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Acts 16:6-11 – The Holy Spirit and Providence

There is a thing called providence. Providence refers to God being at work in all circumstances directing things towards his purposes. In Acts 12:1 the Holy Spirit spoke words which commenced the mission to Asia (13:1-16:5). In 16:6-11 a new section starts in Acts as the Holy Spirit acts and a vision from God initiates the mission to the Aegean Sea (16:6-19:20).

Paul desired to further proclaim the good news in Asia but the Holy Spirit prevents him from preaching the word in south Asia and then the Spirit of Jesus will not allow them to go into north Asia and so they pass through the middle arriving at the sea port of Troas. How mysterious providence can seem at times – the Spirit prevents the preaching of the word. Providence is often confusing and does not reflect what we expect.

During the night though Paul has a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” This reminds one of Peter’s vision when he was being summoned by Cornelius to take the message to the Gentiles. As a vision this is a word from God. Paul does not act unilaterally but after prayer and conversation with other believers they together conclude that God was calling them to Macedonia, and they set sail.

A small detail indicates that the 200 km sea journey only takes them two days whereas later we learn that the return trip took five days – it is like providentially even the winds are assisting them in taking the gospel to Europe.

Providence – a mystery at times but also a source of beautiful confidence that the Lord is with us and all things work for good.