And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Comment: With this short passage Paul is on his second big missionary journey to take the gospel to the wider world. He planned to go back into the large area of Asia where he had previously been and where there were already some churches. This passage describes the Holy Spirit saying ‘no’ to a couple of Paul and his group’s ideas. The pronouns change from ‘they, them’ to ‘we’. Which by simple logic tells us that Luke, the author, has joined the group! But we have the question raised for ourselves – How does God forbid and guide? Obviously today we have the Bible as a backdrop of instruction but in this passage for up-to-date instructions we have a couple of insights. They went into Macedonia on a call received in a vision. We can dream wildly and imaginatively and just part of life but here they were convinced that it was a vision from God and the indicator of which way they were to head. But we also have the vague phrase ‘the Spirit of Jesus did not ‘allow/forbade’ them. In one sense not vague at all but how were the commands delivered – maybe a strong heart conviction; maybe a ruling from the local authorities; maybe a financial or health issue. I guess that it needs for us to be listening and sensitive and obedient to however God chooses to lead. It is good to remember, however, that the Bible’s principles are not to be overrun.
Prayer: Keep me sensitive and discerning to Your leading, my Master.