The book of the Acts is a very interesting book, being the only inspired account of the development of the early church. This is exemplified when we compare Acts chapter 8 verse 3, in which we read, ‘Saul, he made havock of the church’, with chapter 9 verse 31, ‘Then had the churches rest’. Something drastic must have happened! Saul of Tarsus had ‘changed sides’.
Even today, God is pleased to use humble men and women for the accomplishment of His purposes. ‘But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, 1 Cor. 1. 27. Although Saul had set out on another mission to persecute believers of ‘this way’, and this time the target was Damascus, he was to meet the Lord from heaven, but also a godly man on earth, and his name was Ananias. He is not to be confused with another of the same name in chapter 5, and a high priest in chapters 23 and 24. Who was this man?
Luke uses the word ‘certain’. Ananias was no one outstanding, or prominent, for little is said of him, and he is referred to only in one other scripture. He was, however, a disciple that God was able to use.
Ananias was spoken to by name, suggesting that he lived in communion with the Lord, and was at His disposal. He did not boast in what he did for the Lord. Paul speaks of him in chapter 22 verse 12 as ‘having a good report’. He was a simple, devout man. Here is a challenge for us, that we may be known for our good deeds in our service for the Lord.
There was a company of believers at Damascus, verse 19, and Ananias was one of them. Saul was intent on persecuting the believers there, even this godly man. God had other thoughts, v. 2! Although Saul had letters in his hand, carrying the authority of the high priest, he was soon to come under a greater authority, the Lord himself. Like Ananias, the Lord still seeks to plant His people in certain locations – often difficult locations. We may not understand this fully, but we must bow to His will for our lives – as the chorus says, ‘You in your small corner, and I in mine’!
Ananias knew the Lord’s voice. Note his answer, ‘Behold, I am here, Lord’, v. 10. He was ready to do God’s bidding. His answer also showed his acceptance, and ready availability, ‘I am here, Lord’. Knowing what Ananias knew of Saul, how would we have reacted?
Ananias was given clear instructions from the Lord – the place, the house, and the man. The purpose was to ‘inquire … for one called Saul, of Tarsus’. Going to the street called Straight might have been the easy part, but he had heard of the evil done to the Lord’s people by Saul. That was his concern. What a reputation Saul had, for, even after his conversion it is recorded that they were afraid of him and believed not that he was a disciple, v. 26.
What the Lord did was to map out for Ananias not the past but the future, the potential of the man he was to meet. He was a chosen vessel – what a thought! When we seek to speak about the Saviour do we think of the potential of a soul? One that we lead to Christ may do greater things than ourselves!
‘Go thy way’, v. 15. Ananias’ movements were in response to the clear guidance of God. How important to know the clear guidance of the Lord in every situation!
His greeting is significant, ‘Brother Saul’, v. 17. What would we have said to one who had caused so much havoc in the church? He immediately identified himself with Saul. It is interesting, too, that verse 12 records that Saul had received a vision of one ‘putting his hand’ on him. In reality, verse 17 records Ananias putting his hands (plural) on him. Ananias’ actions were equal to his words!
Some years later Paul recounts his testimony and says of Ananias, ‘Having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there’, 22. 12. Reviewing the scriptures relating to this man, we can think of the language of the psalmist, ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way’, Ps.37. 23.
His example indicates that God can use the humblest of saints. Let us never be afraid to obey God’s will, for God’s way and will are best.
O use me Lord, use even me,
Just as thou wilt and when,
Until thy blessed face I see,
Thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share.
[F. R. Havergal]