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Ananias of Damascus

10/02/2020

Ananias of Damascus

Text: Acts 9:10-19 

Saul is at Damascus now – He has been humbled, has been brought low, is physically and spiritually broken, blind and ill, with no desire to eat or to carry out his mission, perhaps abandoned now by his retinue of followers… and he can do nothing except sit in his room, and pray.  I wonder about those prayers!  What was he praying about?   Of course, Saul had said many prayers as a Pharisee – after all the Pharisees LOVED to pray, standing up in the synagogues and in the streets, they prayed to be seen by others;  praying had been a formal matter, like going along to a dead church and mumbling your way through the ritual. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 he had prayed about himself. What a difference now though, as now humbled before the Lord he lifted up his heart in repentance!    

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Saul of Tarsus – Ananias’ Worst Nightmare

But the God who had so suddenly and violently turned the tables on him on the Damascus Road, and brought him to his knees is not finished with him yet.  There’s more work to be done, and the first stage in that process is to get Paul back on his feet, so that he can be prepared for the work God has chosen him to do, and God is going to use a man called Ananias of Damascus to bring that restoration about.

 

1 Ananias’s Worst Nightmare – EVER! 

What’s YOUR worst nightmare?  Not necessarily your worst dream – for sometimes the word ’nightmare’ is used to describe an unpleasant situation – or even a person!   I’m quite sure that for Ananias, a command from the Lord to go and meet a bloodthirsty murderer who really, really wants to kill him, – that just about qualifies as a nightmare situation!  So:- 

  • Who was Ananias? 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; This Ananias was an ordinary disciple, a man who lived at Damascus, and whose name means God is Gracious.  I like this Ananias, for he comes onto the biblical page, with his human faults and flaws, he does what God tells him to do, and he goes back into oblivion and he’s never heard of again, yet in his five minutes of fame he has a part in a sequence of events that will totally change the world, for every gentile believer owes their life and faith to Paul, who carried the gospel to the gentiles, and by implication then to Ananias, who counselled the newly converted Saul.  Ananias, in just one single act of obedience impacted the whole world for Jesus – and he didn’t even go around the churches and mission halls giving his testimony about it he just toddled off into obscurity. 
  • A man who communed with God.  and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  We can certainly assume that Ananias was a Godly, Christian man.  He was listening to God’s word and praying, there was two way communication between himself and God.  He was living in FELLOWSHIP with the Lord. When he prayed, he didn’t just recite a long list of his own personal requirements, for God to bless him, to bless his family and friends and to be nice to everyone.  This was heartfelt, sincere, earnest prayer, a two way process in which he hears God’s voice and speaks to Him.  He communed with the Lord. 
  • A man who was trusted by God to do His work.  11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”    Consider the enormity of this call:- 
    • To actively search.  He wasn’t just to dander down the street and see if he can see someone who looks like a Pharisee!  This was to be an active search, he was to make enquiries until he fond the man he was looking for.   
    • To interrupt Saul’s prayers.  You don’t interrupt a Pharisee at prayer!  That would be unthinkable, for a Pharisee is SUCH a godly man – isn’t he? 
    • To lay hands upon him.  I can’t see the average Pharisee being happy with that either! 
    • To believe and trust God, to the extent that he will believe that a blind man is going to see – instantly!  Now that requires some faith!  I would have thought in my mind, ‘well what if it doesn’t work?  I’m going to be in serious trouble!’ 
  • A man who was understandably cautious. 13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  Did his faith waver?  Was he trying to teach God what God already knew?  Was he being disobedient or doubtful?  I don’t know, but I know that I would have been no better! Ananias already heard of this man Saul of Tarsus, and he already knew what to expect.  News travels fast and the church at Damascus must have been bracing itself for the persecution to come, for the inevitable arrests and martyrdoms that would result from Saul’s visit – humanly speaking making an appointment to see Saul was like making an appointment with the hangman.  So it’s no wonder that at this point he had some really honest soul-searching to do, and some questions to ask before he eventually submitted to God’s will and obeyed. 

So you can see why this vision that Ananias has had is his worst nightmare ever!

 

2 Ananias’s Weighty Assignment.

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 

These are words of reassurance for Ananias. All of this is God’s plan, and he knows what he is doing.  It is God’s nature to direct the outcome of history and it is our job to trust him, no matter how strange His will may seem to us. Ananias was to bring to Saul the message of God’s will for him.  It was a ‘good news – bad news’ kind of message:- Saul, 

  • You are going to TRAVEL!  He would bring the name of the Lord before the gentiles.  That would require that he will travel – Paul will certainly see the world, in his international ministry.  But he won’t have a private jet or an executive limousine, or even a bus pass.  He will mostly walk, for thousands of miles, on dusty dangerous roads, with sometimes inhospitable tribes along the route.  BUT… 
  • You are going to ENJOY INFLUENCE!  Oh yes, Paul will be in some of the most exalted company, in some of the most opulent surroundings!  He’ll be in palaces, and castles, in fortresses, in lecture halls, in debating chambers in synagogues, in the Athenian Areopagus, – he will appear before governors, judges, kings, – he will even appeal to Caesar himself.  But in few of those occasions will he be a welcome or honoured guest!  
  • You are going to SUFFER!  There is yet another Ananias, and we read about him in Acts 23.  He is not like Ananias of Damascus, – he is the Roman appointed High Priest of the Jews, and he is hated by the ordinary people of Jerusalem.  Later on, in AD66, during a Jewish revolt against Roman authority he would be assassinated by a gang of Jewish revolutionaries.  But at the time of Acts 23 Ananias is meeting with the Sandedrin, and before them is standing Paul, newly arrested by the Jews. Acts 23:1-5  Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”  But being punched on the mouth at the command of the high priest was the least of Paul’s sufferings.  He tells of his sufferings for Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 …in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, inperils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, inperils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Saul had made the Christian Church suffer, now he would also suffer for Christ – and he will willingly suffer, for the Saviour who suffered on the cross for him.  And he challenges us to do so too.   2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 

So now, reassured and recommissioned by God, Ananias knows that God has chosen him to bring God’s word to this man Saul.  He will obey God’s voice and go.  He will be faithful. 

 

3 Ananias’s Willingness Rewarded.  17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptised. 

Ananias must have known the ‘House of Judas.’ For he made his way directly to Straight Street, and went into the house and, as commanded by God, he laid his hands upon Saul of Tarsus, – what a thought!  What happened next proved to Ananias that God always keeps his word, that if we obey him, he will always care for us for:-  Saul’s sight was restored. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul rose up and was immediately baptised.   He joined in the local fellowship. 19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.  He did what Christians have been doing ever since – he joined the other local believers to eat together, to strengthen the body for the days ahead.  Notice too that he ‘received food.’  The disciples fed him!  They could have said no, he has been a persecutor and a murderer of believers, let him find his own food, but instead they did what Jesus would have them do, and they fed him.   Later, Paul would express this same attitude as a principle for all Christians, in Romans 12:20, “Therefore, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.

So, how do we sum up this single ministry of Ananias, and what can we learn from it?  I can do no better than to quote the words of Tim Challies:  And this is the lesson of Ananias that I have applied to my life. Small acts of obedience that are premised on the Word of God, even when they seem contrary to reason, and even when they seem to challenge what seems so plain, can have great significance. Our perspective is so small, so limited. God’s perspective is wide, taking in all of history in a single glance. We need to rely on Him, on His Word, on His voice, trusting that He will not lead us astray. 

(https://www.challies.com/articles/the-lesson-of-ananias/)

BobMcEvoy February 2020

From → Acts, Bible Study

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