Scripture reading – Acts 9-10
Our previous devotional concluded with Acts 8 where we read, “1And Saul [He will become known as Paul after his conversion] was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem…3As for Saul, he made havock [shamefully treating believers] of the church, entering into every house, and haling [dragging] men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1a, 3).
The religious leaders of Judaism looked upon Saul as a rising star in their ranks (Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:13-14), and believers considered him a formidable, tireless foe. Saul’s zeal against those accepting Jesus as the Messiah is described in the opening verses of Acts 9.
Acts 9:1–2 – And Saul, yet breathing [blowing; expelling] out threatenings [reproaches] and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters [permission; authority] to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way [The WAY; believers in the Gospel of Christ], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound [with ropes and chains] unto Jerusalem.
Saul’s passion opposing believers of “The WAY” (9:2), and his thirst for the blood of martyrs was unrequited. Under the deluded pretense that he was serving God, he requested and received letters of authority from the high priests, and set out on a journey for Damascus. Driven by a religious zeal that was contrary to the Law and Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:16), Saul intended to drag followers of Christ out of the synagogues of Damascus, and take them in chains to Jerusalem, a journey of 175 miles.
As he neared Damascus, there was “a light from heaven” (9:3), a light that may have been the shekinah glory of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Luke 2:9; John 1:14). Blinded by the light (9:8), Saul fell to the earth “and heard a voice” (9:4a).
Notice that the LORD confronted Saul’s sin asking, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (9:4) With humility, Saul answered, Who art thou, Lord? Then Jesus revealed Himself to Saul by name, identifying his persecution of believers as an offense against Himself.
“The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (9:5b). Like an ox that is goaded with a long stick to prod it to obey its master, Saul had foolishly been goading God. “Trembling and astonished [amazed]” (9:6), he realized he had been persecuting the Son of God.
Blind and shaken, Saul surrendered his will to God, and acknowledged Jesus Christ as his Lord. His pretense of spiritual piety revealed for its hypocrisy, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (9:6a).
Saul was led to Damascus by the men that had traveled with him on his initiative to persecute followers of Christ. Rendered “speechless,” those men had heard a voice, but “seeing no man,” were unchanged by the experience that had transformed Saul’s heart and life (9:7).
While Saul waited, the Lord moved on the heart of Ananias (9:10), a godly man whom He had chosen to restore Saul’s sight. Knowing the path of death and destruction that had been perpetuated by Saul, Ananias resisted. However, he was assured by the Lord, “behold he prayeth” (9:11), “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (9:15).
I close today’s devotional, marveling at the transformation in Saul’s life. From the great persecutor of the followers of Christ, to a faithful apostle; what a testimony of saving, transforming grace! No wonder Paul would later write, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith