Acts 11:27 ¶ At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Acts 11:28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius.
Acts 11:29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea;
Acts 11:30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Prophets were leaving Jerusalem because of persecution and they arrived in Antioch. These prophets were speaking to the church words about the future so that the church could be prepared. It is known that a terrible famine did affect the area in the time mentioned. Much as the vision came and Joseph was able to help Egypt prepare for the famine, so God’s people were responding to the upcoming need. Instead of stockpiling supplies for themselves these Christians sent relief, probably in the form of offerings, to the people in Judea. This was a part of Saul’s discipleship training under Barnabas in Antioch and was, more than likely, Saul’s second trip to Jerusalem since becoming a believer.
The attitude and spirit of response to need here reflects the growth in Christlikeness among the believers. This entire story can be seen as a parallel to the one in Egypt so very long ago. There are similarities, but there are also differences.
Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit there were prophets who were able to speak regarding the future. They were suffering great persecution in the city of Jerusalem and probably came to Antioch in order to survive. They did not cease to speak about their visions and dreams. God was able to use them in a variety of places as a result of the persecution. More people were hearing about Jesus and Christianity was growing. They were able to speak clearly without the need for interpretation. Remember, it was Joseph who had to interpret the vision of Pharaoh. Now, the vision comes directly to those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and they are able to share the vision and its meaning.
Joseph had to organize the people for response to the famine. Immediately God’s people organized to respond to the physical needs of the people. The Egyptians built store-houses so that people could come to them to get what they needed to supply their needs when the famine began to spread. The Christians took an offering and determined to take what they had to the needy. They didn’t collect things for themselves but instead collected with the intent of taking it out to the places where the need was the greatest.
The sending here is important and each person was to send according to their ability. It’s an important concept, that we are each to share as much as we can with others who are in need. Interestingly the aid was sent by Barnabas and Saul. This engagement in relief to the needy became a part of Saul’s formation and discipleship. Participating in the helping of others is important to our own spiritual development. The people who received the aid were blessed, but so were those who participated in the collection and the sending.
Sending relief in times of need is a reflection of our spiritual condition. May God help us to have ears to hear the prophetic words with which he may be challenging us today.
Lord, please help me to be faithful to helping those who have need. Amen.