In-person worship services will be held as scheduled this Sunday. Please use discretion when determining whether roads are safe for your personal travel.
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3 During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”
5 Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6 “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”
7 Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.
12 “On one such journey, I was going to Damascus with the full authority of the chief priests. 13 While on the road at midday, King Agrippa, I saw a light from heaven shining around me and my traveling companions. That light was brighter than the sun. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice that said to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me? It’s hard for you to kick against a spear’ [Or goads]. 15 Then I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are harassing. 16 Get up! Stand on your feet! I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you as my servant and witness of what you have seen and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you 18 to open their eyes. Then they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, and receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith in me.’
Scholar N. T. Wright said devout Pharisees meditated at times on Ezekiel 1’s vision (which showed God coming across the desert to Hebrew exiles in Babylon). What if Saul was doing that as he rode? “Imagine his excitement as, in the depth of devout meditation, he saw with the eyes of his heart, so real that it seemed as though he was seeing it with his ordinary physical eyes, and then so real that he realized he was seeing it with his physical eyes, the form, the fire, the blazing light, and—the face! And the face was the face of Jesus of Nazareth.” *
Lord Jesus, even when I resist your direction for my life, you don’t give up on me. Thank you for the times, large or small, when your “goading” has moved me to a more positive way of life. Amen.
As I read today’s Scripture, one of the first thoughts I had was how I wish I could hear God’s voice so clearly. To have a back-and-forth conversation in a way that I had clear instructions of what to do and where to go would be ideal for so many of us! It sounds strange, but I have some jealousy when I read the Bible because the authors, like Paul, describe their conversations with God to be so clear and decisive. The reality is God is constantly speaking to us in our lives, but it is up to us to choose to listen.
God shows up and speaks in our lives in so many ways. For Paul, God showed up on the road to the city of Damascus and was audibly telling him what she should next in his journey… in the process God made him blind to really think about it! I have never had that type of experience in my faith, but I have felt as if God placed people, situations, and experiences in my life in a similar way. As I reflect on these moments where I felt God was at work, the reason I was able to recognize these experiences as God’s voice is because I was intentionally choosing to listen.
Have you intentionally tried to listen to God’s voice lately? I encourage you this week to ask yourself this question and to discern how you would answer it. God’s voice reveals itself to us in many ways. How are you hearing this voice lately and allowing your life to be changed like Paul’s?
* N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–12. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, p. 141.
** Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 24). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.