I can just hear you now, “How in the world can anyone have fun reading the Bible? Lady, you need to get out more if you think reading the Bible is fun!”
Okay, I get it. Just let me explain.
Many years ago, a few of us gathered every morning for prayer. After prayer, we would choose a block of scripture and sit in a circle. The first person would begin reading, and when the scripture mentioned someone’s name, we would substitute it with our name. For example, Acts 1:5 says, “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,…”
If I were reading, I would say, “And in those days Jackie stood up in the midst of the disciples, etc.” We were amazed at how real the scriptures became, and it was fun!
Instead of reading rows of black ink on white paper, each verse contained real people living in real circumstances with whom we could identify. I might replace Peter’s name with mine and then we would discuss how it felt to be Peter. Sometimes the discussion was about how Peter, himself, felt in the circumstances. Each verse is different and brings a different challenge to look a little deeper.
Let’s try this using Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:2-19, in the Amplified Bible. The major benefit of the Amplified Bible is that the scholars do the Hebrew and Greek word searches for you and put the translation in parenthesis. If you prefer the King James, or any other translation, I recommend the use of the Amplified, at least, as a reference during your time of study.
First, let’s invite the Holy Spirit into our holy imaginations to guide us as we step into each scripture and feel the emotion, as you become the one having the experience. This is an amazing way to study the Scriptures. Are you ready? Let’s go!
The first two verses in Acts 9 give us the context and Saul’s mindset prior to his conversion. Remember, from this point on, you are Saul.
Acts 9:1,2 Meanwhile Saul, still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem.
When you enter the chambers of the high priest, you’re at a ten on your 1-10 emotional Richter scale. You are seething over these disciples who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Can you feel his hate?
You are about to request letters authorizing you to bind and chain anyone who confesses this Christ as Lord and Savior in the city of Damascus, to which you are about to travel. I’m the high priest. As you begin talking, I feel your emotion, as a very persuasive Saul presents his case. I feel your intensity and even admire the courage of your conviction. As high priest, you are convincing me to grant your request. I believe you, because you believe you. You are a very determined Saul.
Let’s discuss it. Some things come to mind as I consider this scripture. Do you know any unbelievers as determined as Saul? Have you wondered how in the world they will ever get saved? Take a moment and feel the strength of Saul’s determination. At this point, I think it’s fair to say the only thing that will change Saul’s mind is a miracle. Are you relating with some of the people you know? See how this works! Let’s get back into the scriptures.
Vss. 3 and 4 begin the miracle.
Acts 9:3,4 Now as he traveled on, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, 4 And he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me [harassing, troubling, and molesting Me]?
You, Saul, are walking along and suddenly you see a flash of light all around you. I’m there, too, as one of the men with you, and I see you fall to the ground. I’m stunned as I see you lying there, not moving a muscle. It occurs to me that maybe you’re dead!
Acts 9:5 And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance].
Suddenly, there’s a voice but where is it coming from? No one is there. It’s just a voice. I’m terrified, and I can only imagine what you are feeling since the voice is directed at you. You began to speak and I was both relieved, that you were alive, and shocked, that you had the courage to respond.
Acts 9:6 Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
You were trembling, yet I expected you to ask what was going on, but you didn’t. You responded with the attitude of a servant in total submission and obedience to his Master. Wow! This is not the Saul I know! This was a completely different Saul. He didn’t act the same, talk the same, or even look the same. I watched as you rose to your feet ready to obey His command.
Acts 9:7 The men who were accompanying him were unable to speak [for terror], hearing the voice but seeing no one.
I’m one of the men, and we are all in shock. None of us could speak. In my mind, I’m asking, Did what just happened, happen? Did the sound of a voice come out of nowhere and speak? I’m not sure any of us can answer that question. We didn’t see anyone. We just heard this sound. But, something happened, because the once strong and determined Saul in vss. 1 & 2 is now a compliant, willing servant ready to carry out his Master’s orders. What happened here?
Let’s step out of the scriptures for a bit of instruction. Acts 9:7 needs to be clarified. In this verse, it says the men heard the voice of the Lord, but in Acts 22:9, where Paul recounts his experience, he says those who were with him did not hear the voice of the Lord, which appears to be a contradiction. The Amplified Bible clears it up by defining the Greek words in the original manuscripts, Acts 22:9 Now the men who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear [the sound of the uttered words of] the voice of the One Who was speaking to me [so that they could understand it].” So, the men with Saul heard a sound like a voice, but could not understand the words. This is a good lesson in bible study. The bible never contradicts itself, which is why I like the Amplified. Most of the other translations don’t give as much detail, and in this case, leave you wondering why there’s a contradiction. Go ahead, look it up for yourself. Always let the bible interpret the bible, as we have just done.
Let’s rejoin the men on the road in vs. 8. Are you having fun yet?
Acts 9:8 Then Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
We watched you get up from the ground and realize that you were blind. You didn’t act a bit fearful, but there had to be some fear present. Why didn’t you run the other way? There HAD to be a part of you that wanted to run and hide, rather than be obedient to the Man who just blinded you. Where was the fear? Where was the confusion? All I feel is peace. Hey, wait a minute! You’re not the only one who’s acting strange. Look at us. We are actually walking hand-in-hand leading you to Damascus. What happened to us?
The Word doesn’t definitively record the fate of Saul’s companions, but there are some clues. His companions became obedient, too. Obviously, Saul had to tell them what the Lord said, and he must have asked them to escort him to Damascus. Instead of reacting in fear by running away, they led Saul straight to Damascus. Why didn’t they run? I think they were saved, too. Is it possible they were feeling the same peace Saul was feeling? Don’t be too quick to regard their heightened emotions as a lack of peace. I’m sure all of them were sitting at 10 on their emotional Richter scales, but underneath that emotion, there had to be a deep KNOWING that leading Saul to Damascus was the right thing to do. Otherwise, they would have run like scared rabbits! Do you agree? It’s worth thinking about.
By now, my guy is gone, but this little exercise can still continue because I can step into Saul with you. Remember, the scriptures are alive to anyone who wants to live them!
Acts 9:9 And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank [anything].
As I step into Saul, I feel him evaluating the situation with his inner dialog. The only thing I know is that I’m in the city of Damascus, I’m in a strange person’s house, my companions are gone, I’m alone, and I’M BLIND! I feel as vulnerable as a newborn. I’m unable to perform the most basic of human needs. I can’t feed myself, nor can I find a drink of water. I’m completely helpless! The only thing I can do is wait…, and pray… . Where are you Jesus? Will You really do what You said You would do? Will You show up? What’s happened to me? What’s taking You so long?
Can you relate?
Acts 9:10 Now there was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he answered, Here am I, Lord.
Hum, another willing servant to step into. Let’s see how this one feels...
Acts 9:11-14 And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying [there]. 12 And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias enter and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. 13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name.
This servant feels much different from Saul. I’m overpowered by his fear. I didn’t feel fear in Saul’s emotion. I understood Saul’s emotion differently than this guy. It was as though Ananias didn’t even hear the part about the vision. That should have calmed him down, but it didn’t.
My holy imagination can imagine his feelings screaming, I’m terrified that this Saul is going to capture me, and my fellow believers, and You’re asking me to go find him. How could you, Lord?”
Acts 9:15-17 But the Lord said to him, Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel; 16 For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake. 17 So Ananias left and went into the house. And he laid his hands on Saul and said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you along the way by which you came here, has sent me that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Look at how patient the Lord is with this guy. Here he was a moment ago, murmuring and complaining, giving the Lord a laundry list of why He should reconsider HIS request. In a sense, Ananias was blind, too. He was so focused on the ways of the world and its authority, he was blind to the fact that the Creator of the Universe, the Name above every other Name, the Ultimate Authority, was talking to him. God patiently explains, even though He doesn’t have to, the reason for His request, and not only that, He gives him additional information that had nothing to do with His request.
That seemed to do the trick, because Ananias instantly became compliant after the Lord finished telling him about all the pain and suffering Saul would have to bear.
I’m feeling some of his thoughts. Well, as long as he’s going to get some payback for all the misery he caused the believers, I don’t mind doing this.
I’m not saying that was his motivation but, after all, he’s human. That thought could have crossed his mind, and, if it did, he might have taken it captive, and gotten rid of it. It’s possible. I guess we’ll never know, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine. The good news is that Ananias was obedient to the Lord.
Can you see how alive the Scriptures can be if you invade them with your imagination? If you are bothered by the word imagination, perhaps you like the word, meditate, better. The Word does tell us to meditate on the Word, day and night. (Ps. 1:2) In the final analysis, the Scripture is always the basis of interpretation, but you may understand more, if you become one. Besides, it’s fun! Let’s get the rest of the story.
Acts 9:18,19 And instantly something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes, and he recovered his sight. Then he arose and was baptized, 19 And after he took some food, he was strengthened. For several days [afterward] he remained with the disciples at Damascus.
I’m Saul again. Holy cow! What just fell out of my eyes? Wait a minute, I can see, I can see, I CAN SEE AGAIN!! Can’t you just see Saul embracing Ananias and swinging him around in pure joy? You know Ananias was feeling the joy of the moment, too!
When Ananias felt the sincerity of Saul’s joy, I think it supercharged Ananias’ trust in Saul. The next verse gives us some indication of this trust. The first thing Saul does is get baptized, and then, he ate (I would have eaten first). Then it says he hung around for several days with other disciples. Who do you think baptized Saul, and prepared his food? It had to be Ananias. If Saul hung around with other disciples, Ananias must have introduced him to his friends. I wonder how willing Ananias would have been to include Saul, had they not shared such a powerful moment.
Can you see that by putting a little humanity in the Scriptures, it changes the whole dynamic? They come alive. This little exercise brings up many more questions. I want to know what was happening inside Saul during those three days of destitution. Don’t you? Friend, if your answer is, yes, then you just had fun reading the Bible!
I feel certain that if you give this a try, you will begin to look forward to reading the Word. It won’t be a daily chore that you never get done. You will close the door of guilt that the devil has used to convince you the Word is soooooo booooorrrring! Guilt is a trap of the enemy, and one we fall into all too often. You can beat the devil at his own game. And, to be perfectly honest, that’s the part I like the best!
Give it a try. Then, Friend me on my Facebook page, Empty Vessels for Christ, and post your comments.
Have some fun with the Word as you “seek ye first the Kingdom of God…,” and watch your prayers get answered!
To God be all the Glory!
Posted by Jackie Keating. Posted In : Bible Study