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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
Table of Contents


 

 

THE VOICE THAT SPOKE TO SAUL

Acts ix: 1 to 31; xxii: 1 to 21; Galatians i: 11 to 24.

S AUL, the young man who had taken part in the slaying of Stephen, and who had scattered abroad the believers in Christ, was still the bitter enemy of the gospel. He heard that some of those who had fled away from Jerusalem had gone to Damascus, a city outside of the Jewish land, far in the north, and that there they were still at work teaching Christ. Saul made up his mind to destroy this new church in Damascus, as he thought he had destroyed the church in Jerusalem. So he went to the high-priest, and said:

"Let me have a letter to the chief of the Jews in Damascus. I have heard that there are some followers of Jesus of Nazareth in that city; and I will go with some men, and will take these people, and bind them, and bring them in chains to Jerusalem."

The high-priest gave to Saul the letters that he asked for, and Saul found a band of men to go with him to Damascus. It was a journey of about ten days, riding on horses or mules. While Saul [690] was on his way to Damascus he had time to think about Christ and his gospel. He saw again in his mind Stephenís shining face, and heard his words, he thought of the sweet and patient way in which the followers of Jesus had met their sufferings and their wrongs at his hand. Deep in Saulís heart there arose a feeling which he could not put down, that the gospel of Christ was true, and that it was wicked for him to fight against it. Yet he still went on, firm in his purpose to destroy the Church of Christ.

At last he came near to Damascus. Suddenly, at full noon, a light flashed from heaven, brighter far than the sun. For the time the light blinded Saulís eyes, and it came so suddenly upon him that like a bolt of lightning it struck him down, and he fell upon the ground. In the midst of the light Saul saw One whom he had never seen before. And a strange voice came to him saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you fighting against me?"

And Saul answered the voice, "Who art thou, Lord?" Then the answer came, "I am Jesus, whom you are trying to destroy!"


[Illustration]

SAUL HEARS A STRANGE VOICE

Then trembling with surprise and alarm, Saul said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

And the Lord said to Saul, "Rise up, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."

Those who were with Saul wondered, for they had seen a light, and had heard a sound; but had beheld no face and had heard no words; for the vision of Christ had come to Saul alone. They raised him up from the ground, and found that his eyes had been made blind by the brightness of the light. They led him by the hand into the city, and took him to the house of a man named Judas. There Saul stayed for three days in the deepest suffering of mind and body. He could see nothing, and he neither ate nor drank. But in the darkness he was praying to God and to Christ with all his heart.

In the city of Damascus there was a follower of Christ named Ananias, a good man, held in respect by all who knew him. To this Ananias the Lord spoke, calling him by name, "Ananias."

And Ananias answered, "Here I am, O Lord."

And the Lord said to Ananias, "Rise, and go into the street named Straight, and find the house of Judas; and in that house ask for a man named Saul from Tarsus. This man Saul is praying; and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming into his room and laying his hands on him, to give him his sight."

[691] This command from the Lord was a surprise to Ananias. He answered the Lord, "Lord, I have heard from many people about this man Saul; what great evil he has done to all thy people in Jerusalem; and here he has an order from the high-priest to bind and to carry away all who call upon thy name! Shall I go and visit such a man as he?"

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go thy way; for I have chosen this man to bear my name before the people of all nations, and kings and the children of Israel. And I will show him how many things he must suffer for my sake."

Then Ananias went, as the Lord had bidden him. He found the house, and he came to Saul. He laid his hands on the head of Saul, and he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who met you in the way as you were coming, has sent me, that you may have your sight, and that the Holy Spirit may come upon you. Now, wait no longer, but rise up , and be baptized, and call upon the name of Jesus, who will wash away your sins."

[692] Then there fell from the eyes of Saul what seemed like scales, and at once his sight came to him. Saul was baptized as one who believed in Christ, and food was given him, and he became strong in body and in soul. Saul had gone forth to bind the disciples of Christ in Damascus; but now he came among them, no more as an enemy, but as a brother. And he went into the synagogues where the Jews worshipped in Damascus, and began to preach Jesus to them, declaring that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. And all that heard him were amazed, and they said to each other, "Is not this the same man who in Jerusalem wrought ruin among them who believed in this name? And did he not come to this place, intending to bind the believers in Jesus, and bring them before the chief priests?"

And Saul grew stronger and stronger in his spirit and in his words. None of the Jews in Damascus could answer him, as he showed that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ. But he did not stay long in Damascus. After a time he left the city, and went away to a quiet place in the desert of Arabia, where he stayed for a year or longer, thinking upon the gospel and learning from the Lord.

And again Saul came to Damascus and again he preached Christ and salvation through his name, not only for Jews, but for Gentiles, all people besides the Jews. This made the Jews in Damascus very angry. They formed a plan to kill Saul, and they watched the gates day and night, hoping to seize him as he went out. But Saulís friends, the disciples of Jesus, brought him by night to a house on the wall, and let him down in a basket to the ground, so that he escaped from his enemies and went away in safety.


[Illustration]

THE WALL WHERE SAUL WAS LET DOWN IN A BASKET, AS SHOWN TO-DAY

Saul now journeyed back to Jerusalem. He had left it three years before, a bitter enemy of Christ; he came to it again a follower of Christ. But when Saul sought to join the believers in Jerusalem, they were all afraid of him; for they could not believe that one whom they had known as the fierce destroyer of the church was now a friend to Jesus. Then Barnabas, the man who had given all his land to the church, as we read in Story 150, believed in Saul when he heard his story, and brought him to Peter, and told how he had seen the Lord in the way, and how boldly he had preached in Damascus in the name of Jesus.

[693] Then Peter took the hand of Saul, and received him as a disciple of Christ. For a few weeks Saul stayed in Jerusalem; and he preached in the synagogues of the Jews, as Stephen had preached before, that Jesus is the Saviour not only of Jews but also of Gentiles ("Gentiles" was the name that Jews gave to people of every other nation except their own).


[Illustration]

DAMASCUS

When Saul preached that Gentiles might be saved in Jesus Christ, it made the Jews angry, just as it had made Saul himself angry in other days to hear Stephen preach this same gospel. They would not listen to Saul, and they sought to kill him, as they had killed Stephen. One day Saul was praying in the Temple and the Lord came to him once again, and Saul saw Jesus and heard his voice saying, "Make haste, and go quickly out of Jerusalem, for the people here will not believe your words about me."

Then Saul said to the Lord, "Lord, they know that I put into prison and beat in the synagogues those who believed on thee. And when thy servant Stephen was slain I was standing by and was keeping the garments of those who stoned him."

And the Lord said to Saul, "Go from this place; for I will send thee far away to preach to the Gentiles."

Then Saul knew that his work was not to preach the gospel to [694] the Jews, but to the Gentiles, the people of other nations. The disciples in Jerusalem helped him to get away from his enemies in the city, and led him down to a place called Caesarea, on the seashore. There Saul found a ship sailing to Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor. Tarsus was Saulís birthplace and his early home. He went again to this place, and in that city he stayed for a few years, safe from the Jews. He was a tent-maker, and he worked at his trade while preaching the gospel in Tarsus. And we may be sure that Saul would not be silent about the good news of the gospel. He preached in Tarsus and in all the places near it.


[Illustration]

TARSUS

Now that Saul the enemy had become Saul the friend of the gospel, all the churches in Judea, and Samaria, and Galilee, had rest and peace. The followers of Christ could preach without fear; and the number of those who believed grew rapidly, for the Lord was with them.

All through the land, from Galilee down to the desert on the south, there were meetings of those who believed in Jesus as the Saviour, and the apostles Peter and John went among them to teach them the way of life.


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