Little boys have it easy. They’re spared the most sinister rite-of-passage on earth: slumber parties. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but any little girl who has had toothpaste smeared on her eyelids while sleeping or arrived at school the Monday following a sleepover to discover her deepest secrets written on a puffy-paint poster—she knows slumber parties were invented by the devil himself. But what’s worse than going to a slumber party? Not being invited to the party at all. So little girls all over America pack their Barbie suitcases and pile into family SUVs, making the trek to their friend’s house to eat junk food, tell secrets, and act silly.
But when the sugar crash hits and defenses are down, the little girls sit in a circle, eyes wide with anticipation, and play the most ruthless slumber party game of all: Truth or Dare. In this game, there’s no easy way out. Before you hear a question or know the challenge, you must decide to tell the truth or take the dare. You must truthfully answer any question or fearlessly act on any dare. It’s a wonder any girl survives, but it’s the only way out of slumber-party pergatory. I’m sure little boys endure similar rites of passage, and the Apostle Paul certainly learned the same lesson on a much bigger scale: The way out of a tough spot isn’t always easy.
Acts 23:12-16 – “The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.’ But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.” (emphasis added)
Paul had a sister? And a nephew in Jerusalem? How did the nephew hear Jews conspiring with chief priests and elders? How could he then waltz right into a Roman barracks? It’s important to recognize the “coincidental” presence of Paul’s nephew as God’s sovereign plan from the outset. To see happenstance in our lives as God’s intervention is the first step to resting in the wisdom of His rescue. The Lord NEVER acts according to my plan or schedule; however, if I affirm His goodness—no matter whether I understand it or not—I can rest in His sovereignty.
Acts 23:17-18 – “Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.’ So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, ‘Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.’” (emphasis added)
Notice that Paul didn’t tell the soldier the boy was his nephew. Endangering his sister’s son was probably last on Paul’s list of how he’d like to be rescued, but presented with God’s plan, Paul makes wise choices. He conceals the boy’s identity and passes him directly to the sympathetic commander. When we’re presented with less than desirable choices, do we spend our time complaining? Or do we pray over the alternatives, letting God form a wise plan in our hearts?
Acts 23:19-22 – “The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, ‘What is it you want to tell me?’ He said: ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.’ The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, ‘Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.’” (emphasis added)
Imagine that you’re Paul, waiting on your nephew to return from his meeting from the commander. And waiting. And waiting. Nothing…because the commander had ordered the boy to silence. From the commander’s point-of-view, it was a strategic, for Paul’s safety—and the boy’s. From Paul’s point-of-view, it was excruciating, the unknown. What about from God’s’ point-of-view? God, of course, knows everything—always. He never wonders or broods over unanswered questions. Sometimes a tough situation is made more difficult by the excruciating silence—the waiting. How different would that situation be if I could remember God’s point-of-view? God knows. He’s working. Wait. Be still.
Acts 23:23-30 – “Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, ‘Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix. He wrote a letter as follows: ‘Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.’” (emphasis added)
The commander sent this letter with 470 Roman soldiers to guard one man against forty blood-thirsty Jews. Without embellishment, he casts his vote for acquitting Paul, passing him up the next rung of Roman authority. In his human effort to save Paul, he fulfills God’s divine purpose, but let’s not forget the harsh realities of Paul’s rescue. Paul fled for his life on horseback in the middle of the night, leaving behind his nephew and the church in Jerusalem. It was a way out—but it wasn’t easy.
Acts 23:31-35 – “So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, ‘I will hear your case when your accusers get here.’ Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.” (emphasis added)
When Paul is delivered into Governor Felix’s custody, his status deteriorates from a detainee in Jerusalem’s barracks (for his own safety) to a guarded prisoner awaiting trial in Herod’s palace. Was this God’s way out of a bad situation? Yikes! But, once again, we must seek a heavenly point-of-view to appreciate the victory in Paul’s circumstance. His life was saved—in order to continue his divine purpose—as Felix’s prisoner and a citizen of heaven living for Christ on earth. An eternal point-of-view is the key to unlock earthly chains of pain and disappointment.
- Lord, open my eyes to Your rescues. Sometimes I think I miss the fact that You are saving or have saved me from something, and I focus on the discomfort of the results. Let every hardship press me deeper into Your embrace, where You can whisper wisdom and encouragement.