Integrity in the Dark

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:1-16

ananias-restoring-the-sight-of-saint-paul.jpg!Blog

(Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul-Pietro da Cortona, Baroque, 1631.)

The stage is set. There is all out war on all those who are believers of, “The Way.” If you chose to believe in Jesus you were either killed or put in prison. If you turned away from Jesus and the truth of Him being the Messiah, you would be denied before the Father. It’s a lose- lose situation.
But then there is one guy.  He hears of the murders, he knows who is leading up these heinous crimes against humanity, ordering those who choose everlasting life to prison here on earth and often times, death. These people are being ripped from their homes, their wives, their children, thrown into prison for the sake of Yeshua, for believing, for trusting.

God tells Ananias, “Arise and go the street called “Straight” and seek in the house of Yhuda (Judah) for one called Paul of Tarsus, for look, he is praying.” Acts 9:13

Oh boy. Did he just hear God correctly?

Go up against someone comparable to the leader of ISIS itself and pray for Him?

Yes. That’s him. That’s guy the Holy Spirit wants Him to go after. Swallowing all pride, pushing all fears aside for the sake of these orders. God could have set up circumstances for the perfect murder crime, avenging the blood of the believers who are being killed.

Then the Master tells Ananias, “Go for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine, to bear My Name before the nations, sovereigns and the children of Yisrael (Israel). For I shall show him how he has to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15- TS-2010).
Ouch. Well, the beginning sounds great for Paul, at least!

Chosen vessel, bearing the name of YHWH before the nations and sovereigns—this is all sounding pretty flashy. He could buy a boat, have money saved up for the kids, life might be looking kind of good after all this exposure. I mean God going before us, who can hurt us, right?

And then God lays it on Ananias, the weight of a heavy word—unchangeable, because it just came from the head honcho, the Master Himself, who set the planets in motion and created the inarguable laws of physics. “For I shall show him how much he has to suffer for My Name.”

WOW! Things just got real.

But something happened during all of this that we don’t pay much attention to, that isn’t spoken of often, but is loud and clear between the lines—the heart of Ananias.

Where is it? What is going on in there? Who is this guy that God is using to go before the Goliath of his time?

His heart must be something else, something fierce, something real.

God chose this guy we never heard of to deliver a rough message to a guy that is already down in the dumps. Paul just lost his eye sight. For all he knows, he may never see again. His eyes may never be opened to light, to doors or to walls.
This is scary stuff, but God had just the person to deliver this message to Him. This is about Ananias’s heart. He does as he is ordered, goes to the house and says this in Acts 9:17;

“Brother…” He just called the equivalent of an ISIS leader, “brother.”

Something shifted inside Ananias from fear and trembling, to calling him “brother.”

He continues on, “Brother Paul, the Master Yeshua, who appeared to and the way as you came has sent me, so that you might see again and be filled with the Set-Apart Spirit” (Acts 9:17).

This is a real character check on Ananias’s part. He is told that a blind man is praying alone in a quiet room. He could have just avenged the blood of his fellow believers, slitting this man’s throat. He could have taken advantage of an unsighted man, easily attacking him and probably had been hailed a hero for doing so.

But he doesn’t. He checks judgment at the door, walks in with no fear, no hate, no revenge, just an appeal from one soldier serving the same CO to another, as if saying, “these were my orders.” He came to Paul, a guy we would all love to hate right now, (especially after reading Stephen’s martyrdom/murder and Saul’s responsibility for it in the preceding chapter). Ananias comes to Paul and calls him “brother.”

He felt his pain, I imagine. He must have forgiven Paul, not because he got what was coming to him by being blind, but because Ananias loved out of the same place that Stephen loved, that while Stephen was being stoned, he uttered the words, “Master, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60), echoing the same words as the Messiah did right before His death, “Father forgive them the know not what they do.”

At the apex of these men being murdered for their faith in God the Father, in their CO, their words reverberate the same love and forgiveness that Ananias shows Paul during this extraordinary time. Ananias gets to deliver not only the words, but the actions of forgiveness. He lives it out in his approach to Paul, one of the most persuasive and zealous bosses of the whole massacre of believing Christians of that time.

What does this have to do with Boaz you ask?

I’ll tell you. . .

RuthandBoaz (purchase this painting here)

Boaz carried the same spirit. The stage was set similarly for these women who were poor, gleaning the fields to fill their weary bellies and hearts that have just known intense loss. Much like a woman going through the grocery store line with WIC coupons, they knew shame. They knew humiliation. They knew judgment. They felt the glaring looks behind them, hearing the thoughts of many with questions like, “Why don’t you go out and get a job? Why are you taking up my time?”

These women were poor, no home, no more men, no more covering, no redeemer. Just two women out to make it in a cruel world that used and still uses women and men, for whatever it so desires.

But then Boaz wakes up in the middle of the night, after drinking and eating to his heart’s content, to a woman, Ruth (Ruth 3:8). She is on his floor.

Now, Boaz has a choice, just like Ananias did with Paul. Boaz could have humiliated Ruth, taken advantage of the privacy of the situation and the vulnerability presented to him because she did not have a husband.
But no. He passes so many levels of honorability, it’s almost mind-boggling.

First, Boaz acknowledges her as who she really is, first and foremost, a woman belonging to YHWH saying “Blessed are you of YHWH, my daughter.” Those words are pretty uplifting to hear to a woman who has pretty much no one. What dignity and respect! He doesn’t look down on her poverty, on her being a widow on being homeless, a sojourner in a foreign land; a Moabite in Bethlehem.

He sees her for who she really is: A girl who has given herself to the God of the universe, a widow, yet not shaming her for her need for a redeemer.

Then Boaz goes on to say that even though she is asking him to be her husband, literally through giving him the chance to sleep with her, he passes this opportunity up and admits that he isn’t the first one on the list. He says, “And now it is true that I am your redeemer. However, there is a redeemer nearer than I. Stop over tonight, and in the morning it shall be that if he does redeem you, good –let him do it. But if he is not pleased to redeem you, then I shall redeem you, as YHWH lives!” (Ruth 3:12-13)

These men show impermeable armors of honesty and love in some pretty sticky circumstances. And yet these men are generally overlooked and their character left un-admired.

But I wanted to shed light on those stories today, in light of Shavuot/Pentecost. Stories about the Holy Spirit and the power of the presence of God and how He changes our hearts in the toughest of times.

Two stories, set far apart in time, but very close in heart. The stories between the lines, the stories going on “hidden beneath the surface.”

For more in depth studies on God’s heart, check out my book.

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