Here I Am
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 90:10-17
New Testament Reading- Acts 9:1-6
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -May 1, 2022
The fact that everyone is different, in my opinion, is one of the ways that makes the world go ‘round. There are all kinds of people out there, kind, shy, nasty, bold, pushy, affable, tolerant, loving, gentle, fearful, tough, hateful; the list could go on and on. These qualities that we find in each person, and many times, multiple qualities at the same time, influence how we interact with each other, and effect how the world, in that particular time and space, revolves. For example, each U.S. President brings with them a personality that is generally different in some ways from previous ones. This can seem good or bad, depending on which side of the fence you are standing. Rulers seem to have that effect on their people, they will either love them or hate them depending on whether they agree with their sensibilities or not. Every four years our country goes through the same mudslinging rituals they call presidential elections, and every four years we try to drive more wedges between ourselves and others, particularly those who think different than us. I am not speaking here of any one particular political party, but all of them, because they are all guilty of the same reprehensible behavior. My point is this, we continually concern ourselves with how our differences divide us, instead of recognizing that these same differences can make us stronger.
This brings me to the heart of the matter, God’s will. What about God’s will? We are usually so consumed with our own will that we forget to even think about, the plain and simple fact, that it is God’s will that will rule the day, not ours, and that we would be amazed, if we really realized, just how much the Almighty uses even our negatives to achieve His positives. We are all a result of a lifetime of living. We are all affected by different things that have happened in our lives. Some are tragic, some are wonderful, some are humbling, some are fear inducing. Each time we are affected by one of these things it causes in us a reactionary response. For example, a tragedy may have happened in your life that causes you to help others with similar issues, or maybe you have been an addict, and through your recovery have dedicated yourself to guiding others in the same predicament. These are good things, but there can also be bad things. Some are molested when they are growing up and never get help. Maybe they were too embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know, so they built a psychological wall around their hearts that never allowed anyone to be able to get close to them again, robbing them of the ability to love others or to be loved in the manner in which God intended. Still bringing us to the same point, God uses even our negatives to achieve His positives.
Listen to this story about King David from 1 Chronicles 28:1-13, 19-21,
“David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the warriors and all the brave fighting men.
King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’
Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’
"So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”
Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service.”
Scripture tells us that God loved King David, but God had a specific function for David, to be King of Israel. God used the qualities of David, his bold spirit, his great faith, his fearless nature, his ability to lead, and his ability to respect and love God’s guidance to make him be a powerful king. All great qualities for the type of king God needed David to be, but this was not the same qualities that He wanted for the one to build His Temple. God does not want a warrior for this, so He chooses Solomon for the monumental task.
The same goes for Moses. God chose Moses, because he was uniquely equipped to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses was born an Israelite, but raised in Pharoah’s house by
his own daughter, giving Moses’ insight into the inner workings of the ruling class of Egypt. I could go on about other things that prepared Moses for the Exodus but is
enough to know that God prepares us for what He needs us to do. When Moses reached the Promised Land,
God allowed him to see it, but it was not his task to enter into it, for that task God prepared Joshua. As you can see, God knows what He is doing and He uses all of our qualities, both good and bad, to achieve His perfect will.
Once there was a man named Saul, not King Saul, but Saul of Tarsus, a city in modern day Turkey. Tarsus was a city within the Roman Empire, making Saul a Roman citizen. He was a Jew, of the Tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a social movement around the time of the Second Temple in and around Jerusalem. The Pharisees saw themselves as set apart from the rest, especially gentiles or non-religious Jews. They placed an emphasis on the Law of the Torah above all else and their bloodlines being connected to Abraham and God’s covenant with him and his ancestors. This elitism and their worship of the Law was usually what got the Pharisees into trouble with Jesus as they had focused so much on the Law itself that they forgot about mercy, love, and forgiveness. Saul happened to be a very zealous Pharisee, who was regularly hunting down the new Christians and putting them to death for blasphemy. Our New Testament lesson today describes how on the road to Damascus to route out more Christians, Saul has an encounter with the risen Christ in all His glory and hears His voice asking him why he is persecuting Him and telling him to go and wait for word as to what to do next. We pick up with the rest of the story from Acts 9:7-31,
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “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.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So, Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
God uniquely prepared Saul to become Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. God used Saul’s Roman citizenship and his Jewish heritage to bridge both worlds to spread His message better. Saul’s zealous devotion was also used but tempered with the Holy Spirit so as not to become overzealous. Becoming Paul, he became exactly what God needed to increase the number of believers in the Greek and Jewish worlds, as well as begin the foundation for the conversion of Rome itself and ultimately the whole future western world.
"God used Saul’s Roman citizenship and his Jewish heritage to bridge both worlds to spread His message better." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
I have often told you that you are not exempt from God’s plan and that we each have been given qualities and gifts that are to be used for God’s will. How has life molded you? In what ways have you been affected, good and bad? Which quality are you currently using and are you using it for your will or God’s will?
If you were traveling and encountered the risen Christ, what would He say to you? How has God uniquely prepared you for service? You think you are not qualified, and that God wouldn’t choose you? Think again, Moses and Jonah thought the same way and they couldn’t escape it any more than you can. I was asked many times if I wanted to become a pastor, to which I said I didn’t feel like that was my path, but God had a different plan for me.
We are not all destined to become a pastor, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a plan for us. My advice to all of you is when God calls your name, don’t run and hide, listen intently for what He is telling you and know that He prepares us all for His work. Stand firm and answer back in a clear and steady voice, “Here I am Lord” and be ready and willing to do what is required of you for the most important and most rewarding service you will ever perform. All glory be to God now and forever. Amen.