Paul and his group have finally arrived in Jerusalem. The first thing they do is meet with the elders at the home of James. I’m assuming the “elders” are the apostles. This group is the first to hear Paul’s full report.
Right after the greetings have been exchanged Paul begins a full description of everything that has happened during his travels. I wonder how long that took. Probably a great deal of time! I certain our text is only the tip of the iceberg on the things God did through Paul and his helper’s hands. Did he use an abridged version or share ALL of the amazing things that happened. I wonder how the story of Eutychus went. Did it get any laughs regarding Paul’s long windedness or gasps over the happenings to the young man? I’m sure there were more than a few “Glory to God”s sent up at its telling.
Now it was the elders turn to share what was going on in their corner of the world. They cared deeply about Paul and knew that he was a mighty instrument for God. They didn’t want to see him hurt so they had a plan to try and protect him.
News about Paul has made its way back to Jerusalem through his journeys. As expected, it is NOT all factual. The news that is the most troubling is the rumors that Paul is teaching Jews to abandon the commandments of Moses. We know that is not true. He lobbied for the Gentiles not to be put under those same commandments but never taught the Jews to abandon them. This rumor though, is what has so many of those in Jerusalem angry with him.
The elder’s plan to protect Paul must have been put in place before he even arrived. Did they know he was coming? Did they hatch this plan as a “just in case” for whenever he came? It seems strange that they had four men already under a vow. I wonder what that vow was. Was it a promise to do whatever was asked of them by the elders or was it specific to Paul’s return? Or were they under so other kind of vow that was just finishing up and it made Paul’s timing convenient?
During Paul’s travels he had cut his hair after finishing a vow (Acts 18:18). We don’t know what that vow was either but it seems that cutting the hair at the completion of a vow was expected or required. Now the elders planned to have Paul show his adherence to the law by having him pay the expenses and complete purification under the law with these other four men. In the commentary I was reading it was suggesting that Paul came to Jerusalem to complete the requirements of the law concerning his vow which started with the shaving of his head. I don’t know if that is true but it makes some sense to me. That would give a perfect example of him following the laws. And by paying the other men’s expenses it would provide further proof that Paul led by example and was instructing other Jews in the ways of the law. They could have been claimed as disciples because of Paul’s paying their way.
Paul was very agreeable to this plan. He also raised no objections regarding the letters to the Gentiles regarding the expectations of the new believers. He had delivered these same expectations himself when they were first issued.
Paul knew his life was going to change in Jerusalem during this visit but he didn’t hide out in fear. He fulfilled his promises; the requirements of his vow. I was originally thinking his vow might have to do with going to Jerusalem knowing that something bad awaited him but his hair cutting timeline doesn’t bear that out. That promise was strictly between him and God. This promise was probably a personal one between him and men, but we will have to wait until we meet him in Heaven to find out for sure. I wonder if he shaved his head again during the purification time. It hadn’t enough time to be fully grown out yet so his “vow state” should have been obvious to the religious observer. He should have been seen as a man of his word as well as a man following the law. But we will see how “words” spoke louder than “actions” with the Jews in our next reading.
Father God, Paul followed the rules to the letter for himself. He taught other Jews to do the same but also to recognize the lack of power of salvation in the law. He taught them that the Jesus was the fulfilment of the law. THAT is what they didn’t want to hear. As usual another story was concocted in order to accuse him. That is the same thing they did with Your Son Jesus. They are getting well practiced at this.
Yesterday I was talking to You about how mightily You used Paul and how I am not even in that category. I’m not complaining about that Lord, just noticing. One thing I notice is that anyone You use mightily has to be “refined.” Paul is getting ready for some serious refining time. I’ve had some time nearer the fire but none like he is about to experience. He NEVER backed down on his promise to follow You wherever You led. I pray I can say the same thing when I face You in Heaven. I know I can’t come close to his boldness but I pray I have the same conviction and adherence to promises made to You that he had. As I write that statement I believe I have probably already fallen short of it in my life on more than one occasion. Forgive me Lord and help me start new again. I want You as Lord of ALL my life, including my faithfulness in keeping my word to You; and my fellow man. Make me a woman of her word in all areas of my life Lord.