It is almost a cliche to say that the Lord moves in mysterious ways, yet it continues to be an absolute truth. To advance His kingdom, God uses those whom He chooses, and He does so in an often unexpected manner.
The classic of this truism is with the Pharisee Saul who became the Apostle Paul. Because of his upbringing and the strict teaching he’d undergone, he was zealous for God, but in an aberrant way. The pharisaical method led to extreme legalism when it came to all things regarding Yahweh. The single belief founded on the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 was the problem:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
This was true, but those who followed only this one verse in their hardline thinking neglected numerous other passages in the Tanakh (the OT Bible) which showed Yahweh manifesting in at least two different ways. One example of this is Psalm 110:1:
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The Pharisees would have had to completely ignore such statements by David and other writers throughout the centuries leading up to this point.
That didn’t matter to God. He had chosen Saul as noted in Acts 9:15:
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
At the point of his encounter with the risen, living Christ, Saul quickly learned that he’d missed a portion of the truth about Yahweh. In the aftermath of the blindness with which he’d been struck, God sent His disciple Ananias to usher Saul into the kingdom as Paul. Acts 9:17-18 tells us:
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came 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 he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized.
How appropriate it was that Saul was purposefully blinded by the Lord! It had been the legalistic system he’d been under that had caused his spiritual blindness about God’s true nature. We love this verse which says: And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. This becomes a foreshadowing for many in the years to follow who have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and become His faithful, passionate followers.
Because of ministries like Voice of the Martyrs (https://www.persecution.com/), or people like Tom Doyle interacting with Muslims and writing a book like Dreams and Visions (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0078FAA3M/), we’ve learned that many in the 10/40 Window in Muslim and Hindu lands have similarly met Jesus in unusual ways.
The accounts are now legend of rabidly anti-Christian campaigners in their own religion – be it Islam, Hinduism, animism, or communism – who have persecuted lovers of Christ in extreme ways. Many have built up excessive body counts in their zeal to prove their own belief system (or lack thereof) is the real one.
But God doesn’t allow the world’s beliefs to get in His way when he has a purpose to fulfill. He appears in dreams and visions; He’ll work through a faithful follower; or in the destruction of a Christ-follower, at the persecutor’s very hands, God will change his heart. Perhaps the hater of Christ will pick up a Bible, intending to read it to disprove what it says, and in the process have God convict him of its truth. In one form or another, God causes the scales to fall from people’s eyes, and they become His.
Once this happens, something unique often occurs. It’s recounted in Acts 9:22 for that which happened to Saul:
But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
This person who hated the Lord becomes His strongest and most ardent disciple. Through his change of heart, he confounds those who previously knew him as the one who pursued those who followed Jesus. Because of this, he himself becomes subject to persecution.
When God wishes to accomplish His will, nothing can stand in His way – not even someone who hates Him. That person may just find that he is transformed into one who loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.