“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’ ” (Acts 13:2).

When raw milk from a cow is left sitting, it will naturally separate into the thicker cream on top and skimmed milk below. Many farmers used to separate the cream from the milk themselves by setting aside the milk, letting the cream rise, and then skimming off the cream with a ladle. They could see the “cream line” to know where the skimmed milk began.

Centrifugal separators were eventually created to speed up the pro- cess. Milk didn’t have to sit and potentially go sour. It could be poured into a large bowl and spun. The heavier milk would be pulled against the walls of the separator and the lighter cream collected in the middle. The cream and milk would then pour out separate spouts.

When leaders at the church in Antioch gathered to worship and fast, God spoke to them through the Holy Spirit, saying, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Barnabas had mentored Saul at Antioch, and the two of them had just returned from a trip to Jerusalem to deliver aid to Christians in need.

Now the Lord commissioned them to embark on a larger missionary trip to the Gentiles. Luke says these two men were “separated” for this special work of reaching non-Jews. The Greek word apharizo means to “mark off from others; set apart for some purpose.” The Lord appointed Paul and Barnabas to go to Cyprus and central Asia Minor to preach the gospel and plant new churches.

In one sense God wants to separate all of us from the world. The same Greek word is used by Paul when he wrote, “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). In the Lord’s eyes, we are like cream separated for His special work in sharing rich truths with others.

Precious Lord, thank You for separating me from the world in order that I might proclaim Your Word to those I meet today.

For Further Study: Acts 13:1–3; 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:10

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