Fervent Day 5 Character Counts: Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper Days

Finding the original intent of Scripture and making good application to our everyday lives as we become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

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The Questions

1) Why did Jesus’ appearance to Saul on the road to Damascus leave him blinded? (verse 8)

2) Why did Ananias question the Lord’s directions in his vision from God? (verse 13)

3) What did God mean by saying He would show Saul how much he must suffer for His name? (verse 16)

Acts 9:1-31

Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said.

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

7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”

“Here I am, Lord,” he replied.

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”

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

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. 20 Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”

21 All who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

22 But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plot. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall.

26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. 27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Original Intent

1) Why did Jesus’ appearance to Saul on the road to Damascus leave him blinded? (verse 8)
Saul traveled to Damascus planning to imprison any disciples of Jesus he found along the way. (Acts 9:2) Instead, he encountered Jesus Himself, which left him theologically shaken and physically blinded for the next three days. (Acts 9:8) He saw a light from Heaven and heard Jesus asking why Saul persecuted Him; Jesus told him to go to Damascus, where Saul would be given instructions. (Acts 9:3-6) If Saul’s blindness had been caused simply by the flash of light, his companions would also have been blinded. (Acts 9:7) If God had meant the blindness as a punishment, why would He later tell Ananias that Saul was His “chosen instrument” to spread the gospel? (Acts 9:15) The IVP New Testament Commentaries suggests Saul’s blindness was not a punishment or “an indication of divine disfavor. . .nor simply a concrete proof of vision. . . it shows Saul the spiritual bankruptcy of his pre-Christian condition.” Paul was physically blinded so he could contemplate how spiritually blind he had been about Jesus and His followers. His ardent, but misplaced, work for God had actually persecuted the Son of God. Jesus let Saul sit for three days with “something like scales” (Acts 9:18) on his eyes, praying and seeing visions from the Lord (Acts 9:11-12) Author Steven Cole suggests, “Just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so Saul was three days and nights in the dark. When the scales fell from his eyes, he saw everything in a new light, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ.”  God gave Saul three days of darkness to reflect on his former spiritual blindness and his coming role as Christ’s ambassador to the world.

2) Why did Ananias question the Lord’s directions in his vision from God? (verse 13)
When Luke wrote about Saul in the book of Acts, he described Saul as “ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (Acts 8:3) Christians in Jerusalem scattered to nearby towns, trying to escape persecution. When Saul planned his journey to Damascus, his reputation for harm to Christians preceded him. (Acts 9:13-14) When Ananias, a Christian in Damascus, received a vision from the Lord telling him to pray for Saul of Tarsus, he was hesitant to obey, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13) The Lord graciously repeated his command for Ananias to physically go to Saul and pray for him, assuring him that He had a plan for Saul’s life. (Acts 9:15) Ananias could have expressed awe at a vision from the Lord or agreed immediately to the Lord’s command, but instead he expressed concern about coming face to face with Saul.  As author Matthew Henry suggests, “even eminent disciples, like Ananias, sometimes stagger at the commands of the Lord. But it is the Lord’s glory to surpass our scanty expectations, and show that those are vessels of his mercy whom we are apt to consider as objects of his vengeance.” Ananias saw Saul as an enemy of Christ without considering the redemptive power of God. The Lord explained to Ananias that Saul was fasting and praying and that he was God’s chosen instrument to spread the Gospel. (Acts 9:15) God had a plan for Saul to spread His name wherever he went. Ananias had to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and agree to play his part in God’s plan before Saul could share the Gospel with the world.

3) What did God mean by saying He would show Saul how much he must suffer for His name? (verse 16)
, Greek for suffering, means “to undergo an experience (usually difficult) and normally with the implication of physical or psychological suffering. (Preceptaustin.org)  Jesus uses this word when He says He would show Saul “how much he must suffer for My name.” (Acts 9:16.) It might sound like Jesus planned to punish Saul for his persecution of Christians, but, as author Jack Andrews points out, “We do not serve a vindictive God. He is not waiting to get back at us.  Saul. . . suffered for the cause of Christ.” Jesus told Ananias to go pray for Saul because He would use Saul to expand God’s Kingdom. Author Skip Moen  notes the Hebrew meaning of Jesus’ words I will show him in Acts 9:16, “The word hupodeigma carries a subtle nuance. . .  Jesus is about to show Saul something privately.  He will show Saul the path that lies ahead and then he will invite Saul to follow it. . . Saul is not being punished in what lies ahead. The experiences to come are the validation that Saul is Jesus’ chosen emissary.” Jesus invited Saul to change course and become His ambassador to the world, sharing the Good News of Jesus to kings, Jews, and Gentiles. (Acts 9:15) This path would include suffering for the cause of Christ, but it was a path Saul gladly followed once his eyes were opened to the truth of Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) Saul, who would become known as Apostle Paul, would one day write, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) Paul, who suffered imprisonment, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, and many other difficulties, counted his suffering as nothing compared to the glories all Christians experience as heirs of the King.

Everyday Application

1) Why did Jesus’ appearance to Saul on the road to Damascus leave him blinded? (verse 8)
My sister and I paired up in our American History class to compile a book of recipes from the early 1900s.  I insisted we include only traditional recipes, but she suggested unusual dishes like “Boiled Cow’s Head.” I assured her that I knew best what the teacher wanted, but eventually the cow’s head and other odd concoctions made it into the compilation. I expected to be marked down for the strange dishes, but our teacher loved the quirky inclusions! I was humbled to admit my sister was right and I was wrong. I was blinded by my straight-A status and my sincere belief that I knew better on how to receive an A from teachers. Saul had a similar type of revelation when he encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) He strongly believed he was doing God’s work by persecuting Christians. (Acts 9:1-3) He truly thought He was obeying God’s bidding when suddenly, Jesus stopped him in his tracks and revealed the truth. (Acts 9:5) Saul was blinded by this interaction and was forced to realize he had been spiritually blind all along to the reality of Jesus being the God’s Messiah. Saul had an impeccable pedigree and the best training, yet he had been fighting against the Lord rather than for Him as he initially believed. This sobering revelation changed the course of his life. When Saul regained his sight, he could see God’s will was the exact opposite of his persecution pursuits. He immediately began preaching the Good News, causing the Jewish leaders to want him dead! (Acts 9:28-29)   Even so, he was determined to enlighten others just as he had been enlightened to the salvation of Christ.

2) Why did Ananias question the Lord’s directions in his vision from God? (verse 13)
Sometimes when I ask God to show me His will, what I really want is for Him to put His stamp of approval on my will. My plans are rarely unsettling, but His will often takes me out of my comfort zone.  When I asked God if I should send my kid to Christian school, I wasn’t expecting the answer to be homeschooling him!  I never anticipated God to provide an answer I didn’t want. Sometimes I feel like Ananias in Acts 9, questioning God’s plan over mine. The Lord asked Ananias to visit and pray for Saul, the infamous persecutor of Christians who encountered Christ on his way to Damascus. (Acts 9:11-12) This was the same Saul who watched as Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7;58) and who came to Damascus intending to imprison any Christians he encountered. (Acts 9:2) Ananias was unsettled by the thought of offering to pray for this dangerous Christian-hater. Even though the Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision, commanding him to pray for Saul to regain his sight (Acts 9:12), Ananias reasoned God couldn’t really mean for him to face Saul. How could God want him to risk his life praying for and visiting this dangerous man? Even though Ananias questioned God, the Lord graciously did not hold that against him. Author Hermann Olhausen observes, “The objections of Ananias, and the removal of them by the Lord, display in a very touching manner the childlike relation of the believing soul to its Redeemer. The Savior spoke with Ananias as a man does with his friend.” God showed grace to Ananias, even giving him information about Saul’s current state and His divine plans for Saul. (Acts 9:15-16) I am thankful God provides answers to our questions and grace when we express consternation at the answers we don’t understand.

3) What did God mean by saying He would show Saul how much he must suffer for His name? (verse 16)
En route to a Mexico mission trip, a preacher shared about a persecuted Chinese Christian  who endured horrific prison conditions while singing the hymn “I Come to the Garden Alone.” He emphasized the lines, “And He walks with me/and He talks with me/And He tells me I am his own/And the joy we share/as we tarry there/None other has ever known.” His intimacy with God, even while oppressed, inspired me as we prepared to go onto the mission field.  Yet, even before we crossed the border, I found myself “suffering” by sharing a bathroom with 10 other girls and sleeping on a hard floor.  I’m certain these inconveniences were not the suffering Jesus spoke of in Acts 9:16 when He spoke of how much Saul “must suffer for My name.” Paul suffered numerous hardships in spreading the Gospel and wrote in Philippians 3:2, “Because of [Jesus] I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ.” Paul viewed suffering for Christ as a privilege, even stating Christians are “coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17) Suffering is part of the Christian experience, but it is only part. God provides comfort, joy, and privilege surpassing any suffering we endure. When I served Mexican kids in an orphanage, I was still sharing a bathroom with a bunch of girls and sleeping on the hard floor, but I was actually happy to do it because I was sharing God’s Word with precious kids. While I was not really “suffering,” God still showed me how much more valuable He was than any comforts I left behind.

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Digging Deeper is for Everyone!

1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
several times
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!

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Why Dig Deeper?

Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.

In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!

Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.

Study Tools

We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.

Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!

Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))

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