In Acts 21, Paul is on his way from Miletus to Jerusalem, a trip that likely took several weeks. I can imagine that Paul may have wished he could just skip the trip and end up at his destination, but then he would not have had the meaningful encounters had experienced along the way. The journey is just as important as the destination, and God travels every mile with us.
One stop along the way was in Tyre (Acts 21:3) where the ship unloaded its cargo. The missionaries looked up some disciples of Jesus and spent seven days with them (Acts 21:4). This church was planted during an earlier visit and they were a part of the great dispersion (Acts 11:19), believers being scattered away from Jerusalem with persecution. In this story we see the amazing gift of hospitality being exercised by the church, even though they were persecuted, they still had time and the courage to take people in who were in need.
I find it interesting that the Spirit had compelled Paul to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22) but here, Luke writes about the disciples in Tyre, “through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go” Acts 21:4). Contradiction in discerning the will of God? More than likely the Holy Spirit had burdened their hearts with an awareness of the trouble that lay ahead for Paul, therefore they concluded that he should then avoid Jerusalem. But to Paul’s credit, nothing could stop him once he was determined to follow God’s leading.
Paul’s second lengthy stop was in Caesarea where he stayed at the house of Philip (Acts 21:8, 6:5), who was a spirit-filled man, full of wisdom and also an evangelist (Acts 8:26-40). No wonder his daughters turned out the way they did (Acts 21:9). This story is similar to Timothy and his heritage (2 Timothy 1:5). Many people can point back to key individuals who shaped their faith: a youth pastors, Sunday school teacher, even a neighbor who took an interest in their spiritual life, but nothing can impact a child more than a believing parent.
These daughters were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). Paul was the first to recognize this gift in women, much to the surprise of those who believe Paul was anti-women with some of his culturally-based and church specific teachings (1 Corinthians 11:5, 6, 15, 14:34, 35, 1 Timothy 2:9, 11-12) but he was actually supportive of women in ministry. Had Paul been disapproving of Philip and his daughters, he would have said so.
The word for prophesying is propheteuo meaning “to declare truths through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to tell forth God’s message.” It is not so much foretelling the future as forth-telling God’s message. In essence, these women were some of the first Christian speakers or preachers. God was doing something old (prophecy) in a new way (with women).
At Philip’s house Paul finds an Ezekiel-like character named Agabus (Acts 21:10), who took his own belt and bound his hands and feet as a message to Paul (Acts 21:11). He enacted a parable much like we see in Ezekiel. This must have been more convincing that just the Phoenician disciples plea (Acts 21:4) because all the people urged Paul not to go (Acts 21:12). But Paul never wavered in his resolve; even when he was urged by the disciples in Tyre, the elders of Ephesus, Luke, Timothy and others. There was weeping and expressions of grief, but this was not just crying (which is not so manly for most of us) but it is one of the strongest expressions of grief, sobbing (Acts 21:13). Paul voiced his determination not only to be bound, but to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. I’m not sure this statement made anyone feel any better.
Application: What heritage are you passing to your children? What do you see as their calling or mission in the world (no matter what their chosen vocational goal)? Have they caught your passion for God, and His mission in the world? Are you even passionate about God, or just a believer? … Examine yourself to see where you fit on this one. Do you recognize that the journey is just as important as your destination? This life is preparation for the next. How have you prepared yourself to see God at work in the routine of your life’s journey, or to hear His voice in the midst of the all the noise we hear every day? When have you been so resolute to stand and not waiver on what you know to be true? Is God leading you toward something that may or may not make sense to others? In the everyday events of life, how can you become more aware of God’s involvement in your life? Do you have people around you who can speak truth into your life? Do you have other men who can strengthen and challenge you when you fall, or protect you when you are tempted? How can you know when God is speaking to you to do something extraordinary or when it is only a foolish impulse on your part? Remember that we all will leave a legacy, but the goal is to leave one that will make God smile and of which our children will be proud. There is joy in the journey, so become more aware of God’s presence in your life, and get involved in the lives of others.