Sometimes I wonder if Paul had any idea what he was getting into when he was called by his Savior. Of course, Ananias (the man who healed his blindness) undoubtedly relayed the message he got from Jesus when the Lord sent him to heal the Ex-Pharisee: “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” So if he was listening at all, he had to know that his calling was not to an easy life.
He knew his Scriptures like we know our own name, so he surely remembered the treatment that most of the prophets got, like Jeremiah, Amos, and even Moses. But did he realize just how much opposition he'd get from his own people, the ones whom he surely expected to recognize the Messiah when presented to them? I mean, these people went from town to town, following Paul with the express purpose of opposing him every way they could.
You can hear the frustration in his voice in today’s passage. He'd finally had enough. Of course, quite a few of his converts were Jewish, but most Jews apparently rejected it, especially the more devout ones. After all this, he finally, officially, turned his ministry from Jews to Gentiles. Not that he was going to give up on his fellow Jews entirely, but the focus was going to change to a more fruitful field.
Why am I focused on this? Well, to be completely frank, I’m not really going to get into anything I haven’t said before. But I thought it bears repeating: Our Shepherd knows exactly what we need and gives us exactly what we need when we need it.
You can certainly sense Paul's disillusionment. Again and again and again he'd reached out to the Jews, and again and again and again they had not just rejected it, but had violently rejected it. He might have even been flirting with despair.
That’s when his Savior, his Shepherd, stepped in. He appeared to him and told him two things: 1) He (Jesus) was with him. No matter what, everything was under his Lord’s control, and he would always be closer than a heartbeat. 2) He (again, Jesus) had lots of servants in his city. It might not have looked like it, but the Lord had followers in the city that Paul didn’t know about. He had more kindred spirits than he knew.
You know what this reminds me of? It’s probably not at the same level, but it seems slightly similar to when Elijah was ready to call it quits. Do you remember that? He ran away from a queen’s threats, came to a spot in the wilderness, and prayed to die. The prophet was sure that he was the only faithful one left in Israel. The Lord appeared to him and told him. . . what? “I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
We can’t seem to find a balance, can we? We either think that we’re unbeatable and that we’re invulnerable to Satan’s plans, or we think that we’re the only ones left on the losing side in a hopeless battle.
Have you ever felt alone like that? You feel like the entire world is against you. It seems like you’re the only one standing up for what’s right in your office or family. But just when you need it, right when it feels like you’ve hit rock bottom, our Shepherd—most of the time through his Body—appears and tells you that things are not as dark as they seem.
Whether it’s a kick in the seat of the pants or an embrace with whispers of comfort, he always knows exactly what we need. When we need it. And he always delivers.
Lord Jesus, thank you. You are so good to me.