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A CHOSEN INTRUMENT


 

 

BIBLE READING

 

ACTS 9


Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”


5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”


7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.


10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”


15 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. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.


Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.


26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.


31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.


32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”


39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.


40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.


 

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, Ananias! Yes, Lord, he answered. The Lord told him, Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.
Acts 9:10-12
 

A CHOSEN INTRUMENT

 

Todays reading begins with Saul still on his tear of getting rid of this new movement of Christ followers. But then GOD moves. Saul on his way to Damascus to arrest more followers of Jesus, the unexpected occurs He experiences a God ordained, Holy Spirit organised encounter with the living God that would change his life, and this transformation, this conversion would affect people through the centuries, even in our own time.


God laid hold of the leading opponent against the church and transformed him into a powerful agent of the gospel. The key is – a chosen instrument. All Jesus followers are chosen instruments of God; chosen out of this world, chosen to redemption, chosen into the “family of God,” the community of Christ, and chosen to be witnesses of what God can do in a life, through our words and deeds. Remember, who we are and what we have done is not as important as what God can do through us.


Throughout the Bible we see this demonstrated: God called Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of slavery, and Moses had killed a man in anger (Ex. 2.11-12); God used a woman named Rahab, described as a “harlot” a prostitute to help the Hebrew spies in Jericho and she became part of the family line of Jesus (Josh. 2.1; Matt. 1.5); Jesus healed a demon-possessed man and sent him to be an evangelist in his own home town (Mark 5.19-20); God reached an unethical man named Zaccheus up in a tree and saved him (Luke 19.8).


Who you are and what you have done are not as important as what God can do through you!!

Saul has been transformed. Now he is a Follower of Jesus Christ. And what is the first thing he experienced as a Christian? The life of the body of Christ. That is wonderful, is it not? Two unknown, obscure Christians are sent to him. He meets them and is immediately helped by the strengthening that can come from the body, from other Christians. First there is a man named Judas. That is all we know about him. Saul is led to his house to a person whom he has never met before. While he is there a man named Ananias is sent to minister to him.


Is there not a dramatic irony about this, that the Holy Spirit has chosen two individuals whose names are tainted names elsewhere in the New Testament, Judas and Ananias. These names belong to two other people: Judas the betrayer of our Lord; and Ananias, the first Christian to manifest the deceit and hypocrisy. Yet, here are two people, bearing the same names, that are honored and used by God. It is just a little touch, but it seems so much like God through the Holy Spirit to use names and people like this.


These men care for Saul. Now, Ananias was understandably reluctant to come. Saul had been ready to drag people off to prison and put them to death because they were Christians, and so he is understandably hesitant. But the Lord reassures him, telling him to go because Saul is praying.


Saul begins his Jesus journey with prayer. He recognizes that God rules, and there is a relationship between humankind and God, and so he begins to pray. God says to Ananias, you do not need to be afraid of a man who prays! Go to him because he is praying. It is here in this moment that Saul of Tarsus began to experience the joy of life through the “body of Christ” through these fellow believers ministering to him.


One moment he is persecuting those who love God and follow Jesus, the next he is writing letters to churches all over the world, encouraging them to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). One day he is holding the garments of the men stoning Stephen, giving them approval, and the next he is imprisoned for the exact same truth. Persecutor to apostle: this story of Paul having the scales fall from his eyes and his being filled with the Holy Spirit is one of great hope for us all, because it is our story as well!


 

PRAYER




Lord, help us not to dwell on our past when we were standing in a place of indifference and as “enemies of the cross of Christ”. Help us to rejoice in our acceptance into Your family as your “chosen instruments”. Let us be thankful for our reading today that teaches that no one is beyond Your grace. Not even us. Amen


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