Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 23:12-24 (Voice)
12-13 That morning a group of more than 40 Jewish opponents conspired to kill Paul. They bound themselves by an oath that they wouldn’t eat or drink until he was dead. 14 They told the chief priests and elders about their plan.
Jewish Opponents: We’ve made an oath not to eat or drink until this man is dead. 15 So you and the council must ask the commandant to bring Paul to meet with you. Tell him that you want to further investigate Paul’s case. We’ll get rid of the troublemaker on his way here.
16 Now Paul had a nephew who heard about the planned ambush; he managed to gain entry into the barracks and alerted Paul. 17 Paul called one of the officers.
Paul: Take this young man to the commandant. He has news the commandant needs to hear.  
18 The officer took him to the commandant.
Officer: The prisoner named Paul asked me to bring this man to you. He has some kind of information.  
19 The commandant led him away so they could speak in private.
Commandant: What do you want to tell me?
Young Man: 20 The Jewish council is going to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow under the pretext that there will be a thorough examination. 21 But don’t agree to do it, because 40 assassins have bound themselves to an oath not to eat or drink until they’ve killed Paul. Their plan is in motion, and they’re simply waiting for you to play your part.
22 The commandant sent the young man home with these instructions: “Don’t tell a soul that you’ve spoken with me.” 23 Then he called for two officers.
Commandant: At nine o’clock tonight, you will leave for Caesarea with 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen. 24 Have a mount for Paul to ride, and conduct him safely to Felix the governor.

Our New Testament reading today, taken from the book of Acts, is a portion of a much larger story.  Paul was brought before the Jewish religious council and is being grilled because of his continued preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He begins to get the assembly to argue with itself, pitting differing factions against each other (the way someone brought before congress might be able to deflect attention from himself by playing to the differences between Republicans and Democrats).

After the cross-examination ends, the Jewish leaders that wished to silence Paul are so frustrated that they hatch a plan to permanently silence him.  They go as far as to take an oath not to eat or drink again until Paul is dead.  Through a cousin, Paul learns about their plan.  With few options, he throws what should be considered a ‘hail Mary’, the longest of long shots.  

Paul sends word to the Roman leader in the area and makes sure that he is informed about the plan to kill a Roman citizen.  Now that is, technically, the Roman commander’s business, but don’t misunderstand, it would have been much easier for this Roman leader to simply let the Jewish leaders deal with their religious disagreements themselves.  

Just ignoring the information was certainly the easier option, and from a personal perspective it had little if any downside.  Intervening, on the other hand, was complicated.  It took effort. There was a cost in terms of resources, manpower, and likely pushback from the Jewish religious leaders.  It was, however, the right thing to do.

Too often in our lives we create an artificial separation between our ‘religious’ lives and other parts of our lives.  We try to have neat and clear boundaries between our spiritual thoughts, actions, and lives and our job, our friends, or our careers.  This is not the way God calls us to live and it isn’t an appropriate way to follow in the way of Jesus Christ.

This story is a reminder to us that we don’t know the plans God has, and we don’t get to know in advance the part that God has created for us to play.  God may have placed you right where you are, in a job that you are frustrated by, in a career that you don’t think has anything to do with your faith, exactly so that you can do the right thing at the right time and in so doing, God’s will might be done.  

This is how God works in our world.  God’s work, mission, and ministry is done through those of us following Jesus.  Sometimes that is clearly and obviously through religious means: worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach.  But often, and I would argue more often, the way the light of God’s love is shared with the world is through people like you and me, right where we are, in our regular jobs, and lives doing the right thing when we are given the opportunity, even if it’s hard.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Lord, help us to see that all that we do can be a part of your plan.  Help us to choose right and good, even when it is hard. Amen.

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