And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Paul had an encounter with the Lord while on his way to do what he perceived at the time as God’s work. He was convinced that those who followed Jesus were part of a cult which converted the naive and gullible. A devout student of Judaism, he defended his faith, not knowing that he was actually fighting against the Lord of heaven and earth. Paul would later write these words to the Colossians describing Jesus — He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
This great revelation of Jesus Christ was set in motion the moment he asked the question, Lord, what do you want me to do? Although Paul did not know who Jesus was on that road to Damascus, the Lord knew him and revealed himself to Paul because he knew what was in him. The Lord knows what is in you and me, and that is why we did not choose Him, He chose us (see John 15:16). A moment of submission releases revelation and instructions.
Jesus responded to Paul’s question by telling him to “arise and go into the city, and he would be told what he must do.” There are certain things that we must do when we are called by Jesus. Our only options are obedience or disobedience; which is the more expedient option? The transformation that took place in the life of Paul is a direct result of his faithfulness and obedience when he was directed by the Lord. One of many examples can be found in Acts 16 verses 6 through 10; Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
What does the Lord want you to do? Have you been obedient to the heavenly vision? Are you willing to set aside your personal ambition to focus on what the Lord has called you to do? Although Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Asia, he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do so. It is obvious that Paul had great sensitivity to the Spirit as the word forbidden is very strong for the One who can be quenched by our will, and grieved be our behavior. Since free will gives us the option to override the leading of the Spirit, this is extraordinary. May we have a heightened sensitivity to the things of the Spirit as we are instructed on what we must do for the Lord.
The glory that is revealed when we come to Jesus ought to leave us trembling and astonished. An encounter with the Lord is not a casual occurrence. My prayer is that we all would have a fresh encounter with him as we shelter in place. In order for Paul to pray earnestly the Lord took something precious from him — his sight, then Paul prayed for three days. 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.
The Lord has taken something precious from all the earth with this pandemic, and it is causing nations to pray like never before. Oh that people of every kindred, tongue and tribe would bow before Him trembling and astonished, asking Lord, what do you want me to do? May households be converted as Paul was on that dusty road, and may your house be given to much prayer so that the fire on your altar will never burn out.
Lord, what do you want us to do?