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August 3, 2011 – Acts 21

Click here to read Acts 21 on BibleGateway.com

What if there were no hypothetical situations?

And……there it is. That’s right, my friends, it’s Irony Day here at EverydayDevotions.com, which means I may have to type slower so everyone can keep up. They say it’s bad form to leave people behind, though you can never believe generalizations. That said, there’s not much in this world that I would consider better than irony (though I would give my left arm to be ambidextrous), and today we get a healthy dose in the life of Paul.


As Paul is coming into Jerusalem, he runs into some well-meaning friends who tell him some of the Jewish leadership is after him. In order to appease the trouble makers, Paul agrees to purify himself and some other men as an act of good faith to show that he still followed the Jewish ceremonial law. After the purification, Paul is hanging around the temple, and the Jewish leaders come and arrest him for bringing non-Jews into the Temple.

See the irony? Paul’s friends want him to avoid a confrontation with the existing leadership, and the very actions they recommend lead inexorably (*vocab word alert*) to that conflict.

There’s an old story of a servant who was in the market for his master in Agraba, and he turns around and sees the Grim Reaper. The man is so scared he runs home to his master and tells him what he saw. The master, being fond of the man, tells him to take his fastest horse and race the 200 miles to Samarra and stay there. The master then hurries to the market, finds the Reaper, and asks “why are you scaring my servant?” The Reaper replies, “I didn’t intend to frighten him. I was just surprised to see him here since we have an appointment in Samarra tonite.”


I love this story because it highlights our human desire, and yet inability, to control our fate. Paul seemed to know that trouble awaited him in Jerusalem, but went anyway because he felt that’s where God was leading him. We can almost see his sigh and possibly a weary smile as he humors his friends and follows their advice, all the while knowing that God’s will would be done.

Our goal in life should not be to avoid suffering, as Jesus seemed to indicate that suffering was not only common to all men, it would also be particularly likely for his followers. Instead, we need to focus our energies on knowing Him and serving Him, trusting that He is working all things together for good despite our outward circumstance. If Paul had never been arrested, he may never have made it to Rome; it’s hard to tell where our road may lead. Only God knows, and he rarely shows us the whole map at once.

Wouldn’t it be nice if he did? Don’t you hate rhetorical questions?

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