Sunday, February 8, 2015
“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women… and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me” (Acts 22:4-6 KJV).
The first verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.
“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.”
While some of us trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour at a very early age, others among us did not do so until well into their earthly life. Saul of Tarsus was of the latter type. Blinded by religious fanaticism, today’s Scripture says that Saul did not think twice about using his prominent position in Israel’s religion to do away with every single Jesus-adherent. If it meant personally tracking down and literally dragging back to Jerusalem every last Jewish man and woman who had trusted Jesus as Messiah, Saul was all for it. He would have them imprisoned and then slaughtered! There was no shame, no fear, just religious zeal and delight (has religion changed at all since then?).
One day (Acts chapter 9), Saul left Jerusalem (the last time as a lost man), bound for Damascus up north, ever so eager to capture the Messianic Jews who had sought refuge there. Jesus Christ Himself stared down from the third heaven, watching every move of Saul en route to Syria. When Saul was just outside the city of Damascus, Jesus Christ made a surprise appearance and “captured” Saul before he could capture His saints. A mighty light shown from heaven—a light so intense that Saul is actually struck to the ground; Jesus Christ has permanently ended that worthless ministry! Now humbled, Saul sees something so much better than his vain works-religion; he sees Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, of whom Saul is chief….