Reading Between the Lines

By: Steve Negley

Posted: September 7, 2016

Category: Daily Devotional

Some scriptures encourage us to think well of others. (Many scriptures actually point us in that direction.) Other scriptures might paint a picture that would make us doubt the motives and the methods of some people who share the planet with us. That’s how I feel after reading the 24th chapter of Acts:

Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

“Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him.”

The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.

When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:

“I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs.

Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him.

After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison. Acts 24

It’s as if this passage could be a reflection of how things sometimes happen in our day and time. We have flowery speech that tries to influence someone in power; false charges and factions; curiosity about God and the fear of what God might be doing; and we have corruption, bribery, and time passing with no apparent resolution.

This passage could make us give up on God. Or it could tell us to be patient and to wait for where God redeems some situations that are stained by human sinfulness.

All this that happens to Paul is actually unfair. And yet in the midst of this scene, Paul is sheltered and then cared for by his friends. And at the end of this chapter, Paul is ready to see another day as he moves closer to Rome (but we are getting ahead of ourselves.)

One of the things I see in reading scripture is that people aren’t always pure in how they treat us. I also see that God is faithful to those who are faithful to God. Some days, surviving is just holding on.


Thank You God, for the grace to make it through this day, and for the gracious ways You have surrounded me with those who care. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.