The Book of Acts: Chapter 23 (pt 9 of 13)

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I believe that our Lord’s visit with Paul and His words of comfort, cheer, and encouragement is the key to understanding this whole chapter. Do you see that? We saw our Lord appears in a vision to comfort and assure Paul that he would bear witness to the gospel “in Rome.” That in itself is cool, but then watch how the remaining verses describe how God worked to make this happen, while Paul sat “helplessly” in his confinement. I say that rather flippantly bcause he was all but “helpless.”

“That morning a group of more than 60 Jewish opponents conspired to kill Paul. They bound themselves by an oath that they would not eat or drink until he was dead. They told the chief priests and elders about their plan.

“We’ve made an oath not t eat or drink until this man is dead. So you and the council must ask the commander to bring Paul to meet with you. Tell him that you want to further investigate Paul’s case. We will get rid of the troublemaker on is way here.

“Now Paul had a nephew who heard about the planned ambush [what a coincidence]; he managed to gain entry into the barracks and alerted Paul. Paul called one of the officers.

“Take this young man to the commander. He has news the commander needs to hear.

The officer took him to the commander.

“The prisoner named Paul asked me to bring this man to you. He has some kind of information.”

The commander led him away so they could speak in private.”What do you want to tell me?”

“the Jewish council is going to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow under the pretext that there will be thorough examination. But don’t agree to do it, because 60assassins have bound themselves to an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed Paul. Their plan is in motion, and they are simply waiting for you to play your part.”

The commander sent the young man home with these instructions: “Don’t tell a soul that you have spoken to me.” Then he called for two officers.

“At nine o’clock tonight, you will leave for Caesarea with 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen. Have a mount for Paul to rid and conduct him safely to Felix the Governor.” —Acts 23:12-24

Wow! Verse 12 give us an idea how much time has passed: “When morning came. . . .” I presume this was the morning after our Lord stood with Paul, assuring him that he would continue to bear witness to the gospel, all the way to Rome. What I am trying to say is that when Luke told the time, he was saying that what happens in verse 12 through the end of the chapter is the first step in God’s fulfillment of His promise!

Now here is the thing that surprises me. Paul (and we) knew God was in this the whole way. God had told Paul that he was going to go to Rome. This we know, but I never imagined (and I’m sure Paul didn’t, ether) this is how He would fulfill that goal. 60 men formed a conspiracy and bound themselves by oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul [I still wonder how hungry those guys got—since they weren’t able to kill him].

What is kind of interesting, is that Paul had bound himself with four men by taking a vow. Then there are the 60 men who bind themselves in a vow and fast until it is fulfilled. Paul’s kind of religion is vastly different from that of these assassins. If they cannot kill Paul in a way that has the appearance of legality, then they will kill him in a way that completely sets aside justice and the law.

It is important to recognize that this conspiracy could not succeed without the full cooperation of the members of the Sanhedrin (almost certainly including the high priest). So you have 60 men who are willing to do the killing, but they can only kill Paul if the Sanhedrin summons him for another hearing. Then, while Paul is coming to them, the execution squad can do its work. A number of the members of the Sanhedrin (I doubt that those who were Pharisees were a part of this conspiracy) agreed to inform the commander that they needed to question Paul further, so that he would bring him from the place of his confinement to the Sanhedrin. From what I have read of Ananias, he was quick to hire assassins to advance his ambitions, so entering into a conspiracy with these assassins was nothing new for him—besides, it was their idea, he was simply agreeing to the plan. They came to the council and told them their plans. The assassins who planned to kill Paul assured these Sanhedrin members that they would kill Paul while he was still some distance away (Acts 23:15). I assume this was to give the impression that the Sanhedrin had nothing to do with this plot.

Here is where things begin to get interesting. Up until now, we have never heard anything about Paul’s family. Suddenly we learn that he had a sister, and that his sister had a son. And it “just so happened” (a secular euphemism for a clear case of divine intervention) that this nephew overheard the plot to kill Paul, his uncle. “Somehow,” this nephew was allowed to visit “Uncle Paul” and tell him what he had heard. Paul called for a centurion and asked that he escort the lad to the commander. Once again the commander meets and exceeds what we would expect of him. Like a grandfather, he takes Paul’s nephew by the hand and leads him aside to hear what he had to say. The nephew told the commander what he had overheard. He listened and then sent the boy away, cautioning him not to tell anyone about what he had just done. He quickly called for two centurions and instructed them to assemble a large force—two hundred soldiers along with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen—that’s a bunch of people, don’t you think? Yeah, you got that right—almost 500, well-trained soldiers, escort Paul to Caesarea where he could stand before Felix the governor.

But you have to give me a break here. What are the chances of Paul’s nephew overhearing this top-secret conspiracy? What are the chances that he could visit Paul and report what he heard? What are the chances that a Roman commander would listen to what this boy said? What are the chances Paul could survive such an elaborate plot? Seriously, what are the chances for all these things to happen just as we read? Yehoveh has to have orchestrated this. He was doing this to fulfill His promises and purposes.

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