Saul, the young Pharisee, was a Jew. Although his home was in another country, he had come to Jerusalem as a boy to study the Jewish religion. Now he was a very strict Pharisee. He believed in the law of Moses and he thought the new religion of Jesus would destroy this very law that God had given to Moses. Therefore he was angry with the believers in Jesus, and he wanted to get rid of them all.
The chief priests and scribes were glad to have such an earnest young man as Saul take their part and defend their cause. They gave him permission to treat the disciples shamefully, hoping in this way to discourage others from accepting the new teachings. And so it was that Saul worked night and day planning how he might destroy the church in Jerusalem. Because of his work the prisons were crowded with men and women who had faith in Jesus. No longer did crowds gather to hear the apostles teach because Saul had stopped this public worship. Saul thought he had done a good work.
About this time news came to Jerusalem that the worship of Jesus was spreading in other cities. Instead of destroying it, the enemies were only scattering the gospel farther and causing it to increase faster than ever.
Upon hearing this, Saul became angrier than ever. "I will stop this religion yet!" he cried. Rushing to the high priest, he asked permission to go as an officer to a Gentile city called Damascus. He wanted to search among the Jews there for disciples of Jesus. He planned to either kill them or arrest them as prisoners and bring them back to Jerusalem. He wanted to destroy any meetings where people were being taught about Jesus, just as he had done in Jerusalem.
The high priest wrote letters to the rulers of the synagogues in Damascus, telling them about Saul's purpose and commanding them to help Saul find the believers who might be in the city. Saul took these letters, and calling some friends, he started at once on the journey to Damascus. The road they traveled led north from Jerusalem and passed through numbers of villages and towns. Finally the group came near to Damascus, the city where many Jews had accepted the gospel of Jesus.
However, messengers from Jerusalem had already arrived to warn the disciples in Damascus about Saul's work. They told about his hatred of believers everywhere. They told also that he would soon arrive in Damascus with letters from the high priest to the rulers of the synagogues, giving Saul permission to arrest the believers. The believers were afraid, and wondered what to do about this man.
On the last day of that journey the company of riders from Jerusalem were nearing the great wall of Damascus when suddenly they stopped. A light from the sky, brighter than the shining noonday sun, appeared. Saul fell to the ground. He heard a voice asking, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
Saul cried out, "Who are you, Lord?"
"I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are fighting against. It is hard for you to oppose me."
Like a flash of lightning, Saul remembered how cruelly he had treat people who believed in this Jesus. So he cried out, "What shall I do, Lord?"
"Rise up and go to Damascus. There you will be told what you must do."
So Saul got up, but he couldn't see which way to go. He had been blinded.
The men who were with Saul had heard the sound, but didn't know what it was. They had to take Saul by the hand and lead him to Damascus. They left him at the house of a man named Judas.
Three days passed by, and Saul sat alone in dark blindness. He would neither eat nor drink. Then one night God gave him a vision. In the vision he saw a believer named Ananias coming to put his hands on the blinded eyes so he would have sight again.
Ananias also received a vision from God. God told Ananias to go to a street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man called Saul of Tarsus. God told him that Saul was praying. God also told him that Saul had seen a vision of a man named Ananias touching him and healing his blindness.
Ananias was surprised and afraid. He had heard of Saul, the great persecutor of believers everywhere. He exclaimed, "Lord, I have heard many things about this man, how much evil he has done to those at Jerusalem who believe in Jesus. He has come here to arrest the believers."
But God answered, "Go as I have commanded. Saul is a chosen servant of mine to carry my name to the Gentiles and even before kings of the earth, as well as to the Jews."
Ananias was no longer afraid to obey, for he believed the words God had spoken to him. So he rose up at once, and went out to search for Saul. When he found the blind visitor in the home of Judas, he spoke to him kindly, saying, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road when you were coming to this city, has sent me that you might receive your sight, and receive the Holy Spirit." Then he placed his hands on Saul, and what seemed like scales fell from his blinded eyes.
Now Saul could see again, and he rose up to be baptized. He was eager to do the things that would please God, and no longer did he feel hatred in his heart to anyone. His friends brought food to him, and when he ate it, strength came into his body. Then he went to the synagogues, not to arrest believers in Jesus, but to worship with them. He began at once to teach those who crowded to see him that Jesus is the Christ, whom God had sent to be the Savior of men.
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Elsie Egermeier's Bible Story Book, Copyright 1922, Gospel Trumpet Company
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