Read Acts 23:12-22
In Acts 23 Paul once again finds himself amidst trouble. Listen as Luke describes a secret plan devised by some of Paul’s accusers,
When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot.
For Paul, the outlook is grim. This is a sobering situation. The Jews moved from trying to publicly remove Paul to secretly conspiring to kill him. The word oath that’s used here is the Greek word anathematizo, meaning to bind by a curse. This tells us just how serious theses Jews were about killing Paul. To make matters worse, they pulled the chief priests and elders into their devilish plan (v.14-15). The chief priests and elders were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their day. But, now we find them conspiring and agreeing to break one of God’s Ten Commandments.
You shall not murder.
The Law was the very thing they were so adamantly trying to protect and uphold. Paul was seized and almost beaten to death by them for supposedly preaching against the Law. Luke writes in Acts 21:27-28a,
The Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all me everywhere against our people and the Law and this place.”
In Acts 23 we find them about to break the very thing they were so intent on protecting. The Law makes it very clear that murder is a sin, but now it’s all of a sudden ok. Seems there is a double standard here.
Sometimes I find myself loving God’s commandments more than God Himself. I find myself acting like the forty Jews. Striving to protect His commandments, but at the same time eager to break them to satisfy my desires. The truth is that it’s really a matter of the heart. The Jews who were persecuting Paul didn’t have their hearts in the right place (or Person). Even the Old Testament tells us that we should love God with all our heart, soul and might (Deut 6:5). They loved the Law like they should have loved God and when they placed their hearts in it; they couldn’t love God which meant they couldn’t really love others. The Law became an end for them. Jesus said,
If you love me you will keep my commands.
It’s interesting to note that our obedience to God starts with loving Jesus. So, we see in this verse that the Jews didn’t really love God, because they were about to break His commands. Had their love been for God, rather than the Law, things would have been different and Paul would have had forty new disciples. Instead he had forty men who loved the Law.
Here are some questions for you to think about pertaining to this:
- Why do you think the Jews (who were very zealous about the Law) were so willing to break the Law by murdering Paul?
- How would they have been able to justify themselves before God if they were able to follow through with murdering Paul? Could they justify themselves?
- Do you think it’s possible to be in love with God’s commandments (the Law) more than Him?
- What are the dangers in loving His commandments more than Him?
- Are there any dangers?
- What would a person’s life look like if he/she loved God’s commandments more than God?