Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong” (Acts 25:1-5)
As I read this passage (actually, from a couple of different translations) I get the very distinct impression that Governor Festus had no clue that the Jewish leaders were planning to ambush and kill Paul, if he had come to Jerusalem. Luke, the historian who wrote the Book of Acts, somehow knew this, and our English translations make it to read like a parenthetical thought.
Yet the Scripture in its totality is God’s Word and there are no extra ideas here, so the clear meaning is that God by His sovereign direction – even over pagan or secular rulers – preserved Paul’s life in this way. Certainly He could have protected Paul even if they had brought him to Jerusalem, but it is clear that the evil plans of those who opposed the Gospel were thwarted by His oversight of the small details.
That principle is true in our lives as well. Life has a tendency to “throw us a curve” at times, to interrupt our carefully laid plans. These interruptions may or may not divert us from our plans ultimately, but we can be sure that if we are completely His, they are not accidents. That’s why the writer of the Proverbs says, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9).
In the passage above, Paul had no control over the decision of Festus to conduct his hearing in Caesarea instead of Jerusalem, but it is comforting to realize that the Lord still is watching out for us by orchestrating the small details. Sometimes when He steps into our plans we also have no decisions in the matter, but at other times, He is seeking to prompt us to seek Him for some sort of wisdom. Either way, there is nothing that happens to us that He doesn’t at least allow. What a comfort that truth is in times of trouble and bewilderment!