12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”
16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.
17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.
The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”
22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
The Jews in this passage are pretty determined. They are so eager to kill Paul that they committed to not eating or drinking until they did so. Forty of them. That’s right, forty Jewish men, religious men, supposedly following God, who said, “Thou shall not murder” were seeking to kill a man because he had different beliefs about their faith. Because Paul was teaching others about Jesus and the number of Christians was growing, these forty men of faith felt they had to take Paul out of the equation in order to secure the faith of their fathers.
I don’t know about you, but this just strikes me as ironic. In order to protect their faith, these men committed to doing something that goes completely against their faith. The baseline problem is that they felt they had to protect their faith. Really? Was their image of God so small that they didn't think God could handle differing beliefs? In context, the Jewish people had been through a lot over thousands of years, and they probably were a bit defensive of their belief system. I get it. And at the same time, this was not a war over land, or which god to worship. This was a battle involving the same God. One group saw God as being revealed in Jesus Christ, and the other did not. Paul was not preaching that the Jewish people should give up their God, rather that there was a new way of looking at him. Paul believed there was a new saving grace, a new path to salvation for all people.
If we are honest, it was probably that last part that got those men so angry and ready to kill Paul. It was the idea that the Jewish God was also a God for the Gentiles.
Unfortunately, this attitude of the forty Jewish men remains today. It shows up in many forms of discrimination, racism and extremism. Anytime we think God isn't big enough to include that person over there, for whatever reason, we are not worshiping the God who revealed himself in Jesus. Because that God is big enough for everyone.
Is there anyone you have been reluctant to include in the family of God?
Dear God, Give me the wisdom to take steps toward you and your plans for me. Give me insight when I need to change paths, and strength to endure hardships along the way. Share your vision with me and let me join you in your work. I offer all I am and all I have to you for your purposes. I know you are with me every step of the way, even if it is not the right step. Thank you for your daily grace and mercy, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.