The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. – Acts 27:3
Acts 7:58 records that Saul of Tarsus watched over the coats of those who were stoning Stephen, the first martyr. Soon after this, Saul (later also known as Paul) was at the forefront of the persecution that resulted in Christians being driven out of Jerusalem, scattering them into the regions around it—and spreading the gospel along with them (8:3-4)! And then Saul was converted: Christ brought him to faith and commissioned him as an apostle even as he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (9:1).
And so it was that by Acts 27:3, Saul, now always known as Paul, had Christian friends in Sidon—likely members of a community founded in the city at the time of the persecution and dispersion that had followed Stephen’s death. The friends that were available to Paul in Sidon were there because Saul of Tarsus had been such a horrible persecutor. God indeed “moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”
If we had been among those who were persecuted by Saul, we likely would have joined in their mourning, saying, O Lord, we’re all being spread apart. Our families are being scattered. Our communities are being broken up. Isn’t this dreadful and awful? From their perspective, it certainly appeared so. Even in the midst of such great tragedy, however, we see God’s mysterious providence: Paul himself, now a Christian, was on the receiving end of Christian kindness from a church that existed in that city in part because he had been such a determined persecutor.
In due time, the tangled messes of our present lives, of our difficulties and disappointments, will all be put in their proper perspective. We should remember that…
Ill that He blesses is our good,Frederick W. Faber, “I Worship Thee, Sweet Will of God” (1849).
And unblest good is ill;
And all is right that seems most wrong,
If it be His sweet will!
This little anecdote from Paul’s life reiterates the truth that Joseph declared to his brothers when they sought his forgiveness for having sold him into Egypt: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). God is able to sweep even the evil intentions of people into the unfolding drama of His purposes for His children. He is faithful and unchanging. Take comfort in His mysterious providence, knowing that He will not allow anything to befall you which will not ultimately be used for your good and His glory.