God’s Word for You
Acts 21:33-36 Danger on the stairs
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 8, 2021
33 The commanding officer came up and arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who this was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd kept shouting one thing, some another.
The Colonel ordered Paul to be bound with chains, and instantly fulfilled the prophecy of Agabus, as Paul was handed over by the Jews to the Gentiles, and bound (Acts 21:10). The officer asked who this troublemaker was. Luke tells us that different things were being shouted by the rioting people. There are times when crowds are in agreement with what they’re doing (as we seem to have seen in the crowd that stormed our U.S. Capitol two days ago), but more often a crowd that forms spontaneously is not informed about what’s going on. A “crowd mentality” quickly spreads, and people assume that whatever they are personally angry about is the reason for all the shouting, even though this is rarely (perhaps never) the case.
Since he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, the commanding officer ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd tried to follow, shouting, “Away with him!”
The situation was on the very edge of spinning out of control. The short distance from the temple to the steps of the fortress was only a matter of yards, less than a city block in distance, but just as they reached the foot of the first flight of steps (see comments on verse 32) the soldiers had to pick Paul up and carry him the rest of the way up the stone steps. The chains were probably inhibiting Paul from walking or running. The crowd actually pressed forward to follow them into the fortress, and they were shouting Ēra, Ēra! “Remove him! Remove him!” It had all the immediacy and danger for Paul as the moment in Esther when Haman is arrested and executed (Esther 7:8-10). Paul knew his life was in danger, and he was willing to face up to this, but we can well imagine his silent prayer at the same time, something like “Do not take away my soul, my life, with bloodthirsty men” (Psalm 26:9).
God invites us to pray to him at all times, but prayers for help are especially important because we want to look to God alone for help. He warns us not to look down on each other when someone else is in trouble (Obadiah 12,14), but to ask God for help: “Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). At such a time, there’s nothing wrong with a short, honest prayer: “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). “Lord, save us!” (Matthew 8:25). “O Lord, listen!” (Daniel 9:19). We don’t always have time for a long, carefully crafted prayer. Just speak the truth from your heart (Psalm 15:2). An upright heart that trusts in God is what he wants (Job 33:3), even when it’s pounding in fear (Job 37:1). Trust in him, and he will be there for you. “The Lord is good, a refuge in a day of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). Let your prayers rise to the Lord every day, so that when you need to pray in a dangerous moment, you won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be just another prayer, but this time you will be ready to say it.
Pastor Timothy Smith