The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests. – Acts 10:9-23
How can you tell the difference between a message from God conveyed in a dream, and a wild idea you imagine in the middle of the night because you at some bad onions? It isn’t just a matter of doing godly things. The message “PC” in the sky was interpreted by a farmer as “Preach Christ.” He was a very poor preacher and someone suggested to him that the “PC” might have easily meant, “Plant Corn.” How do you tell what God is saying and how he is guiding you? How do you make that call?
Peter has a dream that he doesn’t quite understand. This is most likely due to the fact that the message he was being given was so remarkably different from his religious practice, understanding, and sensibilities. How was he to apply what God was telling him in the dream? How much credence should he give to the message he had received in the dream? How could he determine whether this was truly of God or not?
At this point in the story we actually do not know the answer. But further evidence of God’s hand in the prayer and the request of Cornelius’ messengers is soon to come to light. Sometimes in such situations we must simply “do the next thing.” At this point Peter agrees to meet Cornelius. That was the next thing. He doesn’t immediately go back to Jerusalem and tell everyone that the Jewish ceremonial laws were no longer in force. He simply takes the next step.
God will reveal his plan in due time. For now we simply need to do the next thing. It is in doing that next thing that we may discover that God is up to something much bigger than we could ever imagine.