Paul’s enemies planned to kill him. So committed were they to this mission of death, that they took an oath not to eat until they had accomplished their aim. So, in effect, they would rather die than let him live.
In their minds, they were defending their religion – but that applied to its rites and rituals, their traditional practices but not its intent. They were out to protect the letter but not the spirit of the law.
Who knows? Maybe they even thought that they were doing God a favour, in the same way, I believe, Paul thought he was defending his religion and helping God out when he persecuted those of the Way.
That is the problem with having learned knowledge about God apart from knowing God through a relationship with the living Lord! How Paul was able to understand and correctly interpret the same law after he met Jesus and entered into a real living relationship with him!
And how the Spirit of the Lord instructed Paul to act wisely! Jesus does ask us to be wise as serpents while remaining harmless as doves. Paul was wise. See how he handled the information from his nephew about the men lying in ambush, ready to kill him. Had he been foolish to speak about this and call for sympathy, that would have been self-defeating. He knew the politics of the situation and used his knowledge to good effect.
They(his enemies) would have to fast to death or follow the law of the land. Paul knew it just as well as they did.
One thing strikes me, though. It is the way people can give themselves to a wicked cause because the wool is over their eyes! They should have known that they were wrong about Paul and his message. They could have done some introspection and discovered that they were simply filled with jealousy and hatred; but they did not. The very fact that they had to tell lies, to try and fool the tribune about their motives meant that they had something to hide. Their motive was impure.
Maybe we can all learn to stop in our tracks and examine our motives before we plunge deeper into wrong. If the one whom we accuse is on God’s side, we will surely lose, even when it seems we’re having our way. The tribune found a way to get Paul to the governor and escape their death plot. The apostle had a mission indeed, to bear the name of Jesus before king and governor, and no-one could short cut this.
O Lord our God, teach us not to fight against you. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wise heart. Amen.