During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.Acts 11:27-30
This is a short little segment but one which marks the beginning of a new section. Therefore it would have been appropriate for Robert Estienne to use this verse to begin the chapter.
The events of this morning have made me laugh. The Gems process has been thwarted and I have not been able to do what I normally do. We have had one of our colleagues come and stay the night, last night and tonight, but have ended up without power. I woke early to go and still my heart before the Lord and write the Gem for today but realised we didn’t have power. I got up to check if the houses around us had power but there were no lights anywhere. No other houses had lights on. But then again it could be just because they were not up yet. So I got up to switch lights on but nothing worked. Yes the power was off. Having lived in Indonesia for so long I assumed that we had a power blackout. I lay in bed thinking of all the reasons why we didn’t have power. Figured I would lie in a little longer and gain some extra zzzz’s. I got up later to find a note from our guest to say he had blown the power when he plugged in his laptop.
What made me chuckle was that Sunday I had shared our story about God providing light for us when all around was in darkness. It was the time when we were leaving Sulawesi and there were so many things office-wise I had to do before we left. So I worked at the office longer than I should have. Tania kept reminding me that we needed to be packing our house up in readiness for sending a container back to New Zealand. Finally with just a week to spare before we left I had finished at the office and could focus my time on getting things ready at home. I was working on the principle of focusing first on the kingdom of God and all the other things will fall into place. Only this time I realised I had blown it. The time factor was going to be tight to say the least.
Then we heard that the state electricity corporation (PLN) were planning rolling power outages across the city. One half of the city would be without power while the other half would have power. Surprise Ian and Tania, you will be without power on Monday but will have it Tuesday night, be without it Wednesday night and so on. Now that had really thrown a spanner in the works. We were not going to get our sorting done in time if we lost two nights to work at a crucial time. We decided to just get into the task and leave the outcome to God. Monday night we were expecting the power to go out but just kept working until it did. Strangely our power stayed on all night. I said to Tania, clearly they have allowed us power tonight but tomorrow night (Tuesday) we wont have it. So we made the most of what we had on Monday night and worked late. Tuesday night came and similarly we had power so again we just worked as long as possible. Again I had it figured – the rolling outages had been postponed. Praise the Lord. Wednesday night came and again we had light so we worked again as much as possible and were making inroads into the task to be ready for Friday.
Wednesday night a couple, colleagues, dropped in to see us and find out what was going on. Why was it we had power when all this side of the city was in darkness? How then was it possible that only our house had power in all this side of the city. They had driven over from the other side of the city where they lived and sure enough, in accord with the PLN plan, this side of the city was in darkness. I said I didn’t know but what I did know is that we had power and we were making the most of it. I told them how I figured PLN had changed their plan and clearly this half of the city had power Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Our friends told us that was not possible. They had venture into our half of the city on Monday night and found it in darkness. PLN had followed the plan as notified. Our friends invited us outside to look at our street and sure enough the street was in darkness except for our house. How did I explain it? I didn’t know how but I realised that God had given us the time of light that we needed. Another Ian and Tania God story.
But now I am chuckling to myself. It’s interesting to say the least, that I shared that story on Sunday in my sermon and now this morning we didn’t have light. Ironic.
A short few comments due to time restraints:
Note how the introduction of the prophets who went to Antioch from Jerusalem with news of the pending famine goes nicely with what follows after the account of Peter in prison.
Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.Acts 12:20-25
Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus.Acts 13:1-4
This church in Antioch after only a year of teaching are rapidly coming of age. There are a few things we need to investigate in this short passage before us. Who is this fellow Agabus? Again I have clipped for you the ISBE entry for Agabus from the E-Sword.
A Christian prophet of Jerusalem, twice mentioned in Acts.
- (1) In Act_11:27, we find him at Antioch foretelling “a great famine over all the world,” “which,” adds the historian, “came to pass in the days of Claudius.” This visit of Agabus to Antioch took place in the winter of 43-44 ad, and was the means of urging the Antiochian Christians to send relief to the brethren in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Two points should be noted.
- (a) The gift of prophet’s here takes the form of prediction. The prophet’s chief function was to reveal moral and spiritual truth, to “forth-tell” rather than to “foretell”; but the interpretation of God’s message sometimes took the form of predicting events.
- (b) The phrase “over all the world” (practically synonymous with the Roman Empire) must be regarded as a rhetorical exaggeration if strictly interpreted as pointing to a general and simultaneous famine. But there is ample evidence of severe periodical famines in various localities in the reign of Claudius, and of a great dearth in Judea under the procurators Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander, 44-48 ad, which probably reached its climax circa 46 ad.
- (2) In Act_21:10 we find Agabus at Caesarea warning Paul, by a vivid symbolic action (after the manner of Old Testament prophets; compare Jer_13:1; Ezek 3; 4) of the imprisonment and suffering he would undergo if he proceeded to Jerusalem.
In late tradition Agabus is included in lists of the seventy disciples of Christ.
There are other questions which come to mind about this passage and its significance but I will leave you to ponder it before I continue. As long as you have light of course.
We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.John 9:4
So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.Ex 10:22-23
I’m tired of getting called out of my comfort zone… I’ve been known to whine and ask if I can serve God from the safety of my recliner. But that’s not God’s way.Bob Gass
Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.Denis Waitley
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.Richard Bach