“And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.” (Acts 23:23–24, AV)
The church I pastored Portsmouth ran a soup kitchen. Every Tuesday, we would serve about 100 people a hot meal in our fellowship hall. One Tuesday, President Obama was to speak at the local high school, right behind the church. Starting at about 11:00am, many who wanted to hear the president began pulling into our church parking lot. This created a problem since they would have taken parking spaces needed for those coming for the soup kitchen. So, I went out and directed parking. I let those who were going to hear the president park in the front lot and so that those coming for the lunch could park in the rear lot.
As I was managing the parking, I noticed the law-enforcement helicopters flying around and policemen stationed at the intersection near our property. Then one of the policemen came to me and told me to secure the road and not allow any traffic to pass by. I am not sure who he thought I was, but I did as he instructed. Ten minutes later, an entourage of police cars, black SUVs, and limousines rushed through the intersection. It was the president’s motorcade. I did not count the number of vehicles involved with protecting the president. I can only say there were many. Of course, extra care would be taken to protect the president as he is considered highly important.
In this passage, the Roman tribune, discovering that a group of Jews had plotted to kill Paul, provided an entourage of soldiers to protect and escort Paul to the Roman governor’s location in Caesarea. He had quite an entourage indeed. It included two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. While Paul as a Roman citizen was guaranteed some special rights of citizenship, it still seems that the tribune went above and beyond what was necessary to protect him. Nevertheless, the point is that Paul received the protection afforded to an important person.
From a Roman standpoint, Paul’s true importance would not have been understood. Paul was a Jew, dealing with issues of religion. This was not something that Rome was interested in. They were interested in maintaining peace in their provinces. Yet, there is something more going on here than Rome’s interests in maintaining peace. The Lord had a plan for Paul to preach the gospel in Rome. Paul’s journey to Rome took some strange and unusual twists and turns, yet the Lord was sovereign over this.
Previous devotions discussed the fact that God protects His messengers as they are on mission for Him. He does so in a variety of ways. In this case He used a foreign government to protect Paul, ensuring that Paul would eventually arrive in Rome. Every believer is afforded divine protection while we are fulfilling our purposes for His glory. While governments are not immune to corruption, sometimes He may even use human governments and the legal systems established to protect us. He created human government for such purposes. We should pray for our government to fulfill God’s intended purposes in His ways. Paul wrote it like this.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, AV)