Lornhorn Stadium (DKR Texas Memorial Stadium) – Austin, Texas.
Thursday, 21 July 2022
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:6
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
Note: The text of verses 9:5 and 9:6 is different based on original manuscripts, and so your Bible may not match what is presented here:
*And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (ESV)
* And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (NKJV)
Jesus just explained to Saul (Paul) who He is and informed Saul that it is “hard to kick against the goads.” With that noted, it now says of Saul, “So he, trembling and astonished.” The word translated as trembling, tremó, signifies to dread or to terrify, hence trembling is the result of the mental condition. One can see the obvious root of several modern English words, such as tremor, tremble, and so on.
The next word, thambeó, translated as astonished, gives the idea of being perplexed or amazed. In this state one, mentally shuts down, even to the point of terror depending on the situation. In other words, Saul was both terrified and he was unable to mentally grasp the enormity of the matter. The One he had been pursuing and persecuting is the Lord God. His cognitive abilities were overwrought with the magnitude of what he now perceived. In this state, He said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
The fact that he was still alive meant there must be a purpose for him. Otherwise, the Lord could have simply revealed Himself and consumed him in a moment. But Saul realized that would not be the case, especially when presented with the words concerning kicking against the goads. It was not a statement of threat, but of warning and instruction. Saul’s immediate reaction beyond the trembling and astonishment was a submissive spirit, asking for direction.
With this now realized in him, he is no longer kicking against the goads. Instead, his compliance is anticipated. As such, Luke records, “Then the Lord said to him.”
This is the beginning of the relationship that will carry Saul throughout his life. He will work harder, suffer more frequently, and more fully express what has happened in the coming of Christ than any of the others whom Jesus called His apostles. But above all, it has begun with a mark of grace. Saul did not deserve the favor bestowed upon him. He realizes it now and he will continue to realize it throughout his life.
The man of the law has become a man of God’s grace. This experience will shape and define his writings to all people because all people must come to the Lord in the same manner. None can come on personal merit but only through the grace that comes through the reception of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind that Jesus gives him instruction to prepare him for this new life, saying, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The city is Damascus. The details will come to Saul while there, but it is true that the Lord could have simply told him right there on the way to the city what He wanted. As such, there is more than mere verbal instruction for Saul. There is a process he must go through, there is instruction for others that hardly seem involved at all, and there will be the ongoing explanation of this event for others to share that would have been lacking if Saul was simply commissioned on the spot.
Though Saul is the key figure in the process of his conversion, that conversion in Damascus will touch others as well. Each will have his life changed by the events that will take place.
Life application: At times in our lives, we all face what is known as Cognitive Dissonance. It is the state of discomfort of the mind that results when two conflicting beliefs, attitudes, or values arise. When we are presented with something that challenges our belief systems, we will immediately try to avoid accepting it, we may explain it away, and we may simply outright reject it.
For example, if we are taught that there will be no rapture, when presented with an analysis of the rapture that is directly from the Bible, in context, and evidently true, we will still work to dismiss it. The same is true with someone who believes the rapture will be mid-trib, but then is given clear evidence that it is pre-trib. Such things cause mental anxiety as we look to affirm our current belief and ignore or explain away the obviously correct explanation.
In Paul’s case, he believed one thing, and yet he was faced with the overwhelming truth that what he had believed was one hundred percent wrong. Instead of trying to argue away what had now become wholly and perfectly evident, he simply shut down. His mind was overwhelmed (see above: thambeó, being perplexed or amazed) and he could no longer function. It would take time for his mind to heal and redirect to the proper path.
We will normally not get such a sudden and absolute confirmation of what is correct. Rather, we will be presented with the truth of what is found in Scripture, but because of our limited knowledge of the word, we will search for ways to explain away what we have been presented. This is not wise because we may be dismissing the truth when we do.
The surest way to avoid this is to know what Scripture says, intimately. The more well-versed we are in the word, the less likely we will follow a wrong teaching. Otherwise, the next person to come along will present a case that sounds right to our ears. When he does, it may satisfy our own presuppositions about a matter (whether they are right or not), or it may be simply convenient and involve less hard work on our part (think of King James Onlyism), and so we go with it.
This is a big problem that can be avoided if we read the word, use logic in approaching the things the Bible presents, and – above all – pray for discernment and proper direction from the Lord. Paul could not argue against the appearance of the Lord and so he submitted himself to what he now knew to be true. If we intimately know the Bible, including the words of Paul, the same should be the case. The same Lord is presenting Himself to us there. Please! Know your Bible!
Lord God, we come before You sincerely asking for You to lead us in Your word, to keep us from incorrect teachings, and to give us the great and strong desire to want to know Your word more fully all the days of our lives. Amen.