"But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.”
Why? Why do I do it? Why do I make promises and then have to follow through with them?
“They say yes with their mouths, but their hearts are not with Me.” Doesn't Jesus say something like that? I think so. Well, I promised my blog readers that I would write about Acts 9, so I had to follow through and write about Acts 9, even though my heart was not there. I would have so much preferred writing about something else, something more "fun."
So I said yes with my mouth without my heart being in it, but I also had a prediction that came true—by the time I finished writing about it, my heart was all in. Here’s the gist of what I wrote:
Acts is the New Testament parallel to the Old Testament Judges. In Judges, the cycle of turning away from the Lord is repeated over and over, and Israel's oppression and idolatry gets worse and worse. Bottom line? It's a low point in Israel's history. The phrase "and they again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" is on repeat the whole time. But thankfully there is the New Testament and there is Acts! And Acts tells of the total opposite—people turning away from idolatry and sin and coming to know Christ in crazy numbers despite trials and persecution and stoning and prison and shipwrecks—it's totally glorious! And Acts 9 tells the story of Saul's conversion.
I don't know of a better example of a life transformed than Saul—a man who "breathed threats and murder." A man who was on a mission of imprisonment. If Jesus can change Saul, Jesus can change anyone. I mean anyone.
Have you noticed how much sight, seeing, vision, and eyes had to do with Saul's conversion? Now I know what you are thinking, "No duh... Saul goes blind for a few days... we know the story." Moving on. Well, to that I say, "Slow it down. Breathe it in." There is much to be discovered in a passage that you think you know well. There was for me, at least. Take note (italics mine):
- 9:3: “A light from heaven flashed”
- 9:7: men with Saul "seeing no one"
- 9:8: “Although his eyes were open, he saw nothing.”
- 9:9: “For three days he was without sight.”
- 9:10: Ananias had a vision
- 9:12: Saul had a vision of Ananias who would lay hands on him "so that he might regain his sight."
- 9:16: "For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name."
- 9:17: The Lord who appeared to Saul has sent Ananias "so that you may regain your sight."
- 9:18: “Scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight.”
The physicality of Saul losing his sight was humbling. He had to be led by the hand. He was physically unable to do anything without assistance. He didn't eat or drink.
But what about the metaphorical loss of vision? Saul was already blind, but now his outer physical blindness matched his inner spiritual blindness. He was literally blind to the Lord and His lovingkindness. He was blind to the Lord's call, despite his knowing that it was the Lord who called him that day on the road to Damascus. And aren't we all that way, too? Without the Lord opening our eyes, aren't we all blind, groping about aimlessly, trying to figure out how to live without sight?
But how can we live without sight?
Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see, like it says in the Psalms. Open my eyes to the simple joys of this life, to the beauty of creation, to the suffering in my city, to see my deep-rooted character flaws, to see how much I am loved by my King. There are thousands of ways that my eyes need opening. Just like Saul.
In verse 16 God says, "For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name." We know two things about Paul (formerly Saul) from other places in the Bible: that he had really large handwriting (Gal 6:11) and that he suffered from some form of physical problem (2 Cor 12:7).
I'm pretty sure (and most people agree) that Paul's thorn in his flesh was his impaired vision. And I'm thinking that his impaired vision was likely from the light from heaven that flashed around him on that fateful day, and it would keep him humble for his whole life. It would always bring him back to the Damascus road. Every time someone asked Paul about his poor eyesight, he probably told his conversion story, how he "breathed threats and murder" against the very God he now served, how he once denied the very cross that he now preached to the world, and how his eyes had been opened—literally and figuratively—by the Holy Spirit.
Are you trying to live without sight or with seriously impaired vision, or can you say, like the blind man healed by Jesus, “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25)?