I didn’t plan on writing on this today, but I simply cannot let its beauty go unnoticed. Go read this section (really Acts 21:10-14 for context). What a beautiful scene this is to my heart. A prophet named Agabus had just come from Judea, most likely from Jerusalem and he comes to Paul, took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” Essentially, this man had just come from Jerusalem (Luke uses “Judea” and “Jerusalem” interchangeably throughout Luke and Acts) and God had given him prophetic insight as to what would happen to Paul if he chose to enter its gates. God allowed Paul the unique opportunity to be fully informed before he chose to fulfill God’s plan for his life. He gave Paul foreknowledge of his own demise, should he do as God asked and return one last time to Jerusalem.
Has this ever happened to you? Has God given you insight into something bad that will happen if you did as He asked? Did you do it anyway? What do you think God’s purpose is in giving you this knowledge and did it help or hurt you to receive it? I have never personally experienced this, but I would love to hear your testimonies!
We move on to v12 when the Christians around Paul hear this terrifying possibility and beg him not to go. I love that Luke includes himself in this – he doesn’t hide his plea for Paul to avoid Jerusalem. There is such beauty in this, the love of a friend. Even though it was God’s will for Paul to go and they knew this, it is so hard to accept it when a loved one will face unspeakable pain and trials. I am reminded of Matthew 16:21-23 when Jesus predicts his own death and Peter says, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never happen to you!” Jesus rebukes him, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” See, Peter did not understand Jesus’ role in God’s plan for the world. All Peter saw, like us, is a beloved friend being hurt and taken from his life. Luke and the others were so like Peter; they did not see God’s plan but only the pain both they and Paul would endure before it was over. Like Jesus, Paul was quick to respond, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (v13).” Can’t you just imagine this scene? Can’t you see the pressure they are putting on Paul to leave God’s path and avoid imprisonment and death? I love his words, “Why are you breaking my heart?!” Can’t you hear his distress at their pleas? Sometimes the call of God is hard enough that it doesn’t take much for us to be tempted to leave his path for our lives. Thank God that Paul was so focused on God’s will that even his friends’ pleas couldn’t force him to stray. It is so important to keep our eyes on God, not looking to the right or the left.
V14 says, “And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.'” Sometimes it takes an exhaustion of all other options before we are ready to accede to God’s will. Can you imagine the New Testament without Paul’s writings? The majority of them were written after this event in Acts 21, after he was in custody. How we are blessed in so many ways because of Paul’s faithfulness – his courage!
Sometimes God’s plans for our lives are so frightening, but He gives in our exact moment of need. Just Google “scripture about courage” and see how many verses come up. It’s crazy! See, God knows that He asks us to do some nutso things – things that simply don’t make sense or are just inconceivable to our small brains – so He provided us with so many words of encouragement, that we may know of His faithfulness and our victory in Him. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged – for the LORD, your God, will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9-11.
It is not often that God calls us to imprisonment for His sake – though it does happen – but God often calls us into the unknown, into frightening circumstances beyond our control. Let’s resolve to stand firm in God’s will like Paul and take the courage of the Spirit and face the future with strength and commitment; we know that God is with us through all things and He is working them for our good according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Take courage from Paul’s example, and follow likewise. ❤
“It is so important to keep our eyes on God, not looking to the right or the left.” ~ Amen. Thank you for this. We have some big decisions to make in the congregation I serve and keeping our eyes on God is exactly what we have to do.