And so

Last week, I came across one short phrase that, small and uninteresting as it seems,  stopped my reading and demanded I give it my full attention.

And so we came to Rome. Acts 28:14.

Granted, not much there at first, except the sheer nonchalant nature of the phrase.  καί οὕτω (kai hoútō) — and in this manner, for all that, in this way, thus — we came to Rome.   It was the context that gave the phrase itself the strength to arrest my attention. It seemed as if the phrase called out, “Think of what I convey. Think of the depth and feeling that one little phrase can hold.”

The first power of this small statement was in the events preceding. Those events began in Acts chapter 21, or, in human time, over two years earlier. It was a journey that began with the violence of an angry mob and a divided council.  It was faithful testifying in the face of that violence. Paul escaped two plots against his life. The journey continued with a two-year detention in Caesarea and being left in prison as a favor. The journey continued with an ill-timed journey across sea, a horrific storm, ship-wreck, poisonous snake-bite, and a prolonged stay on Malta. Afterward, the author takes us on a dizzying overview of cities where they stopped after Malta.

And so we came to Rome.

The second reason that phrase delivered such an impact is the theme of God’s plan coming to fruition. At the beginning, when Paul’s testimonies were met with riots and few others besides accusers seemed to be standing by him, the Lord himself stood by Paul and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23: 11).

After Paul’s two-year imprisonment, it is revealed that had Paul not appealed to Caesar, he could have been set free.  From a human standpoint, the journey seems worthless.  The human thought of freedom makes the reader want to cry out, “Why did you appeal?” At least that’s what I thought for years. But Paul is meant to go to Rome.

Finally on the ship to Italy, a violent storm arises that lasts for weeks, meaning almost certain death. But it has always been as before:

“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar.  And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith  in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”

Nothing could stop God’s plan. No aspect of the journey was without hope, because God had spoken.

And so we came to Rome.

The third aspect of this journey is that the delays were not wasted. Paul was meant to go to Rome, yes, but along the way he was meant to testify before two governors and King Agrippa, he was meant to witness to the men in the storm. Paul was meant to encourage the brothers and bear witness at Malta. All the other people and cities along the way to Rome, Paul was also meant to see.

And so we came to Rome.

In the end, I was impressed with these things:
In obedience to God, the journey may be long and dangerous, but God will accomplish all He means to do.
The Lord himself stands by us in the journey. The same God that spoke hope to Paul, speaks hope today.
The path of obedience may seem littered with setbacks, waiting, and detours, but those too are sent by God to accomplish his purpose in and around us.

And so…

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