Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision* a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 6I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul* and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:10-19 (NRSV)
Ananias had a problem. Saul had a formidable reputation as one who zealously persecuted the followers of Jesus and here was God telling him to go and heal this man of blindness. Ananias had a choice either to go and do what God told him to and possibly suffer arrest and death for revealing himself as a Christian to this known persecutor, or stay home and ignore the command God had given him.
It’s not easy to make choices sometimes. There are times it is very easy to jump into a decision only to find later that a little more forethought might have been the wiser course, but then there are times it is easy to sit and analyze something sixteen ways from Saturday until paralysis sets in and any choice becomes impossible. Even when it feels and seems that God is giving a direct instruction or at least a rather obvious push in the right direction, it is not always easy to follow that lead. It’s not always easy to ascertain whether it truly is God speaking or not, especially in a time when God’s voice is so often muted by the noise, confusion and fear so prevalent now. So often what feels so totally right and almost divinely ordained turns out to be a false illusion, a bad choice and/or a total opposite of what should have been.
Ananias had a rather startling but specific word from God about what he was to do. It probably took all the courage the man had to walk out his front door, up to the house on the street called Straight, and go in to the chamber where Saul was. We know what the result was and applaud Ananias’ obedience to God, but what if the decision were up to us? We have the benefit of hindsight; Ananias didn’t. But like so many in the Bible who heard God’s voice and obeyed, something big happened. Abraham’s offspring became like the stars in the sky that God had shown him. Moses kept the griping Israelites going for forty years until they were ready to enter the land God had promised them. The prophets got the attention of the people, sometimes not until after some catastrophe or exile, but they eventually listened. So it was with Ananias. Saul was healed and Paul was born as the second most influential person in the history of Christianity, all because another man overcame his fear and listened to the voice of God.