Saul sees the Light

Consider the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, in Acts chapter 9. The first thing he sees is a light from heaven, brighter than the midday sun.
The initial reaction of a Muslim friend of mine was to compare it to God’s revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. I agree that this is a most obvious connection to make. It is an understanding God reveals Himself in Light, and indeed this is how God revealed Himself in the beginning. It is consistent with our understanding of God’s nature – God is Light.
Next, we hear a voice addressing Saul by name … twice: ‘Saul, Saul’.  This is again consistent with how God has addressed people in the past:
Gen_22:11  (KJV)  And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
Gen_46:2  (KJV)  And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
Exo_3:4  (KJV)  And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
1Sa_3:10  (KJV)  And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
It is also consistent with the teaching of Jesus in John 10, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep, and says the Shepherd knows his sheep by name.
Joh 10:1  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Joh 10:2  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
Joh 10:3  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

But then God asks Saul an unusual question, at least not one that he was expecting: ‘why are you persecuting me?’ It is particularly unusual because it is personal. Saul thought he was pleasing God by persecuting the Christians. He could say of himself that before his conversion he was:

Php 3:5  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Up to this point Saul had not been willing to accept the person of Jesus as the risen Saviour, or his teaching relating to the new convenant. His whole education as a Pharisee had been in the law of Moses, and his purpose in life was the preservation of the law of Moses. He saw the teachings of Jesus as a threat to the righteousness of the law, and so wanted to stamp it out – zealous for righteousness.
And so, while his actions were not right, his motives were honourable, and the words of Psalm 97 fit well here.
Psa 97:11  Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

Light was sown for righteous Saul, to bring him to a better of understanding of the truth. He was being brought to understand that by persecuting the Christians, he was persecuting God himself. This should be encouraging to you too. If you are sincerely seeking after truth and righteousness before God, God will lead you to the Light, to Jesus Christ. Yes, to Jesus Christ, for He could say:

John 8:12 I am the Light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life.
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through me.
I think Saul had an idea before he even asked the question ‘who are you, Lord?’ that this was Jesus Christ speaking to him. My reason for saying that is because he had been at the stoning of Stephen, and heard him clearly speak of Jesus as the Son of Man in heaven.
Act 7:55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 
Act 7:56  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Act 7:57  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Act 7:58  And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Act 7:59  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Saul would have been well aware of the Old Testament reference in Daniel 7 that Stephen was making, declaring plainly that Jesus was indeed the second person of the Godhead that Daniel speaks of.
Dan 7:13  I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
Dan 7:14  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
And so Saul asks: ‘who are you, Lord?’
Note that this use of the term ‘Lord’ is not some general reference, but had been for a long, long time a common way to speak to Jehovah. The word here is the Greek translation of the Hebrew – Adonay. This word is used 419 times throughout the Old Testament. Here are a few examples.
Gen 15:1  After these things the word of the LORD (Jehovah) came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
Gen 15:2  And Abram said, Lord(adonay) GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
Here Abraham is acknowledging that Jehovah is his Lord/Master/King. Abraham is submitting to the authority of Jehovah.
Exo 5:22  And Moses returned unto the LORD (Jehovah), and said, Lord (adonay), wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?
Exo 5:23  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.
Here, Moses is coming to Jehovah, questioning why things have not yet turned out better, but in doing so he shows his respect of his God Jehovah, and his continuing submission to him by addressing him as Lord (adonay).
And so, in asking ‘who are you, Lord?’, Saul is not only asking for personal identification of the speaker, but is in fact, by using the word ‘Lord’, submitting himself immediately under the authority of the speaker.  Why does he do this?  It is because the Light is evidence beyond dispute that God is revealing himself to Saul.
The answer comes back, ‘I am Jesus’, and from that moment Saul recognised the truth that Jesus Christ was indeed God manifest in flesh. Immediately, Saul realises that following and worshipping Jesus Christ is not blasphemy or idolatry, for Jesus Christ is Jehovah. He realises that this is the only conclusion that fits with the Old Testament.
Let’s look at one aspect of this:
Isa 45:19  I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
Isa 45:20  Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
Isa 45:21  Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
Isa 45:22  Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
Isa 45:23  I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
This passage in Isaiah speaks over and over again of the oneness of God: ‘there is no God else beside me’, ‘I am God, and there is none else’. Saul would have known this passage well, and he would have known that it teaches that outside of God Jehovah there can be no salvation.
And yet, the angel specifically speaks to both Mary and Joseph to tell them to name the child to be born ‘Jesus’. Why? the answer given is that ‘He shall save His people from their sins’ (Matt 1:21).
So right here at his birth, the angelic messenger is ascribing to this child to be born, divine attributes as Saviour.
Later, Jesus himself states that He, the ‘Son of Man (remember, a divine person in Daniel 7, the only Old Testament reference to the Son of Man), is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ (Matt 18:11) This reference is right in the middle of a discussion of sin. Here’s a flavour of the discussion:

Mat 18:3  And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 18:7  Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

Mat 18:11  For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

Mat 18:12  How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

Here we learn the need for conversion, in other words, we must turn from our sin, but in the adjoining parable, Jesus shows that we are helpless to turn from our sin, for we are lost – sheep that have gone astray. But Jesus presents himself, the Son of Man, as the Shepherd and Saviour, in the very roles that Jehovah takes in the Old Testament.

Psa 80:1  (To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Psa 80:2  Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

Psa 80:3  Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. 

 While Psalm 80 presents to us clearly Jehovah as the Saving Shepherd, the role that Jesus takes to Himself in Matthew 18, we might ask how is he going to save the sheep that have gone astray. How is he going to save us from our sins?
The Old Testament again gives us the answer in Isaiah 53:

Isa 53:5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Who is this speaking about?

These verses are a part of a song that begins in chapter 52 v 13, and this commencing verse gives us the answer.

Isa 52:13  Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

The one who will suffer for the sins of the people, and rescue the sheep that have gone astray, is the Servant of Jehovah.
But who is this servant?
Well, Jesus in Matthew 18 seems to indicate by his parable and use of language that he is the servant spoken of, but is this correct? Others in Isaiah’s writings are also spoken of as Servants: Cyrus, and Israel itself.
The answer is actually given to us in 52v13, and if we could read the Hebrew it would be obvious, for we read that this Servant ‘shall be exalted and extolled’.
In Hebrew, the word ‘exalted’ is ‘yā-rūm‘ (see Strongs 7311), and ‘extolled’ is ‘wə-niś-śā‘ (Strongs 5375). Now, do a search for those Hebrew words and you will find the root words appear together two more times in the book of Isaiah, both which clearly identify the LORD God himself as the only one worthy to be exalted and extolled.
Isaiah 6v1, the English phrase is ‘high and lifted up’, but the Hebrew roots are the same.

Isa 6:1  In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high (rāmand lifted up (wə·niś·śā), and his train filled the temple.

Isa 6:2  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

Isa 6:3  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Isaiah 57v15, the English phrase is ‘high and lofty’, but again the Hebrew roots are the same.

Isa 57:15  For thus saith the high (rām) and lofty (wə·niś·śā) One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Clearly, only One has the right to this position, and it is Jehovah, but how can it be used of the Servant?
The slight difference between yā-rūm and rām is in tense. The first speaks of a future action, the second is in the present tense. The Servant shall be extolled/made high, whereas Jehovah is high, but this doesn’t change the conclusion.
Is Cyrus going to be lifted up to the position of Jehovah? Certainly not. Is Israel? Again, certainly not. Only God Himself can occupy this position. No one else, and therefore the only conclusion we can come to is that the Servant is God Himself who has humbled himself and come to save us.
And this is the conclusion the Apostle Paul alludes to in Philippians 2:

Php 2:5  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Php 2:6  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Php 2:7  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Php 2:8  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Php 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

Php 2:10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

Php 2:11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Note that this take us back to Isaiah 45:23, quoted earlier in relation to Jehovah as the only Saviour.

Isa 45:22  Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Isa 45:23  I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Note also that Paul, in v11, echoes the words of Jesus in John 12:44-46, stating that our worship of Jesus is in itself worship to God the Father, just as Jesus says that belief in Him is belief in God the Father, and seeing Jesus is the same as seeing the Father.

Joh 12:44  Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

Joh 12:45  And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Joh 12:46  I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

I pray that God will reveal His Light unto you as well, that you will recognise God has come to save you in the person of Jesus Christ and by the means of his death.

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