Sometimes we “hear” from God and come to different conclusions as to what God means. As we see in today’s passage, the best response in that situation is “The Lord’s will be done.”
Job, chapter 16; Acts, chapters 21-23
The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own hands and feet with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
As we saw yesterday (“The Message of God’s Grace”), Paul is making his way from Macedonia back to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He had adjusted his route because “he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life” (Acts 20:3). All along the way, people were pleading with him not to go to Jerusalem:
- “These believers [in Tyre] prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go to Jerusalem” (21:4)
- “When we heard this [Agabus’s prophecy, verse 11], we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (21:12)
And once Paul got to Jersualem, we see why: the Jews grabbed Paul in the Temple, dragged him outside, and tried to kill him (21:30).
What is interesting is that both the believers in Tyre and Agabus prophesied through the Holy Spirit. But Paul had previously said, “I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem” (20:22). He also acknowledged that “the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead” (20:23). So how do we reconcile the people who prophesied that Paul should not go with Paul’s testimony that he was “bound by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem?
“The Lord’s Will Be Done”
At the end of our passage, when Paul’s friends saw that they could not dissuade him, they gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” That’s always a good approach to take! But to say, and pray, that the Lord’s will be done does not mean that we sit back passively and watch. Paul’s friends undoubtedly continued to pray for him, and those in his “team” traveled with him to Jerusalem. For them, “The Lord’s will be done” was not a cop-out, nor a passive resignation to “fate.” They embraced God’s will.
And so did Paul. “Why all this weeping?…I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” Events would prove that he meant that! When he got to Jerusalem, the church leaders there knew that trouble was brewing (see verses 20-22). When the Roman soldiers saved him from the mob, he still tried to talk to them (21:37-22:23). He continued to use every opportunity to proclaim the gospel to whomever was listening. And toward the end of our reading for today, we find that the Lord continued to direct him. “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well” (23:11).
Application: “The Lord’s Will Be Done”
So how do we reconcile the different prophecies and interpretations in this passage? Paul’s friends were prophesying and speaking through the Holy Spirit, and they encouraged Paul not to go. However, Paul was convinced that the Spirit was compelling him to go to Jerusalem. Who was “wrong”?
I ask that question as a way of pointing out that we often view things from the wrong perspective. Why do we automatically assume that someone is “wrong” when there are different understandings or interpretations of what God is saying? In this case, it’s not a matter of being “wrong”; people just apply what God is saying in different ways. The message was that Paul was going to be bound and jailed in Jerusalem. His friends interpreted that to mean that he shouldn’t go; Paul understood it to be a confirmation that he was doing God’s will.
“The Lord’s will be done” reminds us that doing God’s will does not always mean that things turn out the way that we might like. Paul’s friends didn’t want to see him suffer. That’s understandable from a human perspective. But at the end of the day, we must be able to say The Lord’s will be done. After all, that’s what Jesus did!
Father, thank you for reminding us that knowing your will and doing your will does not always mean comfort and “success.” You define “success” by the depth of our obedience. Help us to know your will and do your will today. Amen.