I’ve always wondered what happened to those 40-some-odd men who took oaths not to eat until they had killed Paul. Paul, as it turns out, lived for quite some time after those vows were taken. I reckon those men eventually just gave up. The zeal and fervor of the wicked cannot overcome the sovereign providence of God.
The cause of the Jewish religious leaders’ hatred for Paul was his ministry to the Gentiles. Considering themselves devout and committed to their false version of the faith, they took a sacred oath. This was not merely a personal vendetta, but a satanic commitment to oppose Christ. As Jesus declared in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The religious leaders hated the gospel of Christ, and so were opposed to Paul, the apostle of Christ.
In contrast to the rashness of the religious leaders, we see Paul’s measured and wise response. He neither panics nor despairs in the face of the threat, but trusts himself to God’s good care, while at the same time prudently engaging the means of help available to him. The civility of a centurion, the power and might of pagan Rome under the Julian law code, and the Pax Romana, in God’s providence, were the means by which God not only preserved Paul’s life, but also furthered the apostle’s ministry among the Gentiles.
There are really only two views of Providence we can take. Either God is sovereign over all, or else the course of time and history is in the hands of men. If men govern the tide of time, then plots and oaths and human connivings are perhaps the best means to gain ground.
But “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). No plot, no priesthood, no zeal, no army can confound His will or harm those in His care. All men belong to God. Rome was God’s. Caesar and all his legions were God’s. Even the devil is God’s (Job 1:9-12). Paul knew that he need not be anxious about anything, because God, the Almighty, gave him life and no man could snatch it from him apart from God’s will (Philippians 4:6, Job 33:4, John 10:28, Matthew 10:28).
Do we have this same confidence? Do we fret and fear in the face of the world’s might? Do we trust our own strength and resolve to make our way in the world? Remember, it is the Almighty who gives us life. No power, human or spiritual, can snatch us from His care.
Though we may be afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted, we can yet walk in hope, joy, and confidence, knowing that “we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:11).
Thanks be to God.
Written By Caleb Faires