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Manipulation Versus Wisdom

Acts 25:6-12
After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood round him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. Then Paul made his defence: 'I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.' Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?' Paul answered: 'I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!' After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: 'You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!' (NIVUK)

Festus, the new Governor of Syria wanted to make a good impression on the religious leaders (Acts 25:1-5). Although he had Caesar's authority, he needed the support of Israel's leaders if he was to maintain peace in the country. His job and possibly life depended on being able to manipulate the religious leaders to keep their people in order. At the same time, the chief priests wanted to manipulate the Governor into bringing Paul back to Jerusalem, from Caesarea, so that they could ambush and kill him.

Festus spent over a week in Jerusalem, trying to make a good impression. But he refused the clerics' request to try Paul in Jerusalem. Instead he invited the accusers to Caesarea. When he got back, Festus convened the court immediately, Paul's accusers stood around him, but they could produce no evidence to support their charges. Festus was not impressed; it seems as if he had half-promised the leaders that they would get a positive result from him.

Paul's defence was straightforward; he had not violated any law. But Festus tried to manipulate Paul by asking him to agree to stand trial in Jerusalem. It was a moment for godly wisdom, and Paul seized it. He would be murdered if he returned to Jerusalem; the Caeserea court would not proceed with his case and so Paul opted for trial before Caesar. He wanted to take the gospel into the heart of the empire and have the opportunity to explain his faith in Jesus to Caesar himself. There was no manipulation, only wisdom. It was Paul's privilege as a Roman citizen to ask to stand before Caesar, and his responsibility as an apostle to tell him the gospel.

In a shadowy world where half-promises, financial inducements and manipulative relationships govern so much of business, industry and the professions, godly wisdom is both rare and powerful. The man and woman of God, who pray before each encounter, find that the Holy Spirit supplies the words to match the wisdom (Luke 12:11-12). Like Paul, the decisions are not made out of fear but in faith, until the manipulators become peripheral and the will of God is seen to be central. If you do not have that wisdom, ask for it (James 1:5): if believing friends need that wisdom, pray for them (Colossians 1:9). But do not give way to the manipulators. Godly wisdom sees further and acts more boldly.

God of all wisdom. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who gives wisdom to Your servants so that they may work with You. Forgive me for finding it easier to manipulate than to pray. Please help me to trust You more, and rely less on my skills and friends to resolve difficult circumstances and see the gospel move forwards. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams