The Plot Against Paul

Open Your Bible

Acts 23:12-35, Job 33:4, 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

When I was a girl, I was not good at sitting still. If I had a good book, I could get lost in its pages for an hour or two. Television, with all its mindless cartoons and gaudy commercials, only inspired an even deeper sense of ennui. I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to do something. I was always standing at the hem of my mother’s skirt, asking, “What are we doing next?”

“This,” my mother would say, pointing around the kitchen, or the living room, or the pile of clean laundry in need of sorting, folding, and putting-away. “This is what we’re doing.”

Life can often feel like one long series of mundane tasks. In contrast, Paul and his life in prison reads like one magnificent action-packed screenplay. Suddenly, there is a plot among the Jewish people to ambush Paul and murder him in broad daylight. But, through deft maneuvering, the tribune is altered, and in the dead of night, Paul is sent away on a two-day trip from Jerusalem to Caesarea under heavy guard. Though all of this must have been supremely terrifying in the moment, there is also a sense that God is up to something—something purposeful, something meaningful. 

It’s easy to look at Paul’s dramatic, purposeful life and think that he was doing something right. But I think that would be missing the fuller story. Luke (the presumed author of Acts) includes a tiny detail in this narrative that can nearly escape the eye. It wasn’t just any young boy who alerted Claudius Lysias of the plot to kill Paul. He is unnamed, but we’re told he was “the son of Paul’s sister” (Acts 23:16).

We do not know how Paul’s nephew heard of this ambush. Did he walk through the market and overhear someone whispering? Was he buying eggs from a woman who let the gossip slip? Or did he happen to hitch up his donkey near some loud-talking would-be-murderers? We will never know. But nonetheless, at great risk to himself, he bravely informed Paul of the plans, and then informed a centurion and the tribune as well. He snitched. I wonder, when all was said and done, if that mob of forty men learned of this young boy’s actions. Was he safe after this? Even if no one learned of his identity, I have to imagine the boy went through the next few years of his life worried that the Jewish leaders might find out what he’d done. If they were willing to kill Paul, what would they do to this nameless young kid? 

Oh, to be an unnamed character in God’s great story. What I wouldn’t give to play such a supporting role in the work God is doing in the redemption of the world! I think, as a child, that is mostly what I wanted. Not activity or entertainment, but meaning. I wanted to believe that God might put me to use.

And the great news is—He does! He prepares good works for me to do in advance, works that will require great courage. And I do not have to go looking for those works. Just as the son of Paul’s sister found an opportunity for faith and courage, I do not have to strive to find God’s plan for my life. After all, it’s His plan, not mine. I can stay where I am—doing “this,” as my mother always said—trusting that God is with me, and that if I am present to Him, He will give me and guide me in everything I need to fulfill His calling on my life. 

(35) Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

35 thoughts on "The Plot Against Paul"

  1. Jenni Floyd says:

    Love this devotion. Love that God can use us while we are doing “this.” We don’t have to be a minister to be doing his work or his will. Nor do I have to figure out his will. This has been a struggle for me recently.

  2. Margaret W says:

    I love that the key focus of this verse is an unnamed hero in God’s great narrative, whose fate we will never know in this life. I know I have had many such opportunities to serve my Savior in this way; I pray that I have been found faithful.

  3. Julie Hurst says:

    Oh the grace of knowing that “this” is a blessing in God’s eyes!

  4. Aimee D-R says:

    Lord I love You. Amen

  5. Lorah Young says:

    Praying now

  6. Poppy Waskett says:

    Paul’s nephew was at the right place at the right time and acted with integrity. I want to respond to situations with that same integrity and purpose.

    1. Suze Hand says:


  7. Victoria E says:

    Jennifer Anapol thank you! My appointment went well, praise God! Amanda I am so sorry to hear of this tragic loss. I will pray for comfort for everyone affected

  8. C Jones says:

    Praying for your heart and your loved ones’ health, AG.

  9. Allison Bentley says:

    The thing that stood out to me the most was everyday people doing the right thing. Paul’s nephew did the right thing by telling the truth, the Centurion who sent Paul away in the night, the soldiers following their duty to carry out a mission. When we do the right thing we are opening our hearts to see the goodness of God!

  10. Claire B says:

    Keep us posted!

  11. Tricia Cavanaugh says:

    I often wonder what happened to the men who made an oath and wouldn’t eat or drink until Paul was killed. Did they break their oath?

  12. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I loved this devotional today! Sometimes my life can feel so mundane, one day bleeding o to the next. I love how Claire wrote that if you are present with God, he will show up in your life. I also love how we don’t have to go out and look for these good works he wants me to do, he will lead me in them.

  13. Caroline Bridges says:

    I was wondering what happened to this Devo when I went to go read it this morning.

  14. AG says:

    Acts is full of miracles and I’m praying for one today. I’m so thankful for the hope this chapter and the Lord have given me.

  15. AG says:

    I am behind on my reading but I am asking for prayers. My grandma is in the ICU with COVID and it is not looking good. I lost my grandpa in February this year and am struggling. My dad and mom were exposed to her before they knew she had it and my dad is diabetic and will be at high risk if he catches it. Please please pray for my family. I am trying to cast my fear and worries to the lord and put my faith in hope in Him and His plan.

  16. Skylar Hilton says:

    Paul’s perseverance for God and teaching the ministry.. and preaching about Him is something we all need. There were so many times Paul could have given up… but He never did because he understood that he was being sent for God, and that what he was teaching about was something much more bigger than him. Ultimately, I not only pray that we follow the plans God has for our lives… but to be brave in them, and preserver through them for Him as well..

    “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” Essentially, this life we have… the ups and downs of it .. comes from our amazing God! No one else!

    We might be persecuted by others, but God never forsakes us.. ever!. I pray that Jesus will use all of us as vessels.. so He could speak through us to others, and guide them back towards Him. May He forever be glorified within us.

    God loves you ❤️

  17. Beverly Watley says:

    Yes, I didn’t either. Thank you Beth.

  18. Beverly Watley says:

    Amen Dorothy, I am really getting to know about the middle of the Bible; meaning I feel like I’ve read the beginning and the end of the Bible but not spending to much time in the middle of how we get to the end (revelation). I have learned a lot about how the Father is and also the son, JESUS CHRIST. I also was wondering about Paul’s sister, not much was said about her after telling the boy to go to the Tribune and tell what she sent him there for. So blessed when it comes to reading the Bible. Thank you Lord and have an exciting week family.

  19. Rhonda J. says:

    I’m glad I checked back in and the daily insight is up now. (I did read the HRT earlier and it was good as well.) Like most of you, this really hit that I don’t have to endlessly strive to find what I can do for His kingdom. Rather the opportunities are there if I keep open to what is happening around me. I have just been praying for so many years to find something valuable and big to do for my God! But I have also seen that it can be in our everyday environment and family. Sometimes I am even grateful that nothing traumatic has come about that God has chosen to use me in! lol.
    Today I have spent a couple of hours face timing my single, mother-to-be (due in 3 weeks!) niece. This is the one I asked you all for prayers several months ago! If you could continue your prayers, she is so young, anxious and nervous.

  20. Pamela Chapman says:

    Thank you for a great lesson.

  21. Keegan Starkey says:

    It was posted later than usual so no one was able to read or comment. I never noticed Paul’s nephew being mentioned before so that was interesting to read!

  22. Cynthia Johnston says:

    Dear Lord, Please give me the wisdom to know when I am to act. May I have the courage to act when I am given the opportunity. Holy Spirit, nudge me to do the good works which were prepared for me to walk in Jesus Christ. Amen.

  23. Victoria E says:

    I don’t see any comments here I wonder if there is something wrong with my app? This was a very interesting devotional today I never would have gotten that insight from today’s reading without it! I have another OB appointment this morning, if I can ask for continued prayers for myself and our little one on the way. Thank you and have a wonderful week. TheBestisYettoCome, praying for your court date tomorrow!

  24. Lindsay says:

    AMANDA – This is heartbreaking and tragic. I’m praying today for all those who knew and loved this girl, including your niece.

    CLAIRE – I’m thankful for your reminder that “I do not have to strive to find God’s plan for my life.” Paul was uncertain about his future, but time and time again throughout Acts we see him step out in faith and trust in the Lord’s plan.

    CEEGEE – I love that memory from your childhood. What a wonderful example of how your mom served others when she was given the opportunity, and I love that even though you were little she gave you a way to participate in serving too.

    So thankful for this beautiful community. I don’t post on here every day, but I do read through the comments daily and have gleaned so much insight and food for thought from you all!

  25. Miranda says:

    I love this story! Thank you!

  26. Michelle Patire says:

    I’m so glad I read this morning. I also felt that Paul’s nephew was highlighted to me and I had a lot of questions concerning the situation… Looks like Claire did as well :) thank you, Holy Spirit.

    Thanks everyone for your kind words and prayers.

    Also, in Claire’s last paragraph– Ephesians 2:10 — love that. That’s beautifully put that we don’t need to strive to see God work in our lives. We can expect it. Amen!!

    Praying for Tanner. I trust God will open a door as He wills– my brother wasn’t having such nerve pain and randomly an appointment opened up– he wasn’t scheduled until March! Praying the same for your Tanner!!!

    Prayers Amanda for those effected by suicide. :( may God show up in a big way and comfort those in pain.

  27. Traci Gendron says:

    AMANDA – prayers. This is so tragic. I’m very sorry.

    I liked Claire’s comment about God preparing good works for us to do in advance. That we don’t need to go looking for these “works”. That we can trust his plan for our lives.

  28. Dorothy says:

    Beth, thank you for point that out, I didn’t notice that.

  29. Beth says:

    In verse 19 it says that the commander took Paul’s nephew by the hand. I don’t think the commander would do that with a young man or even teenager, so Paul’s nephew was probably fairly young.

  30. Traci Gendron says:

    I’m about to start todays study, but I wanted to quickly ask for prayers for Tanner. He has had a lot of swelling in his feet, ankles, and calves. He also has been having severe insomnia. He normally sleeps like a rock. I have him going in for vitals this afternoon. The doctor cannot see him until 11/29! He cannot go 3 more weeks without sleeping. Pray for vitals to be good and a cancellation for his appointment to be moved up sooner. I’m worried he is having congestive heart failure. Thank you

  31. Dorothy says:

    Claire brought up a good point of why was Paul’s nephew where he could hear them and where were they? I wonder if maybe they weren’t in or near the temple. Just because Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity doesn’t mean the rest of his family did or at least not yet. Plus in those times there were multiple temples. It also doesn’t say whether the nephew was real young or what. I wish I had known about this story when my boys were young, I think they would have enjoyed it. I haven’t heard of it until today. This study of Acts has been SOOO rewarding and enlightening and I’m gaining knowledge I never knew before.
    Be blessed, spread the Great News and learn something new today sisters.

  32. Amanda says:

    Good morning ladies. I wanted to give you an update on my niece’s friend who passed. I found out that it was indeed suicide. There is a service at 4 today I believe at the Christian school school she attended through eighth grade (the school doesn’t offer high school). This was also a former student of my sister in law. Please pray for all those involved as they process this loss and grieve. Thank you!

  33. CeeGee says:

    * prayers!!! Lol

  34. CeeGee says:

    CLAIRE, THANK YOU so much for your words today! I actually mentioned to God earlier this morning that I felt like the days are passing by, one blending into the other, and the feeling that I am missing ministry opportunities. Thanks for reminding us that they may be in the midst of our day to day routine. What a wise mom you had!!! As I was typing that last sentence, I remembered my mom living that principle. We lived out in the country so sometimes people passing through would stop for a drink or a bite to eat. She always let me take the plate out to them and I would sit with them while they ate. I was always within her sight, though! We called these folks hobos, not out of disrespect, but because they were wandering through. Would I be brave or obedient if that opportunity presented itself in my day to day? A great memory and food for thought especially in light of reading this after my earlier talk with God!! An unnamed child (Paul’s nephew) certainly didn’t miss his opportunity – such an inspiration!!!
    As always, you are all in my orayers.