Acts 9:11

That’s a pretty whopping fan blade.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

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. Acts 9:11

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

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Ananias’ calling by the Lord Jesus has been noted. His instruction concerning that calling now begins with the words, “So the Lord said to him.” These words are now given in response to Ananias’ answer, “Here I am, Lord.” As he has acknowledged the Lord’s call, the Lord will now give him direction by saying, “Arise.”

The verb is an aorist participle. It should read, “Having arisen.” It is telling us that Ananias may have been lying down in bed when he received the call, hence it may be a vision not unlike that spoken by Job –

“For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.” Job 33:14-16

Daniel refers to visions while on a bed several times as well. It is also possible that Ananias fell to the floor once the Lord appeared to him. But nothing is documented concerning that, which would be normal for Luke to record. Either way, however, Jesus is speaking to him in sequence. First, “Having arisen,” and then (omitting “and” which is not in the Greek text) “go to the street called Straight.”

The street called Straight is still in Damascus today. Damascus was redesigned during the Greek period by a man named Hippodamus, giving it a grid structure. The street called Straight was 1,500 meters long, extending across the city. It is the longest of the streets on this grid. There is the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus on Straight Street which was built in the 2nd century. Since then, it has been rebuilt multiple times, and it presently is known as the seat of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. It is to this street that Ananias is directed to go “and inquire at the house of Judas.”

Nothing more is known about this particular man named Judas, even knowing if he was a believer or not. With Saul’s (Paul’s) status still up in the air concerning the faith, that could be guessed either way. What is certain is that after the coming events transpire, if he was not a believer, he would get an earful about Jesus from Saul. Another Judas is mentioned in Acts 15, but it cannot be known if he is the same man. As for Ananias, once he arrived at this house, he was to inquire “for one called Saul of Tarsus.”

This is the first time that the location identified with Saul, meaning his place of birth/growing up, is recorded. Identifying him as Saul of Tarsus is to pinpoint him distinctly from others named Saul. And more, it is also to inform the reader that he is a Jew that was a part of the dispersion. Thus, he would be familiar with the way Gentiles lived. He would also more than likely speak several languages and dialects (see 1 Corinthians 14:18). If so, and at this point it is only conjecture, he is a logical choice for being called as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Tarsus, or Tarseus as a literal transliteration of the Greek, is noted here and in Acts 21:39. It is also called Tarsos in Acts 9:30, 11:25, and 22:3. James Strong speculates that the name comes from tarsos, meaning a flat basket. If so, it may reflect the layout of the city.

About the city, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states it is “… a maritime city, the capital of Cilicia during the Roman period (Josephus, Antiquities 1, 6, 1), situated on the river Cydnus, which divided it into two parts (hence, the plural Ταρσοι). It was not only large and populous, but also renowned for its Greek learning and its numerous schools of philosophers (Strabo 14, p. 613 (cf. Lightfoot on Colossians, p. 303f)). Moreover, it was a free city (Pliny, 5, 22), and exempt alike from the jurisdiction of a Roman governor, and the maintenance of a Roman garrison; although it was not a Roman ‘colony’. It had received its freedom from Antony (Appendix, b. 104:5, 7) on the condition that it might retain its own magistrates and laws, but should acknowledge the Roman sovereignty and furnish auxiliaries in time of war…”

As for Ananias, Jesus continues His words to him, saying, “for behold, he is praying.” Saul went without seeing for three days and he neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:9). But he didn’t waste his time lying around moaning. Instead, he spent it praying. He had seen the risen Lord, and his life would be forever changed. As of yet, he had no idea what that meant, but he is about to find out.

Life application: The Bible mentions the word “pray” almost 400 times, from Genesis to Revelation. At times, it is mandated, such as in Genesis 20:7 (the first time prayer is mentioned). At times, it is encouraged, such as in Psalm 122:6. Sometimes a prayer is heard immediately, such as in 2 Kings 20:1-4. Sometimes, a prayer is not responded to for a considerable amount of time (see Daniel 10:10-14).

There are prayers the Lord finds pleasing, and he responds favorably to them, such as in Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1:12-18. And there are prayers that the Lord cannot respond to, as Isaiah 59:1, 2 reveals.

There are people that wonder how prayer can be effective if God already knows everything that will ever occur. If this is so, then how can prayer make any difference? But this is the same fallacious thinking as those who say that if God already knows about everyone who will be saved, then man must not have free will.

If God knows that He will take an action after prayer, it does not change the fact that prayer is needed. This is seen in Job 42:7-10. The obvious thing that can be deduced from the Bible about prayer is that it does have an effect, even if God already knows the outcome. As such, a prayer that is not uttered is a prayer that will not be responded to. A prayer that is made at least has the possibility of being granted if it is in accord with the will of God.

Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We cannot overload God with prayer. In fact, we are pleasing Him by being obedient to the exhortation to pray. And we can know from Jesus’ words that the more we pray, the more likely we are to get an answer (Luke 18:1-8). As these things are seen to be true from Scripture, pray! An unspoken prayer is no prayer at all. Pray!

Lord God, help us to be people of prayer. May our words of praise, petition, and supplication reach Your ears, and may You respond to them according to Your great wisdom. Hear the prayers of Your people, O God, including this one. Amen.