7 Jan 2021

The theology of visions makes the modern theologians seethe. God is intervening into the world. He is not leaving us alone to work our our damnation [1]. He is instead turning to men and getting them to act by his command. There are those who say that this skepticism is baked into the protestant or roman or Western church. Such people have not ever read the old commentators.

In a vision. This word vision signifieth some light which was set before the eyes to testify God’s presence. For this is the use of visions, that the majesty of the Word being well proved, it may purchase credit, amongst men; which kind of confirmation God used oftentimes toward the prophets; as he saith, that he speaketh to his servants by a vision or by a dream. He hath, indeed, suffered Satan to deceive the unbelievers with false imaginations and visures.  But forasmuch as Satan’s juggling casts are of power only in darkness, God doth lighten the minds of his children so, that they assure themselves that they need not to fear legerdemain.  Therefore Ananias answereth, Here am I, Lord, knowing indeed that it was God.

John Calvin. Commentary o Acts.

Here we have two visions: one from Samuel, and the second to Ananias. Let’s consider the first one. Eli had previously had a prophet warn him that if he did not restrain his sons, who were oppressing the worshippers at the Tabernacle, considering all the food from sacrifices theirs, it would end his families tenure as high priest.

There is a warning here to those who consider the state of their parents or the godliness of previous generations will save them. There is a greater warning to those of us who are older who do not correct young men in their arrogance, our of fear.

3 Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering for ever.” 15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” 19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

I Samuel 3

To the second passage. Calvin in his commentaries (edited out because of brevity) considers that Ananias was sent to Saul because of his arrogancy. For those of us who are not French, consider he was well credentialed, being a disciple of Gamaliel, and had recommendations from the great and good of Jewry in his quest to purge the world of the infant church. Saul considered himself great. So a simple disciple is sent to him. Without this kind of intervention, Ananias would have done the natural thing. Ran. Far far away from that inquisitor.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 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.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 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. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 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.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

Acts 9:10-19

When {Paul was blinded and before his baptism he was given his vision. You are going to suffer, but there will be churches founded among the Gentiles. Your brothers will despise you, because you dare preach to those who they consider not worthy of anything but exploitation. And the confirmation was Ananias. [2]

In this crisis, we will face the cost of remaining in Christ. Of having clear sight of the evil that is around us. But the alternative is that we converge with the very systems that lie, cheat, and build a larger hall in hell. Where they will justly suffer. Do not be allied to them.

  1. This is a reference to Bujold’s Barrayar, where her heroine Cordelia fumes that the society should just allow young people to work out their damnation as they did in her diverse and dying Beta colony she had left.
  2. It is worth nothing that Paul failed in his preaching in Damascus, and spent ten years basically in the desert before Barnabas bought him to Antioch to minister in that church: it is from there that he was commissioned as a missionary.