Somebody must have seen his promise as he was growing up. Maybe he was a quiet studious boy but his record doesn’t suggest that. Clearly he was a high-energy person because when he was young he was there, right up front, watching as they were killing a preacher man called Stephen (Acts 7.38) and he was on a high-energy job (Acts 8:3;9:1, 22:3-4, 26:10-11) when the risen Lord Jesus stepped out on to the road and gave him a new high-energy task (Acts 9:13-19; 22:13-16; 26:14-18). Paul knew all about Jesus unless he was blind and deaf and mute. Everyone was talking about His miracles, His teaching, His death and the miracles being wrought in His name (a dead heretic’s name?)—see Acts 3—5 and Gamaliel’s speech. Then there was Stephen’s message, his glorious appearance (Acts 6.15), his vision and his echoing of Jesus’ prayer (6:15; 7:55-56, 60). All this might have been gnawing at Saul and could be what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of goads that were stabbing him (26:14).
There were all kinds of voices and successes that would have been calling Saul telling him he was in the right place, that he should stay where he was, urging him to stay among the big-hitters, “Get the praise, hear them whisper your name when you enter the synagogue or temple, get more letters of recommendation and diplomas (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:1; Philippians 3:4-7). This is the place! They’ll have multiple festschrifts for you. You’re doing the right thing! You’ll be quoted and noted wherever you go.”
But Paul wasn’t having it! Someone had ‘whispered’ to him and it was goodbye to the Jewish academy, comfort, the praise and hello to lifelong criticism, abandonment and loneliness in the company of the Lord Jesus, the self-revelation of God. That man, Paul (not quite single-handedly) wrestled the gospel of God from the clutches of a narrow Jewish nationalism and died saying, “It’s for the world!!!” Thanks to him (God in him, but not God without him) we now get the blessings! Ahhhhhh, God! And Paul is still criticized and dismissed even by those who (n God) owe him EVERYTHING!
He makes me think of Rudyard Kipling’s 1898 extended poem. The Explorer. ‘The Missionary’ works better for us.)
“There’s no sense in going further—
It’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said , and I believed them
Broke my land and sowed my crop—
Built my barns and strung my fences
In the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills
Where the trails run out and stop.
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience,
rang interminable changes
In one everlasting Whisper
day and night repeated — so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges —
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!”
So I went, worn out of patience;
never told my nearest neighbours —
Stole away with pack and ponies —
left ’em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains
didn’t seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges,
whipping up and leading down.
March by march I puzzled through ’em,
turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water,
headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line —
drifted snow and naked boulders —
Felt free air astir to windward —
knew I’d stumbled on the Pass.
‘Thought to name it for the finder;
but that night the Norther found me —
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies;
so I called the camp Despair.
(It’s the Railway Gap today, though.)
Then my whisper waked to hound me:
“Something lost behind the Ranges.
Over yonder! Go you there!”
Then I knew, the while I doubted —
knew His Hand was certain o’er me.
Still — it might be self-delusion —
scores of better men had died —
I could reach the township living,
but … He knows what terrors tore me …
But I didn’t … but I didn’t.
I went down the other side.
Till the snow ran out in flowers,
and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets
and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub,
and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on
desert-blasted earth and blasting sky …
I remember lighting fires;
I remember sitting by them;
I remember seeing faces,
hearing voices through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy —
for I threw a stone to try ’em.
“Something lost behind the Ranges”
was the only word they spoke.
I remember going crazy.
I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing
to the funny folk I saw.
Very full of dreams that desert;
but my two legs took me through it …
And I used to watch ’em moving
with the toes all black and raw.
But at last the country altered —
Tough Man’s country past disputing —
Rolling grass and open timber,
with a hint of hills behind —
There I found me food and water,
and I lay a week recruiting,
Got my strength and lost my nightmares.
Then I entered on my find.
Thence I ran my first rough survey —
chose my trees and blazed and ringed ’em —
Week by week I pried and sampled —
week by week my findings grew.
Saul, he went to look for donkeys,
and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper,
I had struck the worth of two!
Up along the hostile mountains,
where the hair-poised snowslide shivers —
Down and through the big fat marshes
that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mild-wide mutterings
of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber
saw illimitable plains!
Plotted sites of future cities,
traced the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting
fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water frontage
through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em —
Saw the plant to feed a people —
up and waiting for the power!
Well, I know who’ll take the credit —
all the clever chaps that followed —
Came a dozen men together —
never knew my desert fears;
Tracked me by the camps I’d quitted,
used the water holes I’d hollowed.
They’ll go back and do the talking.
They’ll be called the Pioneers!
They will find my sites of townships —
not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers —
not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings
they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded
they will guide my feet aright.
Have I named one single river:
Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget —
(barring samples?) No, not I!
Because my price was paid me
ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn’t understand it.
You go up and occupy.
Ores you’ll find there; wood and cattle;
water-transit sure and steady,
(That should keep the railway rates down;)
coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country
till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper,
and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!
Yes, your “never-never country” —
yes, your “edge of cultivation”
And “no sense in going further” —
till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No, I didn’t.
It’s God’s present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it —
but His Whisper came to Me!