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Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

Verses 22-24: “So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.” And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.””

The official last regular episode of the TV show Little House on the Prairie was subtitled The Last Farewell. To sum up the plot (to the best of my recollection…this was some years ago!), a land/railroad baron had obtained legal ownership of the land of Walnut Grove. The townsfolk were distraught to find out that all they had worked for and built up would soon belong to this land/railroad baron. Though some were ready to fight, most didn’t want to see bloodshed, but the baron was bringing the local cavalry to evict them. In a meeting on Easter weekend, the townsfolk fought back the only way they knew. One of the recent new citizens had a wagonload of dynamite, and they all decided to blow up the buildings, which they still owned. In a bitter ending to the episode, you saw the residents blow up their buildings, from Laura and Almanzo’s house to the Olesens’ mercantile store. Only the Little House and the school/church still stood, because Reverend Alden couldn’t bring himself to destroy God’s house (and the townsfolk understood). When the weekend ended, the cavalry, the baron, and leaders from other communities (that the baron was in the process of trying to get their land too) rode back into town to see it demolished. The baron was furious, demanding the commander to arrest them, but Charles Ingalls was quick to point out that the baron owned the land, not the buildings…he was free to rebuild. Of course, the baron was upset that he would have to fork over a lot of cost to use the land with wrecked buildings on it. More so, the leaders from the other towns threatened that he would find their towns in the same shape if he bought their land with his schemes. Reverend Alden tearfully prayed that “thank the Lord, Walnut Grove’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain”. The show ended with all the citizens travelling out of the destroyed town, filing past the Little House on their way.

Somehow this scene came to mind when reading how Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander, decided to deal with the murder-minded Jews. He had had enough, so after dismissing Paul’s nephew cordially, he had two centurions assemble one huge military force to handle any battle…all to make sure that Paul was escorted to the Roman governor Felix. He knew that the Jews wouldn’t be foolish enough to try any shenanigans on the governor’s grounds. Plus, Felix could hear for himself what the charges were by having Paul AND his accusers lay out their cases. Finally, it also relieved him of the headache of having to deal with this dilemma, I believe. This was how Lysias “fought back” in the only way he could; he ensured the Roman law was followed but steered clear of Jewish politics. Amazing how God works, isn’t it?

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the “gray areas” in our society. Lots of folks on both sides argue back and forth, stating their cases and making their schemes. What we should do as Christians is do as Jesus instructs us. God’s Word has all the answers; we use them and calling on our “governor”, or should I say our High Priest, Jesus Christ, for His power and His wisdom in navigating murky waters.

Something to think about.

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Verses 10-11, 16: “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”…so when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.”

The following is a fictitious conversation:

Soldier: Sir?
Commander: What is it, soldier?
Soldier: Sir, there’s another disturbance amongst the Jews.
Commander: (sigh) Now what? Let their ruling council handle it.
Soldier: Sir, that is the problem; the disturbance is coming from within their council’s chambers.
Commander: I simply do not understand these Jews! I sent Paul down there this morning for clarification…
Soldier: Sir, that’s just it…their fighting over Paul, and he’s in danger!
Commander: Not a prisoner on my watch, he won’t be! Take soldiers and get him out of there, by force if necessary!
Soldier: At once, sir!
Commander: (to himself) I just don’t see what the uproar is about. Who IS this man?

I often remember that line being used by Major Hochstetter of the SS on the TV comedy, Hogan’s Heroes. He was one of the antagonists that Colonel Hogan would have to outwit. Often, Hogan would just waltz right into Colonel Klink’s office, with Hochstetter stridently demanding “WHO IS THIS MAN?”

Once again, God uses the Romans to rescue Paul. I did some background reading in the Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts (pg. 388-389); now, of course, the conversation probably didn’t occur like I typed it, but it was indicative of what the Romans thought of the Jews. They detested them. And yet, the commander, Claudius Lysias, found nothing against the law that Paul had done. He couldn’t see what the fuss was about; but it was his job to keep the peace and the law (and protect his Roman prisoner!) So, when word of the plot by the forty Jews to kill Paul came to the attention of Paul’s nephew, he came to Paul. Paul sent him straight to the commander. This leads to a most interesting turn of events.

You or I would probably worry about what’s next. But when God Himself “stood by [Paul]” and guaranteed that he would live to witness in Rome…well, what better reassurance can you have?

More to come!

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Verse 21: “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’”

“God has sent me to minister and to witness to the Nazis!”

How would you feel if you heard a fellow American say that? Confused? Angry, upset? Fearful?

You could about fill in the blank of “to the ____” with a group or individuals you felt strongly against. I remember back after 9-11-01, our church had a prayer vigil. Our pastor asked deacons to pray for specific groups. And he wanted someone to pray for Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. I chose that one, because I knew it would be through only God’s love and His strength that I could pray for enemies who did such a heinous crime. God reminded me though…isn’t that what Paul was before his conversion? An enemy who killed Christians?

Here, his fellow Jews are in an uproar. “Minister to Gentiles? WHAT? Was he crazy? The Gentiles??? Away with him!” Needless to say, without God’s intervention, Paul probably would’ve been martyred that day. In this case, we see an interesting form of rescue. Whom did God use to save Paul? To paraphrase that great secret agent, Maxwell Smart: “wouldja believe…the Romans?”

More to come!

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Verses 1-2: “”Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

As Christians, we all claim sentiments to the meaning of this old hymn. Paul, probably more so than anybody, lived this hymn almost verbatim. Here he is now, laying out his defense, by telling the mob where he came from, how he persecuted Christians, how he was saved, and how he lived and preached for Christ now. Just the story, the witness, of Paul is incredible. Maybe the mob might have been calmed had he left it at that…but Paul must tell them all the story, of how God has called him to spread the Gospel to not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, too. In the next few verses, this is where circumstances take an interesting turn.

More to come.

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Verses 10-11: “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'””

Larry Trask was the son of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. His guardian, Judge Chalmers, had sought to shield the boy from the nightmarish legacy his father had created. However, in an Avengers storyline which culminated in issue #104, the mutant speedster Quicksilver compelled Larry’s help in trying to rescue his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, from a band of Sentinels that had returned from orbit around the sun. As we find out in the storyline, Larry himself is a mutant, with the ability to see snatches of the future: and his visions showed the Avengers suffering defeat in combat with the Sentinels, the Sentinels launching a solar flare to wipe out the human race, and finally darkness, which Larry assumed to be the end of Earth.

During the final fight, it was revealed that the Sentinel leader, Number 2, had evolved into a mutant being himself. It was his plan to sterilize the human race with the solar flare, thus eventually wiping them out. As the other Sentinels attacked Number 2 (for their programming was to capture or to destroy mutants), it resulted in the mutual destruction of all the Sentinels. In falling like giant tenpins, one of them fell on Trask, thus killing him. Thus, Larry’s last vision was not of Earth’s destruction, but the blackness of his own death.

Agabus was delivering a vision shown to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s friends were anxious for his safety, for he still was determined to go to Jerusalem. This prophetic declaration must have alarmed the crowd even more. Yet, Paul was undeterred. He told them, “look, I’m not only ready to be bound, but to die for Jesus if necessary.” His friends were genuinely concerned for them, but they knew this was the Lord’s will.

How would you feel if you knew your future? How would you feel if you saw danger for yourself? Do you face a test today which challenges your safety or your future? If the test and mission is from God, have no fear for He is with you. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you need not fear, though fear is a natural feeling…Jesus knows what the future holds…He’s been there…and He’s waiting to lead you through it!

Something to think about.

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Verses 30-32: “And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

War Eagle! Roll Tide! Go Dawgs! Avengers Assemble! It’s Clobberin’ Time! Hulk Smash! Hey, Rube!

What do all these phrases have in common? For the most part, they are colorful rallying cries or battle phrases. The last one, “Hey, Rube!” was especially used as a warning cry by carnival workers in years long past to rally other carnies to their aid if one was threatened by an outsider. In most cases, these phrases mean something to those that know them, and know what it means when they’re yelled out.

In this section of Acts 19, the rallying cry used by the pagan Ephesians was “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Demetrius and his union of fellow silversmiths had stirred up a hornet’s nest of a mob, with everyone piling into the amphitheater in Ephesus. Bordering on a full-scale riot, there were others who came as well, just to see what the hubbub was about. The Ephesian disciples, fearing for Paul’s safety, wouldn’t let him in. What I find incredulous was that, with so many people packed into the theater area, “most of them did not know why they had come together.” Could you imagine our modern-day media reporters trying to conduct interviews with the locals there? (“So why are you here, sir?” “Uh…I don’t know.”) Even the Jews opposed to Paul tried to push Alexander to the platform to offer a defense (and distance themselves from Paul), but by this time, any non-Diana worshipper was treated the same. The Scriptures tell us that most of the mob were yelling “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for almost two hours (sounds like modern day football games or recent political rallies, take your pick!)

So how was Paul rescued from this predicament? The answer shouldn’t be surprising, if you know the power of the Lord!

More to come…

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Verse 29: “that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these you will do well. Farewell.”

In the movie Captain America: Civil War, Captain America (Steve Rogers) is wrangling with the decision being forced on his team, the Avengers, about accepting oversight from a governing body. Iron Man (Tony Stark) and several others are for it, but Cap and several others feel it will take away freedom to act if there is a need to. While debating this, Steve’s WWII love interest, Peggy Carter, has passed away (she had aged normally while Cap was in suspended animation). Upon attending her funeral as a pallbearer, the eulogy is given by his apartment neighbor, Sharon Carter, whom Steve discovers was really Peggy’s niece! In the words of her eulogy, including advice from Peggy, Steve decides which side he’ll stand on. Sharon stated the following eulogy (copied from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Captain_America:_Civil_War#Sharon_Carter/Agent_13)

Sharon: “Margaret Carter was known to most as the founder of SHIELD, but I just know her as Aunt Peggy. She had a photograph in her office: Aunt Peggy standing next to JFK. As a kid that was pretty cool, but it was a lot to live up to, which is why I never told anyone we were related. I asked her once how she managed to master diplomacy and espionage at a time when no one wanted to see a woman succeed at either. And she said, “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move’.”

Compromise and hold firm. The convention was ending with a decision by James and the elders to offer some guidance to the new Gentile converts. The “hold firm” part was the fact that salvation was for both Jew and Gentile; that was not going to change. The “compromise” part was probably a bit of what I would modernly call “discipleship training”. My copy of Holman’s New Testament Commentary on Acts, page 251, summed it up thusly: “We might parallel this to rules in the student handbook at a Christian college.” The Gentiles had formerly worshipped in pagan temples using pagan practices. James and the elders wrote them a letter to outline a few points of things to avoid that would offend Jews, and thus help pave the way for joint worship (they also used the letter to encourage the new converts). Again, quoting from page 251: “Perhaps it would be useful to sum up these four regulations in our modern understanding: no idolatry, no immorality, no murder, and not eating meat offered to idols.”

By sending the letter with Jerusalem representatives Judas and Silas to encourage and to continue teaching, the convention was all but finished with what could have been a very divisive issue. When God is in charge and Christians turn to God for guidance, all the issues, big or small, get taken care of.

Just a little more to come!

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