Posts Tagged ‘Saul’

martyred…

Posted: 2017/05/18 in Biblical, Devotional, Easter
Tags: , , , ,

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:55-60, NRSV)

Stephen gives a beautiful understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures and how Jesus is the messiah promised by God.

He lays it out and those gathered can’t stand to hear it because it goes against what they were taught and believed. So they rushed him and dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

In this scene, we have Stephen taking after our Lord and asking God not to hold the sin of those killing him against them, and we see Saul, who will become Paul and the greatest witness to Jesus in the Greek world.

I wonder how many of us would have stuck to our faith and beliefs if we faced what Stephen did?

Would we be martyred?

Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had encamped; and David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him. Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him down; or his day will come to die; or he will go down into battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should raise my hand against the LORD’S anointed; but now take the spear that is at his head, and the water jar, and let us go.” So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the LORD had fallen upon them. Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, saying, “Abner! Will you not answer?” Then Abner replied, “Who are you that calls to the king?” David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy your lord the king. This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the LORD’S anointed. See now, where is the king’s spear, or the water jar that was at his head?” Saul recognized David’s voice, and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” And he added, “Why does my lord pursue his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands? Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the LORD who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering; but if it is mortals, may they be cursed before the LORD, for they have driven me out today from my share in the heritage of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now therefore, do not let my blood fall to the ground, away from the presence of the LORD; for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea, like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.” Then Saul said, “I have done wrong; come back, my son David, for I will never harm you again, because my life was precious in your sight today; I have been a fool, and have made a great mistake.” David replied, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. The LORD rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the LORD’S anointed. As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the LORD, and may he rescue me from all tribulation.” Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place. (1 Samuel 26:5-25, NRSV)

David could have killed the person who was chasing him. He could have eliminated the threat. He was standing over Saul as he slept and could have easily ended his life…

But would that have ended the hunt of David?

In actuality it probably would have made the armies of Saul want to hunt him down all the more.

Sometimes the easy answer, here that was killing of your pursuer, is not the best answer.

David tells Abishai not to kill Saul, but they take the spear and water jug to prove they were there and could have easily killed Saul. They show their superiority over the armies of Saul, or the weakness of the armies of Saul, either way, they show their compassion.

We need to think through the options before us, before jumping to what seems to be the easy answer and weigh the options correctly to discover what the best answer is and follow through on that.

That is what David did, will we have cool enough heads to do the same?

and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah. After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:20-31, NRSV)

Can a person really change?

That is what the Jews were asking and the disciples… Saul is just trying to tellus he has changed. He is tricking us by claiming Jesus is the Messiah…

But when God changes a person, that person is changed. And there is the kicker, it is God who does the change, not the person.

But when God encountered Saul, he was so different, that He had to change his name. God changed Saul to Paul, and set him on a course to set the world on fire with the love of Christ.

What will God do through you if you will let Him change you?

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, NRSV)

What is the most important thing in your life?

What is first on your list of important things to remember?

Well Paul is telling the Corinthians to remember what is most important in life.

Christ died for your sins, was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day all in accordance with the scriptures!

Then He came back and showed Himself to Peter (Cephas) and the disciples and then many more…

And Paul says He then came and showed Himself to Paul. But the accounts we have of this is a bright light that blinded Saul and a voice of one saying He was Jesus and asking Saul why He was persecuting Him…

So sight is not needed to believe in Jesus, but believing in the promises the scriptures tells us about Him. If we believe what we have been told has happened, and hold it as the promise of God for our life, the first and most important thing for us to remember, we can count ourselves as one who Jesus appeared to, and hold all of the promises for ourselves!

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1-9, NRSV)

Sometimes I wish the signs God gave me were simple and clear, like being blinded on the road and hearing the voice of Jesus speak to me. Or a burning bush and the voice of God bellowing…

But would I follow? And maybe, just maybe, God’s signs to me are simple and clear, and I just can’t see/hear them because I’m too caught up in looking at my own sin and not able to let go to see them or hear them.

Plus if a voice came from the clouds, or from a burning unconsumed bush I would run away screaming like a little girl!

Jesus does call each of us in a simple clear way that we can understand and only we can understand. That is why Moses got a burning bush and Saul was knocked down and blinded on the Damascus road. That is what they needed. That was their 2X4!

God hits you with what you need, and yes it is always simple and clear. Just listen and tune into God and you will see the sign!

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:10-19a, NRSV)

Saul was doing what he was taught was the right thing to do…

He was met by the one whom he thought he was serving and was shown different…

Then Ananias gets sent to help Saul be the person God had created him to be, but Ananias is hesitant. And can you blame him?

Ananias knew Saul to be a harsh man to followers of the Way, Saul was persecuting followers of Jesus, and in some cases killing the followers. That is what he knew this man did to those who believed as he did. So why in Ananias’ right mind would he want to go someplace where Saul was?

Well that answer is easy, because God told him to go!

You see the truth is not always what we have learned, but is what is revealed to us in the light. We need the scales to come off and we need to follow God where He leads us!

When God calls us, we need to be ready to go! To follow Him because of the promises He has made to us, not because of what we “know to be the truth”!

Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Some devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word. Philip went down to the main city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the miraculous signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. So there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:1b-8 NET)

Stephen was just stoned to death and Saul (Paul) approves of this and is going around collecting more followers of the way to bring to justice…

And the devout were scattered…

Do you feel like you have been scattered? For the past 2.5 months I have been without call, searching, wondering and wandering…

I have questioned why I am in this place at this time. I have questioned why this has happened to me, and why did I do this to my family? I wonder when this will be over and if ministry is actually what I am to be doing…

Now do not be concerned, the day I do not question God’s call on my life into ordained ministry is the day I will look for another vocation. God has called me, and that is really the point. In Acts those following the teaching of the apostles just saw one of those selected to serve them killed by those who were persecuting the church, the followers of the way. They are like the disciples who left Jesus on the cross they were scattered, because they were worried about being persecuted. But in Acts these people go out spreading the word about Jesus, they do not go and hide in a locked room. They are all out doing what they need to do.

I pray that God will lead me where He needs me, as I do the same for you. If you feel like you have been scattered, and do not belong, or you are running from persecution, or life that is getting you down, remember that the scattered in Acts still spread the news of Jesus and that is what you can do, because He gives you the strength to do that.