“Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (verses 23-26)
An angelic visitation – remarkable. Yet I tend not to be surprised (or skeptical) when it’s contained, as it is, within the pages of Scripture. Sometimes I even have the flannel-graph images of childhood in mind, playing these stories out safely.
But then I remember this story actively broke-out in technicolour in real life. In the midst of howling winds, battering waves and salt spray, Paul reports to a Roman centurion, and pagan soldiers, sailors and others, what he had experienced in real-time the night before. A divine messenger, with a divine message, had stood beside him right there in the close quarters of that Alexandrian ship. The Sovereign Lord had information he wanted his servant Paul to know, so he sent his messenger. This wasn’t doctrinal revelation – it had to do with practicalities of life right at the moment.
It’s very personal. I love the fact that the angel addresses Paul by name. Further, the message itself communicates, with feet on the ground practicality, that the Lord knows exactly where Paul is and what he’s confronting. The Lord has carefully made provision for Paul’s safety because there is a longer-range plan laid out that involves him testifying personally to Caesar, a plan the Lord had already specifically communicated to Paul earlier in the barracks in Jerusalem when he was first arrested (Acts 23:11).
Certainly Paul is an Apostle and carries in his life and ministry the marks of an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12), including angelic visitations and divine communications. But if I take the Scriptures seriously (and I do) what this tells me is that the Lord communicates with his servants needed insights as they are actively engaged in the work to which he has called them. All the tools of communication are still available to him, from angels to wise counsel to inner promptings.
This slice of history from Paul’s story inspires me to be more expectant.
O Lord, give me ears to hear, however you choose to speak. I submit myself to your direction.
Reflect: Jesus, as Good Shepherd, “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” His sheep (that’s us), “follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
Take a few moments to reflect on this truth. Commit yourself afresh to attentive listening. Take time to listen right now. Keep listening throughout the day. Step into new direction as you hear it.