Message: The Road to Damascus
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Daily Walk: Japhet De Oliveira
Refresh: Open with prayer. Read or listen to Psalm 84:5-8.
Read: Acts 9:1-22 (NLT). As you read the New Living Translation, note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: N. T. Wright, in his commentary Acts for Everyone, reminds us that for great Pharisees such as Paul, mediating on Scripture was a common practice.
There was one type of Jewish meditation, not unrelated to that idea, which became famous. It involved sustained contemplation of the great vision of the first chapter of the book of the prophet Ezekiel, the vision in which Ezekiel sees something like a great chariot, with whirling wheels and flashing lights. He describes, first, the four-faced angels who are carrying the chariot: they move this way and that, sparkling and glowing. Then he describes the wheels of the chariot, whirling and flashing, their rims full of eyes. Finally he describes the larger scene, with a dome above, a rainbow all around, and a throne, like a great jewel. And the point of meditating on this throne-chariot, for some Jews of Jesus’ day who used this technique, was to see if, by devout prayer and fasting, holiness, devotion and contemplation, one might come even in this life to share in the climax of the vision [Read Ezekiel 1:26-28] (p.138).
Paul, as a good Pharisee traveling to Damascus with his papers to capture all those who followed Jesus, would have been still been in a place of tension. He had observed from the sidelines Stephen being stoned to death, and had watched Stephen’s reaction and focus (Acts 7). The imprint of this experience would have never left him entirely. From conversations I have had with soldiers who fought in a variety of wars (World War I onwards), it is clear that the brutality of death, even when it is "justified" or the death of an enemy—still lingers in the heart. Even though Saul was traveling with the Sanhedrin (temple police), he would have kept himself separate as a good Pharisee. This journey would have taken about a week to complete. Imagine if he was meditating on this text. Imagine that he was trying to decipher the will of God. In that moment, Jesus—God—appears to him. He actually sees the face of God. The full glory of God. Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth. Paul's world would have been turned upside down. Everything he had ever stood for was called into question at that moment. The war that he was waging came to an end. His prayers were re-focused. His existence was redefined.
Respond: Pray for patience with yourself and with others..
Research: Read Acts 7 and 8.