Strange Ways

“Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar”

Acts 21:31

Jerusalem was in an uproar because Paul had been falsely accused, and the rumour spread, that he had taken a Gentile into the temple (v 28). The reason Paul was in the temple was that he had also been falsely accused of forsaking the teaching that came from God through Moses (v 21). He had taken the advice of others to give a demonstration that he had not forsaken Moses (vv 23-24). In an attempt to appease his accusers Paul found himself on the brink of bodily death. We might view this as a tragedy and an anxious moment but as we read on we see it is God’s way of gathering the Jerusalem crowd to hear Paul’s testimony. It isn’t the way we would choose and it is doubtful that Paul would choose this way either but God’s ways are far better and more effective than ours.

If “all Jerusalem was in an uproar” then a good proportion of the population had gathered. Paul could not have obtained such a large audience by any other way. Under threat of being beaten by the Romans (v 32) before he could speak to the Jerusalem crowd, Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship so as to come under that protection. This protection led to him being able to share his testimony with the crowd of Jews and Roman soldiers and later to King Agrippa and his household (chapter 26). Later still, this Roman protection led to Paul writing the letters we now have in our New Testament.

Before going to Jerusalem Paul had been warned several times that he would end up in bonds (chapter 21) but he was determined to go even if it meant his death. What appeared to be foolish on Paul’s part (ignoring the warnings) and what was very alarming (lies and rumor) and the despair that may have arisen at Paul’s imminent death could easily cause the faith of many to shake. What we discover is that this was God’s way of bringing Jerusalem together again, possibly for the last time, to see how they would respond to the risen Christ. There will be times that the way God chooses for us seems threatening, dangerous or counterproductive but if we go on in faith He will achieve the outcome He desires. Paul understood, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

Invisible Target

“Then the multitude rose up against them [Paul & Silas]; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison.

Acts 16:22-23

It is said that “where there is smoke, there is fire” – which is meant to insinuate that if a person is accused there must be some basis for the accusation. In this incident what terrible thing had Paul and Silas done to merit such cruel treatment? They had delivered a slave girl from demonic possession (v 18). Surely that should merit favourable treatment! But no; it hit the hip pocket of her owners who were using her for their own financial gain. The trouble Paul and Silas brought to the city was loss of immoral financial gain.

We can expect similar treatment today. When we speak against abortion those who are hurt financially will want to silence us. When we speak against suicide for the old, sick and infirm those who will benefit financially will want to silence us. If we speak against prostitution and slavery those who benefit will oppose us.

Paul and Silas were continuing the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to set captives free. Of course they didn’t deserve such treatment but we shouldn’t expect anything different in a world that is under the delusion of the spirit of antichrist and the power of Satan.

When attempts are made to silence opposition to murder and slavery – which includes abortion, euthanasia and sexual enslavement – does it mean that God is unable to keep us? In no way! Indeed, Paul and Silas accepted it as wounds for Christ and sang hymns and songs in worship and praise because they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake (v 25).  Not only that, but it was the Holy Spirit’s way of getting Paul and Silas into the prison so that they could preach Jesus to the jailer and his household in such a way that they would come to faith in Jesus (v 34). We wouldn’t have chosen that way and neither would Paul and Silas but it was the way that God knew would succeed. We may wonder at times about the path God has chosen for us, which may include suffering, but we can’t see what God is aiming at. We can take heart like Paul and Silas and keep singing praise and worshiping the Lord. In due time we will see where the Lord was leading and His purpose.

Delight in the Lord

“I delight to do Your will, O my God”

Psalm 40:8

For the most part we live as though God exists to accomplish our will. We decide how, where and when we will serve Him – if at all, and under what conditions. We complain when He allows discomfort or adversity in our lives and may even begin to doubt His care, love or existence. The cure for such doubting is to look afresh at the cross where Jesus suffered and died for our sin. Paul writes that everything that happens to us is for our good (Romans 8:28) and His pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The Lord has a goal for us and He will accomplish it better if we stop getting in the way.

Every commandment of God is an expression of who He is and of His will for us. If we find resistance in our heart to any directive or command then we must review our relationship with Him and His word. The psalmist frequently writes of his delight in the word of God, His law, and His statutes. Any resistance to loving and living God’s word and delighting in His will expressed in those statutes and commands is a red flag exposing a rebellious spirit against Jesus Christ. We must then look afresh at Calvary’s cross.

When we are truly delighting in the will of God we will share John’s delight, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). When Christ’s love toward the Father is manifest in us His commandments will not be a burden but our delight because we know everything He allows or brings into our lives is an expression of His love for us. I have heard it said, “God loves us as we are but He loves us too much to leave us as we are.” Paul writes. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Discovering His will for us is as the surprise of unwrapping a gift – a gift from someone we know loves us. Look in the Bible for His directives, statutes and commands. In those areas not expressly addressed He gives guiding principles. The Holy Spirit is given to guide us so that we understand them and put them into practice correctly.

Whenever we decide how, when and where we will serve Jesus Christ we are in the way of His will for us and we will not have the delight in life that He desires. When we are deciding pride is ruling. When Christ is leading and we are following then grace is ruling.