what lies beneath, & other musings…

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Acts 25:1-3

I was re-reading the last few chapters in Acts, and couldn’t help but notice the determination and single-mindedness of the Jewish religious leaders in their pursuit of Paul. And here in chapter 25, once again they’re plotting to kill him. Suddenly, it hit me: they think they are on a mission from God.

It might sound silly to say that, but I think we have to take a second and remind ourselves just who these people were: the chief priests, and the principal men of the Jews. The leadership.

These were the people responsible for leading other Jews in their pursuit of relationship with God.

These were men of (presumed) good reputation, character, and integrity who’d come into their priestly and leadership roles not by wile-and-guile, but rather based on recognition of their gifts and callings.

They are the ones leading the charge to kill Paul.

Somewhere along the line their zeal for the LORD had been contaminated with sin and marred by fleshly, even demonic motivation. And they didn’t know it.

They thought they were on a mission from God.

I can’t merely look at the religious leaders & wonder how they got so messed up that they actively & murderously opposed the work (& people) of the LORD, & let that be the end of it.

I also have to consider what lies in the depths of my own heart, because the kind of terrible wickedness we see repeatedly from the religious leaders is something that can lurk in each of us.

Unaddressed sin. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Jealousy. Unchecked ambition. Pride. Judgment. All provide fertile ground that could allow seeds of sin to grow that would ultimately lead to the manipulation & poisoning of my heart & mind to the point that I could be used to oppose God’s work and stand against His people.

All while thinking I’m on a mission from God.

It’s sobering.

Search me, oh God, & know my heart. Try me, & know my thoughts! If there be any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24