All devotionals have been edited by Sarah Stiles.
Read Acts 21-22; James 1
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12 ESV).
In the book of Acts, the author Luke writes a detailed account of the struggles and victories of those faithfully carrying out the Gospel, especially highlighting the Christian named Paul. A converted Pharisee, Paul devoted himself to the dangerous preaching of the Gospel, daily placing his life on the line. There were many, especially his own countrymen, the Jews, who wanted his message about the Christ to end.
As his reputation of preaching to the Gentiles and befriending them grew, so did the number of Jews against Paul. Associating with non-Jews was vile and detestable, viewed as sinful by many. Therefore, a certain group of Jews became united in purpose and pursuit to falsely accuse and kill Paul. They were so determined to kill Paul that they refused themselves drink and food until their desire for Paul’s death would be fulfilled (23:12).
Before this oath was made, Paul had entered Jerusalem. In Acts 21, Paul goes up to the temple where the Jews in the temple falsely accuse him of bringing a Gentile into the temple, igniting a riot (see 21:27-32). (It was against Jewish law to allow a Gentile into the inner courts of the temple; death was the penalty of any Jew who did.) This temple-based riot quickly spread to citywide chaos. Soldiers intervened, and the beating of Paul ceased, but when a source of the violence could not be made due to the ruckus and screaming, the faithful Paul is thrown in prison, without evidence.
Have you ever been falsely accused? You may not have been accused of bringing a Gentile to church, but have you been in a situation you did not deserve? A false accusation is often sourced in a person with suppressed fear and jealousy. Known as the “accuser of the brethren” (see Rev. 12:10), Satan uses these false accusations as a weapon to demoralize the victim. And sadly, our enemy often succeeds. These allegations may arise from a co-worker, an angry spouse or family member, or even a jealous acquaintance. There is no sting like this attack on your character, although betrayal is a close cousin. The attack leaves you feeling frustrated, alarmed, helpless, wronged, and weak.
What do you do when you find yourself falsely accused? Be faithful, and be found in a lifestyle of truth and character of integrity. Truth fights for itself, so you only need to remain a vessel for voicing God’s Gospel, which is His message of inclusive love and acceptance to outsiders. God will use your difficult experience to minister to others who will later find themselves similarly struggling.
This imprisonment for Paul lasted two years. Yet, as he sat every day in a bed of false accusations, he continued to encourage those God sovereignly placed around that prison with the truth of Jesus. The location and situation often changed during Paul’s ministry, but the Gospel stayed the same.
Paul had already been imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted before this ruckus at the temple; however, the uncomfortable chains of prison did not derail his zeal to preach the Word. Not long before this two-year imprisonment, Paul wrote in Romans: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink’” (Rom. 12:19-20). Paul had enemies who wanted him dead, and he chose to show them love.
Revenge becomes messy in the hands of sinful people. Only a holy God is to handle revenge. Our response, as difficult as it sounds, is to meet the needs of those who hurt us. It might help to consider that we ourselves are sinners a blameless Christ met the needs of on Calvary (see Rom. 5:8). May we be people who courageously live lives of integrity and love towards all, even towards those who hurt us.