Acts 21:1-6: On the beach.
“After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.” NIV UK
Hard on the heels of one gut-wrenching farewell (‘’After we had torn ourselves away from them…’’ verse 1) we now witness another. Paul’s Christian family didn’t want him to go.
‘’Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem’’ (4b). Aha! Have those people who say that the Bible is full of contradictions got us here? For didn’t Paul say in the previous chapter that he was going to Jerusalem ‘’compelled by the Spirit’’ (22)? So which was it to be? Did the Holy Spirit want him there or didn’t he?
I think we are to understand (5) in the same context as (11). ‘’Through the Spirit’’ they sensed the danger lying ahead of Paul, and because they loved him they tried to stop him going. However Paul had already stated that he knew that great difficulties were ahead (20:23,24), but that wasn’t going to prevent him doing what he believed to be the will of God. For Paul, the sight of danger ahead was not enough to stop him in his tracks; but those who loved him deeply, saw the same reality and wanted to erect a roadblock. At the end of the day, Paul could not be stopped and his friends had to pray that God’s will be done. However, their will was to keep him safe. It’s an understandable reaction, but Paul was not into self-preservation for the sake of it. There was something more dear to him than staying alive, and that was to finish the work entrusted to him by the Lord.
PRAYER: Lord God, I have to say I marvel at Paul’s reckless abandon to your will. I pray that you will give me a spirit totally committed to seeking first.