Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”
And although the Roman Empire considered itself like a god, I would suggest its provincial rulers’ treatment of Paul is more like, “The race of snails toward justice for an innocent man accomplishes little beyond leaving a trail of slime on the pathway.” In the Roman Empire, local rulers race to avoid making decisions. But in Paul’s case, this is all according to the plans of the God of the Universe.
“Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, ‘There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had the opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the men to be brought’” (Ac 25:13-17).
Felix must not have told Festus that they were coming, let alone that they would be breathing murder!
“’When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.’ Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man myself.’ ‘Tomorrow,’ said he, ‘you will hear him’” (Ac 25:18-22).
Up to this point, Festus seems to be just another snail, seeking to impress his king:
“So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in” (Ac 25:23).
But Festus is about to change everything, knowingly or unknowingly in unity with God!
“And Festus said, ‘King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him here before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him’” (Ac 25:24-27).
The slime left behind the snail race is not of Roman origin. It is left by the bloodthirsty Jewish leaders who can bring no charge against Paul! Festus has become a messenger of God, complete with irony sharper than a Roman sword, in presenting this case to Agrippa.
Hurry back next time for the first of three sections of Paul’s defense before Agrippa. Paul’s words are as priceless as gold, quite distinct from the slimy snails from Jerusalem!