Pastor Miles DeBenedictis
An Encore For A King
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The Apostle Paul, standing before a group hearing him on trial, he says, “’For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.’
“And then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!’
“And then after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. And when they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: ‘There is a certain man left prisoner by Felix, about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I went up to Jerusalem, asking judgment against him.’ To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has an opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charges against him.’ Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem to be judged concerning these matters. But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus Caesar, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar.
“And then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I also would like to hear the man myself.’
‘Tomorrow,’ Festus said, ‘you shall hear him.’”
Father, we pray that You would give us insight as we look in Your Word. As we stand here today, we acknowledge that Your Word is living, that it is powerful. Lord, we recognize that Your Word has been given to us by You by inspiration, and it is useful for doctrine, Lord, for reproof and correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we would be prepared for the good things that You have prepared for us tomorrow, this week. And so, God, we pray that as we look into Your Word today, the Scripture that is here would apply to us in such a way that we’re able to meet the things that You’ve prepared for us this week. So, God, transform us by the renewing of our minds, and we ask, God, that You would show Your glory through us in this world. We pray in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
As I’ve shared before, when I was about 10 years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. And, by God’s grace, I really think that it is by His grace that I’ve been able to overcome a lot of the difficulties associated with dyslexia, to the point that there’s a number of people that, when I’ve said this, they say, “No, you don’t have dyslexia; you never had dyslexia.” But, really, a doctor said that’s what it was, and I could see the effects of it, as a child especially. One of the major ways that I struggled with it, was that when I would read, I would find that when I was reading a line in a book, when I’d get to the end of the line, I would track back and read that same line over and over again, and sometimes three and four times. It was so frustrating, and it was almost like a skipping record in my brain. I know we don’t really have records anymore, but most of you remember the skipping records. So, in my brain, when I would read, it was as if it was just skipping over. And the only way to overcome it at that point was to put a piece of paper, and each line go down, and that helped a little bit. But even still, I don’t know what it was, in my brain, I’d go back even with the piece of paper there, and read that same line.
So it would become so frustrating that I just wouldn’t read. In fact, I’m ashamed to say it now, but, quite honestly, I made it all the way through public high school without ever reading a book. So, God is gracious. I have read some books since that time, really.
But, as we come to Acts 22 through 26, this passage that we’ve been looking at over the last several weeks here at Cross Connection, in this series called On Trial, we come to a kind of skipping record incident here in this passage. It seems somewhat repetitive. It seems somewhat redundant, as there’s just a restatement of the same thing over and over again. As we come here, again, to Acts 25, and as we’ll see in Acts 26, in our study next time, Paul is once again standing trial before a group of people, and declaring the same things. Once again sharing the same truths, sharing the same testimony. One who is not guilty of anything deserving of death, as we’ll see in this passage, and as we’ve already seen, and here he stands to give a declaration. He’s already done this in this section of Scripture – Acts 22 through 26.
He stood before a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, back in Chapter 22. And then he stood before the Jewish council in the city of Jerusalem after that point. And then, after standing before the Jewish council, a third time, he gives his declaration before the Jewish council with the Roman governor, Felix, there. And then we saw that after he was before Felix, Felix invited him in again for a private hearing, just before Felix and his wife Drusilla. And then after that private hearing, we saw, in our study last time, that Paul appeared before a second Roman governor, a guy by the name of Festus. And now, the council came to charge him there in that passage, but now, again, he’s being called to stand not just before Festus, but before a whole gathered group of dignitaries, including the Jewish king of the region there, Judea, by the name of King Herod Agrippa II. And so that is the passage that we’re going to see next time, as Paul gives his whole testimony. But here is the lead-up to that event.
But we have these repeats – before a group of people, a crowd in Jerusalem, and then before a council in Jerusalem, and then before a Roman governor, and then before the governor and his wife, and then before another Roman governor, and now before the Roman governor and a king and this woman, the king’s sister, who, history tells us, not only was Bernice, the sister of Agrippa, but he was living in an incestuous relationship with her. And so, you’ve got some crazy things that are going on here in this whole situation here in Acts Chapter 25.
And if any of us were subjected to a similar sort of circumstance, I think that by this time of going through the same thing, kind of over and over and over again, you would feel as if it was, you know, it was just redundant. You get a little restless. If you’re anything like me, you get completely stir crazy. “When are we going to move on from this? When are we going to stop doing the same thing over and over again? When are we going to get a result from these hearings that are for nothing? There’s no purpose behind them.”
And so there’s Paul in the middle of this. This is now two years into this event – as he’s stood before the crowd, and the council, and the governor, and the governor and his wife, and another governor, and now the governor and a king and his incestuous relationship with his sister. All these crazy things going on, and there would be a part, I would imagine, in Paul, because he’s human like us, that would be thinking, “Really?! Really?! Again?!”
You know, since I was in high school, I’ve been into graphic design and digital photography. And I started using programs like Adobe Photoshop and stuff when I was in high school. And I worked for a time in a print shop at that time as well. And, you know, if you’ve ever used a program like Photoshop, you know that you can zoom in really deep into a picture. And when you zoom in really close in on a picture, you see just this grid of pixels; you can no longer see the whole of the picture. In fact, if you look on your sermon guide, in the top there where it says, “On Trial,” I actually did a little piece there, like a magnifying glass, where you see that grid of pixels. And when you’re deep in there, all you see is these squares of color, and you don’t know what the picture is. And sometimes our lives feel like that. That we’re so zoomed in, that we’re so locked in, we’re so engaged in whatever’s happening in the moment, in our lives, that we fail to see that there is a bigger picture. Sometimes we need to zoom out, we need to step away from it and realize that there’s something else going on here.
As was the case here in Acts Chapter 25. Even though Paul is in this redundant, record skipping sort of thing, where it’s just over again – before a crowd, before a council, before a governor, before a governor’s wife, before another governor, before a governor and king, and all these people – as it just is over and over and over again, for two years, there is a way in which you can get so myopic and so focused in on that little itty bitty pixel, you don’t realize that there is something else that is going on. And, thankfully, Paul had a prophetic word from God many years before that clued him into the reality that something else would be going on.
If you would turn in your Bibles back from Acts 25 to Acts Chapter 9. And as you turn those pages from Acts 25 to Chapter 9, you’re actually turning back in time of nearly a quarter century – 24 years. You’re going back in time to the day that Paul was entering into the city of Damascus. At that time he was called by a different name, he was called by the name Saul, of the city of Tarsus. And he was a Pharisee, he was a Jewish religious man who’s trying to persecute Christians in the same way that the Jewish religious establishment was now, in Acts 25, trying to persecute him. And as he came into Damascus, he’s going to retell this story in Acts Chapter 26, so we’ll see it again in our study next time. But he had an experience where he saw the risen Lord, although the Lord’s glory was so bright he couldn’t see Him, all he saw was a bright light. And we’re told that he was one with a crowd of people that fell to the ground. And ultimately, he recovers from that instant, and in a moment, and he’s blind. And they take him into the city of Damascus, Syria, and he’s there for three days, blinded. And he’s thinking about all the things that he thought he knew about God and about the Scriptures, as now the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, has talked to him on the road to Damascus.
And while this is taking place, another man, a Christian man in the city of Damascus there, by the name of Ananias, God speaks to him and He says, “Ananias, I want you to go and pray for this guy, Saul.”
He’s praying, and Ananias says, “Lord, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’ve heard about this guy; he’s a bad dude.”
And God says something to Ananias in Acts Chapter 9, Verse 15, look at it there: “But the Lord said to him,” Acts 9:15, “The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine,’” notice this, “’to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.’” “He’s a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My sake.”
You see, when we take Acts Chapter 9, and the word of God to Ananias for Paul, and then we look at Paul’s trials in Acts 22 through 26, we realize that none of these things that Paul was experiencing at this point in his life – the beating at Jerusalem, the trial before the Sanhedrin, the extradition down to Caesarea, the trial before Felix and Drusilla, and now Festus, and now King Agrippa – none of these things that were happening in his life were happenstance. None of them were just coincidence. But every single one of these events was ordered by the Lord decades before. God knew that it was going to happen; God planned that it was going to happen; and now it’s coming to pass, all of those things. Twenty-four years it’s taken for it to come to this point, but God’s Word is being fulfilled.
In Psalm 37, Verse 23, there King David says, “The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord.” “The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord.”
Point Number 1 on your outline, there in your sermon guide:
Our Steps Are Ordered By The Lord
Our steps are ordered by the Lord. In some ways, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, I feel like this is a bit repetitive, it is a bit redundant, because we’ve already talked about points like this in this series called On Trial. We’ve already looked at this reality that God is at work behind the scenes doing things when it seems like nothing is happening. But God’s still at work. And so, although this truth may be something we’ve talked about, even in just the last couple of months, I think it’s one of those simple and important truths that God wants to drive home to us because there’s probably some of you here today who can get so zoomed in, many times that’s how we live, we’re fixed in on that little pixel level, and we don’t see the bigger picture, we don’t realize that God’s doing something. And yet, our steps are ordered by the Lord. Not just the steps of Paul, not just the steps of King David, but our steps are ordered by Him.
Now, I know in some of your translations, if you look back at Psalm 37, you’ll see that it says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” And you go, “Well, Paul was a good man, but that’s not me. So I guess that’s not me who the Lord is…” But actually, that word “good” is not in the original language; it just says, “The steps of man are ordered by the Lord.” And so God orders our steps.
Now, there are things that happen to us, there are certain events that take place in our lives where we can very clearly see the fingerprints of God, as if the Lord is doing something. You’ve probably experienced this. You know, maybe you’re at work or you’re on a school campus, and a friend comes to you and they inquire about your faith, or they ask you to pray for them. And you go, “Wow!! I think that was the Lord!” Or maybe you’ve had this experience – I know I have, a number of times, in fact, I remember a very specific time when this happened – I was driving down Ash and I was passing Valley Parkway on Ash. You guys all know where that’s at. And as I was driving down the road, this person’s name just popped in my mind, a friend from high school, that I hadn’t seen since high school. And I was just driving down the street, and now all of a sudden this person’s name comes to mind – Josh. Not Pastor Josh, a different Josh. And I hadn’t seen him since high school. And as I was driving I just thought, “Well, maybe I’ll pray for him.” You know, Philippians Chapter 1, Verse 3 says, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” And so I just thought, “Well, I’m remembering this person; I’ll pray for them. Lord, I don’t know what this guy’s going through, but You know, and maybe You brought him to my mind because, You know, You’re doing something in his life, and something’s happened.” I’m not kidding you, the following Sunday, I walk here in the sanctuary, and Josh was standing right by that chair. He’d never come here before. And as I walked in and I saw him, I got that, like, goosebump feeling, you know, the hair stands up and you go, “O-o-o, wow!! That’s the Lord!!”
You know, you’ve had that kind of experience where someone comes to mind, and then you’re going somewhere, and you push the wrong button on the elevator, and the elevator doors open, and there they are. You go, “Whoa! That was freaky.” You go, “That’s the Lord.”
So there are events, there are times in our lives where that happens, where we sense, like, “Wow! God’s doing something, God’s moving.” But the reality is that’s the exception and not the rule. That’s not the way that our lives are every single day. You might think, and you’d wrongly think, that I’m Mr. Spiritual. If you think that I am, just ask my wife, she’ll tell you that’s not the case. But I don’t walk about my life every single day having those kind of things happen, and neither do you. But when they happen, we go, “Wow! That’s cool.” I wish it was like that all the time, but it’s not. The reality is there are a lot of things in our lives that just seem like they are mundane happenings, just the day going about. Most of our lives are lived in that monotony.
And many of the things that happen in our lives just seem like delays. You know, when someone gets in your way, and you go, “Gosh! Get out of my way.” But maybe that’s not just a delay, maybe it’s a divine appointment. Maybe God’s actually working. But we’re so fixed in, we’re so zoomed in, and go, “I’ve got this appointment right now, and I can’t deal with this.” And sometimes we need to zoom out, and go, “What is the Lord doing?” Because He’s got something He’s doing. And if we truly recognize that God is ordering our steps, then when we have those mundane happenings, when we have those delays that every single one of us have – by 10:00 tomorrow morning, you’ll have five delays, no doubt, especially if you’re driving down the 15 Freeway. Right? And so, in those things, could it be that God is ordering our steps?
But because we can be so drilled down into the very smallest detail of things, and we lose the idea of the big picture, we sometimes find ourselves wondering, “Is God doing anything? What is going on here? Is He doing anything?”
Well, a good reminder for us, Point Number 2 on your outline:
God Is Working When No One Is Watching
God is working when no one is watching. Now, we considered in our last study of Acts 25, that God’s timing is often different than ours. And we all know that to be true, that God’s timing is often different than ours. And because that it true, we can sometimes begin to view God as being distant and unengaged. “He’s indifferent to the things that are happening in my life.” And we’re even tempted to sometimes ask that question – “Where is God? Where is He?” And even though the Bible says otherwise, we can sometimes fall into a pattern of thinking that is more consistent with what’s called a deistic view of God – the He just created everything, He wound up the clock and He let it go, He’s somewhere out on the other end of the universe, and He has no idea what’s happening in my life, nor does He care. And even though the Bible says completely different, the Bible reveals that God is a God who’s personally and intimately involved in our lives, He has loved us with an everlasting love, He knows the number of the hairs on our heads, which for some of you makes it easy. [laughter] But He’s intimately involved. Somebody just got that. [laughter] It’s okay. But He’s intimately involved, He knows what’s happening. But we start to think, “Oh, He’s way out there, He’s unengaged, He’s indifferent. He cares about the big names – the Billy Grahams of this world, the Greg Lauries of this world – He cares about those people, but He’s not really interested in what’s happening in my life.” But the reality is God is working when no one is watching, He is doing a work.
And so, might I encourage you this morning, don’t allow yourself to miss the hand and the handiwork of God in the mundane, in the delays, in the repeats of your life. I mentioned last week that sometimes our lives can fall into a pattern where it just feels like Groundhog Day, where it’s just everything at the same time, all the time, over and over again – the same conversation, the same e-mails, the same phone calls from day to day. It’s just like, “Is this ever going to…” Recognize that in the repeats, God is doing something, He’s doing something, He’s working behind the scenes, He’s ordering our steps.
So, Acts 25, Verse 23, continuing on: “So now the next day…” Festus sharing with King Agrippa, and King Agrippa says, “Man, I think I’d like to hear from this Paul.”
And Festus says, “Tomorrow you shall hear from him.”
And so, now the next day, the immediate next day, “when Agrippa and Bernice…” And I mentioned earlier, King Herod Agrippa II, he was the last of the family of the Herods. And part of the reason he was the last of the family of the Herods is because he had no children, he never married. But most historians believe that he lived in this incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice, which is probably a good thing that they didn’t procreate. But now, “Herod and Bernice come,” and notice this, “with great pomp,” with great pomp. Now, I know, probably not too many of you that have used the word “pomp” lately. Although, you know, it’s graduation season, so people, it’s time they play “Pomp and Circumstance,” you know. So you go, “What in the world is pomp?!” Well, you know, when you watch, like, one of those award shows, and they’ve got the red carpet, and people are walking in, and there’s flashbulbs z-p-t-z-t-z- z-p-t-z-t-z- z-p-t-z-t-z. That’s great pomp. And here they come, and they’re all royal regalia, they’re walking in, and everybody’s, “O-o-h-h, Agrippa! Bernice!”
History tells us that Bernice, she was the sister of Drusilla. So, Drusilla, Bernice, and Agrippa are siblings. And history tells us that Drusilla and Bernice were gorgeous. And so, here she comes, and here comes Agrippa into the auditorium, with great pomp. “And they entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city.” Now that word – “the prominent men of the city” – when you dig down into the word, it means the governors or leaders over thousands. So these are the leaders of Caesarea, the movers, the shakers, the power makers of that city. And they’re all coming for what?! Paul the Apostle.
And so now they come in, “and the prominent men of the city, and at Festus’ command Paul is brought in.” That Paul would now have an audience with this group, and that he is called in specifically to witness of the resurrection, is an awesome thing. I mean, clearly the hand of the Lord here in this situation. Now, history describes Paul as a short man with bowed legs, a high brow, and a big nose. And he’s in his 60s about this time – I’ve gotten into trouble for it in the past, but I’m going to say it, “I see my dad.” The Apostle Paul, it’s a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, come on. Whenever I read the description of the Apostle Paul, I think of Ron DeBenedictis, my dad.
But there he is, they bring him in, they set him there in front of them – short, history records that he may have had some sort of eye condition, that he had, like, oozing eyes. He was not a good-looking guy. I’m not saying that about my dad, he’s a good-looking guy. [Motions from himself to his dad and back.] Genes. But… [laughter] Just kidding. Sorry. [laughter] It’s bad. [laughter]
So they bring in Paul. But here, in this room, here’s Paul, he’s not much to look at. But there’s the beautiful people, all here to see him. And they bring him, they set him in place. And, you have to imagine, there’s probably a part of Agrippa that’s going, “Really? This is the guy that everybody’s all worked up about?” I almost just get the sense – it’s not said there, and I might be stretching way too far – that when Paul came in, they were probably, “Psst, psst, psst.” [pointing] “Really?”
And so they bring him in, and he stands before them. Now, when God revealed, some 24 years before, through Ananias, this prophetic word to Saul of Tarsus, as he was blind there in the city of Damascus, when Ananias came in and said, “Paul, you’re going to witness of the risen Lord to kings and to great people. You’re going to stand before them.” I wonder if it didn’t pass through Paul’s mind at that point in time, “Wow, Ananias, that’s pretty far out. You’re either a great man of faith or you’ve got a real active imagination.”
But you know what else, after Paul’s salvation, his conversion there in Damascus, the Bible records that he lived in relative obscurity for about 14 years, doing really nothing for the Lord. He was in just kind of a holding pattern, just waiting. And I wonder if, during those 14 years, that it didn’t go through Paul’s mind that “Yeah, that wasn’t really true.” I wonder if he ever doubted that calling or that word that came during that time, as he was waiting for those 14 years, as he’s just kind of sitting there wondering, “Will God ever use me?”
Point Number 3 on your outline:
There Is Often Much Waiting For God’s Workers
There is often much waiting for God’s workers. While I’m often in a hurry – can anybody relate? While I’m often in a hurry, God rarely is. In my experience, the last time that God moved quickly was that whole six days of creation thing. But there are many times where it seems like, “God, what are You doing? Are You doing anything?” It seems like the Lord is going very slow. And just as God is working when no one is watching, God is working in our waiting. And oftentimes, God is working in us and on us so that He can work through us. It’s in that waiting where God is working in us and He’s working on us, so that He’s preparing us to work through us in the future. But we’re Americans, we hate to wait. Amen? We hate it. I mean, we’ve got drive-thru Starbucks. And if there’s three cars in line at a drive-thru Starbucks, I ain’t waitin’. Forget it, I’m outta here. Right? So we don’t want to wait. But God, oftentimes, has us put in those times of waiting because He’s working in us and on us, so that He can work through us.
Would you turn in your Bible to the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 40. You can turn about the middle of your Bible, you’ll be in the Psalms, and then turn to the right – Isaiah 40. Isaiah is one of the largest books of the Old Testament, and there in Chapter 40, many of you know where I’m going because you know this verse, you’ve put it, you’ve committed it to memory, you’ve thought on it before, you’ve gotten it in a greeting card. Isaiah 40:31, it says, “But those who wait on the Lord, those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Those who wait on the Lord, they’re going to receive strength. God, in the waiter, the person who’s waiting upon Him, will receive strength from Him, divine strength, His empowering, so that they can persevere, so that they can endure. Do you see that there in that verse? “They shall run and not be weary,” perseverance, endurance, “they shall walk and not faint.” So, in the person who waits, God is strengthening them, readying them, so that they can stand when the trial comes, when the difficulty comes. It’s during those times of waiting that He is working in us, and on us, and strengthening us, and building up endurance and perseverance, so that we can be the ones who are ready to give a defense.
You know, another verse that’s a real encouragement about waiting is found in Psalm 25, Verse 3, there David says, “No one who waits on the Lord shall be ashamed.” “No one who waits on the Lord will be ashamed.” I bet that many of us in this room today would admit that we’re a little bit ashamed about our impatience. There are some in this room that would admit, that would confess that you’ve been ashamed, and even experienced ruin for rushing ahead of God. But, “No one who waits on the Lord shall be ashamed,” Psalm 25 says. And so the application is clear, it’s given to us again by King David in one of the Psalms, in Psalm 27, Verse 14 he says, “Wait on the Lord; Wait, I say, on Him!” Wait upon Him. Why? Because those who wait will not be ashamed, and those who wait will receive strength, and those who wait will be enabled and equipped by God to persevere, to endure. “Wait on the Lord; Wait I say on the Lord,” Psalm 27:14. In our waiting, God is working on us and in us, so that He can work through us.
Verse 24, back in Acts Chapter 25; Acts 25:24, and so Paul was brought in, “And Festus said, ‘King Agrippa and all the men who are present with us, you see this man, this is it, this is the guy I told you about. There he is, standing before you, in his late 60s, bowed-legs, bleeding eyes.’” He looked like he had a hard life, he was beaten many times for his faith. He went about the whole known world on foot. “Here’s the man. You see the man before you about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me.” Now, that word, “petitioned” is an interesting word. In the original language, it’s the idea of a siegework coming against the wall of a city. So the idea is: “The whole assembly of the Jews bombarded me.” That’s the literal picture of it. It’s not just like they said, “Hey, we’d really like to hear from this guy Paul again. Can you send him up?“ “They bombarded me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that this man was not fit to live any longer.”
This is the guy, they say, “This guy is criminal Number 1 that needs to be dead!!” The Most Wanted List – Saul of Tarsus, aka, Paul the Apostle – Kill him.
“So the whole assembly of the Jews, they bombarded me, saying, ‘This guy should not live any longer.’ But,” Verse 25, “when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. I have nothing certain to write to my lord,” my lord would be Caesar. So he’s acknowledging, this Roman man is acknowledging Caesar as lord, kyrios in the Greek. “I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him before you.”
So, here’s the picture: Paul has stood trial before a crowd of Jewish people in Jerusalem, before a council in Jerusalem, before Governor Festus in Caesarea, with another council – I’m sorry, before Felix – before Felix and his wife Drusilla. And now he’s stood trial before Festus and a council in Jerusalem, and now this is now the sixth time he’s standing trial. And the only reason that now this event is taking place is because Festus needs to find a way out. You see, he has received the appeal from this Roman citizen, Paul, he says, “I want to appeal to Caesar,” and he had the right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. But there’s no charge that can stick against this guy. And so now Festus has the odd job of sending him to Caesar, saying, “Hey, they want this guy dead.”
And Caesar’s going to say, “Okay, let me see the case.”
And Festus goes, “I got nothin’! I got nothin’.”
And so he says, “All right, Agrippa, you gotta help me out here. Here’s the guy, and I need you to help me figure out how do I send this guy to Caesar and not look completely incompetent in my role as governor of this place, because there’s no case? And he’s going to get to Caesar, and Caesar’s going to say, ‘Why is this man before me? There’s no case.’”
And so he said, “I found that he’s committed nothing deserving of dead, but he’s appealed to Augustus, I have nothing certain to write about him,” Verse 26. “Therefore I’ve brought him before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so you’re the man, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”
Now this is striking. You’ve got two pagan governors – Festus and Felix. You’ve got three immoral, crazy royalty members of the Jewish family that are living in carnality. And they are more just and more willing to give an honest hearing to the Apostle Paul than the religious establishment of the chief priest, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin. They’re more just than the religious; these two pagans, and these three hedonists are more just in the way that they’re going to deal with this guy, the Apostle Paul. That’s striking.
The Sanhedrin, the chief priest, the members of the ruling council of Israel, they had bombarded Festus, saying, “We want this guy dead.”
“Well, what’s the charge?”
“We have nothing that will stick. We just want him dead.”
And Festus, a pagan Roman governor, says, “There’s nothing wrong here; he’s done nothing wrong. I find no fault in this man.”
Well, that’s interesting; that reminds us of something, doesn’t it? It reminds us of another trial that took place some 30-plus years before this event, where another Man stood before a Roman governor, this time in Jerusalem, the Roman governor’s name was Pontius Pilate. And Pilate had Him examined under scourging, that is, they beat Him, they whipped Him trying to find if there was anything that He’d done wrong worthy of death. And after they found nothing, they stood the beaten Jesus before the gathered chief priests, and they said, “I find nothing wrong with this Man.”
And the chief priests said, “Murder Him!! Murder Him!! Murder Him!!” or “Crucify Him,” however you look at it, same thing.
“I find nothing wrong in this man.”
And in light of this contrast, Verses 24 and 25, which is a very amazing contrast to me – “The whole assembly of the religious establishment bombarded me that I would kill him. But I find nothing deserving of death in him.” Strong contrast.
Point Number 4 on your outline:
Let Your Conduct Be Holy And Befitting The Gospel
Let your conduct be holy and befitting the Gospel. In the Old Testament, in the prophetic work of Micah, Micah Chapter 6, Verse 8, there we read: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God.”
So, this is what God requires of us – To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk in humility – those three things. Do justly, love mercy, walk in humility, that’s what we, as followers of God, are called to be. And these guys who were the representatives of God – the chief priest, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious establishment of Judaism there, the religious establishment of God’s religion of people there in Jerusalem – they should have been the picture of justice and mercy and humility. And, in reality, they were the picture of cruelty, and the picture of haughtiness and pomp, and the picture of injustice. Why is it that many non-believing pagans can sometimes show more compassion and more mercy than Christians? It certainly shouldn’t be that way; it shouldn’t be that way. We should be those who demonstrate justice in our lives, we do justice, we love mercy, and we walk in humility before God. But many times we get those things backwards, we go, “I love justice, I want mercy.” Right? How do I know? Well, I‘ve said it before, and it’s true, driving down the freeway, and you’re doing a little bit faster than the speed limit. Okay, a lot faster than the speed limit. And all of a sudden, you see, out of the corner of your eye, what you think is like a black-and-white vehicle. And instantly the foot just comes off the accelerator. You never put on the brakes, right? Because you don’t want those lights to come on. You just pull off the brakes, “O-o-h-h.” You go, “Oh, Lord, please mercy.”
But then when the tables are turned, and someone goes f-f-s-s-t-t, you go, “Oh, I wish there was a cop!!” Right? I’m not the only one. Come on.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God.”
So, as we walk this path that God has ordered for us – God prepared a path for you, for me this week. Ephesians Chapter 2, Verse 10 says, “We are His workmanship, created for good works, which God created beforehand that we should walk in.” So this week there are things that God has ordered for you and for me, even in the delays, and in the monotony, and in the redundancy of life, He’s created opportunities for us. And as we walk through the path that God has ordered for us, let us remember that God is working in those delays, He is ordering our steps behind the scenes, and He desires to reveal Himself through us. And so the best way for us to be ready for Him to reveal Himself through us is to do justly, to love mercy, to walk in humility, so that He can use us in that way. Let us walk in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel, as Colossians Chapter 1, Verse 10 says. Walk in a way that is glorifying to His kingdom. God, enable us to do that. God, work that into us.
Let’s stand, and let’s pray in that way.
Father, I confess that there are certainly times where I find myself wondering, “What are You doing? Are You doing anything?” Lord, help me to recognize that You are working, that You are ordering my steps, that You have good things prepared, that I should walk in them. Lord, help me to walk in those things that I should walk in this week. And, if I find myself, if we find ourselves, Lord, in a place of waiting, Lord, I pray that You’d help us to recognize that in the waiting, You are working in us and on us, so that You can work through us. So, prepare us to be vessels, Lord, vessels of honor and glory for Your name. Perhaps, as we’re standing here today, you realize that you’ve grown frustrated with God’s pace, maybe you’ve even judged Him indifferent. Maybe in your impatience, you’ve rushed out in front of Him. This is an opportunity, right now, to repent, to confess, to say, “Lord, I haven’t trusted You.” Maybe it’s a time to affirm, or reaffirm, your submission to Him as Lord. “God, You are the One who rules over my life.” If that’s you today, as we sing this song in just a moment, you, before God, you can just confess your sin, confess your impatience; the fruit of the Spirit is patience, so impatience is a work of the flesh. Confess your frustration, and recognize that Jesus died on the cross for our sins; He raised from the dead, paying for them, so that we can walk in righteousness. He’s already clothed us in righteousness, and so, because He’s clothed us in righteousness, He’s given us the power, by the presence of His indwelling Spirit, to walk in such a way that’s pleasing to Him. So, God, would You have Your way with us, would You work in us, that we would walk in a way that is pleasing to You this week? God, help us to bring praise and honor and glory to You, for You are worthy.