“Paul’s nephew, his sister’s son, overheard them plotting the ambush. He went immediately to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called over one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the captain. He has something important to tell him.'” Acts 23:16-17 (The Message).

Enter God again, in the nick of time! He had His agent, planted in the right place at the right time.

Just when it seemed that nothing could save Paul, his young nephew caught the sound of the enemy at work and quickly reported it to Paul. This is the first time any family member of Paul is ever mentioned. There is no indication of his age or why he was in Jerusalem. He was there and he knew enough of what was going on with his uncle to understand the threat and do something about it.

“The centurion brought him to the captain and said, ‘The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He says he has something urgent to tell you.’

“The captain took him by the arm and led him aside privately. ’’What is it? What do you have to tell me?’

“Paul’s nephew said, ‘The Jews have worked up a plot against Paul. They’re going to ask you to bring Paul to the council first thing in the morning on the pretext that they want to investigate the charges against him in more detail. But it’s a trick to get him out of your safe keeping so that they can murder him. Right now there are more than forty men lying in ambush for him. They’ve all taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until they’ve killed him. The ambush is set — all they’re waiting for is for you to send him over.'” Acts 23:18-21 (The Message).

There is was, the plot exposed! It was now up to the captain to believe the young man’s story and take quick action, or dismiss it as a family plot to get Paul released. It was in the captain’s favour that he took Paul’s words seriously when he told him earlier that he was a Roman citizen and now, this boy’s story when the plot was disclosed to him.

There was now no longer any reason to delay in indecision. Paul had to be spirited out of Jerusalem at once and placed beyond the reach of these murderous Jews. It would seem that they would stop at nothing to get him out of their hair. One wonders what happened about their vow. They were so sure of themselves that they vowed not to eat or drink until they had succeeded in killing Paul. Did they sign their own death warrant by their hunger strike or did they give up on their vow when their plot fell apart?

“The captain dismissed the nephew with a warning: ‘Don’t breathe a word of this to a soul.’

“The captain called up two centurions. ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o’clock tonight. And you’ll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We’re going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix.'” Acts 23:22-24 (The Message).

Quite a hefty escort for one man! The captain was taking no chances with Paul. With forty ruffians out there somewhere waiting in ambush, he had to have Paul safely surrounded by enough guards to ward off any attack. Of course, the would-be killers had no idea that their plot had been uncovered. No doubt Paul would have been taken out of Jerusalem by a route unguarded by the men in ambush. They would wait in vain for their victim, hungry and thirsty and thwarted by one young man’s alertness.

Where was God in all this? Like the story of Esther, unmentioned but right there, keeping watch and setting things up for Paul’s escape. After all, had He not said that Paul would testify to Him in Rome?

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Luella Campbell

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