“Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:6 (HCSB)
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Here I am, Lord!’ he said. – Acts 9:10 (HCSB)
Life hurries by us with disheartening news, tumultuous weather, and busy schedules that keep us rushing from place to place with little time to reflect.
First Century Jerusalem was a busy town with traders and pilgrims. The white marble houses and villas of the wealthy looked like snow in the bright sunshine while the gold-embellished Herod’s Temple startled visitors as they climbed the long road from Jericho. Traders from around the world came selling, buying, bearing goods, and driving animals as they arrived to this city on the hill. Noises of a busy city resounded across the Kidron and Hinnom valleys and through the Mount of Olives. If we had been living in the Judea at the time, life would have seemed pretty normal—noisy and busy.
However, the Holy Spirit was at work among God’s people. We read in Acts of great sermons, spectacular manifestations of the Spirit over and over again, and the growth of the Early Church across social, cultural, and language barriers. Thousands of people were welcomed into the Kingdom of God by the great preaching of leaders like Peter and Stephen, as well as quiet sharing among believers. Persecution by the Roman authorities and the martyrdom of Stephen helped spread the Gospel message of forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.
The first word in Acts 9:1 is meanwhile, that is, in the midst of the busyness, Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the new believers, blind to their message of hope. He was named Saul after the first king of Israel who was disgraced by his own self-sufficiency and pride. This New Testament Saul was depending on his own righteousness before God. He had traveled to Damascus with letters of authorization to round up, drag back to Jerusalem, and execute these believers.
In a dramatic flash of light, the Risen Jesus Christ appeared and thundered out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul fell to his knees, realizing he was opposed to God Himself! He was changed in an instant and we know him today as Paul, writer of thirteen New Testament letters and a mighty missionary to the Gentiles. The soldiers around him heard the noise, watched Saul fall, blinded by the light. They led the shaken Saul to Judas’ house on Straight Street in Damascus but they did not understand that it was the Risen Jesus Christ who had spoken to Saul.
Meanwhile, Jesus spoke to another believer, Ananias, telling him to go and minister to Saul, the arch enemy of believers. Ananias reminded God that Saul was trying to kill all the believersbut God reassured him that He had a special plan for Saul to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel. Ananias got up and went to lay hands on Saul, restoring his sight and setting him on a multi-decade mission with Jesus Christ.
How often do we busily go about our daily lives without seeing God at work through us and in us? How often are we willing to be interrupted and quickly obey? Saul obeyed and God turned the Christian World upside down. Ananias obeyed and walked down the street, facing his greatest fear. Each man was blessed in their obedience. Sometimes God speaks to us in dramatic ways and sometimes in quiet ways. Are we willing to immediately obey, no matter how large and important or small and insignificant the task might be? May the Lord find us faithful to quick obedience no matter the task!
By Carol McLaren