Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Two Sets of Scales"

            If you’re anything like me, then you’ve had times when you could see perfectly well, and yet you were nearly blind.  Two of Virginia’s interstates have particular problems with patches of perilous fog.  According to Virginia’s Department of Transportation:

Within a 3-week period in 1998, two major fog-related crashes occurred on I-64 where it crosses Afton Mountain in Virginia. The first involved 65 vehicles, 40 injuries, but no fatalities… At the time of the crash, visibility was reduced to 5 to 10 feet. The crash began at 12:42 p.m. and continued for almost 20 minutes. The second less serious crash occurred 17 days later and involved 21 vehicles and no fatalities. Similar crashes have occurred on I-77 over Fancy Gap Mountain in Carroll County, Virginia, as recently as May of 2001, when a 50-vehicle accident occurred. Another Fancy Gap crash (March 1997) lasted for 1 hour and 5 minutes.[i]

            As a result of the many crashes that have taken place, VDOT has installed in-pavement lighting systems that help guide motorists through the fog, similar to the lights in airport runways.  In addition, lighted signs saying “Fog on Mountain” state the obvious.  I’ve nearly crashed a couple of times because of fog on Afton.  When there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight but you’re suddenly blinded when you’re going 65 miles per hour, it’s a scary thing.
            Saul suffered from a similar kind of blindness, the tragic results of which were similar to a multi-car pileup.  Later in life, as he reflected on the time when he had persecuted the church, he would write that Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4[ii]).”  Along with other Pharisees, he saw Jesus and the young church as a threat to Judaism and the nation of Israel.  In his blindness to the truth, he tried to stamp out Christianity, first in Jerusalem and then in Damascus.
            On the road to that trade city, Jesus appeared to Saul in a light so bright that he lost his vision.  We often say that people have a “Damascus Road experience” when they have a sudden conversion—but I don’t believe Saul was converted on the road.  Jesus appeared, identified Himself, and told Saul to go to Damascus and wait to be told what to do.  Whether because he was fasting or dumbfounded, for three days he neither ate nor drank as he waited for Jesus’ instructions.  Three days to contemplate his physical and spiritual blindness.  Three days for the Holy Spirit to convince him of the truth, convict him of sin, and convert his heart.  Then healing came from a disciple named Ananias, who laid hands on him and said:

 “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened (Acts 9:17-19).

            We don’t know exactly what these scales looked like, but they seem to be some physical manifestation of his spiritual sightlessness.  Jesus had been healing Saul’s spiritual blindness over those three days, but He only took an instant to heal Saul’s physical eyes.  As the scales came off, Saul’s vision was made clear—physically as well as spiritually.  The conversion was complete.
In this story, the first set of scales belonged to Saul.  These scales blinded his eyes and kept his heart from seeing God’s truth.  As these scales were removed, Saul was saved.  But even Christians can be blinded at times.  We, too, need God to heal our foggy vision.
In this story, the second set of scales belonged to Ananias.  Acts 9:10-15 says:

…The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for 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 harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.”

                Saul’s scales were like scabs over his heart and eyes, preventing him from seeing God’s truth.  Ananias’ scales, on the other hand, were like balances that he used to judge people’s worth.  Ananias weighed Saul in the balance and found him lacking.  He was fearful of what Saul might do to believers in Damascus if his health was restored.  And, truth be told, he wasn’t really sure that Saul deserved such grace.  But a command from Jesus set the disciple’s heart aright, and he went in obedience to Saul’s aid.
            People today suffer from the same two types of scales: one in which they cannot see and the other in which they cannot quit judging what they see.  Both types of people need salvation from their scales.  I pray that God will defog your vision and your heart, and that like Saul, you’ll have a saving encounter with the risen Christ.  Then, I pray that you’ll see your neighbor from God’s perspective rather than from your own position of judgment.  The Lord wants you to see and be converted.  He then wants you to minister to all without judgment.  He wants to save you from two sets of scales. 

[ii] All scriptures taken from the NASB.

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