Providence is defined as ‘the protective care of God’, and this is seen clearly in Acts 23:12-22, when a plot to kill Paul is thwarted by his nephew. Some 40 fanatical Jews wanted to get rid of Paul once and for all and they plotted to kill him, partnering with the chief priests and the Sanhedrin to try to get Paul in a vulnerable position where he could be attacked en route for further questioning. This plot was thwarted by Paul’s nephew, a young man about whom nothing more is known, who heard of the plot, went to tell his uncle directly about it and then, on Paul’s command, told the centurion in charge what he knew. As a result, Paul came once again under the protection of Roman law and ended up being transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea.
Whilst this passage leaves us with many more questions than answers (we want to know all about Paul’s sister and nephew, how he learned of the plot (‘careless talk costs lives’ is presumably the lesson we can learn here!) and how he managed to have the kind of access to the barracks that he did), it clearly demonstrates for us that God’s hand is on Paul and that He has a plan for him to be His witness in Rome, no matter what other people feel about this situation. Job, after much suffering and many questions, finally came to realise something of God’s sovereignty, saying, ‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ (Job 42:1) This may well leave us feeling like mere pawns in God’s great chess game, but actually, there is something tremendously reassuring and exciting to know that we are part of God’s great plans and purpose, and that His hand of providence is ‘guiding us through choices that we make… reaching out to help us on our way.’ (‘Providence’, Michael W. Smith) Paul’s experience of God’s providence and protection can be ours too. As Isaiah put it, ‘no weapon forged against you will prevail.’ (Isaiah 54:17) God’s purposes will prevail.