Acts 21:1-6 (NIV)
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 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. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
Luke was a very careful historian and biographer. Here he details all the important waypoints in Paul’s journey back to Syria, until they arrived in Tyre.
Even though it had been only around 30 years since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, there were followers of Jesus everywhere, even in that foreign port city. Paul looked for the disciples and quickly located them and was able to arrange his lodging and that of his company among them.
An interesting dichotomy, some might even say a contradiction, appears here. Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22) and deliver the gift from the Churches in Europe and Asia by Pentecost, at the end of May or the beginning of June. At the same time, the Tyrian believers warned Paul through the Spirit NOT to go to Jerusalem.
We know that Paul would not knowingly disobey the Holy Spirit, but we have what seems to be conflicting directions from the one Spirt. Who is right?
The simple answer is…both! Just as Jesus was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem even though He clearly knew by the Spirit that suffering and death awaited Him there, so Paul was under that same Spirit-led compulsion, no matter what might be lurking in the shadowy future.
The Spirit was telling the Tyrian believers about some dangers that awaited Paul in Jerusalem, and they took that truth as a sign that Paul shouldn’t go there, just as Agabus’ prophecy just a few days later was interpreted by Paul’s companions as a warning away from Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-12).
But, just as in Jesus’ case, a warning of trouble ahead does not necessarily mean not to go boldly into that trouble. Paul constantly had his heart tuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and that voice was telling him to move forward, no matter the trouble or danger that lay ahead.
Paul stayed with the Tyrian disciples, teaching them and fellowshipping with them for the seven days it took to get the cargo off their ship. Then, with the prayers and blessings of their Tyrian brothers and sisters, the company got on the ship to head further south, further toward whatever was waiting for them in Jerusalem.
Father, it is intriguing, but historically verifiable, that sometimes the road You lead us down will be a dangerous one. And, as You pointed out in the cases of both Jesus and Paul, the key is not just to rush into every dangerous situation, or to avoid all danger. The key is to keep our ears open, and to explicitly follow Your direction, even if it leads us into danger, knowing that You will be with us as long as we obey all the way to the end. Thank you, Lord! Amen.
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