There will be many times in our lives when we will hear the Holy Spirit’s caution but still be led to continually move in the direction of known danger and challenge. Those who know God and the teaching and actions of His Son, Jesus, know that every led direction in life is filled with possible challenges. When we live for God, expect it. But also expect God to be with us.
Paul is warned of the dangers of his determined trip to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of God, filled with His people, but also filled with people who no longer know God. The Romans hate God and His people. Factions of Jewish leaders are no longer led of God but by selfish motives of promotion and still fight the teachings of our Master, Jesus. They do not believe in Jesus as Savior or Lord. They want to stop the new believers, growing in numbers, spreading the Good News of salvation for all. This is where Paul is traveling to in hopes of changing their minds.
Visions and dreams of others who love Paul warn Him of the danger. Some “see” what will happen if he goes. Paul knows the danger. But his mind is determined to go to Jerusalem. Can we stop for a minute and recall the words of Luke (who also penned the inspired by God book of Acts) as he tells of Jesus resolute, determination to go to Jerusalem? Jesus knows exactly what will happen but “his eyes were fixed on Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51-56)
“When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples. You can see the visions of greatness that danced in their heads in verse 46: “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Jerusalem and glory were just around the corner. O what it would mean when Jesus took the throne!
But Jesus had another vision in his head. One wonders how he carried it all alone and so long. Here’s what Jerusalem meant for Jesus: “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem”(Luke 13:33). Jerusalem meant one thing for Jesus: certain death. Nor was he under any illusions of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:31, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him.” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die, so that we who believe could live!
Paul, devoted to his Master, Jesus Christ, also “sees” what others do not. He tries to explain to those worried about him, “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”
ACTS—God’s Action through His Disciples
Acts 21:1-16, The Message
Tyre and Caesarea
1-4 And so, with the tearful good-byes behind us, we were on our way. We made a straight run to Cos, the next day reached Rhodes, and then Patara. There we found a ship going direct to Phoenicia, got on board, and set sail. Cyprus came into view on our left, but was soon out of sight as we kept on course for Syria, and eventually docked in the port of Tyre. While the cargo was being unloaded, we looked up the local disciples and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was “Don’t go to Jerusalem.”
5-6 When our time was up, they escorted us out of the city to the docks. Everyone came along—men, women, children. They made a farewell party of the occasion! We all kneeled together on the beach and prayed. Then, after another round of saying good-bye, we climbed on board the ship while they drifted back to their homes.
7-9 A short run from Tyre to Ptolemais completed the voyage. We greeted our Christian friends there and stayed with them a day. In the morning we went on to Caesarea and stayed with Philip the Evangelist, one of “the Seven.” Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
10-11 After several days of visiting, a prophet from Judea by the name of Agabus came down to see us. He went right up to Paul, took Paul’s belt, and, in a dramatic gesture, tied himself up, hands and feet. He said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The Jews in Jerusalem are going to tie up the man who owns this belt just like this and hand him over to godless unbelievers.”
12-13 When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”
14 We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. “It’s in God’s hands now,” we said. “Master, you handle it.”
15-16 It wasn’t long before we had our luggage together and were on our way to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and took us to the home of Mnason, who received us warmly as his guests. A native of Cyprus, he had been among the earliest disciples.
THINK ABOUT IT…
When we don’t understand—Leave it in God’s hands.
We don’t always need to know the mission motivation and vision of each other. But we can always trust God to direct, guide and provide for those He leads. “We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. It’s in God’s hands now, we said. Master, you handle it.
Great friends, supportive family members who love, trust and obey God, do exactly what those who loved Paul did. They prayed, “Master, you handle it”, believing that He will. He is God and we are not. We pray. God works. God calls. We obey.
Following Jesus is not a rose garden without thorns. “In this world, you will have troubles…”, Jesus promised, with thorns of danger and opposition from the enemy they will tear at our flesh but will not destroy our soul! Jesus has overcome! We are overcomers with Him!
When Randy and I answered God’s call to leave our home state and travel a thousand miles away, our friends and family warned us of all kinds of pitfalls in this decision. Looking back, I understood their concerns but knew that obedience to God was the only option for us. It’s still the only option for us. We have no regrets in following where God leads. The lessons God wanted to teach us through good, hard, challenging times will live in us forever. Teaching others what God does in us and His people who really believe He is really real comes from the lessons God taught us in responding to His call with trusting, loving obedience.
To whom do you “set your eyes” and “fixed your gaze” upon?
This is the question we must answer daily. See Romans 12:1-2.
You have been with us through good times and challenging times, teaching us that we are always under your protective care. You have provided faithfully, teaching us to have even stronger faith from within our souls. We decided to follow you as children, we are not turning back now. Our relationship is too deep and intimate. Our love for you has gone to depths of resolve of knowing there is no love like the love you have for us. There is no one like you. There is no one we can fully trust and be assured of continual love and care. Thank for guiding us in marriage, in parenting, in grandparenting and in ministry of helping others find and follow you. Continue to teach us for I’m sure you are not finished with our education yet. School us, Lord. We are yours. Our eyes are fixed on you.
In Jesus Name, Amen