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).

It is God’s Battle

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!”

2 Chronicles 20:17

This occasion is one of several where God gave Israel victory without them having to draw a sword. Three armies had combined and were making ready to attack Judah, including Jerusalem. King Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and his prayer is a model for us all. He acknowledged God as Creator and sovereign (v 6), and appealed to the covenant He made with Abraham (v 7). He then submitted himself and the people to the Lord’s word and command (v 12). In response, God reminded him that it was not his battle but God’s (v 15).

The king was told to set himself and the people of Judah as spectators. Before they did this, because they believed the word of the Lord (v 19, 20) and they worshipped the Lord in prayer, praise and singing (v 22). Then they went out to witness God’s victory.

They observed a dispute arise among the three armies. This resulted in two of the armies destroying the third and then the two remaining armies disputing further and destroying each other (v 23). No one escaped (v 24).

This is by no means the only time that Israel’s enemies had disputes among themselves such that they fought among themselves without touching Israel. We can observe this happening in part today. Remember that Iran is not Arabic, it is Persian. Iran is currently attempting to re-establish the Persian Empire to pre-eminence as it was centuries ago. This means subjugating all Arab states, Egypt, Israel and parts of Europe and Africa – as a start! That it uses religion to validate war to promote its ideology is nothing new to history. It concerns the Arabic states that Iran is gaining a stronghold in Syria and boasting of having infiltrated others.

At present, the nations that have been threatening Israel’s existence are disputing and fighting among themselves and therefore ineffective against Israel. As in the days of King Jehoshaphat, the battle is God’s and He will confuse His enemies. The key difference so far is that Israel is yet to seek the Lord and pray, as Jehoshaphat had done, appealing to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. When they do, they will again be spectators as God destroys His, and their, enemies (Revelation 19:15).

A Lost Opportunity

“Now they are hidden from their eyes.” Luke 19:42

As an elderly lady with vision strived to get on the bus another passenger nearby exclaimed, “To be blind must be the worst thing.” Some may consider that to be debatable but no one would say that blindness did not greatly impair a person’s world view in a visionary sense. No one would choose to be blind.

In relation to God people do choose to be blind (2 Peter 3:5). In this passage in Luke’s Gospel people become blind because they reject the light. In effect they have chosen to close their eyes.

Israel was blind to Jesus being their Messiah. The leaders did not want Him to be Messiah and had ruled that out. This effectively made them blind to that possibility just like so many today have ruled Jesus out as being the Saviour from sin, death and God’s wrath.

As Jesus looked upon the city from Mount Olivet He began to weep. His weeping was not for what He would soon endure but for what He knew the city would endure in the future because the people rejected Him (Luke 19:43, 44). He had presented Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah, fulfilling all the Scriptures that spoke of Him, yet they did not recognise Him.

Jerusalem is special to the Lord because it is the city in which has been, and will, be the greatest revelation of the Person and glory of God. In Jerusalem He would endure the cross taking upon Himself the sin of the whole world (John 1:29) and will later rule and reign over the whole world when He comes in all His glory when Israel finally will receive Him.

The reality concerning Jesus Christ was hidden from the people of Jerusalem of that day because they chose to close their eyes to the truth and the opportunity was lost forever. One can only imagine their grief and sorrow when they discovered after bodily death that they had rejected the only One who could save them!

The reason they missed their opportunity and did not recognise Him as the promised Messiah, Jesus says, is because they did not know and understand the Scriptures (v 44). It is the Scriptures that describe both His activities and what He would teach. This included His suffering, death and resurrection.

As we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people our hearts are grieved at those who choose to be blind to the truth. Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He saw the suffering the city would endure for its wilful blindness so we weep over souls who wilfully reject Jesus Christ because we know what awaits them in eternity.

Physical blindness is a severe impairment but nothing compared to wilful blindness in relation to the Bible and Jesus Christ. Jesus healed many physically blind people to demonstrate that He could also heal the spiritually blind – if they want to be healed!