Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The spiritual death, burial, and resurrection of Saul

The conversion of Saul is spectacular, to be sure.  We all know the story of his being blinded by God on the road to Damascus.  My conversion was nothing like his, it's quite boring in comparison.  I was struck today with how symbolic his conversion is of what happens with all of us when we experience spiritual rebirth.

"Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.  So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus."  Acts 8:8

This is a fulfillment of what God spoke through the prophets and Jesus reiterated.

"Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!  Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send?  Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord?  He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear."  Isaiah 42:18-20

"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.  Do you not tremble before me?" Jeremiah 5:21 & 22a

Jesus speaking to His disciples:  "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that, 'they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'"  Mark 4:12

As a pharisee and zealous persecutor of the church, Saul was one of many who were blind to God.  But God had promised that it would not always be that way.  There would come a day when God in His grace would give sight to the blind.

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;"  Isaiah 35:5

While Saul became physically blinded on the road to Damascus, his eyes were figuratively opened by God to the truth of the gospel.  He "saw Christ" for the first time, but could see nothing else.

What happens next is equally interesting.

"And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank."  Acts 8:9 (emphasis mine)

Jesus was in the grave for 3 days.  Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days.

In fact, Jesus tells the scribes and pharisees that they are evil in seeking signs from Him and that no sign will be given them, except the sign of Jonah.  "For just as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."  Mathew 12:40  This shows that Jonah being in the belly of the fish three days, though literal, was also a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Interestingly, when God tells Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to Him on Mount Moriah, it's on the third day that Abraham arrives there and that the Lord provides the ram caught in the thicket. (Genesis 22:4)  It was also on the third day after Joseph put his brothers in custody that he gave his brothers back their lives (Genesis 42:18).

The third day was also significant when God met with His people to give them the law.

 "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.  Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain."  Exodus 19:16-17

After God commissioned Joshua, it was on the third day that He led them into the Promised Land.  "Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess."  Joshua 1:11

And when Hezekiah lay on his deathbed and prayed to God for healing, it was on the third day that God healed him.  "Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father:  I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.  Behold, I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life.  I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake."  2 Kings 20:5-6

And I love this passage in Hosea.  "Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.  After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him."  Hosea 6:1-2

As a brief recap- Isaac, the son of promise, is granted life on the third day; Joseph gives his brothers, and essentially the future nation of Israel, freedom on the third day; God meets with His people at Mt Moriah on the third day; God delivers His people out of the wilderness and miraculously across the Jordan into the Promised Land on the third day; Jonah is freed from the belly of the great fish on the third day;  Hezekiah is healed and Jerusalem saved from Assyria on the third day; and in Hosea God's people will be raised up on the third day.

So it seems that the third day is a salvation motif used over and over again in the Scriptures.  I believe that in the Old Testament this is to point us to Christ's ultimate act of salvation when He conquered sin and death in His resurrection on the third day.  In the New Testament, like with Saul's conversion, I believe it points back to and serves as a beautiful reminder of the salvation Christ granted for His people on the third day.

While my conversion experience pales in comparison to Saul's, I was blind to Christ until the Father opened my eyes and I was dead in my sins until God made me alive to Him.  By grace through faith via a work of the Spirit, all believers share in the resurrection of Christ (Philippians 3:10).  Saul's conversion is reminiscent of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and at the same time is a picture of the miraculous conversion of every believer.

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.