ORANGE — Syria continues to be the focus of news stories in most of the media. Hundreds (if not thousands) have been killed or have fled as refugees. No one can find a workable solution to Syria’s problems. The city of Damascus, Syria’s capital, continues to play an important role in the news. What many may not know is that Damascus is one of two of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The country has an incredibly rich political and cultural history. To the Bible reader, a very significant event began to unfold outside the city of Damascus and played a key role in the city on a street called Straight where a disciple of Jesus named Ananias lived. [One may still visit the street called Straight in present day Damascus.]
The NT book of Acts 9 tells this story.
Saul of Tarsus (later named the Apostle Paul) was on his way to Damascus with official papers giving him authority to arrest anyone called a Christian and bring him or her bound back to Jerusalem. As he and his party journeyed, a brilliant light shone from heaven and he heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Saul answered, “Who are you Lord.” Jesus said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting... Go into the city and it will be told you what you must do.”
Saul, now blinded by the brilliant light, proceeded into Damascus and Ananias visited three days later.
Ananias said, “’Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.”
Thus was Saul—later called Paul—converted.
After years of faithful service Paul’s testimony rings loud and clear.
He says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me… although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and [a violently arrogant] man; but I obtained mercy… And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:12-15).
His saving grace is still available today.