Looking From the Outside ( by Carley Evans )


Looking From the Outside

Let’s think for a moment about Saul, a persecutor and murderer of Christians, a dyed in the wool enemy of Jesus Christ. Now, why do you suppose God picked Saul? What was particularly attractive about this man? His willingness to be extreme? Maybe. For the task God gives to Saul, I think his zealousness is a good trait. Saul is also smart and knowledgeable about God’s Law, His Word. That had to be attractive to God. Yes? Maybe. But what of Saul’s hatred of the Father’s Son? How could that be attractive to God the Father? Or to God the Holy Spirit? Saul’s hatred of the Son of God had to be offensive to the Godhead!

So, why does Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus?

Doesn’t it indicate God knows Saul’s heart? God knows what anyone looking from the outside could not possibly see – that Saul is ready to become Paul, the great Apostle of Jesus Christ first for the Jews then for the Gentiles.

Next time you start to judge another, stop and think about how you would have judged Paul.

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“Chosen Instrument” ( Acts 9: 1: HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Would you pick Saul from among the Pharisees to be one of your very best friends? Would you pick him to represent you to people who don’t know you; who may not even want to know you? I doubt I would, given a choice. I’d probably pick someone who actually likes me to represent me to people who don’t know me, or who, if they did know me, probably wouldn’t like me.

But Jesus does pick Saul. Even as “Saul is still breathing threats and murder against the disciples,” Jesus appears as a flash of light from heaven; this light is so intense, Saul falls to the ground. He hears Jesus ask, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4)

Saul wants to know who is speaking from the light. The voice says, “I Am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.” Then He tells Saul to go into the city. “And you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6) Saul obeys. Despite being blinded, he allows his men to lead him to Damascus. He remains blind and does not eat or drink for three days.

The Lord prepares for Saul’s coming; He appears in a vision to Ananias, telling him to travel to the street called “Straight” to the house of Judas where he will find a man from Tarsus who is called Saul. Ananias protests briefly as he’s heard “how much harm [Saul] has done to [God’s] saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The Lord proclaims, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My Name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name!” (Acts 9:15-16)

The Lord is not punishing Saul for the persecutions, threats, murders performed as a Pharisee. Rather, He is confirming that in serving the Lord, Saul will suffer.

Ananias explains this to Saul. He tells him that he is to regain his sight and “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17) Immediately Saul’s sight returns. “Then he gets up and is baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

Saul knows there’s no reason to delay. “Immediately he begins proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.'” (Acts 9:20) In no time at all, the Jews are conspiring to kill him.

Yet when Saul goes to Jerusalem and “tries to associate with the disciples, they are afraid of him, since they do not believe he is a disciple.” (Acts 9:26)

Likely the disciples in Jerusalem are bewildered that Jesus has given this Pharisee such authority to preach the gospel. Does this man, who has done such evil deeds against Christians, really have the Holy Spirit? How is that possible? Why would God choose him?

Again, a case of judging by appearances — something with which most of us are familiar. On the other hand, Jesus knows everything about Saul. He knows things about Saul no one else can possibly know. And, Jesus calls Saul “My chosen instrument.”

“A Conditional Treaty” ( 1 Samuel 11: 2, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


The Ammonite Nahash besieges Jabesh-gilead. The defeated men beg Nahash to make a treaty with them on the condition that they serve him. But the conqueror replies, “I’ll make one with you on this condition: that I gouge out everyone’s right eye and humiliate all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh say, “Don’t do anything to us for seven days. And let us send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. If no one saves us, we will surrender to you.” (1 Samuel 11:3)

Nahash must not be very intelligent. Why allow messengers to go about the territory seeking help for a conquered people? Nevertheless, Nahash allows this very thing! He allows these defeated people to seek a savior.

The messengers reach Saul’s hometown, Gibeah. They tell Nahash’s terms to the people who begin to weep loudly. Saul, coming in from fieldwork with his oxen, becomes aware of people crying. When Saul hears the reason for their sorrow, “the Spirit of God suddenly takes control of him, and his anger burns furiously.” (1 Samuel 11:6)

In his fury, he takes a team of oxen, cuts them into pieces, and sends them throughout Israel with — I presume — the same messengers. The message Saul sends is: “This is what will be done to the ox of anyone who doesn’t march behind Saul and Samuel.” (1 Samuel 11:7) The people “go out united” because the “terror of the Lord falls” on them.

The messengers return to Jabesh-gilead to tell the people there that deliverance is at hand. Rejoicing, the men go to Nahash and say, “Tomorrow we will come out, and you can do whatever you want to us.” (1 Samuel 11:10) The next day, Saul — with troops in three divisions — invades the camp of the Ammonites and slaughters them. “There are survivors, but they are so scattered that no two of them are left together.” (1 Samuel 11:11)

Obviously Nahash would be better off if he’d just make that treaty with Jabesh-gilead — plenty of servants, the result. No need to set such a wicked condition as gouging out the right eye of every man, woman and child. For Nahash winning is not enough. He wants total humiliation of his enemy.

Ever think of that way — that Satan isn’t satisfied with ruling in hell. It’s not enough for him that he ‘escapes’ the realm of heaven and roams the earth, that he controls demonic forces and defies God at every turn. He must bring us down with him — he is unable to bear the fellowship Adam and Eve enjoy with God in the garden. He must destroy this joy. He must totally humiliate us before God. Happily, God provides more than a Saul or a Samuel for us. Our deliverer is Jesus, the Son of God. With God, no conditional treaty is needed. Utter defeat of our enemy so that “no two” of his forces “are left together” is what we enjoy because of the power of our God.

 

“The Evil Man Has No Future” (Psalm 59: 16, ESV) by Carley Evans


David knows Saul is seeking to kill him. Yet, David sings, recognizing God is “a fortress and a refuge in the day of [his] distress.” David sings, “God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” (Psalm 59: 10)

Jesus says, “You who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.” (Luke 6: 27 – 29)

David asks God not to kill his enemies, but to “make them totter by Your power.” (Psalm 59: 11) He asks that they “be trapped in their pride.” (Psalm 59: 12)

Solomon strongly advises, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away His anger from him. Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Proverbs 24: 17 – 20)

Paul writes, “Repay no one evil for evil.” (Romans 12: 17) “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 19 – 21)

Do not be afraid of your enemy. God is your strength and fortress. Do not take revenge. God is in control and this is His realm, not yours. Do good to those who hate you; and so overcome evil through good. Do not envy the wicked; for his lamp is of darkness and he has no future.

“And Now, Why Do You Wait?” (Acts 22: 16, ESV) by Carley Evans


Saul is struck blind on the road to Damascus by the Holy Spirit, who appears as “a great light from heaven.” (Acts 22: 6) He is called out by God — challenged to explain why he is persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus commands Saul to go into Damascus. “There you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.” (Acts 22: 10)

Saul obeys. In Damascus, Saul is greeted by Ananias who commands, “Receive your sight.” (Acts 22: 13) Not only this, but Ananias tells Saul that he will be privileged to hear the voice of God, to know His righteous will, to see the Righteous One, and to be a witness for Him to everyone! (Acts 22: 14, 15)

In the light of all this, Ananias asks, “And now, why do you wait?”

Once we hear and believe, why do we wait? The next step is to “rise and be baptized and wash away [our] sins, calling on His Name.” (Acts 22: 16)

Peter preaches to the men of Judea at Pentecost, and “when they heard… they were cut to the heart.” (Acts 2: 37) They cry out, “Brother, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37) Peter tells them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2: 38 – 39)

God calls you to repentance; He commands you to be baptized and to receive the Holy Spirit. And now, why do you wait?