The next part of the story tells how God protected Paul. How God did it is interesting.
Paul had a nephew, the son of his sister, who was living in Jerusalem. Up to this point in Acts and in all we may have read from the pen of Paul himself, we have been given not the slightest information about Paul’s family. All we know is that Paul received his Roman citizenship from his father, who was therefore obviously a Roman before him. There are places in Paul’s writings where we might have expected him to write about his family. They were Jewish. We might wonder how they had reacted to his conversion to Christianity. How did his father take to it? He had invested a great deal in Paul’s education. He had sent him to the best universities; he had given him the best religious training. Paul had become a distinguished rabbi. He was on his way up among his people when suddenly he went over to the other side. How did his family react? We may suppose that they had disinherited him. Perhaps they no longer acknowledged him as their son. We would like to have known many of these things, but are not told them.
Did Paul have brothers?
Did he make an attempt to see his family during his travels throughout Asia? We are not told anything.
Yet suddenly, in the midst of the story, here is a boy who is Paul’s nephew. And not only is this boy present in Jerusalem, perhaps having been sent to Jerusalem to study as Paul had been sent years earlier, but he is also somehow privy to things that are going on in the Sanhedrin. He overhears the plot against Paul and learns of the Sanhedrin’s willingness to become involved.
This small fact may indicate, incidentally, that Paul’s family was rich and had contacts with the most important people in Judaism. If they had sent Paul’s nephew to Jerusalem to study the same way they had sent Paul to Jerusalem years before, and if the boy seems to have had access to the Sanhedrin, Paul’s may have been a very distinguished family indeed.
When Paul’s nephew heard the plan he went to the military barracks and told Paul. For his part, Paul asked the soldier who was guarding him to take the boy to the commander to whom he would tell his story. The soldier did it. The commander heard the story and immediately acted to remove Paul from danger. It is worth pausing to think about how Paul was removed from danger, because here we have another of those startling biblical cases where God, who is able to use the great as well as the little things of life, uses small things to accomplish His purposes.
I wonder if you have ever thought about this in terms of the Bible’s stories. God does not hesitate to use small objects for His purposes. When He made the first man, Adam, in Eden, He made him from the dust of the ground, stooping to collect and form it. He could have used some more noble substance, I suppose. But in order that we might be reminded later, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19), He chose dust.
When He revealed himself to Moses to call him to be the deliverer of His people, God appeared in a burning bush on a hillside in a remote, barren area of the world.
When he sent David to kill the Philistine giant, Goliath, it was with a sling and five small stones.
Samson killed a thousand Philistines with a jawbone of an ass.
Many of the great people of the Bible were, at least in their early days, hardly great people at all. Abraham, the father of the faith, was an idolater who lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. Like everybody else, he worshiped idols until God revealed Himself to him.
Moses was a son of slave parents. He miscalculated when he tried to take his destiny into his own hands, killing an Egyptian to demonstrate his identity with his people. He had to flee. He spent the next forty years in the desert as a shepherd.
David was the youngest son in an obscure family in an obscure town in Judah. Yet God called this nobody to be the greatest king of all.
Most striking, when God was ready to send His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth, He chose a poor virgin of Nazareth, Mary, to be His Son’s mother.