Psalm 301NIV New International Version Translations
1 I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. 3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. 4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” 7 O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. 8 To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: 9 “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” 11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
We do not know when David wrote Psalm 30. Perhaps he had been very ill. He asked God to make him well again and God did. Perhaps all his people, the Jews, were ill: after they prayed, they all became well again.
We also do not know why Psalm 30 was “a song for blessing the house,” the title given to it. We do know that the Jews used it when they cleaned the house of God in Jerusalem, about 200 years before Jesus came to earth. That was after Antiochus Epiphanes had made it dirty in the eyes of God. Antiochus was a Greek ruler. He wanted to stop the Jews worshipping God because Antiochus thought that he was a god and should worship him.
Psalm 30 is often used when God answers us after we pray to him.
Psalm 30:1-5 – The great things the Lord has done for us, both by his providence and by his grace, bind us in gratitude to do all we can to advance his kingdom among men, though the most we can do is but little. God’s saints in heaven sing to him; why should not those on earth do the same? Not one of all God’s perfections carries in it more terror to the wicked, or more comfort to the godly, than his holiness. It is a good sign that we are in some measure partakers of his holiness, if we can heartily rejoice at the remembrance of it. Our happiness is bound up in the Divine favor; if we have that, we have enough, whatever else we want; but as long as God’s anger continues, so long the saints’ weeping continues.
Psalm 30:6-12 – When things are well with us, we are very apt to think that they will always be so. When we see our mistake, it becomes us to think with shame upon our carnal security as our folly. If God hide his face, a good man is troubled, though no other calamity befalls him. But if God, in wisdom and justice, turn from us, it will be the greatest folly if we turn from him. No; let us learn to pray in the dark. The sanctified spirit, which returns to God, shall praise him, shall be still praising him; but the services of God’s house cannot be performed by the dust; it cannot praise him; there is none of that device or working in the grave, for it is the land of silence. We ask aright for life, when we do so that we may live to praise him. In due time God delivered the psalmist out of his troubles. Our tongue is our glory, and never more so than when employed in praising God. He would persevere to the end in praise, hoping that he should shortly be where this would be the everlasting work. But let all beware of carnal security. Neither outward prosperity, nor inward peace, here, are sure and lasting. The Lord, in his favor, has fixed the believer’s safety firm as the deep-rooted mountains, but he must expect to meet with temptations and afflictions. When we grow careless, we fall into sin, the Lord hides his face, our comforts droop, and troubles assail us.
Items for Discussion
- What are your fears about God?
- When God is visibly present in your life, how do you change and how do you acknowledge Him?
- David seems to be negotiating with God. Can we change God’s mind?
- Where did David see hope?
- How is this reinforced by our knowledge today of what is in the New Testament?
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 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. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 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.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
The book of Acts has traditionally been called the Acts of the Apostles and this can be a bit confusing because the contents is not about all the apostles, but primarily on the life of Peter (Chapters 1-12) and Paul (Chapters 13-28). Rather than a history book it is more in line with a biography. Luke gives a record of the life and events of the early Church for a period of about sixty to sixty five years. It continues from where the gospels end (Matthew 28:19-20).
The book of Acts opens with instructions to the Disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. These instructions become the theme of the book of Acts and give us a clue to how the spread of Christianity would take place. The purpose of Acts is to show the spread of the Gospel throughout the then known world (Acts 1:1-8).
The disciples were to be witnesses. In the first twelve chapters the focus is on the Gospel going forth under Peter’s direction in Jerusalem. There the ministry was directed mainly among the Jews in Jerusalem. Then the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul is stressed in his missionary activities outside of the boarders of Israel. He is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Without the Book of Acts there would be a large part of the events of the early Church missing. As is evident from a reading of the book the content is not merely historical but biographical in nature. Acts throws light on the life of God’s people.
Verses 1-2 Saul had watched Stephen die. He had seen that Stephen was brave and good. Stephen did not hate the people who were killing him. He asked God to forgive them. But Saul was still angry. He wanted to destroy the church completely now. He did not want to destroy it just in Jerusalem. He wanted to destroy it in the city called Damascus, too. Damascus was in Syria, a country in the north. The Sanhedrin did not have any political power there. But the Romans allowed the Sanhedrin to arrest Jews in other countries. Then the Sanhedrin had to bring those Jews back to Jerusalem. Saul knew that some believers had escaped to Damascus after Stephen’s death. Many Jews lived in Damascus already. It would take about a week to walk there. But Saul wanted to go. So, he needed letters from the high priest. The letters would show that he had authority from the high priest.
‘The Way’ was the name for the new faith. That name appears several times in Acts. For example, it appears in Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22. The early Christians used it. The name shows that they followed the way by which people receive salvation.
Verses 3-6 Saul hated all Christians. He was very angry. Later, he said this about himself. He said, ‘I was very angry with them. I even went to foreign cities in order to persecute them’ (Acts 26:11). Then something special happened on the Damascus road. Luke included the story about that three times in Acts. Paul himself told the story twice, in his speeches (Acts 22:6-16; 26:12-18). But here, the story is in Luke’s own words.
We know that it happened at about noon (Acts 22:6). The light from heaven was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). It was so bright that Saul could not see. The force from the light was so strong that it knocked him down. He realised that the voice was from God. But the voice asked Saul a question, and that question confused him. He thought that he was working for God. That is why it confused him. So, he asked who was speaking. The answer was a shock to him. Now he knew that Jesus really was alive. What the believers said about Jesus was true! When Saul persecuted them, he was persecuting Jesus. Whenever Christians suffer, Jesus feels their pain, too.
Saul had always done what he wanted. He had told other people what to do. Now, the Lord Jesus said that Saul must go into the city. Someone else would tell him what to do now. Before, Saul had opposed Jesus. But now, he would obey Jesus for the rest of his life. This was not because Jesus had forced him. It was because Saul wanted to serve Jesus now. Now he knew that Jesus really is God’s Son.
Verse 7 The men with Saul were officers from the Sanhedrin.
Verses 8-9 Jesus Christ had appeared in front of Saul. It was not a dream. Saul had seen a bright light. This was Christ’s glory. He had heard Christ’s voice. Jesus Christ had shown to Saul that he (Jesus) was alive. Jesus had appeared in front of the other apostles. Now he had appeared in front of Saul. Saul would become an apostle, too (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Saul had hated Christians and he had persecuted them. It did not seem possible that Saul could become an apostle. But God’s grace had made it possible.
- This can encourage us. We must pray for people who hate us. And we must bless people who hurt us. We must pray for leaders who persecute Christians. Jesus changed Saul. Jesus can do anything.
- But Saul needed help. He was blind. His companions led him into Damascus. He could not see for three days. He did not eat and he did not drink. Probably he was thinking about many things.
Verses 10-14 Many believers had escaped from Jerusalem. Ananias was one such believer. Luke tells us more about him in Acts 22:12. But Ananias knew that Saul had persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. He also knew why Saul had come to Damascus. Saul had come to arrest believers! People had told Ananias some very bad things about Saul. Ananias was probably very afraid of him.
The Lord was telling Ananias to go to Saul. (We can see from verse 17 that the Lord was Jesus.) Ananias was probably surprised. He thought that Saul was an enemy, who was powerful and dangerous. The Lord said, ‘Go to the street called Straight Street’ (verse 11). Straight Street was very long. It went across Damascus from the east to the west.
Ananias used the words ‘anyone who calls on your name’ (verse 14). This means anyone who believes in Jesus and also trusts in him. So, that person calls to Jesus for help. Those words are like the words that the prophet Joel wrote. Also Peter said similar words in Acts 2:21. ‘Then, the Lord will save whoever calls to him for help.’
Verses 15-16 Saul was a very clever man. He had gone to a school for rabbis. He was a citizen of Rome. People respected him. He spoke well in public. He also travelled a lot, so he was used to that too. Jesus had chosen him for a special job. He would tell many people in different countries about the good news. But it would not always be easy. Saul would suffer because he followed Jesus. This was not a punishment. Everyone who follows Jesus must be willing to suffer. Jesus himself warned us that people would persecute believers (for example, Luke 21:12-19).
Verses 17-19 Ananias obeyed immediately. He found Saul. When he greeted Saul, he called Saul ‘brother’. Ananias showed that he forgave Saul. He welcomed Saul and he accepted Saul into God’s family. Saul had already seen Ananias in a vision (verse 12). So, he was expecting Ananias to come. Saul knew again that Jesus had chosen him. Ananias put his hands on Saul. Then Saul could see again. The Holy Spirit filled him. Then Saul received baptism in water, probably from Ananias.
The believers in Samaria also received baptism in water. But they received it first, before the Holy Spirit filled them (Acts 8:16-17). For them, those two events happened in a different order. That did not matter. But it mattered that the believers were sincere. This was more important than the order in which the two events happened.
Saul could not have served Jesus without the Holy Spirit in him. God would help Saul by means of the Spirit. And God would guide him by the Spirit. Saul received spiritual strength. And he ate again; so then he had strength in his body, too.
Verses 20 How Saul had changed! He was telling the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Saul had hated Christians because they believed this. So, it should not surprise us that people were confused. But Saul had met Jesus himself. Now he was certain that Jesus was the Messiah.
Items for Discussion
- What encounters have you had in life that generated a change in direction, a different attitude?
- Some encounters are fearful and abrupt and others are calm and slow. What are the benefits of fear and shock?
- Why do you think Jesus used such a dramatic and forceful way to reach Saul (Paul)?
- How does one’s free impact their ability to respond to an encounter?
- Why was Paul (Saul) to become such an effective apostle of Christ?
- What do you think of Ananias and his role in Paul’s conversion to an effective disciple of Christ?
- How did Paul turn what was originally his weakness toward God into a strength?
- How does this apply to any Christian?
- Have you ever thought about why God has made His presence known in your life?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations