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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


July 2017

Daily Bible thoughts 1457: Tuesday 18th July 2017: Acts 27: 27 – 44: The prophetic in the public arena.

 Acts 27: 27 – 44: The prophetic in the public arena.

“27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[a] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was forty metres deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was thirty metres deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’ 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.  33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food – you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.  39 When daylight came, they did not recognise the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sand-bar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.  42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.”NIV

F.B. Meyer notes that in this chapter Paul emerges as ‘the commander of the entire company.’ Devotional Commentary p.501. In this section we find that the soldiers and the other passengers owed their lives to Paul’s discernment in seeing what ‘’the sailors’’ (30) were up to. Note that Paul said to Julius and his company: ‘’Unless these men stay with the ship you cannot be saved’’ (31). He didn’t say ‘’we’’, he said ‘’you.’’ He was absolutely confident regarding what God had said to him (23, 24). Paul operated in the prophetic gift in ‘the public arena’, you might say. It’s not just for church services and prayer groups. What we clearly hear from God will sometimes require vocalising out on life’s rough seas; in settings where the audience will not always be friendly.

Paul’s concern for all his fellow-travellers is touching (33, 34). Fourteen days is a long time to go without food, and they must have been bone weary. His simple offering of thanks to God ‘’in front of them all’’ (35) is inspiring. He was not ashamed. His godly example, demonstrating trust, sent ripples of confidence towards everyone on board. So can one faithful Christian exercise the most remarkable influence, even in less than pleasing circumstances.

God intended that Paul should get to Rome, so along the way He ensured that His man should be providentially cared for (42, 43). Is it not enough to know that we are in God’s Hands? We can relax there, knowing that nothing can harm us without His permission.

PRAYER: Lord, I am so grateful to know that I am in your Hands. Thank you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1456: Monday 17th July, 27: Acts 27:13-26: Who’s in charge around here?

Acts 27:13-26: Who’s in charge around here?

“13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘North-Easter’, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sand-bars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor[a] and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.  21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’” NIV UK

‘God tells the man who cares.’ A. W. Tozer.

‘Who’s in charge around here?’ In this section, it looks and sounds like Paul is. It’s not the centurion or any of the ship’s officers who speak the authoritative word; it’s the apostle. He puts the trumpet to his lips and sounds the clearest note.The man or woman who walks with God is more likely to understand the times, to know what is going on, than anyone else. While , and fears the storm, the Christian can stand firm and stable on the rocking deck and speak from God. Faith believes what God says (25).

‘How calm faith makes us! We can sleep soundly amid the roar of the storm, and dream of angels when our hearts are stayed on God. His messengers can cleave their way through the murkiest skies and most drenching storms, to succour those who need help.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.501.

Tom Wright makes the point that there is an implied contrast with Jonah, who had to be thrown overboard with the rest of the cargo because he was running away from God. On the other hand, Paul, like a group of disciples earlier, found himself in this boat because he was following Jesus (Matthew 8: 18; 23; Acts 27:24). He was obedient.

Listen to Paul’s words in (23): ‘’…the God whose I am and whom I serve…’’ This is true of every Christian. We belong to God twice – by creation and redemption. By virtue of belonging to Him, we should serve Him. It is our duty as well as our joy.  Paul’s vision is the turning point in this incredibly vivid description of a storm at sea. Up to this point, everything is dark (20), but from now on a light shines, but as Tom Wright says, it’s only visible to the eye of faith. He also goes on to say this in his commentary on ‘Acts, part two’, p.230:  ‘’There are many Christians who have been taught that once they have faith everything ought to flow smoothly. Acts replies: you have not yet considered what it means to take up the cross. If the gospel of Jesus the crucified and risen Messiah means anything at all, it means that those who carry it will have it branded into their own souls. The idea of the church as a little ship was probably not invented at this stage, but Luke was there already. The storms do not mean that the journey is futile. They merely mean that Jesus is claiming the world as his own, and that the powers of the world will do their best to resist. Those who are caught up in the middle of it all must recognise the cross for what it is, and claim the victory already won in the unique events of Calvary. ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must appear before Caesar.’ ‘’

PRAYER: I pray dear Lord that I will walk so closely with you that I can speak an authoritative word, and be a calming presence amidst the fierce storms that rage.

Daily Bible thoughts 1454: Friday 14th July 2017: Acts 27:1-12: The majority are not always right.

Acts 27:1-12: The majority are not always right.

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.      The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.            Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west.” NIV UK

Note a number of things:

  • Luke had obviously rejoined Paul for this journey. They had been temporarily separated by Paul’s imprisonment, but Luke now describes the voyage saying ‘’we.’’ He was on board for these journeys. ‘’Aristarchus’’ was also with them (see Acts 19:29; 20:4; Col.4:10);
  • The kindness shown to Paul by the centurion, Julius: ‘It was a most merciful Providence that placed the apostle with such a man. He showed exceptional kindness in releasing Paul on parole at Sidon, that he might visit his friends and no doubt provide himself with basic necessities for the stormy and hazardous winter voyage.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.501;
  • The first ship was not going all the way to Rome, so they boarded another vessel at ‘’Myra.’’ It had come from the Egyptian port of Alexandria and was on its way to Rome. This ship was loaded with grain (38). In those days, most of Rome’s wheat and corn came from Egypt;
  • It was very dangerous to sail on the Mediterranean Sea in Winter, and signs had already proved ominous (7-9).It was already October. We know this because the ‘’Fast’’ (9) was the Day of Atonement, and it’s been calculated that in that year (thought to be 59 A.D ) it fell during the first week of October;
  • Paul, as an experienced traveller, advised the centurion not to travel any further but to wait until the end of Winter, but his counsel went unheeded: ‘The man who knew God was wiser than the men who knew the sea.’ F.B. Meyer. We read that ‘’the majority decided’’ (12), but the majority are not always right. They went by logic, deciding that the harbour at ‘’Fair Havens’’ was small and unsuitable for spending the winter there. At first their decision seemed to be vindicated (13) but early appearances can be misleading. A storm was brewing;
  • We know from the gospels that if Jesus is on board the ship, we need not fear the storm. As we will see, Jesus was on board

Daily Bible thoughts 1454: Thursday 13th July 2017: Acts 26:24-32: The logic of faith.

 Acts 26:24-32: The logic of faith.

“24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’  25 ‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied. ‘What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’  28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’  29 Paul replied, ‘Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’  30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, ‘This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.’  32 Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’ ” NIV UK

The outcome of this interview could not change the fact that Paul had appealed to Caesar, so his case was out of Festus’ hands. Nevertheless, the key players in the scene had to agree that Paul was innocent. We must not miss the point, though, that Paul was going to Rome because it was the will of Jesus (Acts 23:11).  Although Festus could see that Paul was innocent, it didn’t prevent him from feeling that the apostle had ‘a screw loose’ (24); and Paul has not been the only Christian to be so accused through the centuries. Yet there is a logic to the Christian faith. There is solid evidence for it. You don’t have to commit intellectual suicide in order to be converted. Christian faith is reasonable, intelligent faith, and we are surely right to follow in Paul’s footsteps and ask people to consider this.  Paul could appeal to Agrippa’s knowledge of the Old Testament. There is something powerfully persuasive in seeing how numerous prophecies have been fulfilled in the life of this one Man, Jesus.He could also appeal to the fact that in his day there were thousands of people who knew about Jesus and what had happened to Him: ‘’it was not done in a corner’’ (26).

Some people, when challenged about their personal response to the gospel, evade the question, and come back with an insult, or a joke, or a red-herring, and so on. Agrippa tried his hand at mild humour. He didn’t answer Paul’s question, but he had a jocular one of his own: ‘’Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’’ (28).  Without joking, Paul effectively said, ‘Yes.’ His prayer for Agrippa, and everyone else in that room was for them to be converted (29). Prayer and evangelism go hand in hand. Let’s ensure they are ‘married’ in our experience.

PRAYER: Lord, I see that Paul was unashamedly sure of his ground. Thank you that I can be too

Daily Bible thoughts 1453: Wednesday 12th July 2017: Acts 26:16-23: Eye-opener

Acts 26:16-23: Eye-opener.

“16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19 ‘So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.’NIV UK

Paul’s ministry was supernaturally empowered.

God never calls without also equipping. It is good for us that it should be so, otherwise we would never get the job done.

This was Paul’s primary assignment:

‘’…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’’

Paul’s mission would require miraculous power. He had to go and preach, but if God was not at work through him, no lives would ever be changed.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul presents the big problem for all who preach Jesus Christ as Lord: ’The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’’ As he goes on to say, it takes God shining His light in these darkened hearts to give ‘’…the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
So how important it was for Paul to be able to say:

‘’But I have had God’s help to this very day…’’ (22).

Paul’s ministry was also Scripturally based.
He argued that, like his opponents, he fully believed the Old Testament. The essential facts about Jesus were in there all along – for those who had eyes to see (22, 23).
Paul’s ministry was Sovereignly directed.
‘We must not disobey the heavenly visions that visit us. When Paul in his dream beheld the beckoning Macedonian, he made a straight course for Europe. Sometimes, in obeying, the first appearances are discouraging, as when the missionaries on landing at Philippi met only a few women beside the little river, but the final results will justify the first stepping-out of faith.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional commentary’, p.500.

PRAYER: Please help me, dear Lord, to energetically pursue my calling, trusting fully in your power to bring about the changes I could never make happen.

Daily Bible thoughts 1452: Tuesday 11th July 2017: Acts 26:12-14: Persecuting Jesus.

Acts 26:12-14: Persecuting Jesus.

“12 ‘On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” NIV UK

Don’t miss the point in these familiar words that what you do to a Christian, you do to Christ; what you do the church, you do to Jesus; what you do to the body you do to the Head. The Head of the church and the church are one. You can’t hurt God’s people without also hurting Him. In all our afflictions He is afflicted.  ‘’Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’’ (14). Paul could have argued that it was the church he was targeting, but in his heart he knew that he was motivated by deep hatred for the name of Jesus. He was guilty as charged.  Jesus Himself taught: ‘’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me…’’ And again: ‘’I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me’’ (Matthew 25:40,45).

In the book of Hebrews 6:10 you also come across these wonderful words: ‘’God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.’’  So how we treat the church is how we treat Jesus Himself. We can bring joy to his heart or cause Him pain. What opportunities we have today, and what responsibilities we carry. May God Himself help us.

‘’Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins’’ (James 4:16).

PRAYER: Help me Lord to love and serve you today as I meet you in your people.

Daily Bible thoughts 1451: Monday 10th July 2017: Acts 26:1-11: Nothing impossible for God.

Acts 26:1-11: Nothing impossible for God.

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’  So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defence: ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defence against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.  ‘The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?  9       ‘I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.”NIV UK

Festus had said to King Agrippa that Paul’s enemies did not charge him with any of the crimes he had expected: ‘’Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive’’ (25:19).  Over and against that comment, consider Paul’s words to Agrippa: ‘’Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?’ (26:8).  I would want to ask a similar question to any theologian (or anyone else for that matter) who denies the miraculous. If there is a God, surely He can do things ordinary human beings can’t? This includes converting people who are militantly opposed to Christianity. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear many such ‘’darkness to light’’ (18) stories if God is living and active.  As far as Saul of Tarsus was concerned, he was just being true to his Jewish faith in his pre-conversion days. He had seen it as an obligation ‘’to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth’’ (9) However, between the lines we can hear the message that he had come to find the real fulfillment of all Jewish Messianic hope in the Person of the living Lord Jesus. So, as Tom Wright points out, although there was an obvious ‘break’ between the pre-conversion Saul, and the post-conversion Paul, at the same time there was a strong line of continuity forming a bridge between the two. Paul knew all about Judaism from the inside, and he was aware that the hope which lay in its bosom formed the link to who he had now become. Pharisees believed in resurrection; but he had now come to see that it had to first happen to Jesus before becoming anyone else’s experience.  ‘His message about resurrection – (a) that it is what we were all waiting for, and (b) that it has happened, to our enormous surprise, in Jesus – is at the heart of his claim that this changes everything at the same moment as fulfilling everything.’ Tom Wright: ‘Acts for everyone, part two,’ p.207.

Daily Bible thoughts 1450: Friday 7th July 2017: Acts 25: 13-27: ‘Man Alive.’

Acts 25: 13-27: ‘Man Alive.’

“13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.  16 ‘I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.’  22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’  He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’  23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.’” NIV UK

King Agrippa was the son of the King Herod mentioned in chapter 12. He was also the brother of Drusilla, the wife of Felix (24:24). The Roman Emperor had given to him a small kingdom. It included the southern part of modern day Lebanon, and the province of Galilee. He ruled there under the emperor’s authority. Being a Jew himself, Agrippa knew a lot more about Jewish customs than Festus, so Festus took the opportunity to discuss the case with him.

Somebody said something like this, ‘If the resurrection of Christ has left a hole in history the size and shape of the empty tomb, with what does the secular historian propose to fill it?!’ That’s a good question.

Some years ago, Canon Michael Green wrote a brilliant book about the evidence for the resurrection. It was entitled ‘Man Alive.’ The nineteenth verse reveals how much Paul emphasised the resurrection of Christ, and we know this anyway from elsewhere in ‘Acts.’ As far as Paul was concerned, Jesus was no ‘dead man.’ He had met Him personally and his life was revolutionised in the encounter (26:12-18). Do dead men speak and hand out assignments? A man was asked, ‘How do you know Jesus is alive?’ He replied, ‘Oh, I was talking with Him only five minutes ago!’ We in the church today need to recover the thrill of realising that Jesus who died, and was buried, is now alive. Let it be our repeated refrain as it was for the apostle Paul: Christ is alive!

Today’s passage shows that although Felix, as a politician, cared most about his position and status (and he therefore wanted to please the Jews, as previously noted); he nevertheless knew that Paul was innocent. As with Jesus in the gospels, Paul’s lack of guilt is hammered home by the text. You can’t fail to see it.

Today, of these three main characters, Paul alone is famous. We only remember Agrippa and Festus because for a very short time they were with Paul. ‘’God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

PRAYER: Let the truth that Christ is alive possess my heart and give me overflowing joy.

Daily Bible thoughts 1449: Thursday 6th July 2017: Acts 25:1-12: The saga continues.

Acts 25:1-12: The saga continues.

“Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favour to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.’  After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood round him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.  Then Paul made his defence: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.’  Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’  10 Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’  12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’ ” NIV UK

The passing of time, and a change of governor, did not diminish the hostility of the Jews towards Paul; and the change of governor did not increase Paul’s chance of having a fair hearing (9). He still had to contend with a politician who was more concerned with the opinion polls than integrity. It was important for these Roman governors to keep well in with the Jews. They knew they could be tricky, and you could swiftly lose your prized position if they turned against you and lodged a complaint. Festus was no fool. I’m sure he ‘smelled a rat’ (3-5). Yet when it came to it, he was prepared to hang Paul out to dry if necessary (9). If it came to a choice between Paul and Festus, Paul would be expendable. Thank God, we are not ultimately in any human hands, however it may appear.          Paul comes across here as a strong man. He was not rude or arrogant; but he was certainly not weak. He knew his rights and he stood his ground.

‘There are times when believers must use the law to protect themselves and the ministry. But now Festus had a problem. How could he send Paul to Caesar when he had no charges against him that could be proved? God’s people sometimes are treated like the guilty even though they are innocent. Remember Joseph, David, Daniel, and Jeremiah, not to mention our Lord Jesus Christ. In all that happened. God was fulfilling His promise to Paul that he would witness before rulers (9:15) and finally get to Rome (23:11). Being a prisoner and enduring the hearings were difficult for Paul, but he used his opportunities wisely. He believed Jesus’ words: ‘’But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony’’ (Luke 21:13).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word,’ p.725

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