Saturday, December 19, 2009

Protective Custody


It is an odd thing when someone is denied their freedom to protect their lives. We are most familiar with in in terms of someone who got on the wrong side of the Mafia, or an abused wife with an estranged husband or boyfriend who is out to kill her.

Come to find out the custom in not new. In today's story Paul creates a riot so strong his life is in danger. The Roman soldiers (the occupying "police" of that day) were ordered to take him into custody to spare his life.

27 -29 "When the seven days of their purification were nearly up, some Jews from around Ephesus spotted him in the Temple. At once they turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs,
"Help! You Israelites, help! This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He's even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place."
(What had happened was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus, the Ephesian Greek, walking together in the city and had just assumed that he had also taken him to the Temple and shown him around.)
30 Soon the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get in on the action. They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn't get back in and gain sanctuary.
31 -32 As they were trying to kill him, word came to the captain of the guard, "A riot! The whole city's boiling over!" He acted swiftly. His soldiers and centurions ran to the scene at once. As soon as the mob saw the captain and his soldiers, they quit beating Paul.
33 -36 The captain came up and put Paul under arrest. He first ordered him handcuffed, and then asked who he was and what he had done. All he got from the crowd were shouts, one yelling this, another that. It was impossible to tell one word from another in the mob hysteria, so the captain ordered Paul taken to the military barracks. But when they got to the Temple steps, the mob became so violent that the soldiers had to carry Paul. As they carried him away, the crowd followed, shouting, "Kill him! Kill him!"
37 -38 When they got to the barracks and were about to go in, Paul said to the captain, "Can I say something to you?"
He answered, "Oh, I didn't know you spoke Greek. I thought you were the Egyptian who not long ago started a riot here, and then hid out in the desert with his four thousand thugs."
39 Paul said, "No, I'm a Jew, born in Tarsus. And I'm a citizen still of that influential city. I have a simple request: Let me speak to the crowd."

So Paul, the multilingual world traveller, speaks to the hired soldier in his own language, Greek.

The chain of events to follow are created by man, but allowed, and used, by God...

They weren't pleasant, or happy.
But God used them. And Paul understood what so often escapes us...
That life is not just about our own comfort, advancement and wealth building.
No - there is a bigger purpose than that...

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