*As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:3-5)
*But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied. (Gen 22:11)
*God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Ex 3:4)
*The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Sam 3:10)
*…This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. (Acts 9:15)
*…God…set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace… (Gal 1:15)
This first telling of the dramatic call of Jesus on Saul/Paul’s life is familiar to readers of the New Testament…no wonder as it is repeated 2 more times in Acts and another in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Students of the Old Testament have also pointed out Jesus’ repetition of Saul’s name in Acts 9 reflects the same kind of intimacy, intensity and significance of God’s leadership call on three other faith pioneers: Abraham, Moses, and Samuel.
God’s choices for spiritual leadership sometimes seem odd. How could a man so vehemently opposed to God’s redeeming work through His Son Jesus qualify to be the leading representative of that redemption to the world outside first century Judaism?
Galatians 1:13-17 reveals God was at work in Paul’s life from the time he was conceived – not just at the point of his conversion. The repetition of Saul’s name when Jesus calls him from heaven marks Paul as a major leader in establishing God’s Kingdom.
So how did God prepare Paul for this new role? Galatians 1:14 reveals he was blessed with an extraordinarily adept intellect. Other sources inform us he was a student of the top Biblical scholar Gamaliel, one of three scholars of Judaism recognized as most influential to this day. He also was a Roman citizen brought up in a predominantly Gentile city. God could not have picked a better person to search the Old Testament scriptures and communicate the role of Jesus the Messiah to Jew and Gentile alike.
It’s also worth noting he was a “tough customer”. Anyone zealous enough to pursue followers of Jesus to send them to prison and even death was a single minded firebrand – someone who would not wilt under opposition once convinced of his mission.
Here’s my takeaway from these observations: God uses all of a Jesus follower’s life as preparation to further His Kingdom – both the commendable and deplorable elements.
Have you thought that past failures or a tarnished skill set would disqualify you or another Jesus follower from serving God completely? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal at least one way He intends to redeem or has already used those failures or skills to bring others into God’s Kingdom and glory to our Lord Jesus.
By Kathleen Petersen