Advent: December 14
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
Just how long did God wait before he called Saul the Persecutor to be Paul the Apostle? Why did Jesus not appear to him as he stood by at the stoning of Stephen? Why did he allow Saul to develop such a zealous adherence to the Jewish faith? Why did God not place Saul in the path of Jesus earlier? Had Paul ever listened to Jesus’ preaching? Had he conspired with other Pharisees to trick Jesus? How many Christians were persecuted or put to death because of Saul’s campaign against them? We don’t know the answer, but I trust that God’s timing is perfect. We should not stop asking questions like these, because if we do not ask, we will not get an answer.
All we know in this instance is that God had set Paul apart for this service from when or before he was born. I believe that God does the same for all of us, and that he does not wait until we are born or even developing in the womb. We are created for a purpose and we are chosen
Saul had met with Christ Jesus in a spectacular way, except that there was no spectacle – He’d been struck blind, and saw nothing! He was on the way to the city of Damascus, intending to find and punish Christians. He fell off his horse, and heard Jesus speaking to him, not harshly for all the wrong things he’d done and was doing at that moment, but in a gentle way: Saul, why are you persecuting me?
Paul had no idea that the people he was persecuting were indeed following a living person, Christ Jesus. This encounter was for him a complete reversal at full speed!
What do you think went through Saul’s mind in the days after his encounter with Christ Jesus?
We might not all experience a “Damascene conversion” like Saul, but have you seen any turnarounds in your life?
Father God, you turned Saul at the moment you planned, and the reversal could hardly be more profound. By your grace turn those wrong-facing aspects of me towards you, that in everything I am and do, I may reflect your glory through Christ Jesus. Amen.