The Lord Provides

Sometimes in rather plain ways.

Acts 9:23-30 (ESV)

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Saul’s life has been turned completely upside down. He was a persecutor; now he’s a persecutee. This has to be quite an eye opener for him as he experiences first-hand the psychotic rage of a mob offended by mere speech. He, of course, can picture himself in that mob and this has to drive the stake of repentance right through his heart.

But the big lesson in this passage is how the Lord provided for him in these trials. God did not use some spectacular miracle to rescue Saul from the mobs. He simply made Saul aware of the danger and gave him an opportunity to skedaddle.

And there doesn’t seem to be anything supernatural about how Saul became aware of the danger either. While some commentators speculate that this was direct communication from the Holy Spirit, that is notably absent from the text. Why use a miracle when natural mechanisms would suffice? And why, if a miracle did occur, leave it out of scripture?

This is an important lesson in how God watches over us and how He usually answers prayer. The Lord (or, as the Declaration of Independence says, nature’s God) likes the nature He created and uses it a lot. That’s the point of the old joke that ends with God saying, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

So, don’t expect the clouds to part; just expect Him to run things His way.

Prayer is a lens through which we see God. You don’t need something spectacular to know that God has acted; you just need to know the prayer context behind events.

So, instead of a specific prayer request, here’s a strategy. Keep your prayers clear and remember them.

I often write prayers down. Without that record, I might see God’s response and not understand what I’m looking at. But if I recall the prayer, then I can decipher the meaning behind what I am seeing. Just imagine what would have happened if Gideon forgot his prayer about the fleece. He would have cluelessly said, “Oh, wow. The fleece is wet while the ground is dry. How odd.”

What a waste.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.