An important technique in the practice of Bible study is to notice repetition; that is, how often words or phrases are repeated in a section of Scripture. When you see something occur a number of times, it’s more than a good clue that God is trying to tell you something, because things that are important get repeated. Given that, what I find fascinating is that one phrase (or a version of it) pops up three times in these seven verses. I wonder, did you notice it? It first appears in verse 22, then reappears in verse 25, and then makes its last appearance, albeit with a slight and very interesting twist, in verse 28. The phrase? “It seemed good to…” In verses 22 and 25, it seemed good to the apostles and the elders. In verse 28, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and the apostles and elders.
What are we to make of this? Well, one thing is that sometimes the guidance we get from the Spirit is a little more squishy than we’d like it to be. Sometimes we have to make important decisions without a “clear word from the Lord.” Think about it, the apostles and elders were gathered together to talk about the Biblical requirements for salvation, and the clarity and direction the church leadership is able to give to the Gentile believers is based in part on “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Based on the information they had, the input of others, and what they sensed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit, they made a decision that changed the trajectory of Christianity forever!
I think we can all relate to having to make decisions based on a “holy hunch,” right? “Do we buy a house in this neighborhood or that?” “Do I accept this job offer, or stay where I am?” “Is it time to take this relationship to the next level, or cut it off?” “Which Life Group should I join?” “In which ministry should I volunteer to serve?” We don’t always get clear guidance, but rather more of a sense about which direction we are supposed to move. I don’t know about you, but sometimes a more clear sign (such as what Gideon received in Judges 6:36-40) would be nice. But that isn’t always how He works.
Usually, when I have a decision to make, I pray and ask for guidance (as well as go through a number of other steps wise decision-makers utilize, and which this text highlights), and then I make the choice that seems best. I don’t always have a clear word from the Lord, and sometimes there are multiple good options from which to choose. It’s in those moments that there can be a good degree of squishiness, and while that can be a bit unnerving, it does generate the opportunity to walk by faith and trust Him to guide all my steps, even the ones that I only sense are the best ones to take.
Connection & Growth Pastor