Heading Back to Jerusalem – Departing Tyre
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.Acts 21:1-6
Next Stop – Ptolemais and Caesarea
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 feet and hands 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.” After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers.Acts 21:7-16
In each of these locations they are dependent on the ship and the conditions at sea. But not only that they stop in port after port and are controlled by the amount of time it takes to load and unload. The ship is not only delivering passengers from place to place but goods as well. In each place there are goods to drop off and pick up along with passengers. It is like that when you travel around the Pacific among Melanesian and Polynesian islands it can be a long slow process. It is not only dependent on the trade process of loading and unloading the ship which can take days in some cases but it is also a case of being controlled by the maintenance of the ship and the conditions of the sea. There are many times when you put into a port and bad weather comes up and you can’t leave. Sometimes it is not safe to leave , on other occasions you just can’t leave. The prevailing wind is blowing into the harbour preventing any exit. You just have to wait until the wind shifts.
It is interesting how Luke describes this journey. He took great pains to tell us the circuitous route they took to get to Miletus, now he tells us they sailed straight from there to Cos on to Rhodes and thence to Patara. Patara was one of the largest ports along this coast at that time. So it was natural for them to stay for a longer period of time in order to take aboard a greater amount of supplies. Luke uses some nautical terms in the text. Setting sail, sailing straight are terms that indicate to us the nature of the sea voyages. At times the journey consists of a number of tacks in order to get to where they wanted to go. It was not a case of sailing straight from one place to another. At some stage it was likely necessary to tack in a direction different from where you actually wanted to go in order to make progress to where you did want to go. In this case they journeyed along the coast making progress around Asia Minor and then heading out across the Mediterranean toward the Syrian coast. Notice at times they sail on in the same ship and other times they have to change ships. The shipping routes in those days were similar to routes today where certain vessels stick to the same route crossing the sea from one fixed point to another. In other cases the ship undertook a longer voyage and then return back to its origin point. A little like the way airline routes today work out of a hub, interconnected with other airlines in networks.
In each case the ship was in port for a defined period, as long as it took to unload and load the cargo. There are times of staying just one night and moving on the next morning, on other occasions a few days, or anything up to a week. What Luke is describing here are not intentional times of staying over in a particular place to share the gospel and train the new believers who become Christians as a result of sharing the gospel. These are merely stopovers while they waited for the ship. But notice what happened in each case. Paul’s brief stopovers led to other things. He ministered while on the way to somewhere or coming back from somewhere. It is highly likely that he would encounter these people each time he made the same journey, always at the same place as he overnighted or stayed for a few days. That certainly happens with our journeys. These people Luke describes are not new believers, they are believers from past visits. Paul always cycled back again to the same place in order to strengthen the believers.
These people are mature enough to input to Paul as well and to hear from the Holy Spirit. With each stop there was input these people gave to Paul. Spiritual transference takes place, with the people ministering to Paul and Paul encouraging them. In the first two stops described here, there is a growing sense of impending doom ahead. No doubt they met in the evenings and shared and prayed together. The believers Paul visited then joined with him in hearing about his journey and the things that were happening. However, the reactions of the people are not just as a result of empathising with Paul and his story. Luke uses the words: These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. That is a curious statement. I will give you the time before the next Gem to ponder the meaning and sense behind that.
Always connect personally to Scripture and think deeply about what has been written. Put yourself in the situation described.
- What are the ramifications of this statement?
- What is the intent?
Then when they move on to Ptolemais and Caesarea we have more of the same. Overnight stays and input from the believers to Paul which was no doubt preceded by input from Paul to them. On each occasion the word of prophecy comes up. This is highly significant. Luke is choosing his words deliberately. Prophecy is important. Chew on this and we will pull it apart in the next Gem. Notice too the emotional response of these people. Why?
You are not defined by your past, but you are prepared by it!Anon
Life’s Precious Moments Don’t Have Value Unless They Are Shared.Robb Thompson
I do not trust anyone who’s rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.Muhammed Ali
A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.John Maxwell
Our ego takes us away from ourselves and who we are really meant to be.Wayne Dyer