Summary: No one can predict what great things God will accomplish through even your smallest steps of obedience, courage and grace.
There was, in Damascus, a certain disciple named Ananias. I think he was a young man. Because in Joel 2:28 God said through the prophet that after He poured out His Spirit on all mankind, their old men would dream dreams and their young men would see visions.
And here, in Acts 9:10, we’re told that the Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision. So he must have been young.
I’m kidding, of course. We really don’t have a clue how old Ananias was at this time. In fact, we’re not told much of anything specific about him. Young, old, rich, poor, tall, short, thin, not so thin; we don’t know.
There are some things we can surmise about Ananias by what is said of him in just these few verses from Acts 9 though. The entire biblical account of this man is covered in 20 consecutive verses, and his name is mentioned by Luke a total of five times.
On the surface, that’s all we know. So let’s break this account into chunks and find what is revealed here about this certain disciple at Damascus that can teach us something.
THE STORY THUS FAR
First, let’s be sure we’re all on the same page here concerning the events leading up to God’s calling of Ananias for his special mission.
You’ll remember from the opening of chapter 8; or if you do not remember you may go there and look quickly; that Saul of Tarsus was in hearty agreement with the stoning of Stephen, and even took care of the cloaks of the men who piled them to the side so they wouldn’t be hampered in movement while they were bashing Stephen to death with rocks.
Then he embarks on this campaign to wipe out all of these heretics, these followers of the Way, and even gets written permission from the chief priests to go to other towns and villages, routing them out of their homes, and dragging them back to Jerusalem for martyrdom.
Saul was thus engaged, traveling to the city of Damascus, located northeast of Mt Hermon.
Just a little information about Damascus for your edification: Damascus is one of the oldest existing cities in the world. In fact, the boast of the inhabitants of Damascus, a sort of motto if you will, is “The world began at Damascus, and the world will end there”. That does not fit Biblical prophecy; it’s just a local ‘thing’.
Damascus plays an important role in Biblical history and there is not time to do a detailed study of that now. But by New Testament times Damascus was an important trade center, ruled by Arabia under Aretas, as we can see in II Corinthians 11:32, where Paul is giving a defense of his credentials as an Apostle. He says there;
“In Damascus the ethnarch (governor) under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.” Parenthesis mine
So this was not some hamlet that Paul was going to, to route out a small handful of people.
He was going there to arrest what may by then have been a very large constituency of believers, Ananias possibly being one of the top names on his list, and Saul had visions of marching back into Jerusalem with a long line of prisoners, chained together, heads low and backs bent, filled with shame and
going to their deaths.
But God had other plans, for the believers in Damascus and for Saul of Tarsus.
He appeared to Saul on the road outside of the city, identified Himself to Saul, blinded him with a sort of cataract if you go by the description in Acts 9:18, and then gives him some instruction.
Now this is very interesting. Go to Acts 9 for a moment and look at this yourself.
Read from verse 4. “…and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do’.”
Now think about the implications of this.
We know from the response of Ananias later in this chapter that word had already spread to Damascus that this madman, Saul, was on his way and intended to do the believers in Damascus great harm.
So Jesus confronts Saul before he reaches town, knocks him in the dirt, tells Saul who He is, and then without any word of comfort or assurance for the future tells him to go into that same city, now as a helpless blind man, among the very ones he was coming to destroy.