Lutheran Spokesman

"…the Scriptures cannot be broken." John 10:35

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GOD’S OBSCURE SAINTS

Written by | March, 2014
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(Fifth in a Series)

This edifying series of chapel talks comes from the archives of our
Spokesman Assistant Editor, Prof. Em. Paul R. Koch • Eau Claire, Wis.

And he [Saul] was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 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. 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.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 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. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 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.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
(Acts 9:9-18)

In our on-going study of less-renowned saints, we have faced the question: “Why are these people even mentioned in the Bible? What does God thereby wish us to know or learn?”

It’s a fair deduction that God would have us see ourselves as replicas of these brothers and sisters of centuries past; they are skin-of-our-skin and flesh-of-our-flesh, our ancestors. What they experienced, so may we.

Are we learning to see ourselves reflected in the siblings of Jesus or as Matthias or Joseph Barsabbas, as one of the helpers in the food services in Jerusalem, or as Dorcas the seamstress? In our hearts the Holy Spirit incubates the desire to be like them—good examples of godly Christians.

Today we meet Ananias, whose name itself tells a story: “Jehovah has been gracious.” God had been gracious to this fine gentleman, and Jesus used him to deliver God’s grace to the most awful blasphemer anyone could ever meet.

In brief: on Damascus Road, fanatic Saul had been knocked flat by Jesus, blinded, and led by the hand into the city. He was put into a back room, where for three days he waited to learn what God was going to do to him for his blasphemy. We are not told what was going through his mind during those long hours, but we read that he was on his knees in prayer; and since his insides were in turmoil, he had no stomach for food or drink.

Meanwhile, God was preparing an obscure saint to confront the Jewish storm-trooper Saul, blinded and broken and in a torment of anguish over his big sin. This chosen saint was a Jew and likely had once been on Saul’s side of the fence, for it’s entirely normal that sinners trust in their own deeds to square things with God. But when Ananias was introduced to Jesus, the Spirit of God did the super-miracle of turning his heart inside out, so he could repent of his sins and cling to Jesus as his Savior. Ananias was a convert, too!

The Scripture introduces us to this obscure saint: “There was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias, and to him the Lord spoke in a vision.” The fact that Ananias was receptive and responsive to this unusual communication speaks volumes for this child of God. He recognized God’s voice and was ready to say, “Yes, here I am, Lord. What do You want
me to do?”

Jesus directed him like this: “Go down Straight Street to the house of Judas, and you will find Saul waiting for you; I want to send My healing through you to give him back his sight.” After one puzzled moment as to why Jesus would want that vicious man to be blessed, Ananias is told that Jesus has chosen Saul for a special purpose—he is to carry in his hands and heart the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the children of Israel.

God was indeed awesomely gracious! Gracious not only to Saul but also to Ananias; two people had their eyes opened that day. Ananias had the eyes of his understanding opened too, for when Jesus told him that He has chosen vessels to bear His name on their lips to humans everywhere—Ananias was thus assured that God had chosen him to do His saving work; so he went gladly, bearing on his lips the name of Jesus as Savior.

Now, what was the first word from the mouth of Ananias—the word that would be of crucial importance for Saul, waiting for God to speak to him? Ananias spoke the word “brother,” and that’s when Saul discovered that he was not facing God’s fist, but God’s helping hand. How wonderful God was to him! How wonderful to have a Christian come to him, touch him gently, and call him “Brother in Christ.”

That act of Christian compassion reflects the love of God for sinners, and so it is our guideline also. Indeed, God has put His finger on every Christian—and has set your feet (and mine) on a pathway through childhood and adolescence to adulthood—so that we can be steered by God’s hand to that confrontation with some individual who needs to hear from our lips what Jesus means.

Such meetings do not happen by sheer coincidence! You may be sure you are here today in preparation for tomorrow’s opportunity. Though God could send angels to do His preaching for Him, He chooses His children for that blessed work: Jesus chooses obscure saints like Ananias, a man not trained to be a pastor, but a saved soul who was ready to testify for his Savior.

We ask ourselves, “Am I as receptive and responsive—as attuned to the voice of our Lord Jesus—as positive and agreeable as Ananias was?”

May God grant us spiritual eyes and ears open to the opportunity that Jesus steers into our pathway, the opportunity for which He has been preparing us—so that any one of us, a humble and obscure saint, can serve as God’s mouthpiece to a sinner who needs the eyes of his understanding opened to Jesus in heaven!

In my heart and on my lips–and on yours–Jesus puts His holy name, the name of wondrous love, to deliver that name and that love to some troubled soul we will find crossing our path someday on a street we recognize, and perhaps even in the home of somebody we know by name.  “Here am I, Lord,” says the Christian heart, “I am willing and ready to serve. Speak to me and through me, so that I may be the obscure saint that brings Your blessings to others.” Amen!