16:6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
So many questions and missing details. After finishing their journey through the cities where they had already been to encourage the believers Paul, Silas, and Timothy attempted to preach in some cities in Asia Minor but Luke (the author of Acts) tells us the Holy Spirit forbid them from preaching there. That is not problematic for me. Jesus had told the disciples that if they entered a city and weren't received, to keep on moving. Clearly some regions, just like some individuals, are not ready to hear about God and in those cases it is only right not to force Him on them.
What I would like to know is how did the Spirit forbid them. That's a strong word. Clearly they traveled to those cities with the intent of preaching. Sometimes I feel guilty. I feel like they must have had a much better connection with God's Spirit to have such specific instructions. Then I realized if that was the case they wouldn't have gone to those cities to begin with. Think of the time, money, and energy wasted getting there only to be forbidden from preaching when they arrived. So it wasn't a superior connection with God that forbid them. It was something else. I can speculate but I'd prefer to know. Curious minds want to know! :)
My speculation is that they tried to preach and it didn't work. I have had that happen. It is eerie and unpleasant. Preaching is not speech writing or giving a speech. Preaching has a supernatural element that can't be explained. I was at a church once that shall remain nameless and I tried to preach. It was like nothing was happening even though I was talking. The congregation was almost frozen. They were present and sitting normally but it seemed my words never reached them. It was a bizarre and cold experience I never want to repeat.
Perhaps that is what happened to them in Asia? Perhaps they knew the Spirit was not with them because He did not bridge the language barrier as He had done at Pentecost? Or perhaps He literally prevented them from speaking altogether? We aren't told. All we know is that He forbid them until they received the vision to go to Macedonia and they went.
What I do know is that in our modern, educated, self-sufficient culture we think too little of what God wants us to be doing and where He wants us to go. Yesterday our guest speaker preached a powerful message on determining God's will. He talked about the superstitious and silly things we do and say to justify our choices, calling it God’s leading. We open our Bibles at random and blindly point to a verse and take it as His Word to us. We pray and then do what seems best to us. We plan and ask God to bless our plans. So many strategies that our basically just us doing what we want. His point was that we have His Word, the Bible. It contains His instructions and we ignore much of them and then say we want some special revelation of His will for our lives. The first step in getting further instructions is to follow the ones He has already given. Then His Spirit will become our teacher and give us further and clearer instruction.
I can say I want a better connection with God. It certainly sounds like the right thing to say. I can say I want His Spirit to fill me and lead me. It sounds like the right thing to say. However it's only true if I'm already actively following all of the instructions I've already been given. Otherwise I'm just fooling myself and doing whatever I want. Paul knew God wanted him to preach to those who had never heard so he went. In the going God gave him clearer instructions. Don't sit and wait for some miraculous Word from God if there are already things you know to do but are not doing them.
God steers moving ships. "Go into all the world..."