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The Scriptorium

Shades of Jericho

We need to be ready for persecution. Acts 9.19-25

What’s in a Name? (4)

Pray Psalm 55.1-3.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me;
I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily,
Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me,
And in wrath they hate me.

Sing Psalm 55.1-3.
(Bread of Life: Break Thou the Bread of Life)
Hear now my prayer, O Lord, hide not from me.
Answer me by Your Word and set me free!
Wicked men sore oppress; restless am I.
Lord, ease my soul’s distress and hear my cry!

Read Acts 9.1-25; meditate on verses 19-25.

Preparation
1. What did Saul do while he was in Damascus?

2. How did the Jews of Damascus respond?

Meditation

Saul began immediately to preach, and his message was singular: Jesus is the Son of God (v. 20), the Messiah (v. 22). Wrapped up in that would have been all the prophesies of a coming Kingdom, of the Spirit of God, and the promises to Abraham. The Gospel is about Jesus – Who He is, what He’s done, what He commands. It’s not about people and their perceived needs.

It’s not surprising that Jewish leaders resented having their precious heritage “stolen” and “retooled” for the Christian cause. Saul’s escape from Damascus reminds us of Rahab’s concealing then delivering the spies of Israel, prior to the assault on Jericho under Joshua’s leadership. Now a new “Joshua” was preparing to invade Damascus and all the Gentile world, and His messenger had to be let down in a basket to escape the wrath of the religious leaders.

Saul’s ministry may have had inauspicious beginnings, like the spies in Jericho, but big things were coming, and that right soon. These early days of Saul’s ministry were a portent of things to come; the reaction to him and the Good News he proclaimed would be pretty much the same wherever he would go (cf. Acts 17.32-34).

Luke is getting his readers ready. Here we find the Gentile world, or one part of it, in the preparation stage for the ongoing work of Christ. Granted, Saul’s ministry seems to have been to Jews (vv. 20, 22). But the Word was being preached to the chosen people of God in a pagan city and world. Such is always the case with the ongoing work of Christ, and with our work in our Personal Mission Fields. We need to prepare accordingly, and scatter Kingdom seeds by every means and at every opportunity.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Saul was brought up under the teaching of Gamaliel. As he said: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death…” (Acts 22.3, 4).

And now the astute words of Gamaliel are ringing true for his student Saul: “if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5.39). Saul was fighting against it, but it proved impossible for him because he was, in fact, fighting against and persecuting Jesus. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9.5).

Now the tables have turned, and Saul is the one hunted. “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him…they watched the gates day and night, to kill him” (Acts 9.23, 24).

It seems in all of history, the enemies of God never learn. And they never take to heart the words of Gamaliel. Or the words of Jesus.

But the words of Jesus are meant to encourage us, not to warn others. The warning is for us. And Saul. He took it to heart and was not a bit surprised by the antagonism with which he was met. He had, after all, written the book on How to Persecute the Church.

So let us learn from these words of Jesus, take them to heart, and go forth to serve Him, being ready for whatever comes our way. The enemies are still playing by the same tired How To book.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5.11, 12).

And Peter adds: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…”
(1 Pet. 4.12, 13).

We may have to be let down through a wall; still, the truth is for us to tell! “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9.20).

For reflection

1. Should we expect everyone to believe the Gospel? Why or why not? Should that deter our witness?

2. What is our responsibility toward our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith?

3. We need to help and encourage one another in our witness for Christ. Whom will you encourage today?

If the Jewish leaders had caught the Damascus disciples helping Saul pursue his service to the Lord, the result probably would have been widespread persecution. In ancient times city walls contained all kinds of openings—windows without glass. Saul’s escape here recalls the spies’ escape from Jericho in Josh. 2:15… Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Acts 9.25

Pray Psalm 55.16-23.
Pray for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, that God would strengthen them to bear up under their trial, and that He would restrain, shame, and even convert their tormentors.

Sing Psalm 55.16-23.
(Bread of Life: Break Thou the Bread of Life)
Lord, I will call on You, answer and save!
Morning and evening too, my voice I raise.
Grant me Your peace, O Lord; answer my foes!
All who reject God’s Word He overthrows.

Many assail, O Lord, many betray.
See how they draw their sword across my way.
Take up my burden, Lord; strengthen and bless!
Let judgment by Your Word  their souls distress.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

Have you mapped out your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video, then download the worksheet and get started. Our monthly Personal Mission Field Workshop is chock-full of helpful suggestions for doing the ongoing work of Christ day by day.

If you find Scriptorium helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this daily ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal or Anedot, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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