There is a story in the Bible toward the end of Acts that always gives me a little chuckle, and at the same time, reminds me of God’s faithfulness. The apostle Paul had been arrested and put into jail, basically because he believed in eternal life through Christ. (This isn’t the part that makes me laugh.) Paul was given the opportunity to explain himself to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council) but in the midst of his explanation tempers flared, Pharisees argued with Sadducees, and things got violent. Paul was, in fact, taken back to his barracks to protect him from injury or death.
After Paul was safely tucked away, God appears to him and says in Acts 23:11, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”
Okay, so keep that promise from God in mind while we look at Acts 23:12-13: “The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty of them in the conspiracy.”
Seriously, who does that? Call me crazy, but I think if your plan is to kill someone, and you plan to do it yourself, you’re gonna need your strength! It is not a time to stop eating and drinking! Granted, these men didn’t know about God’s promise to Paul but making a vow back then was a BIG DEAL! Like super serious! One website I read said, “There were dire consequences for the Israelites who made and broke vows, especially vows to God.”
Interestingly enough, we never hear another word about those men. Where is the National Enquirer of Bible Times when you need it? Did they die of starvation? Did they give up their quest and go out for pizza? You see, the commander in charge of the region got wind of the men’s plans and protected Paul by sending him to Caesarea to stand trial there.
But for the next two years, “the trial” morphed into frequent visits with Governor Felix who then left office – and left Paul in prison. Governor Festus took over and eventually brought Paul before him to find out what was going on. In the midst of his trial Paul appealed to Caesar and, after some discussion amongst the bigwigs, Paul was put on a ship to stand trial before Caesar in Rome. Right where God told him he’d end up.
You can read about the trip to Rome in Acts 27-28 but, suffice it to say, it wasn’t a quick little jaunt around the islands. In fact, it took more than three months. So, by now, those guys who vowed not to eat have either disintegrated in their graves or were hiding out in shame someplace. Because Paul was still alive!
The great part about this story is the truth of God’s faithfulness. I’m sure there were days when Paul thought God had forgotten about him. I mean, he sat in prison for TWO YEARS, and then endured a journey to Rome that makes Gilligan’s stint on the island look like a picnic. But God had made a promise – and he intended to keep it. God had told Paul he would preach the Good News in Rome – and Paul did.
Are you in a waiting season now? Is there something you feel God has promised to you but you can’t see how it’ll possibly come to pass? Do you feel like God has forgotten you and left you in some sort of prison? Don’t give up, friend! God is faithful! He didn’t forget Paul in prison and he hasn’t forgotten you!
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9