WORKING OUT PURPOSES
Lord, protect me in whatever situation I find myself.
Read ACTS 21:27–36
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year” (Arthur Campbell Ainger, 1841–1919).
Paul is nearly at the end of the time of purification he has entered into a week earlier (26), but he cannot shake the rumor that he is out to destroy what the Jews hold sacred (28). Through some assumptions (29), some Jews from Asia, capitalizing on the volatility of crowds, incite a riot with the aim of killing Paul. The riot becomes so great that even the Romans, who are responsible for maintaining law and order, struggle to control the crowd.
The sanctity of the temple is paramount to any faithful Jew. There is an irony in this account, however: the “whole city” (30), who rushed to the temple from their daily activities and therefore were not in a state of ritual purity, drag Paul out of the temple while he is in a state of ritual purity. The crowds are prevented from killing him by the intervention of the Romans, but they clamor for his death like the crowds screaming for Jesus’ death (Luke 23:18). It reminds us again that those who follow Jesus can expect to be treated as he was.
Being “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22) to do something does not mean that suffering will be avoided. The life of Paul, never mind that of Jesus, demonstrates that sometimes suffering is God’s way of working out his purposes. When we are suffering, do we believe that God is working out his purposes in our lives, even if it is hard for us to see it at the time? That does not mean humans who cause this suffering are less culpable before God; nevertheless, God has not removed his promise to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). May that promise give you the comfort you need and the courage to go on.
Pray for Christians throughout the world suffering for the cause of the Gospel.
Lord, help me to discern the suffering in my life as part of a larger purpose that You have for me.
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