Acts 24: Divine Chess Player
February 17, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Leviticus 5-7, Psalm 39, Matthew 17:14-27, Acts 24
When you read this story, you are struck by two parallel truths all at the same time.
First, you are struck by the sheer randomness and vulnerability of Paul, and thereby all of us, in the face of the “powers that be.” Here is one man, accused falsely by a religious group, dragged up before a pagan authority, and forced to defend himself against baseless slander and lies. This defense he performs brilliantly. No matter; all that happens is a further delay in the proceedings. And the one person—Felix—who has the power to set him free, appears to be doing little more than playing with him, like a cat with a mouse. He asks to hear from Paul again, but only in the hope that Paul would bribe him to set him free. As I say, reading this, one of the parallel truths that we are struck by is the sheer randomness, vulnerability, and naked defenselessness of many of us before the unbridled power of dictators, rulers, and the immoral governing elite. There is Paul; he is under attack; he defends himself; nothing happens. Who will help him?
But, second, the other parallel truth you are struck by is the growing sense that there is a hand at work in all of these details which is as yet not discernible. Similar to how in the Book of Esther, God’s name is absent but God’s providence is everywhere, so in this chapter, the absence of explicit reference to God’s intervention only serves to underline the Divine Chess-Playing Master at work. This too is true. And when we are struck most forcibly by the first truth—that our lives seem vulnerable, petty, meaningless, controlled by evil dictatorial powers that have no interest in us whatsoever—it is good to remind ourselves of this parallel truth. Felix, before this Divine Chess Player, is utterly outmaneuvered. Every piece he plays is countermanded, and Paul—small Paul, vulnerable Paul, imprisoned Paul—is never an inch, a millimeter, a moment away from the Sovereign Power of his Almighty God who loves him and will protect and preserve that he would accomplish the purpose for which he has been called.
Take courage, then, Christian. Especially when it feels as if your life is being manipulated for harm beyond control. Little do those know who are manipulating you that there is playing a higher tune unknown to them—a tune of God’s love that will bring good even out of this evil.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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