…He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” – Acts 9:4 NIV
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Saul who was later going to transformed into the Apostle Paul by the power of the Holy Spirit had just finished supervising the stoning of Stephen to death – Acts 7:54 – 8:3. Seeing that the role he played in this great persecution of the believers was appreciated by the elders of the synagogue, he approached them for authorisation to go to the synagogues in Damascus to seek for those who belonged to the way, so that he can bring them to Jerusalem as prisoners, a request that was promptly granted – Acts 9:1-2. He was on his way to implement the authorisation when suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground. What followed was a voice that asked the question which is the foundation scripture for today’s devotion – Acts 9:4. The light not only brought him to his knees, but also took his sight from him – Acts 9:8.
The Apostle Paul long after this event have a short summary of his background in the second chapter of his letter to the Phillipians. Information supplied by him in verses 5 and 6 of that scripture reveals that he could be very well classified as a young, educated Pharisee and a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin so he cannot be considered a stranger to the Jewish religious customs and traditions – Phil. 2:5-6. He once in the course of his defence before Governor Festus and King Agrippa described himself as someone who lived in the strictest sect of the Jewish religion – Acts 26:5. With this background, there is no doubt that he was someone who believed in the Almighty God, the same God that Moses introduced them to, and whom he and the Jews held and still hold dearly, even till today. There is also no doubt that he was convinced about the positive nature of his act of persecution of the believers in Jesus Christ, especially seeing that the leaders of the synagogue were very happy with his activities in this direction. One can only then imagine his shock that there could be any force stronger than the Jewish God that could hurt him that much and halt him on his mission, which he must have thought he was doing to the delight of this great God. No wonder, in response to the voice that not only recognised him by name, but also questioned why he decided to persecute him, he asked the question, “who are you Lord” – Acts 9:4-5. His use of the word “Lord” which means “master” indicates his acknowledgement of superiority of the personality behind the voice but his question indicated that he does not know the personality. The response he got to his question did not help too much either but at least pointed him in the direction where he will be properly tutored on “what he must do”.
That event was accompanied by two significant occurrences that should not be overlooked:
1. Paul was brought to his knees by this encounter. He was not just halted in his stride, he was humiliated before his co-travellers – Acts 9:7.
2. He was blinded by the light. He was going to stop seeing things from the way he was seeing things before the encounter. There was the need to make him change his perspective to what he was zealous for but it had to start with stopping his present perspective to viewing things.
Most Christians are today going through experiences similar to being humiliated and blinded. Left with only memories of what used to be in terms success, they are completely morally and psychologically deflated. While still alive, their achievements are being referred to in past tense and there is hardly any hope of the situation changing. It is so bad that just like Saul, they are now being led by those they used to lead as they can no longer see clearly. Their vision about their life and decisions to take is at best blurred if not completely blinded by what they have encountered. Prayers have been said and vigils held but the humiliation is not ceasing neither is there any improvement in their condition. There may be the need to review the zeal directed at that activity that is supposed to be advancing the course of the ministry.
Many today are operating like Saul, believing that approval of their action by spiritual leaders and mentors is an indication that they are in tune with the Will of God. You may need to pray to God to send you to your Ananias who will tell you what to do so that you will not only regain your spiritual sight but also have the right knowledge on how to serve the Almighty God and be positively rewarded. It is not about zeal or about human approval, but about God’s approval, else you may find yourself persecuting him instead of worshipping him. He may not have stopped you in your strides yet, but nothing stops you from confirming those moves done with the intention of serving him now before regrets set in. That way there will be no experience of disappointment in the course of his worship. May God provide us all with the appropriate knowledge for his worship in Jesus name. Amen.