Who Could Have Predicted This?
Do you remember back in your high school days when the senior class would get together and vote for the person most likely to succeed? And isn’t true that we selected the brightest, well-spoken, ones that carried themselves well? We never gave a second thought to who we thought might be the most likely to fail. History is abounding with stories of failures that later became successes. Albert Einstein was told that he was a dunce and that he may want to study a subject other than physics. Thomas Edison had 50,000 failed experiments before he developed a working battery. We also have numerous accounts of people in the Bible who were never pegged for greatness by the people, but God used in a mighty way. We just talked about the life of Joseph the other night. His brothers did not want to see him ever again, and when they sold him into slavery they had no idea that they had just sold the man who would become one of the most important figures in the Egyptian government. What about Moses? Floated down the Nile in a basket, had a bad enough temper to kill a man, was not known for his eloquence, yet became God’s chosen leader to deliver Israel. Gideon was hiding out at the threshing floor when God found him. Peter was an impetuous, leap before you look, rough around the edges fisherman that God used to deliver great messages. Who could have predicted these things? We have to keep in mind that God does not see what we see in a man.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
But none of these in my humble opinion compare to what happened to Saul of Tarsus. Even the people that heard Saul preach couldn’t believe what they were seeing and hearing.
Acts 9:21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? In other words, “Who Could Have Predicted This?”
1. Bound by Satan. It would be an understatement to say that Saul of Tarsus hated Jesus Christ, and Christianity. He was raised to be a zealous Jew, and he was well respected in the region. We know from Scripture that he was from the tribe of Benjamin, which may give us insight to his name.
Philippians 3:5-6 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. We also know that he was educated by one of the great Hebrew scholars, Gamaliel. We are first introduced to Saul at the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. People don’t take time to realize how bloody and violent stoning was.
I believe this incident ignited Saul’s hatred into a rage that would not be satisfied until Christianity was snuffed out. We read in Acts 8:1-3 how Saul was a real threat to any believer in the area. He made havoc in the church. It was his goal to utterly destroy it. We have an illustration of this intention in
Psalms 80:13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. He would enter into homes and arrest the believers, and I imagine that oftentimes he would break up a home in the name of zeal. Acts 9:1 he is breathing out threatenings. He is trying to bully anyone who may consider converting to Christianity, and if that is not enough, I will kill you if you do it. Paul admits later that he was responsible for the deaths of believers.
Acts 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
Acts 26:10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. There is no doubt that this man was a pawn in the Devils’ game had become a protégé of his master.
John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
2. Brought to his knees. So here we are, on our way to Damascus to arrest more believers and bring them back to Jerusalem. Suddenly, in an instant, a great light was shining down on Saul-- Brighter than the sun.
Acts 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. This man was in the presence and power of the Son of God.
John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
When God’s brightness shines the darkness is driven away. Now we have just Jesus and Saul. And the Lord calls him by name. Let there be no mistake of who I am trying to reach. When the Lord reaches out to the lost sinner He is not reaching out in a general way, but an individual one. He is reaching out to one of the most vile, wicked men to ever live on the planet, because Jesus knows that He and He alone holds the key to loose the sinner that is bound by Satan’s chains. I love the verse of Wesley’s hymn, “And Can it Be?”
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
I want you to see that conviction played a major part in Saul’s conversion. It is hard to kick against the pricks. This is an illustration that applies to livestock. An ox goad is a long wooden tool with an iron spike fastened to the end. A stubborn animal would receive a little urging from this device. If the animal would kick against it, it would further injure itself. I agree with what Matthew Henry says about this phrase:
“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks, or goads - to spurn at the spur. It is hard, it is in itself an absurd and evil thing, and will be of fatal consequence to him that does it. Those kick at the goad that stifle and smother the convictions of conscience, that rebel against God's truths and laws, that quarrel with his providences, and that persecute and oppose his ministers, because they reprove them, and their words are as goads and as nails. Those that revolt more and more when they are stricken by the word or rod of God, that are enraged at reproofs and fly in the face of their reprovers, kick against the pricks and will have a great deal to answer for.”
But the power of God, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit changed this man forever, who could have predicted this?
3. Branded by the Saviour. I want you to see that there was an attitude of instant obedience with Saul. What wilt thou have me to do? He was told to go into the city and his mission would be revealed. One of the reasons that he obeyed was that his sight was taken from him. There is a purpose in that. We are easily drawn away by what the world has to offer. In verse 15 he is a chosen vessel, to bear His name among the Gentiles. God hand selected Saul to preach the Gospel, no wonder that task consumed his life. He also had the brand of persecution places on him. He was baptized, ate a little meat, and was out doing the Lord’s business. Was everyone excited about it? No many folks still feared this man, but now he had the brand of Christ on his life, and little by little he was accepted as a mighty vessel fit for God,s use. Who could have ever predicted this? We have in here this morning a young lady who walked into this church on January 28th, a proclaimed atheist. Two Sundays later she came forward and made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. You may not know this, but Marisa is a poet. She has quite a collection of poems, and I thought it would be appropriate to end our service this morning with a reading of two of her poems.