DID GOD MESS UP?
"But Agrippa did answer: 'Keep this up much longer and you'll make a Christian out of me!'
"Paul, still in chains, said, 'That's what I'm praying for, whether now or later, and not only you but everyone listening today, to become like me -- except, of course, for this prison jewellery!'
"The king and the governor, along with Bernice and their advisors, got up and went into the next room to talk over what they had heard. They quickly agreed on Paul's innocence, saying, 'There's nothing in this man deserving prison, let alone death.'
"Agrippa told Festus, 'He could be set free right now if he hadn't requested a hearing before Caesar.'" Acts 26:28-32 (The Message).
What frustration! Why did Paul have to go and appeal for a hearing before Caesar? He could have walked out of there that day a free man. He was jumping from the frying pan into the fire! Caesar meant Nero! Nero meant God-hater, crazy, bully, murderer! What justice would he receive from him, especially when there was no legitimate charge against him?
Had God made a mistake this time? The timing of Agrippa's visit could have been changed. Why did he not visit during Felix's governorship and hear Paul's case then? If only! If only! It sounds so familiar, doesn't it? Do we not react like that when we land up in a frustrating situation that could have been so different if only...
It all depends on whose viewpoint we take. God said to Paul, 'Rome!' Because it was part of his package Paul said, 'Yes, Lord!' This was no surprise to him. The fact that he was declared innocent after his appeal did not frustrate him like it is frustrating us. No, He didn't mess up. God's plan was right on track -- Rome at Rome's expense because God wanted Paul to stand before Nero.
But why Nero? God knew very well that Nero would never respond positively to Paul's message. In fact, He knew that Nero would condemn Paul to death! He should have sent Paul scurrying in the other direction, as far from Nero as he could possibly get. But that is not God's way. He was not out to save Paul's bacon. Nero had to be given the opportunity to make his choice, just as Felix, Festus and Agrippa and all the august assembly that heard Paul that day.
This is the mystery of God's ways. Although he did not know it, in Paul's package was a violent death at the hands of a cruel and unscrupulous king. But in the mercy of God, He had to give Nero an opportunity to hear the truth about Jesus and make a decision which would affect his eternal destiny and Paul was the one He chose to do it.
As far as Paul was concerned, he had accepted without reservation his package for life, no matter what it held for him. He died on the day he met Jesus. His life was no longer his to control. He belonged to Another and he was at His beck and call to carry out His command.
Think of the benefits to every succeeding generation of Paul's incarceration in Caesar's palace in Rome. How many letters did Paul write from his prison cell, chained day and night to a Roman guard? What treasures of truth he learned in those lonely and uncomfortable days and nights which he generously imparted to the many believers he had left behind on his travels in Europe and Asia! How much poorer would we be without Paul's experience and wisdom to which we have access two thousand years later!
Did God mess up? Definitely not! He knew what He was doing when Paul could have been set free but was sent to Rome to face Nero!
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