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Ready for Trial

Ready for Trial
Words of Faith 7-29-16
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2016
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Acts 23
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." [2] At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. [3] Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!"
[4] Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God's high priest?"
[5] Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'"

The trial before the Sanhedrin was a perilous one mostly because of the corrupt character of the high priest. Ananias was known for his avarice and liberal use of violence. He was a brutal and scheming man, hated by Jewish nationalists for his pro-Roman policies.
The Jewish historian Josephus reported that Ananias stole for himself the tithes given for poorer priests and gave lavish bribes to Romans and also Jews. He had no sense of justice so this was not a court of justice.
Paul began his defense by claiming to have a clear conscience before such a man. This was likely an affront because Ananias could make no such claim! This drew an immediate rebuke from Ananias who ordered that Paul be struck. This was actually an illegal action! It was against Jewish law to strike someone who was not yet proven guilty. Paul did not let this abuse go unnoticed.
At first glance, Paul's retort seems out of character for a follower of the one who "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats" (1 Peter 2:23).
Of course the silence of Jesus during his trial was a fulfillment of Scripture. But we should also note that Paul was not speaking in self-righteousness rather his outburst was a word of righteous indignation. Paul was a prophet of God and so spoke a rightful word of judgment against the corrupt high priest. A “whitewashed wall” is the image of a structure full of weakness and rot that is covered over.
Still, Paul regained his composure and then apologized, claiming that he did not realize that Ananias was the high priest. Paul respected the office of the Priest even if he did not respect the priest. It is doubtful that Paul did not recognize Ananias because of poor eyesight as some suppose. It is more likely that Paul was pointing out the disparity between the behavior of Ananias and that of a rightful high priest. It is difficult to recognize a “high priest” that does not act like one.
So how do we apply this text devotionally? Primarily, we should hear it in the matter of keeping a clear conscience. Paul was prepared for this trial because he had no secrets. No skeletons in the closet. No private sin he nurtured. No selfish gain to be exposed. No fodder for the tabloids. What we see in Paul is all of Paul. The word for that is integrity.
Walking with integrity means that we always ready and prepared for any trial that may come.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace (2 Cor. 1:12). Such integrity is a powerful thing especially when one comes under trial.
The truth is that we cannot be prepared for the trials of life if our conscience is not clear. This does not mean that we live perfect live but forgiven ones. Paul was far from perfect! We do not live perfected lives but we confess and repent of sin as it arises and we make amends in all places possible.
Are you ready for trial? Is your conscience clear? Is there sin you need to confess and repent of? Is there forgiveness you need to seek or extend? Is there restitution that needs to be made?

Lord God, search me and know me. Reveal anything that is displeasing that I may confess and repent. Show me any amends I need to make. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2001, 2016
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.