God’s Word for You
Acts 22:27-30 The hand of God
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 18, 2021
27 So the commanding officer came back and said to him, “Tell me, are you really a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 Then the commanding officer replied, “I bought this citizenship for a lot of money.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 At once those who were about to examine him drew back, and even the commanding officer was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. 30 The next day, wanting to know the real reason why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he untied him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
The Colonel had missed Paul’s hint earlier, when he said he was a citizen of Tarsus. He should have understood then that Paul was a Roman, but he missed it. Now he didn’t even wait for a soldier to report to him. He hurried down to the rostrum himself to find out if Paul was really as he claimed. “Yes,” was all Paul said. The commander didn’t know what to think. “I paid a lot for my citizenship.” But Paul had paid nothing. He was born a citizen. In the days of Paul’s grandparents, the Roman general Pompey defeated the Cilician Pirates in a 90-day campaign. One of the results of this campaign (67-66 BC) was that many former pirates began new industrious careers as farmers and many Tarsian Jews were granted special permission to worship as they pleased. These acts were probably part of what led to Paul being born a Roman citizen some thirty years later.
According to the historian Dio Cassius, the wife of Emperor Claudius made a nice income selling citizenship, something that was ended under Nero a few years later. We’re going to learn that the commander’s name was Claudius Lysias a little later on (Acts 23:26), and it’s likely that he took the first of his names from Emperor Claudius, his benefactor.
Maybe the Colonel’s remarks to Paul were meant to be sarcastic. Maybe not. But when he learned that Paul really was a Roman citizen, he realized that he had made a blunder, and now he had a political tiger by the tail. “The Roman name struck great terror everywhere,” even among other Romans. He decided to get to the bottom of whatever problem was really here, and he ordered the Sanhedrin to convene so that he could discover what was really going on.
God’s hand is visible here in everything that’s going on. The legal authorities were now involved, not just the high priests of the Jews. When God’s hand shows itself in our lives, we are awed by his wisdom and power. We assume, rightly so, that God’s power lies behind all of the little blessings in our lives. “He bestows rain on the earth, he sends water upon the countryside” (Job 5:10). We think of these things as little, and yet “little” things like good weather, good crops, regular tides and so on are enormous blessings without which famine, plague and death would surely come. But we also pray for God’s power to act. We ask for physical blessings. “Lift up your hand, O God, do not forget the helpless” (Psalm 10:12). We also ask for spiritual blessings. “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered” (Psalm 60:5). In whatever way you see God working in your life today, don’t forget how he was with Paul in very hard times, and he is with you, too. “God, our God, will bless us” (Psalm 67:6). He will bless us in eternity; he will not forget to bless us today as well.
Pastor Timothy Smith