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Philippi Calling

1,180 years after the Achaeans, thanks to their brilliant and cunning deployment of the Horse of Tenedos, had smashed Troy and her mother-goddess's bid for world allegiance and power, the world-changing fruit of that epic Achaean victory became evident when a certain Jew, carrying the Good News of Yeshua, paused with his fellow Yeshua-believer to rest and pray in a port city strategically founded adjacent to the ancient city of Ilios (or Troy).

It was so as Barnabus thought—-God would make much use of the Greek-speaking Paulus (like Trojan horse in the Roman camp!) so that he was never forced to carry out his threat of forsaking the ministry the moment people stopped listening to him. Yet Barnabus had no idea how exactly it would all work out—he just had faith that God, who could make a donkey speak to a prophet, would empower Paulus’s feeble tongue.

Amazing Barnabus countless times, divine power and eloquence was poured out upon Paulus’s slurring, stammering tongue, so that he not only spoke extremely well and intelligently before the rulers of royal Herods and great Roman judges but he also ventured forth from Antioch on a missionary journey taking him to nearly all the major cities of southeastern Asia Minor worthy of mention, as well as the island of Cyprus. Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia.

Paulus, who on his own could scarcely pronounce his own name when Barnubus found him in Tarsus, had, nevertheless, preached the Gospel to thousands in these cities, Jews and Gentiles alike! Churches had been established, and elders set in place by Paulus and Barnabus (for the power of God was so strongly apparent in Paulus that Barnabus gladly stepped aside to take second place).

A lesser man might have retired on such notable laurels as these—-a dozen or so churches that were thriving and owing their very existence to the foundational word of God Paul had preached to them as an apostle. Yet Paulus would not rest a moment! It was that great drive in him to spread the Good News of Yeshua that motivated every thing he did, only he expected everyone connected with him to come up to the same mark of zeal and endeavor.

After falling out with Barnabus over Barnabus’s wanting to take along John Mark who Paulus thought was a poor, half-hearted sort of helper, Paulus, accompanied by Silas, began a second journey.

This time he braved every attempt on his life by Jewish opponents and savage Gentile authorities—surviving the worst they could do to him with stones, beatings, and imprisonments-- and preached all the way across Asia Minor to the Ionian coast, to the province of Troas, where the city of Paris, Helen, Priam, and Hector, and the famous hollow wooden Horse that tricked and defeated Troy’s impregnable walls, was located.

Immortalized by his epic verses, Homer had forever marked the city of Troy that stood on a hill overlooking the plain and the sea four miles distant, where her warships once controlled the gates of the Hellespont that led to the Black Sea and the lucrative, vital grain trade that fed all the great cities of Greece. On that coast, long after Homer’s time, what was called Alexandria Troas arose as a port of some commercial importance while old, renowned Illium (or Troy) sank into genteel obscurity, with only pilgrims seeking it out anymore for the sake of Homer’s classic epic poem, The ILLIAD.

A rough and tumble sort of place, with no sophistication at all to claim, Alexandria Troas proved more convenient for crossing the Aegean at that point to the cities of Macedonia—-and everyone knows that travelers and businessmen—might respect high culture but prefer more direct routes that might save time and money.

It was here that something happened that turned little, bandy-legged, once poor-of-speech Paulus into the greatest evangelist for the Anointed One, Yeshua.

Reaching the northwest coast port at dusk, Paulus and Silas decided to stay on there if lodgings could be found, and the next morning early they would rise and continue on down the coast.

They knew they were on the doorstep of the most populous and cultured heartland of ancient Greece, once called Ionia, but now the Roman province of Asia. Who hadn’t heard of Pergamon, Sardis, Thyatira, Ephesus, and Smyrna? These cities rivaled and even surpassed Athens and the chief cities of Achaea and Macedonia. Only Roma, Alexandria, Antioch, and maybe Corinth were more important in the Empire.

Through preaching and exhorting all men to believe on the Resurrected Lord Yeshua for salvation, Paul intended to turn these cities and their millions upside down.

The triumphs he had already experienced all the way from Antioch to Alexandria Troas would now launch them forth, he assumed, into the much greater sphere of missionary endeavor he saw gleaming over the darkened horizon toward the south.

They trudged wearily up and down the port city’s streets, unable to come across anyone who looked and spoke like a Jew. All were Greeks, or if not Greek, then Roman, Egyptian, and sundry others of every nation and language. From the speech they overheard in the markets nearest the harbor, where people lingered in the taverns and inns, warehouses and money-changer’s stalls, it seemed that Alexandria Troas attracted Medes and Persians, Cappadocians, Arabians, Pontians, Elamites, Cretans, Ethiopians, Lydians, Phrygians, Paplygonians, Assyrians. But apparently no Jews but themselves! Who would take in a couple sons of Abraham? Who?

There were inns, but how did they know that they wouldn’t be robbed by the Gentile innkeepers? They were only two against so many utter strangers. Truly, dusk was a poor time to settle in to a new lodgings. It seldom went well to gauge one’s prospects in a foreign place when the light was so poor.

“Well, then, we will continue on into the country and sleep where we can find shelter under some trees,” declared Paulus to his fellow footsore Jew. Silas said nothing and continued to follow Paulus as he led the way back out of the port, away from all the ships and port buildings. They were climbing up from the port and still had not gained the road that led south when a light approached them on the same path. Stepping aside, an old man passed, then paused. The light returned, and a white-bearded face thrust itself into Paulus!

“You are a Jew!” the stranger cried, his face beaming. “Say so! You are a son of Abraham!”

Paulus, very much surprised, was at a loss for words. “Why yes! We are both sons of Father Abraham! But we preach a Risen Savior, Yeshua—“

Before he could even begin to convert the man, the fellow danced a little jig on aged feet and almost lost his lantern.

“Ai ai ai!” he cried. Suddenly, he nearly fell over in a heap, but Silas caught his arm. Wheezing, the old man got his breath and grasped Silas. “Well, come along! Come along! We can’t dilly dally out here on the public street if we don’t want to be robbed and murdered by these heathen Greeks!”

Not certain what to do, the evangelists followed rather doubtfully. The old man led them up the hill a little ways, then darted into what looked like a sheepfold. Inside the sheepfold wall was a little stone hut, of one room only. The old one conducted them inside, then carefully shut the wooden door and secured it with a special blocking stone and wooden bar. “There!” he cried, wheezing. “Now we’ll be quite safe and snug for the night!”

Their strange host’s face lit up in the gloom of the hut, which was full of shadows even though it was quite small. He examined the faces of his guests carefully. “I perceive, sir,” he said, turning first to Paulus, “that you are a learned man. Are you a philosopher, perhaps? Or a teacher in the synagogues? I don’t often receive distinguished man in my residence, but I can tell one when I see one. You see, many important men pass by here on the way to the great cities, so I see them all and can’t be misled. Now which is it, sir?”

“I studied at the feet of Gamaliel,” Paulus began, then paused.

The old man howled. “Ha! I knew it! I knew it the moment I spied you, sir!” He turned to Silas. “Now this other son of Abraham--what does he do? Don’t tell me. I can figure him out too. Just give me a moment or two!”

The old man surveyed Silas from top to bottom, then cheerfully admitted, “You seem a good, honest man, to my eyes. I don’t think you are a tradesman, for your hands are too smooth. And you have the look of one who mixes with men in the public places—could you be this man’s assistant? His scribe perchance? You travel together, are you two taking a message of some kind or a writ for money from a rich Jew to another in some chief city to the south? Well, what may it be?”

Paulus and Silas looked at each other, exchanging meaningful glances, but the old man soon caught their glances and looked impatient. “Well, which is it? We don’t have all night to reply to the sphinx of Thebes! Unlike her, I won’t harm you if you get your answer right!”

That seemed to be a joke with the old man, as he broke into laughter until he couldn’t get his breath and he gasped. ! Without waiting for further reply, the old man busied himself getting out bowls and containers. He pulled bread from a cupboard. “It’s still fresh, only a day old,” he commented. Then he took a knife and cut off pieces of cheese from a big wedge he kept wrapped in a thick goatskin. Afer that he poured cold water from a water jug into cups. Their feet he took in his hands after removing their sandals, washing them though at first Paulus protested.

“You are too hospitable,” cried Paulus, his feet washed, and food set before him. But they were famished, and after a prayer, during which the old man watched Paulus and Silas carefully, they ate all the food and drink given them.

The old man hardly touched a crumb of the bread. He took a mere sip of water, then busied himself laying out mats and some blankets.

“Abide with me, my brothers!” the old man invited them. “You won’t find a better lodgings at this late hour, for I am the only Jew of this city!”

Paulus looked at Silas. Silas couldn’t decide, so Paulus took the matter in hand. “We will gladly pay you for our lodgings, for such you seem to be offering us. You are most kind to offer us a roof over our heads!”

The old man looked offended, without a look up at the roof, which was scarcely one, as it let in considerable starlight through the broken mortar and stonework. He pushed them toward the beds he had made. “Now take your rest. Now I won’t hear of being paid by a son of Abraham! I haven’t had such as you in my house since—since—“ The old man’s eyes grew cloudy. He seemed to remember something, then tottered away to a corner of the hut, where he sank down on a pile of bedding.

With no more ado from their host, Paulus glanced at Silas, who could hardly keep his eye open at this point, and then they gratefully lay down on their beds. It wasn’t long before they sank fast asleep. But they were awakened several times, as howlings of men or beasts nearby wrenched them from their sleep. The old man, however, snored on peacefully in his corner, blissfully unaware of the terrible screeches outdoors and the sounds of something trying to claw its way into the hut.

“Demon-possessed pagans at their nightly orgies—what else?” thought Paulus, and he prayed the old man’s door would hold firm through the night.

Rattling, with the block stone dislodged, the door scarcely held, but Paulus prayed again, and suddenly their was an inhuman shriek of pain, and the disturbance abruptly ceased. Instead, they could hear rapid footfalls of many night celebrants, leading away from them.

At last it was quiet and peace reigned. With his eyes closed, Paulus suddenly saw a man standing in the hut, his hands outstretched to him. The man was chained, like a prisoner. “Good sir, come over to us in Macedon, and help us!” Three times the man called to Paulus, who groaned in his sleep, unable to rise up and dispel the vision. Then the man vanished, and Paulus awoke, his eyes turning wildly round the dark room. He rose up, unable to sleep any longer. Sinking down, he prayed. He looked round the hut again, then looked at Silas, wondering what to say to him. Then he prayed again, and with a second prayer he seemed to gain a certain peace.

Loud bird calls roused the old man, then the still sleeping Silas. It seemed all the birds of heaven congregated round the sheepfold and the hut.

The old man insisted on a second meal to give them strength for their journey. “Where are you intending to fare?” he inquired of them.

Silas smiled. “To the great cities south of you,” he replied.

Paulus drew Silas aside. “Not so! I had a vision in the night!”

Silas’s eyes widened.

“I will tell you of it later!” Paulus said. He turned to their host.

“Please take something for your kindness to strangers!” he said, offering a gold piece.

The old man wouldn’t hear of it. Tears filled his eyes. “I have had no good men in my home since—since—“ He couldn’t continue for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was full of longing. “My sons were taken—killed by these abominable idol-worshipers, these followers of Dionysios the wine-god, who come by this hill at night on the way to their heathen temple! I lost both sons, taken that way. One at one time, the other at another. I am alone now, since my beloved wife took sick and—ai! ai! ai!“

The old man clasped his sides and rocked back and forth in his grief. Paulus and Silas, overcome with compassion, put their hands on the old man, praying for him until he was comforted. When Paulus had explained the good news of Yeshua to him, the old man accepted it gladly like a child, believing on the Lord Yeshua for salvation. With joy, they instructed him in the Way of Yeshua, then committed him prayerfully to the Spirit to keep and guide him from that day on.

When they had taken leave of their kind host and now a fellow believer, Paulus turned to Silas on the path. “We are not journeying south,” he said. “The Lord sent a vision, and it was clear where the Spirit directs us to go. Macedon! We will take ship here!”

Silas had always accepted Paul’s leadings without question. This time he seemed doubtful at this news broke on his ears. A very sad look came into Silas’s eyes. Paulus, affected but not offended, for he knew Silas’s love and dedication was genuine from many experiences shared along the way, waited for Silas.

“Are you sure about this, dear brother?” Silas questioned him. “You were so certain just yesterday we ought to proceed south from here. There are already Jewish brethre at Ephesus and other cities thereabouts. What happen to them if we pass them by without a word? No one has preached the good news in that whole region. They are our people! God’s people! Are the Gentiles so beloved to your heart, that you prefer them to the sons of Abraham? What could have made you change your mind so abruptly as to send us to Macedon across the sea? That is a foreign land, full of dangers we have not known here.”

Paulus sat down on a big stone, inviting Silas to sit also. “I have thought about this for hours while y you slept. Yes, Macedon will be a place of trial and distress for us, I feel in my spirit. But we must obey the Lord and the Spirit! They compel me to go! I will go, whether you come with me or not. I must reach the Gentiles beyond, who have never heard the good news! They cried out to me in the night for the Light, so that my heart is breaking for them!”

Silas looked as if he wanted to shake Paulus in an attempt to dissuade him. Never had Paulus seen him so worked up. “But brother Paulus, Macedon is Roman in a way this land is not. We are Jews, and even if you speak Greek that is no reason they will like us there! I too feel something—that we will be set upon by wild beasts if we go over there. Maybe they will even throw us in an arena with wild beasts for sport!”

Paulus gazed at Silas. He knew Silas wasn’t a fearful man. He respected Silas for his maturity in the Lord. Could it be that Silas was right? Was the vision false, sent by Satan to lure them off track to their doom? That, rather than wild beasts, was truly fearsome to him.

Paulus, instead of trying to convince himself and Silas, began to sing a simple hymn. Silas joined in. It was a song that spoke of love for the Lord driving out all fear.

When they had finished, Silas grasped Paulus’s hand. “I will go with you, even to the arena! I am sorry I have tried to hold you back from the Lord's perfect will! Let us go at once!”

Paulus rose, and Silas stood with him. “Onward, to the wild beasts!” cried the smiling Silas to Paulus, and the senior evangelist shook his head, chuckling, as he led the way back to the port to find the next boat to Alexander the Great’s home country of Macedon.

No sooner had they reached the water’s edge and the boats that were moored there then a man stroke briskly up to them, greeting them warmly. “Lucanus!” cried Paulus. “Of course, you can come with us!”

“Where are you going, dear brother?” the physician asked. “South to Ephesus? That is where I was headed when I thought to turn in here for a moment to look around. Then you popped up! This must be the Lord’s doing!”

Paulus laughed. “Yes, it must be! For we are going—“ Just then, he left them and ran to speak to a captain. Then a moment later he motioned to Silas and Lucanus to come quickly.

“He’ll take us! Board at once! He is casting off immediately, he says!”

Lucanus and Silas hurried aboard with Paulus.

“But where are we headed?” Lucanus tried again. “You haven’t said, Brother Paulus.”

“To Macedon, and later, God willing, all of Achaea!” Paulus replied, casting his bedroll and writing implements and books down on the deck. Lucanus stared at Paulus with widened eyes. “So it’s the lion’s den for us, I see,” he commented grimly. “This is our home country, and though they hate Jews speaking of Yeshua, they at least give us our lives-—but Macedon? It is chock full of heathen barbarians—and full-blood, idol-worshiping Romans who hate Jews of any stripe!”

Paulus turned to the physician. “You aren’t afraid of them, are you? Christ is sufficient for us, even if we go to Roma itself to face the Emperor!”

Lucanus sighed and sank down on the deck as the ship’s anchor was drawn and they cast off. “From what I’ve heard, Macedon despises Greeks, dogs, and Jews, in that order! But—“ his face lightened with humor. “But since we are followers of the Way, maybe they won’t know quite what to do with the likes of us?”

Paulus laughed. He clapped his hand on Lucanus’s shoulder. “If not, you’re a good doctor. You can always fix us up!”


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