Having escaped Damascus (9.23-25) Saul arrived in Jerusalem to a somewhat frosty reception (v.26). It seems that even after three years the believers in Jerusalem were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. In the same way that Jesus advocates for us (1 John 2.1) Barnabas goes out of his way to take Saul to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord. Barnabas vouches for Saul, who adds his own testimony, and he is finally accepted by the community of believers (v.28).
Getting straight to work, Saul spoke and disputed again the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews). As happened in Damascus, the truth produces a visceral reaction in those who are contradicting it with their lives and they were seeking to kill him. Saul escapes, again, and was sent off to Tarsus from Caesarea. The church continued to walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and as a result it multiplied and was edified (v.31).
After his spectacular conversion experience and his time in Arabia and Damascus Saul now spends a period of time in his birthplace of Tarsus (Acts 22.3). From the exciting and action-packed, Saul now has a period about which we don’t know much. Perhaps there were old connections he had to re-establish. Perhaps there were synagogues to be taught in. Perhaps there were distant family members to be stayed with and to share the truth with. Either way, Saul’s high profile conversion and start into the Christian life now reaches a point of obscurity (at least for us).
We can often experience seasons like this, too. We make great strides forward in our faith life and then reach a period where were feel like we are living in obscurity, away from the gaze and grace of the Lord. However, this is not the case. There are large parts of Saul’s life that we don’t read about in detail in the Bible. There are large parts of Jesus’ earthly life that we don’t read about in detail in the Bible. Just because this is the case, and just because you and I can often feel like we are in a period that would not be documented in our own lives, we are never far from the gaze or grace of the Lord (Psalm 139.7-12).
If you feel that you are in a period of obscurity at the moment, keep going. Know that you are never far from the gaze or grace of the Lord. As Paul no doubt used his time in Tarsus to prepare for what was coming next away from the pressures and particulars that were found in Jerusalem, we can use periods of apparent inactivity to prepare for what is coming next for us. Read Scripture more, pray more, see the connections throughout that point to Jesus more, so when called upon as Saul eventually was (Acts 11.25-26) you are ready. Use the quiet time to prepare for the busy time!