My two favorite Bible narratives are the story of Esther and the story of Paul’s conversion. If you’ve never read the story of Paul’s conversion, I hope this article will inspire you to read it for yourself (psst! It’s in Acts 9!). I’m not always the biggest fan of paraphrase Bibles, but I think the Message Bible paraphrase has a great retelling of this event, so much of the Scripture here will be from that paraphrase.
Let’s start at the end of Acts 7 to get some background on Paul pre-conversion (when he was still called Saul). For the past two chapters, Stephen has been before the Jewish high council (the high priest, elders, etc.) defending himself as a Christian. At the end of chapter 7, the people run Stephen out of town and stone him to death. Acts 8:1,3 provide a great look at Saul’s personality:
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison (NASB).
Saul wasn’t a nice guy. Acts 9 starts with Saul still wanting to destroy God’s church. Saul goes to the Chief Priest and gets arrest warrants for Damascus so he can arrest any Christians found living there and bring them to Jerusalem–presumably to face the same fate as Stephen.
When Saul gets to the border of Damascus, the Lord hits him with such a blinding light it literally knocks Saul off his horse.
As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’ He said, ‘Who are you, Master?’ ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down’ (MSG Acts 9:4-5).
Then Jesus tells Saul, who is now totally blind, to get up, go into the city and wait to receive further instruction. The people with Saul lead him to a house in Damascus, where he didn’t eat or drink for three days.
Now we come to my favorite part of this story. In Damascus, there was a Christian man named Ananias. The way I imagine this story is basically the way the Message Bible tells it. I imagine Ananias sitting in his house, maybe having lunch, when God hits him with a vision.
‘Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul…’
Ananias protested, ‘Master, you can’t be serious! Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.’
But the Master said, ‘Don’t argue. Go!’ (Acts 9:10-16, MSG)
Ananias was an obedient Christian. He went and laid hands on Saul just like God said, but I imagine that all the way to Judas’ house he thought he was about to be arrested and probably killed. Maybe he was even muttering to himself about the unfairness of God picking him to go and face this horrible man; I’m pretty sure that’s what I’d be doing. I bet he was shaking when he went to lay hands on Saul and pray.
Ananias had to put his life in God’s hands, literally, in what was probably the most frightening situation of his life, but he loved and trusted God enough to go. He must’ve figured God knew what He was doing, even if it meant the end of Ananias’ life.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Ananias after that encounter with Saul. I wonder if Ananias celebrated when he got home or if he fainted in his kitchen (maybe both!), but I’m certain that Ananias’ faith grew a lot that day.
I love Ananias’ reaction to God, “You can’t be serious!” I love that he went anyway. I love that his obedience resulted in almost half of the New Testament and we enjoy the results of this obedience nearly 2000 years later!
Way to go, Ananias!
PI girls, how do you feel when you’re obedient to God’s calling?
While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel (Ephesians 4:1, MSG).