Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Plot Against Paul

"The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul" (Acts 23:12)

So enraged were the Jews that a group of them took an oath before God not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. We see that while some of the Pharisees were willing to side with Paul, those that Luke calls “Jews” were anxious to kill him as their fathers had killed Jesus.

With this terminology, Luke identifies as “Jews” those members of the Jewish nation who were most hostile to the truth. Not all Jews are meant by Luke’s use of the term, but Luke is saying that what is essentially “Jewish” at this point in history is hostility to the new covenant. The “Jews” were those who rejected the new Way of God. True Jews were those who trusted Jesus as their Messiah.

The chief priests and elders were in on the plot. The conspirators arranged to have Paul brought out of the barracks before the Sanhedrin for a retrial, since the first attempt had fallen apart. A company of Roman soldiers would escort Paul, but the Jews figured they had enough men to overpower the Romans and kill Paul (Acts 23:12–15).

In God’s mysterious providence, however, the plot was overheard by Paul’s nephew, who went to Paul in the barracks and told him about it. Paul sent the young man to the commander, Lysias, who listened to him and believed him. The Romans had had a great deal of trouble from Jewish zealots, known as the Sicarii (“murderers”). These assassins would sneak up on Roman soldiers and murder them with a concealed knife. The commander knew all about them and took steps to protect Paul from them (Acts 23:16–22). The commander sent Paul to the Roman governor Felix at Caesarea for a hearing (Acts 23:16–35; 24:22).

We don’t know what happened to the more than forty men who swore the oath. Did they starve to death? Such Jews took their oaths very seriously, and so perhaps they did. In that case we see God punishing His enemies seriously while delivering His servant. If the men broke their vow, they brought shame upon themselves, in which case we see God humiliating His opponents while protecting His servant. Either way, the incident benefited the church and confounded her satanic enemies.

Does anyone hate you enough to want to kill you? If so, is it because of your witness for Christ and your service to others, or it is because of your own bad behavior? If nobody hates you at all, then perhaps you should ask whether you have been as faithful to Christ as you need to be.