LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD
Lord, when I am in the roller coaster of life, I still believe I remain on Your tracks.
Read ACTS 23:23–35
Paul Transferred to Caesarea
23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
25 He wrote a letter as follows:
26 Claudius Lysias,
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father… encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess. 2:16,17).
The Roman commander, upon knowledge of the plot, acts quickly and immediately transfers Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea over to Felix, Governor of Judaea between A.D. 52 and 59. The events in our reading today take place around five years into his governorship.
The commander writes a letter to the governor according to their standard communication conventions and so, at last, we learn his name: Claudius Lysias. He briefly describes the events responsible for Paul’s soon arrival, but notice how he enhances things by suggesting that he has rescued Paul because he knew him to be a Roman citizen. The important point in this letter, however, is the fact that Paul has been accused in regard to questions of Jewish law and that Paul is therefore not guilty of any crime requiring imprisonment or death. In Caesarea, Felix reads the letter and tries to pass the problem on, rather as Pilate had tried to do with Jesus (Luke 23:6–12). Upon learning that Paul hails from the province of Cilicia, he realizes that he is unable to do this, so he makes an executive decision and “parks the problem” (Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone Part 2: Chapters 13–28, 178). As we shall discover, he “parks” Paul for two years (Acts 24:27).
If the vision Paul has received encouraged him while he was in Jerusalem (Acts 22:17–21), how much more would that vision have been important to him through those two difficult years! We do not know if he ever got discouraged and questioned God during this time, but if he did, he could fall back on that vision and its accompanying promise as a reason to look forward and not give up. There will be times in all our lives when we know that God has spoken to us individually and touched our lives. We can look back on these and use them to encourage us to look forward and not give up.
What events do you look back on that encourage you to look forward?
Lord, grant me the encouragement to make it through the difficult times when I’m unsure of where I’ve been and where I’m going.
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