God’s Will – 3-10-22

So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14 NKJV

Honestly – none of us fully understand God’s will or good vs bad (evil). In 1 Corinthians 13:9 Paul wrote that here on earth we only know in part and the full revelation will not happen until we meet Jesus (because we die or because of Jesus’s second coming). This year I felt lead to seek wisdom and get to know God better and I believe he has been showing us the meaty depths of the scriptures – on every level, meeting each of us where we are and offering us growth and more wisdom.
In our limited understanding – how can we fully know the will of the Lord?  When we enter into a relationship with God, we can begin to get to know Him and learn more and more each year.

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 21 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Warnings on the Journey to Jerusalem

21 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. And finding [a]disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. On the next day we [b]who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”

12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”

Paul Urged to Make Peace

15 And after those days we [c]packed and went up to Jerusalem. 16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge.

17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 [d]What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided [e]that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from [f]sexual immorality.”

Arrested in the Temple

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the [g]expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 (For they had [h]previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. 31 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the [i]garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.

So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

Addressing the Jerusalem Mob

37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?”

He replied, “Can you speak Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”

39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no [j]mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”

40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

Footnotes

  1. Acts 21:4 NU the disciples
  2. Acts 21:8 NU omits who were Paul’s companions
  3. Acts 21:15 made preparations
  4. Acts 21:22 NU What then is to be done? They will certainly hear
  5. Acts 21:25 NU omits that they should observe no such thing, except
  6. Acts 21:25 fornication
  7. Acts 21:26 completion
  8. Acts 21:29 M omits previously
  9. Acts 21:31 cohort
  10. Acts 21:39 insignificant

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL:

Did you read today’s reading? It ends abruptly! I actually read on further! I know the book, but it is so good to read on. (and I am so thankful that today isn’t Friday and we are left hanging for the weekend!)

The last few days we have been thinking about surrendering all of God – which includes surrendering to His will. But that leaves us asking ‘what is His will?’ and ‘How can we surrender if we only know part?’

When I was first acquainted with this book I felt the same confusion in this section as I did when reading Exodus and it says God opened the earth to swallow a family, or when God was mad and did something ‘bad’.  It’s the same confusion as when at the beginning of this book, Ananias and Sapphira, dropped dead. And it’s the same confusion that God tries to explain in the book of Job – but without eyes, ears and understanding open we cannot understand the will of the Father. His ways are well above our ways (meaning His ways are beyond our full understanding – but we are to understand that His ways are better).

Let’s dig into understand God’s will and our definitions of good and bad by going through today’s reading. Please bear with me – as this is very abstract and difficult to convey in words.
Paul (and the crew, I have lost track as to who is still with him, but I do know Luke is there because he uses the word ‘we’) are sailing back to Jerusalem because Paul said the Holy Spirit had bound him and commanded he return there. When did he say that? Yesterday:
 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:22-24 NKJV
See, Paul already knew (in part, but he knew). God prepared him. Now, when Paul gets his confirmation, things get a little twisted and the crew begs Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem. Yes, in the same breath as Paul received his confirmation to go! Separating what God says and what Man says is sometimes tricky. Verses 8-14:
The four daughters and Agabus all prophesied. And from the actual words and no assumption what we know is that God said Paul will be bound and delivered to the Gentiles. (Now for my assumption, I believe it was mentioned that the girls could prophesy in order to show Agabus’s message was confirmed.)
It was Paul’s crew who begged him not to go. Remember when Peter told Jesus not to go to the cross (essentially) and Jesus said “get thee behind me, satan!’ (Matt 16:23).

In my own life, in my friends and family’s lives, and throughout the Bible, I am starting to see a pattern immerge regarding God and what is good and what is bad. I am about to lay out something that is very unpopular – because people have fixed their mind on “God is good” (and he is), but fail to realize what we call good is not always good – and what we call bad is not always bad. We are the ones with a flaw – NOT GOD.  It was good for God’s will that Jesus die. It was good for God’s will that the Babylonians conquered the Holy City. God knows all, and God still created Lucifer. A good god created evil, sin, and hell. We love to say, no, God permitted these ‘bad’ things to happen and then used them for our good. I have never had peace with it, because how can God be pure justice if he cannot judge and follow through with the actions required of the verdicts.  If he permits the enemy to do it, then it is the enemy with the active power and God’s power is passive? NO. I serve an active and just God. He has wrath and anger. He calls out justice and just like he spoke all into existence he can speak justice. God raise up rulers, like Putin, like Biden, and even Trudeau. Like in Job the friends did not understand that the will of God was to bless Job, because it was painful.
Same with Paul’s crew – begging him to save himself, forgetting that there is a God for that.
In this pattern – re-look through the scriptures, you will see it – when it is God’ doing… God warns us to either get us to change our ways or to prepare us. And when it is an attack of the enemy – no weapon formed will prosper.  God in his sovereignty works His will for GOOD, His definition of good, not ours.

“So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14

Paul was blameless, in impure, and had done nothing wrong. But upon arriving in Jerusalem Paul was urged to make peace by purifying himself in the temple with four men set aside for this. There is that 4 in relation to purity again. Above with the daughters who were virgins and now these four in the purity ritual. When I saw the daughter were virgins, specifically mentioned, I thought it was odd since 4 is usually representative of the 4 mothers, the Matriarchs, not virgins. And even numbers are considered bad luck (irony, as I try to convince you that is it the good and perfect will of the Lord that Paul goes through this). Some say four is one of the numbers for completeness – as Israel became complete when the fourth utterance of redemption was fulfilled. 4 is also always associated with an unspoken 5th, like 4 fingers have a thumb. The 5th prophet was Agabus. The 5th man going for purity was Paul. The number 5 means God’ protection. I am unsure the association with purity and virgins.
But I find this EXTREMELY interesting. It is common to find meaning numbers and patterns in books written by Hebrew authors – it is a rich part of their culture and they would read and understand these deeper things. BUT Luke is a gentile, a doctor. Luke was only able to go certain places because he was Paul’s Doctor, but otherwise Luke wasn’t warmly welcome by the Jews. So the fact that Luke is using this very Hebrew literary device tells me there is deep significance here.  If for nothing more than God confirming to Paul – that this is His will and God is promising protection.

And the very next thing we read is that Paul is arrested in the temple! Not only was he arrested and beat – there was a riot and those angry Jews from Asia were behind it – they like causing riots! I think about riots in our modern world, and how the main stream media in the USA were calling the looting and burning of cities, peaceful protests. While peaceful protests were called riots and an attack. While protesting Canadians fighting for their charters and constitution are called terrorist and their children and dogs are taken from them. You see – humans do not know what good is nor do we know what is bad.

The Pharisees and Sadducees thought it was good to kill Jesus and they were oddly right – so now, with Paul? They beat him a lot and Paul couldn’t even walk – had to be carried by the Roman soldiers.

The prison was a safe haven. Once the Roman leaders learned Paul was a Roman, they only kept him to protect him from the crazy Jews who almost killed him.
Now I know you are thinking it – what about God’s protection? Stephen saw heaven and peacefully died while being stoned – Stephen didn’t suffer, God protected him. Jesus was nearly beaten to death before he was hung on the cross, God protected him so he could make it up onto the cross. Just like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – ‘protection’, (and a few other words that humans fail to understand) must be looked at through Kingdom of Heaven eyes and filtered through eternity for us to grasp the goodness in some things that feel bad to us.

Now that Paul is safe with the Romans and has their protection, Paul is given the opportunity to speak on more time and what does he say to the mob who just tried to kill him?

We will take a look tomorrow.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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