Summary: We can find ourselves in precarious positions where we wonder what will become of us. And yet our sovereign God is using even our weakness to accomplish His purposes.
Passage: Acts 23:12-35
Intro: Our lives are filled with questions.
1. when we were seniors in college and not in a serious relationship, we asked “who?”
2. all of our lives we are asked, “What are you going to be…?”
3. and when we are in trouble, we ask two questions: “When is this going to end, and how do I get out of this mess?”
4. that’s certainly where we find Paul in chapter 23
5. rescued from sure death by the Romans, but now in jail under the control of the ruthless Romans, who the day before had him stretched out to be scourged, perhaps to death.
6. but in his jail cell, the Lord had comforted him with the assurance that he would testify in Rome. V35
7. so the real question Paul may have asked is “how?”
8. this passage shows us how, and in the process teaches us how God works, so we can stop worrying about the how and rest in the unlimited and creative power of God.
I. God Uses the Weak to Confound the Strong
1. the enemies of Paul were persistent.
2. vv12-15 tell us of a pretty good plan.
3. couldn’t get Paul in jail, so planned to get him during a transfer.
PP Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald
4. even arranged the transfer, so they would know path from fortress to meeting place of Sanhedrin.
5. with all the power available to the Jews under domination, they hatched their plan, with 40 men ready to die
Il) just to rest your concern, the rabbis allowed for 4 reasons to get out of these oaths, including that you made the vow in error.
6. I love this! V16, the plan was overheard by one of Paul’s relatives.
7. we wonder how and how, but the Bible gives no answer beyond that it was Paul’s nephew, and he was a “young man.”
8. in vv17-19, described 3 times as “young man”=neavikos, no idea of what age range this might refer to.
9. but we have one clue in v19
10. he had gone to Paul, and Paul had called the centurion, and the centurion had sent him to the commander.
11. but look at v19. The commander “took him by the hand”
12. don’t know about you, but I don’t “take men by the hand” to talk to them.
13. but I would do that with a young boy in order to comfort him in a scary situation.
14. so this probably 6-12 year old boy brought down the whole plot of Paul’s strong enemies.
15. God delights in using the weak to confound the strong.
Il) if you listen to sports, you will hear that such a such a player can’t play because he has the flu.
PP Football player, defensive lineman. Also picture of flu virus. Then show lineman again and “point out” the virus.
16. two applications:
-don’t be afraid of being weak. Jesus was weak, even helpless
-don’t be afraid of man’s strength
II. God Uses the Strong to Accomplish His Will
1. the 40 Jews ready to kill Paul or die in the attempt was a formidable group, especially with surprise on their side.
2. when the commander heard of the plan, he planned a surprise of his own.
3. swearing the young man to secrecy, he made a plan to escape Jerusalem by night.
4. while the conspirators were in bed, this large group of soldiers, spearmen and mounted troops would take Paul and hurry north toward the city of Caesarea.
5. he took fully half of the estimated 600 Roman soldiers garrisoned in Jerusalem on this nighttime race, so when the conspirators woke up in the morning, Paul was already many miles away, and surrounded by hundreds of well-armed soldiers.
6. and if they did set off to catch up with Paul, they would have met perhaps 400 infantry and spearmen on the way back from dropping Paul off at Antipatris, and perhaps this group of soldiers would have been warned to watch out for a group of 40 men racing up the road toward Caesarea.
7. all this probably spurred by the desire of their commander to cover up for a major blunder he had committed.
8. remember, he had ordered Paul to be tortured with the scourge in 22:24
PP Acts 22:24
9. in fact, his embarrassment about that event shows up in his letter to Felix in vv27
10. not exactly the way it happened, but God now uses his fear to motivate the use of copious numbers of soldiers to do a pretty small task.
11. every ruler, every government, every army, is under the authority and control of God Almighty.
PP Romans 13:1
12. the Bible is full of examples of God defeating great armies and giving victory to small armies.