The easiest way out of a jam

Published 8:34 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

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By R.A. Mathews

His name was Agabus, a prophet. 

One day he felt compelled to meet with a man. Agabus then took the man’s belt and bound the man’s feet and hands with it. 

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Here’s what happened:

“…a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And he came to us and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.”’” (Acts 21:10-11)

Paul had also been warned against going to Jerusalem by another group of Christians who “…kept telling Paul, through the Spirit, not to set foot in Jerusalem.”  (Acts 21:3)

But Paul was determined. He said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)

So, Paul traveled there, and the Christians met him joyfully. But there was a twist. James, the head of the church, told Paul that thousands of Jews had come to believe in Jesus. James said they were “all zealous for the Law (of Moses),” and these thousands had been told that Paul was teaching the Gentiles “to abandon Moses…”

James advised Paul to complete a certain Jewish ritual, saying, “then everyone will know that there is nothing to what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also conform, keeping the Law.” (Acts 21:20-24)

Understand that Paul had made enemies on his missionary journeys — Jews angered by his teachings. Some were in Jerusalem at that time. They saw Paul in the temple and stirred up the Jews so badly that the crowd would have killed him if a Roman commander had not quickly intervened, binding Paul with chains and ultimately taking him to the barracks. (Acts 21:27-22:24)

So, the prophecies came true.

Upon learning that Paul was a Roman citizen, the commander released him and ordered the Jewish Council to meet. The commander wanted to know what the uproar was about. (Acts 22:30)

This is funny, because Paul had been a Pharisee, and the council was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul knew how to turn them against one another. Here’s the passage.

“But Paul, perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, began crying out in the Council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’ When he said this, a dissension occurred between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection … but the Pharisees acknowledge them … And a great uproar occurred … (with the Pharisees) saying, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man…’ And when a great dissension occurred, the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, and he ordered the troops to … bring him into the barracks.” (Acts 23: 6-10)

The next day, the Jews chose 40 men to kill Paul when he was taken back to the Council. But Paul learned of the ambush from his nephew, who warned the commander. Paul was then transferred in the early morning hours with a guard of 200 soldiers to Felix, the governor of Judea. (Acts 23:12-25)

Felix kept Paul in custody for two years. Scripture says, “But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul imprisoned.” (Acts 23:27) 

Since most think Felix was removed from office in 58-60 A.D., that meant Paul would have been in his fifties. We think he was roughly the same age as John, the beloved disciple.

I admire Paul, but he was not Jesus. Paul did not perfectly follow the guidance of God in word and deed, which is important for the church to remember.

The Lord gave him two warnings from the Holy Spirit, but Paul refused to listen, bringing years of unnecessary misery into his life.  

Perhaps you’ve done the same. 

I was determined to work in Christian broadcasting and moved to Los Angeles, overcoming barrier after barrier. When I stepped off the plane, I felt from the Spirit that I had made a mistake, one I had to live with for a long while. All because I didn’t pay attention to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The easiest way to get out of a jam is to not get into it. Listen to God.

The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a syndicated newspaper faith columnist and the author of Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Write to her at (Just one t in Mathews)

Copyright © 2024 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.