s opponents didn’t have a leg to stand on. Their case against the Apostle was founded on lies and driven by jealously, malice and spite. Despite this, Paul would remain in custody for quite some time, perfectly innocent but forced to wait for the wheels of justice to move incredibly slowly.
Brothers and sisters, we will know experiences like this in our own lives. The enemy attacks from all sides and at times the barbs thrown against us are childish and petty and not worth considering. Yet months and years roll on and difficulties do not go away. What you have experienced isn’t fair and you long for days of peace.
William Cowper is a famous hymn writer and responsible for many beloved songs in the church, yet he was often crippled by doubt and depression which plagued him for most of his life. Still I am thankful for these beautiful words from Cowper’s pen…
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessing on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain
The enemy will rage against us but Christ will not forsake us. If you presently know what seems like an unending storm may the Lord assure you today of His grace and mercy. Through faith in Christ we have been declared righteous and because we are in Christ, God is pleased with us. Let the barbs and the malice and the jealousy of the enemy wash over you and continue to trust the finished work of Christ.
Q99 What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer? The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, The Lord’s Prayer.