11 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. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
The art of selection, depending on what you’re looking for, and why, is largely a matter of outward appearance: quality, sturdiness, appearance (decor, if you prefer), your perception of whether or not the item you’ve chosen meets the criteria to do the job you require.
The Father doesn’t work with appearances that way, and he surely didn’t work that way in the life of the most ardent, unlikely disciple: Saul of Tarsus, arguably the most legalistic and zealous Pharisee of his day, to the point where he had a fearsome reputation among those who followed Christ as a cruel man who embarrassed believers by leading them off in chains.
If nothing else, the Word is full of the unlikely, the lowly, and the outcast standing before the mighty, the powerful, the rulers, and proclaiming the even more fearsome Word of the Lord. It was to their own peril, and the peril of those around them, if they focused on the outward appearance of the man instead of the selection of the G-d who sees, and tests, our hearts.
This goes back as far as Joseph, the runt of the litter, but the favored of his father.
This goes back as far as Samuel, who immediately went for the tallest and strongest among those who would be king over Israel, until the Lord checked him, and led him to inquire about David, the shepherd, regarded as the least likely of Jesse’s sons to do anything great, much less rule.
It goes all the way through to Amos, a tree gardener, with no credentials in the clergy at all, a man on the periphery of an already obscure service.
It’s in the humble birth of Jesus, born to poor parents in a humble setting, for an event as simple as gathering for a census count.
It happens again when the thief on the cross, after a life given over to sin, receives salvation in the last hours of his life, through a simple statement of faith.
But not so for Paul; his educational credentials were unimpeachable, and he admonished men to show themselves approved of their callings (2nd Timothy 2:15)
The spectrum continues on in us, called of Christ, confirmed by the Spirit, chosen by the Father to do the mission work of the Kingdom in pointing lost souls to the Way.
We fail along the Way ourselves, but we are chosen vessels all the same. The Lord repairs us with times of refreshing, and only bids that we open our mouths, and through faith let Him speak to the needs of those who are standing before us, before Him, in the hope that they have ears to hear.
We are sowers, church builders, teachers, living sacrifices, living stones, priests, kings, gods (John 10:34) prophets, healers, and artists and craftsman of every stripe.
And so it was with Paul: the same zeal he had to persecute the Church was the very same zeal he used to defend it, to the point where it says he ‘confounded’ the Jews by proving Christ was written of in what we now call the Old Testament.
Jesus told them: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about Me.” (John 5:46)
Out the billions born since then, we too are chosen vessels, made to His purposes, filled with His will, for the Gospel of Christ and the salvation of all nations, and to the Father’s glory. Such zeal as we have, and such persecutions as we suffer for our faith, let us not waver, even unto death.
He chose us before the foundation of the world, and ordained us to his purpose, giving us the gifts to fulfill them, shaping us that we may withstand the tests and trials to come, and tells us: “Be of good cheer,” and “Do not be afraid.”
He knows, and He will bring the work to completion.
Therefore I pray:
You say no ones come to You unless the Father draws them, and the Spirit will come to reveal the Truth of the Word to those whom the Father chooses.
You tell us no one can snatch us from Your hand, but You never said we could not wriggle out. I fear sometimes that I may fall of my dark volition, my unrepentant desire to walk in two worlds, when You tell me I too, at the peril of my eternal soul, must choose You over all. (Luke 9:24-25)
Yet Your disciple, Paul, tells us that Your message is foolishness to those who are perishing. (1 Corinthians, 1:18) You tell us that persecution and the delivering up to faithless authorities is our earthly reward, but that to lose our lives is to gain the kingdom.
Paul tell us also, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
We ask, in these times, that You gird us, and help our unbelief. Give us new hearts, and a spirit of boldness. Give us a mustard seed of faith to speak to our mountains, and let us abide in You, that our fruit may be good as well as abundant.
Let us rejoice in the trials that beset us, and keep our eyes focused on You, with the Word of G-d as a lamp, held higher than His Name to light our paths that lead to the Narrow Road, through the torn veil, to Your throne at G-d’s right hand, and to the Kingdom of Heaven in His presence forever.
Let the dark glass of the world be cleansed, that we may finally see, and understand, as You wipe the tears from our eyes, and bid us enter into Your rest, having fulfilled our purposes as Your vessels.
We would hear, “Well done.”
May it be to us as You have said.