“I did not go up to Jerusalem to see
those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia.” Gal 1:17
Paul must have thought about going to see the other apostles, but decided against it. He
was anxious to see them, since he was a new convert and was in need of some
encouragement from those who had been with the Lord and more advanced in the
He decided it was not a good time to do it, for he would have been perceived with great
suspicion. Besides, he himself was still processing what had occurred to him
and it would take a long while for him to reconcile the differences between his
past and his present and to make sense of all the things that had taken place
at such a rapid speed. The man needed time alone.
He could have sought spiritual nurture and instruction from men, but the Lord had a different
idea for his servant. He was led to the desert of Arabia, probably spending
three long years there, and he seemed to have a lot of theological issues
worked out when he emerged from the wilderness.
What did the apostle do during those years? I wonder.
He must have gotten a hold of the various versions of the gospels that were circulating
among the believers, and spoke to as many disciples as he possibly could to
take down what they had to say about Jesus. I am sure he had gathered more than
enough material about the life and actions of the Lord Jesus to digest during
Paul also spent plenty of time meditating and praying when he wasn’t studying. Knowing what
the Lord had in store for him to do, he must have felt compelled to equip
himself both intellectually and spiritually as much as he possibly could.
In the meantime, Paul waited.
For a long while things didn’t seem to be happening and Paul, being an impatient man who
was used to a life of action, might have gotten a little restless. No one from
Jerusalem was seeking him out and he felt like an outcast wasting away in the
desert heat. He knew very few Christians and most of them were men of very
little influence who had no connection with prominent church leaders. For a
while Paul might have had some doubts concerning his calling and was resolving
to lead a life of relative anonymity. He did have some connections in Damascus
and that was the place he visited. After he encountered some trouble in that
city, he decided to go back to his home town of Tarsus.
Nothing appeared to be happening after his Arabian experiences, where the man of God
received all his training. “Why?” Paul might have questioned. We would have
done the same thing, wouldn’t we?
We might have gone through our Arabia and things seem to remain basically the same. There is
no earth-shattering mission waiting to be accomplished and we continue to do
the little things that don’t seem to amount to anything. We have no idea how
long Paul remained in Tarsus before Barnabas found him. It must have been a
long while and the man of God had to exercise his patience.
The problem is: our Barnabas may never surface and we will continue to sojourn in our Arabia
that stretches on endlessly.