Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Interpreting the Spirit

Celeste is in surgery right now, and I'm passing the time in a waiting room. (Wi Fi -- yay!) She's having what I believe would be called an elective procedure, although it is very necessary. It is also pretty routine, or so I'm told. But it's not routine for us, of course. I should get to take her home today, and she'll be fine I'm sure. Still, prayers for her and her quick recovery are appreciated. (Let me know if you are unclear on the details; it's not a secret, but not necessarily something I'll bother to post on the internet.)


I'm still picking my way through Acts, and I am struck (not for the first time) about the way that the Spirit seems to speak so much to the people. But I think I'm more struck by the fact that the people seem to sometimes misinterpret what the Spirit is saying, even in critical ways.

I'm looking specifically at the way the Spirit spoke to Paul and to other believers about Paul's return to Jerusalem in Acts 21. Clearly, Paul is led to return to Jerusalem, knowing that he must somehow later go to Rome. And meanwhile, the Spirit is speaking to other believers about Paul's journey.

Apparently the other believers are hearing -- correctly -- that Paul's trip to Jerusalem will not be fun for Paul. However, they interpret that message to mean that Paul should not go to Jerusalem.

That is a major misinterpretation! And not by just one person, but seemingly by many people. Apparently a group of believers in Tyre, and subsequently Agabus and others in Caesarea urged Paul not to go.

I think what surprises me most is that the Scripture seems pretty clear that the Spirit was speaking to the other believers, and some/many/perhaps all of them hear the Spirit perfectly well ... but miss the point. Fortunately, Paul gets the point, and he is not talked out of his own interpretation. He is obedient to his calling.

But I find myself wondering about all of this. After all, God can be crystal clear when He wants to be; His arm is not too short, and I do not believe His voice is too timid. So why not communicate in a clearer way, so that Paul receives confirmation from the body rather than a conflicting interpretation of the Spirit?

I'm not suggesting that we should ignore the body, become free agents, or anything like that. I'm just wondering how often the body, en masse, gets it ... wrong.

May God have mercy on us. May we hear His Spirit, and correctly understand what we're called to do.

And may we be merciful as we encounter others, whose interpretation of the Spirit is not the same as ours.