Through the Bible in One Year

Day 201

Acts 8:26-40

God’s providence and direction are major themes in this story about Philip, who moved at the direction of angel and the Spirit of God.  The angel commanded Philip to get up and go.  The destination was the old Gaza, a city in southwest Israel, rather than a new settlement with the same name.  The former was sometimes known as Desert Gaza.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.—8:26-28

An Ethiopian eunuch was returning from Jerusalem.  Ethiopia (Cush in the Old Testament) roughly corresponds to the modern area of southern Egypt and northern Sudan.  The eunuch was a court official in charge of keeping the treasury in order.  That “Gaza” means “treasure” was not lost on Luke.  The Ethiopian who was in charge of the treasure of his government found real treasure on the road to Gaza!  The chariot was not likely the war chariot familiar to modern readers.  It was more a traveling chariot, similar to a covered wagon.  The eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah.

Now to deal what a eunuch was in those days.  In ancient times, a eunuch was a castrated man—usually a slave who was used to watch over a harem or a treasury.  However, the practice of a eunuch serving as a treasurer became so common that frequently the tile “eunuch” was used even fro treasures who were not physical eunuchs.  So it may be that the term simply denotes his high position in the queen’s administration.  Regardless, he had obviously come to believe in the God of Israel because he was retiring home after worshiping in Jerusalem.

The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.

Who can speak of his descendants?

For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.—8:29-38

Philip, following the prompting of the Spirit, ran to the chariot in time to hear the man reading from Isaiah 53:7-8.  This providential moment provided the opportunity to discuss the contents of the passage.  The eunuch asked the primary regarding the suffering and substitutionary figure in Isaiah 53: Whom is the prophet talking about?  Phillip preached Jesus to the man.  And then he baptized him.

But the big question of us today is this: what can we take away from this account Philip with the Ethiopian official.  And this is what we need to take away: we are to pray regularly for God to bring people across your path with whom you can share the love of God in Jesus Christ.  There are individuals out there whom the Spirit has prepared.  Like the Ethiopian man, they are asking themselves, “How can I understand unless someone guides me?”  As followers of Christ we are to know the Scriptures so that we are prepared to help those who are unbelievers properly understand and respond to the gospel, as well as to help fellow believers grow in their faith.

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.—8:39-40

Philip’s movement from the Gaza road to Azotus appears to have been supernatural.  Azotus was the Ashdod of the Old Testament.  It was one of the five Philistine cities on the southern coast of the Holy Land.  Philip continued north, preaching the gospel until reached Caesarea.

I am going to end this discussion with a quote from Dr. Tony Evans Study Bible notes:

The account of the Ethiopian official is significant.  First, it acknowledges the existence of a royal kingdom of dark-skinned people in the first century AD.  Second, it records the continuation of Christianity in Africa after having been initiated through the first African Jewish proselytes who were converts at Pentecost.  Third, it verifies God’s promise in Zephaniah 3:9-10 about followers of God coming from Cush (that is, Ethiopia).  God calls to himself people from the African continent to serve him in fellowship with all humanity.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Chronicles 4:1-6:11, Romans 7:1-13, Psalm 17:1-15 and Proverbs 19:22-23

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