We learn later in the book of Acts that the men traveling with Paul did hear a voice but did not understand what was being said (cf. 22:9). Saul, after getting back to his feet, opened his eyes but was unable to see. The exceedingly bright light had left him blind (cf. 26:13)! The Lord's intent here may have been to make certain that Saul didn't walk away from this scene thinking he had only hallucinated. Although Saul continued on in the same physical direction (toward Damascus), the direction of his life has been altered radically. His proud spirit has yielded to Christ and he mourned within himself while awaiting further instructions from the Lord. He is so torn-up inside that he does not eat or drink anything for three days, while waiting in Damascus. This is a man who was genuinely penitent! At this point in his life, he has no interest whatsoever in food or drink. He is brokenhearted and wants to know what he can do to make things right with God!
"Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' So the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.' Then Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake'" (Acts 9:10-16).
Here again we see God taking steps to get the saved and sinner together so the lost can be taught, grow in faith, and obey the Lord. God knew that Ananias was the man for this job, and He had already communicated to Saul--by means of a vision--Ananias' coming. Luke previously mentioned that Saul was neither eating nor drinking, and here he tells us what Saul is doing--praying! No doubt he is pouring his heart out to God and begging for direction. Even at this point Saul is still not saved, for he is yet in his sins (cf. 22:16). Prayer is not the means of salvation for the alien sinner. If Saul were already saved at this point, surely he would not have been in such an overwhelmed mental state (e.g., Acts 8:39).
Ananias manifests a ready spirit, but is understandably cautious about the task set before him. Nevertheless, he would obey the Lord's instructions despite the seeming absurdity of going to try to convert the chief persecutor of Christians who had the authority to arrest him and drag him off in chains! The courage of Ananias should not be minimized here (cf. our feature lesson from 05/26/07). I find it very interesting that God did not have to instruct Ananias what to tell Saul to do. Ananias already knew perfectly well what a penitent believer should be told to do (i.e., be baptized to wash away your sins; cf. 22:16).
God explained to Ananias that Saul was a "chosen vessel" (cf. II Cor. 4:7; Gal. 1:15,16). In other words, God had a particular area of service he wanted Saul to labor in. Specifically, God wanted Saul to be an evangelist for the cause of Christ before "Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel" (and he would ultimately choose to do exactly that). God seems to imply to Ananias that he would not suffer by going to help Saul, but that Saul himself would end up suffering greatly for Christ's sake as a vessel of His. Saul was well suited for the mission God had in store for him, and God had foreknowledge of the path Saul would choose to follow.