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Acts 23:12-35 – The God of Providence and of Armies

This passage links with the previous passage by continuing the characterization of Paul’s Jewish opponents as being zealous for the law of Moses. The problem is not their zeal for obeying the word of God without compromising. The problem is that their zeal has become misguided. Without the knowledge of the gospel they do not realize that they are now opposing God by not following the Way of Jesus the Messiah to whom the Law and Prophets pointed.

A group of forty men take an oath to neither eat nor drink until they kill Paul in an ambush. It happens that a young man, Paul’s nephew, overhears the plot which is then reported to the tribune. One is reminded that God is the God of Providence. That even small circumstances such as the fact that a young man was in the right place and the right time and he happened to be Paul’s nephew – are all within God’s working in all things to further his plan. It is of great comfort to genuine Christians to know the doctrine of providence in all of life.

The tribune then devises his own counter strategy. Late that evening the tribune arranges for two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to take Paul to the local Roman capital of Caesarea where he will be handed over to the Roman governor, Felix.

One of the titles of God in the Old Testament is God Almighty or more literally the God of Hosts (Armies). This does not mean that all the actions of human armies are endorsed by God. What it does mean is that human armies may be requisitioned by the King of kings to serve his purpose. In the Old Testament for example God used the Babylonian army to judge Israel. Later God used the Greek army to spread Greek as the common language. Finally, God used the Roman army who made good roads across the Mediterranean region clearing sea travel of pirates and land travel of bandits. God used these Greek and Roman armies to provide the conditions whereby the gospel could be spread in Greek and along Roman roads throughout the known world of the New Testament. In this passage the tribune makes his plan to counter the Jewish plot against Paul but for us the God of Armies requisitions the Roman army to guard his apostle.

Once again – there is such a thing as providence in which God governs all things. If God is for us, then …