Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Paul is warned, but is determined

4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed….
7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Cæsarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judæa a certain prophet, named Agabus.
11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. (Acts 21:4-5, 7-14)

In this block of verses we have a peculiar situation where Paul the apostle is headed back to Jerusalem, and on at least two different occasions and places he is warned by members that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Yet he is determined to go up anyway.

What are we to make of this? The text tells us that these warnings came through the Spirit, and yet can we say that it is proper for members to warn an apostle not to go someplace he needs to go? And of course the events that follow show us that Paul is bound as Agabus in particular prophesied that he would be.

Did Paul not know anything about what would happen and so he had to be warned by others? I personally don’t think so. I suspect Paul had inklings and warnings of his own that something difficulty was awaiting him at Jerusalem, but he pressed forward, trusting God to uphold him according to His righteous will.

So why were these impressions given to other Saints? I think they were given for the Saints’ edification and salvation, to prepare them for the news of what would happen to Paul. It was to show them that Heavenly Father knew all that would befall Paul, and that there was a purpose to it. It also gave Paul an opportunity to declare his willingness to die for the truth so that the Saints could be strengthened by his determination.

I have seen this pattern in a small way in my own life as well. On a number of occasions, the Lord has sent me dreams that have prepared me for a particular life challenge. It hasn’t happened for every challenge, nor do the challenges come immediately after the dream, but because I recorded those dreams in my journal, I remember them better. Then when the challenge comes, frequently the Spirit reminds me of the dream I had to prepare me. And by that I know the Lord knows me and that somehow that challenge is a programmed part of my life for the Lord’s purposes.  I can’t boast of these things because I know that they are not because of any worthiness of myself, but they are intended to save me and build my faith in the Lord.

Now, when these warnings come, they can be difficult to deal with. To know something bad is going to happen brings a temptation to give in to fear and surrender to feelings of impending doom. And it seems the Saints were very worried about their impressions and confided these to Paul. Thus, Paul’s declaration that he was willing to be bound and even to die in Jerusalem must have been a strong reassurance. And if you notice, the Saints finally said, “The will of the Lord be done.” (v14) They recognized the Lord would steer Paul’s life, and the Lord’s will would be done whether there was disaster or not.

So we get two more principles:
1)    Do what is right, let the consequence follow. (Where have we heard that before?)
2)    Just because things go wrong, doesn’t mean we’re doing wrong. We may be doing exactly right. And we will be much better able to bear up under adversity if we are conscientiously doing what’s right.