There is a proverb in Proverbs 16:9 which says,
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
In this section of Acts we see how this proverb worked out in the life of Paul. Paul planned to go to Jerusalem in spite of the fact that at every stop along the way he was warned by the prophets through the Holy Spirit that when he went there he would be arrested, bound and imprisoned.
But Paul really wanted to go to Jerusalem to speak with the apostles and elders, and so he told those who were warning him these words in verse 13.
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Little did he know at the time the impact of his decision, nor would he know the way that The Lord would carry him and use him as a result of the imprisonment that was to come.
The Will of God
After all the various people had warned and tried to persuade Paul not to go Jerusalem, and after he in turn made it quite clear that he was going regardless of the fate that awaited, the people said these words.
And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
The people basically shrugged their shoulders and put Paul into the hands of The Lord to do according to his will.
Paul too was trusting in The Lord for he understood that whatever lay ahead it was in accordance with the plan and the will of God. And besides, who can ever stand against the will of God?
Look at Jonah. Jonah attempted to take his own path when The Lord instructed him to go to Nineveh and prophesy to the people, but Jonah would not go. Jonah tried to run away by taking a boat to go elsewhere, but he could not hide from the will of The Lord. God put the boat into the middle of a great storm and when it was feared it would sink, Jonah told the men to throw him overboard and the sea would become calm. And of course we know that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish for three days and he repented and was cast up by the fish to go and do the work The Lord had ordained him to do. And the good news is that the people of Nineveh repented when he prophesied.
So who can oppose the will of God? Paul recognised that the will of God for him was that he would be bound and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. The prophetic words that came to him in all of the ports on his way to Jerusalem were preparing him for what was to come. The prophecies did not say for him NOT to go to Jerusalem, it was the people who feared for his safety that did not want him to go and suffer.
But Paul knew The Lord would be with him and that for whatever reason, he would have to go through this bondage and imprisonment.
And today we see the reasons for why God put Paul through these things. It was because of the imprisonment that he ended up going to Rome and preaching the word to many people who would not have otherwise heard the gospel. In the book of Philippians he makes this observation,
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
Pathways of The Lord
What Paul understood is that The Lord had set a path before him that he had to walk. Paul put his trust in The Lord even knowing that imprisonment and bondage awaited him when he arrived in Jerusalem. Could he have run away like Jonah tried? Maybe but then we would have missed out on much. Besides I don't believe The Lord would have picked Paul to do the ministry he did if he thought he would back away from it.
Paul trusted The Lord to carry him through as he walked the pathway set before him. And The Lord was explicitly telling him what was coming so Paul would be prepared for the events he would face in Jerusalem.
We can see what that pathway was now as we look back on Paul's life and his travels. How The Lord stood by him and directed his footsteps as the plan for his life unfolded.
Today we too must understand and remember that The Lord has a plan for our lives too. He has established a pathway that we are to walk as we live our life trusting in Him and keeping the faith in Jesus Christ. And like Paul, we often cannot see the hand of The Lord in our lives until much later when we look back over our life. It is then that we see why The Lord allowed certain things to happen, when he nudged us to go in a certain direction, when he managed certain decisions, when He brought certain people into our lives to teach us or sometimes test us.
At least that is my experience. It was only after many years as a Christian that I saw these things and recognised the hand of The Lord and how He has directed my life. And I am thankful for seeing it because it gives me even more hope and more reason to trust because I don't just rely on faith but I can see how His hand has worked with me. I hope it is the same for you.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Neil Gould)
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