When my momma wanted to get my attention, she used my first and middle names. I can close my eyes, and from the recesses of my mind I hear, “Mike Scott!” When God wanted to get Saul’s attention, He called out, “Saul! Saul!” (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14). Apparently, Saul didn’t have a middle name.
As Abraham was worshipping on Mount Moriah, God directed His faithful servant to the substitutionary sacrifice. “Abraham! Abraham!” (Genesis 22:11).
Journeying toward Egypt, God reassured Jacob of His Devine and Sovereign plan. “Jacob! Jacob!” (Genesis 46:2).
As the desert bush blazed brightly, God called a runaway murderer, an octogenarian, a simple shepherd, “Moses! Moses!”(Exodus 3:4).
A little boy serving God in the tabernacle heard God’s voice for the first time. “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3:10).
When she was too busy working to worship, Jesus beckoned, “Martha! Martha!” (Luke 10:41).
And Jesus sounded a warning concerning Satan’s evil schemes. “Simon! Simon! Look out.”
(Obviously, none of these seven characters had middle names.)
I’m convinced that Jesus had been actively calling Saul, even before we find Saul on the road leading to Damascus. God’s “Saul! Saul!” wasn’t the Lord’s first attempt to get the attention of the one chosen for special duty.
Later, when the Apostle recounted the story, he said, “King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’ ” (Acts 26:13–14).
“Kick against the goads?” A goad is a stick, sharpened on one end. Armed with the simple tool, a man could poke a one-ton ox on the rump. If the stubborn animal refused to go, the driver could jab harder, again and again. When the ox kicked against the goad, the sharp point stung as the goad drove deeper into its flesh. Finally, the beast would untrack.
Saul was like a stubborn ox. I’m convinced that Saul had been kicking against God’s convicting and convincing goad! When followers of Jesus had faithfully testified concerning Jesus’ life, His teaching, His death and resurrection, Saul refused to listen. He kicked against the goad. When Stephen prayed that God would be merciful to his oppressors (Acts 7:60), Saul stood stubbornly. When others, unnamed and unknown, had courageously received the unwarranted beatings and imprisonment, their faithfulness was like a shark stab to Saul’s heart.
Finally, after God’s relentless mercy, Saul stopped kicking and listened. “Saul! Saul!”