Shrewd and innocent, MV: Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. MATTHEW 10:16, Study text Acts 23:1–35
When Jesus sent out His disciples to proclaim the kingdom of Heaven, He advised them to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Jesus was using a figure of speech. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent was more “crafty” than any other beast (Gen. 3:1). A dove was a worthy sacrifice (Lev. 5:11) and a symbol of peace (Luke 3:22). Christ’s followers would need wisdom as they navigated the troubles ahead while also leading pure and holy lives.
Paul adopted this dual strategy while on trial before the Sanhedrin. When he was rebuked for speaking sharply to the high priest, even though he unjustly ordered that Paul be struck simply for testifying, the apostle apologized. Yet Paul also shrewdly exploited doctrinal disagreements between the Pharisees and Sadducees, the two parties that made up the Sanhedrin. These two groups had long-standing political differences that stretched back to the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid empire in the second century B.C. Paul appealed to the belief of the Pharisees in the resurrection of the body and this divided the assembly.
Lysias, the Roman commander, learned that over forty men had conspired with the chief priests and elders to murder Paul, so he transferred him to Caesarea where Felix, the governor of Judea, resided. The letter that the Roman commander sent exonerated Paul of any charges that merited imprisonment (v. 29). Despite this, the apostle was held in protective custody in the palace that Herod the Great had built. The motives of Lysias and Felix were political. Yet it would be wrong to see Paul as only a pawn in all of this. God was setting the stage to fulfill His promise that the apostle would proclaim Christ “to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts. 9:15).
Do not be too quick to judge your circumstances. What appears to us to be an obstacle or a setback may be God’s way of strategically positioning you for the next stage in His plan.
PRAY WITH US
Father, the thought that we live according to your plan, and not ours, gives us confidence and joy. We ask for wisdom to see the circumstances of our lives through your perspective and follow your guidance.