God’s man in the field - 28 September 2021

By Ben Fourie

Saul of Tarsus was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin. He had the same name as the first king of Israel who was also of the tribe of Benjamin. In those days, many of the Jews had a second, Latinised name along with their Hebrew name, and so he was also known as Paul.

Although he was born in Tarsus, he probably grew up in Jerusalem where he became a student of the famous rabbi, Gamaliel. Paul was a Pharisee who came from a good family with good connections. In Acts 23:19, for instance, we read that his nephew gained access to the fort where Paul was kept, something that was not usually permitted. You had to have contacts to achieve it.

The Bible does not tell us why Paul was so vehement in his persecution of the followers of Christ. It was so severe that he condoned the stoning of Stephen and even watched over the cloaks of those who did the stoning. The best possible explanation would be that he was a very dedicated Pharisee and, therefore, very much against these new teachings that, according to his viewpoint, were undermining the traditional religious laws of the Jews.

On the road to Damascus, he was stopped dead in his tracks by a light flashing from the sky. When Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” he could only ask in wonder, “Who are you Lord?” The word that is translated with “Lord” can also be translated as “sir”. At that moment, Paul did not know that it was Jesus speaking. Jesus replied by saying “I am Jesus …” but even then, it was only once Ananias had visited him that he understood the full impact of that meeting on the road. From then on, there was no turning back. Paul became the follower of Jesus who took the Good News about Jesus into the world of his day.

How many times have we wished that Jesus would speak to us directly and that a light might shine around us. There is no light to see and no voice to hear, but Jesus speaks to us every day by way of the Holy Spirit and the Bible to prepare us for our task of spreading the gospel.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that I have also received the light of your Word, as the poet said in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path.” Amen