Acts 16:6-10--Vision of the Macedonian
As cool as reading about the Holy Spirit is, it seems weird that the Spirit wouldn't let them speak or visit some places, and it makes me wonder how much I'm missing the Holy Spirit in my own life and ministry. How many of us practice being truly aware of the Spirit's presence and leading in our lives? How would our discipleship look different, if we were more open to how the Spirit is at work? The stories of the early church ask us these questions.
Verse 10 says "we prepared to leave," which is a bit of a surprise, and maybe even kind of startling. All of a sudden, this story gets a little more real to us because it's written in first-person--we're reading this story from a real person's perspective. Someone was actually writing about his own experience. Who is it? It doesn't tell us. Interesting!
Acts 16:11-15--Lydia's conversion
I have to admit that the place names that are mentioned in Paul's journeys don't always mean much to me. I should remember the geography of the New Testament better, but without reviewing that or looking at a map while I'm reading, I sometimes feel like I'm drowning in place names that are foreign to me, or names that I've heard before but still don't remember where they are.
Anyway, they arrive here in Philippi, and they go down to the river to pray! Lydia sounds like good people, as they say, and I appreciate her role in starting one of the first churches. (Maybe she wasn't a clergywoman, but hey, she was certainly a leader.) I wonder if there was anything unusual about these foreign men sitting down to talk with the local women. It reminds me a little bit of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.
I'm surprised that after Paul teaches and preaches and Lydia is converted--"the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul's message"--she says to him, according to the Common English Bible, "Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord..." Other versions sound a little bit different, and maybe it means something like, "Stay with me if you judge me faithful..." Still, it's an interesting way to phrase things.
Acts 16:16-40--Paul and Silas in Prison
This is such a fantastic story!!My study Bible notes that the servant girl's spirit (v.10) is sometimes referred to as a "python spirit," which connects her with the myth of the oracle of Delphi. I did not know that! Of course, I also don't remember the whole myth, but I do remember enough to know that the oracle at Delphi was something important.
As far as the story about Paul and Silas goes, this is such a meaningful story for Christians. I can think of half a dozen songs that refer to it, in one way or another. There's so much amazing Spirit activity here. Paul and Silas were severely beaten and put in high security, and they sat there singing and praying all night, and the other prisoners listened to them. It just sounds plumb crazy! And now, I have to admit that my study Bible suggests something that I have never really concluded before, about Paul and Silas' singing and praying: God answers their prayers. Duh! God answers their prayers--that's why they get out of jail! Duh!
The story of the jailer's conversion brings us to a lot of interesting questions, too. His act of believing somehow brings salvation to his whole household, verse 31 tells us, yet we are so often quick to make faith such an individual endeavor. What does this story really teach us about that? It's not that it was magic--everyone else in the house was taught, and we don't know what they did later in life--but it's that the jailer's act wasn't just done for himself.
The end of this story is a little bit funny. I guess the beginning was, too--Paul got annoyed and just cast out the girl's spirit. When the local authorities find out that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, they realize they've kind of made a big mistake. Maybe the local officials should make decisions on something other than what the crowd yells for them to do!
I really like this story! If you haven't read it recently (or ever), take time to read it today. Know that you are never guaranteed an easy faith, but you are guaranteed that the same crazy Spirit that cracked Paul and Silas out of the depths of a local jail is with you, no matter where you are!