Friday, August 29, 2014

When God’s Way Out Isn’t a Miracle

Rescued and kept secure by the army of the Emperor, his enemies were more than ever committed to his death.  But they could not overtake the well-guarded fortress in which he was confined.  So a plan was conceived to bring him out into the open in a ruse to bring him for a second and calm talk with them.  But on the way to the meeting he (and presumably any escorting soldiers) would be overcome and he would be assassinated.

Some forty conspirators pledged a solemn vow that they would neither eat or drink until Paul was killed.  Letting their elders in on the plot they would have had a better chance of being successful had they kept it to themselves.  But somehow Paul’s sister’s son heard of the conspiracy.  Somehow he was in the right place at the right time. 

Caring for his uncle, he went into the Roman barracks where he was sequestered and let him in on the plan for his murder.  At Paul’s instruction he took what he had heard and knew to the Roman commander, a man named Lysias, who thanked him and instructed him to tell no one.  Then at night, in the cover of darkness Paul was led out of the city, guarded by 200 soldiers, 70 cavalry and 200 spearmen. 

When in the morning his potential assassins learned he had escaped the night before and was guarded by such a large contingent they must have wondered who spilled the beans.

We know of at least three occasions in the book of Acts where God supernaturally intervened when His Apostles had been in danger and were in jail.  Twice Peter was let out with the assistance of an angel.  And Paul and Silas, in the jail in the Greek city of Philippi were freed by an earthquake at midnight.  But God doesn’t always use miraculous divine and supernatural interventions to assail what seems to be the impossible in the lives of His children.

Here in Acts 23 He used Paul’s nephew.  It was providential, but certainly not miraculous.  God just made sure the nephew was in the right place at the right time to overhear some zealous men talking about how they would take care of Paul. 

But, what if, when the nephew came to Paul and told him about the plot, Paul had said, “Don’t tell anyone.  Let’s just see what miracle God might perform”? 

There are preachers who will tell you that the way out of debt is to send them some “seed money”, and God will miraculously multiply that amount back to you.  And if you need a miracle for your health, let’s say they’ll invite you to put one hand on the TV while they pray for you, while with the other hand you’re reaching for you wallet to send them some cash. 

More likely, the way out is to cut unnecessary expenses, live on a budget and honor God in your giving, as you are able.  The answer to our deepest needs and troubles is always provided by God, it’s just not always something unexplainably supernatural.  Be careful when you hear someone say, “Look for your next miracle”.  The real answer form God might be as simple as cutting up your credit card.

Then God had the pagan Romans provide Paul with safety and security to his next stop on the way to Jerusalem.  Again, no mention is made of guardian angels.  Unlike Philip in Acts 9 being “carried away by the Spirit” from one location to another, Paul rode a horse at night in the cover of darkness escorted and protected by 270 GIs.  Taxpayers provided Paul’s protection.  But that’s how God did it.  He’s God, and He can cover us however He chooses.

Just don’t be upset when the sea doesn’t part.  You might not need a miracle… maybe just an alert nephew.

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