Daily Devotional

October 15, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 21:1-17

“Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:13-14)

God’s will is perfect, even when we do not understand it. Reuel Green was fifty-six years old when he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak more than a few words. He had been a preacher, pastor, and active in many areas of Gospel work as a church leader.

One day some months after the stroke, Reuel’s sister was entreating God to heal him. The Holy Spirit spoke to her heart, “Do you want to bypass My purpose for this?” Her tears flowed, and she responded, “No, Lord.” She still did not understand why God had allowed it, but she was fully committed to submitting to God’s will, and came away from that prayer meeting convinced that He had a purpose in Reuel’s affliction.

Sometimes God’s purposes may not be revealed to us in this life. Reuel lived twenty-six years after the stroke. Although he could not preach or converse, the Spirit of God was on his life and he continued to spread the Gospel in any way he could. He worked faithfully at the church office folding letters and putting tracts in envelopes. He prayed fervently beside those seeking God at the altars of prayer. He handed out tracts to anyone he could, including servers in restaurants and people he met as he walked along with his cane. Residents of the neighborhood where he lived said later, “It was as if he had a light inside of him.” Indeed he did, and he did not allow that light to be diminished by his lack of understanding of God’s purpose.

We can be inclined to think that if we are doing what God wants us to do, everything should roll along smoothly, and if we have difficulties, it must be because we are not in the Lord’s will. However, that may not necessarily be true. Today’s text and surrounding verses show that Paul was sure God wanted him to go to Jerusalem. Yet at many of his stops along the way, the Spirit indicated that trouble was ahead.

When hard situations come, it is valuable to search our hearts. We want to be certain that we are fully submitted to God and doing what He wants us to do. Once we have that clear assurance, it is important to keep on even if doing so is difficult.

Sometimes we may experience pain as we watch others suffer while doing the will of God. Reuel’s sister felt this, as did Paul’s friends and traveling companions in today’s text. It can be heartrending to see our parents, children, or friends suffering while fulfilling the will of God. At such times we want to cast our cares upon the Lord and encourage our loved ones and associates in their service to Him.

May our ultimate goal be like Paul’s — for God to be glorified no matter what the personal cost.

Background

This text gives an account of the final portion of Paul’s third missionary journey and his arrival back in Jerusalem.

With characteristic attention to detail, Luke continued an event-by-event account of the travels. The first few days, Paul and those with him traveled in a boat that sailed along the coastline, probably stopping to load and unload some passengers and cargo at each place. Typically, great effort was made to be in a port by night for safety reasons. In Patara, Paul and his team no doubt secured places on a larger boat that went across the Mediterranean Sea from Patara to Tyre, a distance of about four hundred miles.

Tyre was a significant seaport of Phoenicia, and the ship’s cargo was unloaded there, apparently taking about seven days. “And finding disciples” in verse 4 indicates Paul and his fellow travelers had to look for the believers in Tyre, so they may not have been previously acquainted. Once found, clearly there was fellowship, and the local people warned of difficulties ahead for Paul in Jerusalem. While the Holy Spirit was making Paul aware of coming danger, He did not forbid Paul to go. Paul had said in Acts 20:22, “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem,” so he clearly had directions from the Lord.

Embarking again, the travelers went about twenty-five miles to Ptolemais. This city was called Acco in the Old Testament, and currently is named Acre. It is in the northern part of Israel, across the bay from Israel’s largest seaport, Haifa. Believers there housed the travelers overnight.

Caesarea, which was about thirty-five miles south of Ptolemais, was the next stop. The trip had been completed quickly enough to allow the group to spend some days here in the home of Philip “the evangelist.” Philip was one of the seven deacons (Acts 6), and he had preached in Samaria, witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch, and then had come to Caesarea (Acts 8). More than twenty years had transpired since Philip had been appointed a deacon. He had four godly daughters who were yet unmarried. Often in the New Testament the word prophesy means “to preach.”

Agabus (verse 10) was from Jerusalem. Earlier he had visited Antioch and there predicted a famine that transpired during the reign of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:27-28). In today’s text, he emphasized his message with a visual illustration by binding his own hands and feet with Paul’s belt. Men at that time wore loose outer garments that would be gathered around the waist with a belt (or girdle) while working or walking.

Verses 12-14 reveal deep emotion and Christian love shared by these believers. The “we” in verse 12 means that Luke and the others traveling with him — Philip, Philip’s four godly daughters, and other local believers — all tried to persuade Paul not to go. Their impassioned pleas had an effect on Paul. He said, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?” Break means “to crumble or crush together.” His heart was fixed on doing God’s will, whatever the cost.

Seeing Paul’s determined purpose, the group bowed to God’s will. The phrase “took up our carriages” in verse 15 means that they prepared their baggage. Jerusalem was over sixty miles from Caesarea and had an altitude of 2,474 feet, so this part of the trip included a climb. Verse 16 says Mnason was “an old disciple.” This means he was an early disciple, perhaps having personally followed Jesus and been a part of the 120 at Pentecost.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    D.    The third missionary journey of Paul
        6.    The ministry at Tyre (21:1-6)
            a.    His journey to Tyre (21:1-3)
            b.    His ministry in Tyre (21:4-6)
        7.    The ministry in Caesarea (21:7-17)
            a.    Agabus’ prediction (21:7-12)
            b.    Paul’s reply (21:13-14)
            c.    The journey toward Jerusalem (21:15-17)

A Closer Look

  1. What did the believers at Tyre do when they told Paul goodbye?

  2. Why does the Holy Spirit sometimes give warning of an impending trial?

  3. How can we retain our purpose to do God’s will when times are difficult?

Conclusion

Challenging circumstances may come our way in life, but we want to be in God’s will even when it is not easy. We can be assured that He has a purpose behind what He allows us to go through.

Reference Materials