Day 181: June 30 (Acts 9:1-22)
After seeing how God uses Philip during the persecution and scattering, we now turn to focus on the man at the center of that persecution: Saul. Remember, he was the one who looked after the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death, sparking the persecution. He approved of such drastic reactions in opposition to the demonstrated plan and power of God. In other words Saul is a tough cookie and no friend of believers! The first verse of today’s reading tells us that Saul was uttering threats with every breath!
So Saul gets letters authorizing him to go to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. Notice how far the gospel has spread – Damascus is in Syria, well outside the circles recorded so far. Previously the furthest spread was Samaria and the road to Gaza!
As Saul reaches Damascus, Jesus steps in! A blinding light knocks him off his horse, and a voice says “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Only Saul experiences all of this; his companions hear the voice but don’t experience the powerful ‘lightning bolt’ intervention. Being blind, Saul is led into Damascus, and does not eat or drink for three days. This man has truly been impacted by God!
Meanwhile a believer called Ananias is having a supernatural vision. God tells him to go and pray for a man called Saul, from Tarsus, because he is praying to God. This is rather similar to asking a mouse to go pray for a cat! Saul is renowned among the believers, and it is not a good reputation! God explains that Saul is going to be different from now on, and will suffer for the sake of God’s name.
Ananias is a brave and faithful man – he goes to the house, calls Saul his brother, and prays for him. Scales fall from Saul’s eyes and he can see again. So he is baptized and then has some food, regaining some strength. As soon as he is able, Saul goes to the synagogue. That was his destination all along, but instead of the message of hate and retribution, he now brings a message of conviction and conversion. In fact, with his extensive rabbinical training and fervent conviction, Saul is a formidable preacher and no-one could counter his arguments proving that Jesus is the Messiah!
How about you?: have you ever been asked by God to do something outside your comfort zone? You have to be sure of your relationship with God to say “yes” as Ananias did. Or maybe you have known a time in your life when you were opposed to God and His people. What did it take to turn you around? I hope it was easier to turn you than it was to turn Saul!
Have a great day!