By Pastor David Goode
This captivating story begins in Act 8:26. "Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'go south to the road, the desert road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.' "
Two roads connected these towns. The one the angel directed Philip to take leads through a district that was little inhabited. That is why Luke, the writer of Acts, calls it the desert road.
At the height of Philip's flourishing Samaritan ministry to the multitudes, God called him away to meet the needs of one person.
Verse 8:27a says, "So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch [or chamberlain], an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians."
A chamberlain was a confidential servant charged with the management of the king or queen's living quarters. Secondly he was treasurer, or high steward of the royal court, and responsible for receiving and securing revenues. The chamberlain was in a position of importance.
Candace was not a personal name, but a title. She was the queen mother who ruled the country on behalf of her son. The king, deified as the "sun-god," was considered too holy for the secular function of ruling.
Acts 8:27b-28: "This man [the Ethiopian] had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home, he was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet."
The story continues in Acts 8:29-31, "The Spirit [the Holy 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 into the chariot and sit with him."
Philip recognized the scripture that the Ethiopian was reading because it was a customary practice to read aloud. Let's put ourselves into the scene and listen in as he reads from Isaiah 53:7-8.
"He [Jesus] was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before the shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgement, He was taken away, and who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living."
Why is verse 7 comparing Christ to a lamb (a young sheep)? According to Exodus 29:38-42, every morning and every evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of the people. Through this practice, God was saying that his son, the Lamb of God, without sin or blemish, would pay for our sins once and for all when he would die on the cross.
Isaiah 53:7 prophesied that Jesus, the messiah, would be led to the slaughter like a lamb. To pay the penalty of sin, a life had to be given. God provided the sacrifice when He sent His Son into the world and wrapped him in human flesh in a sleepy little town called Bethlehem.
Jesus paid the price for your sins. You can receive forgiveness for anything that you have done, no matter how bad it may be. How does this happen?
Simply ask Christ to forgive your sins and then invite Him to come into your heart and be your Savior and Lord.
Now back to our story. In Acts 8:34, the Ethiopian asked Philip of whom the prophet Isaiah was speaking. Philip began with the same scripture and explained that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus, the Messiah.
Jesus alone fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy. Then Philip shared the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and the Ethiopian believed. In Acts 8:36, as they traveled along, they came upon some water and Philip baptized the enthusiastic Ethiopian.
How do I know he was excited about being baptized?
Look in verse 36 where the eunuch exclaims as they encounter the water, "Why shouldn't I be baptized?"
The story is about to shift into the supernatural realm. Let's get caught up in the action with Philip in Acts 8:39-40.
"When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch [Ethiopian] 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." The excited Ethiopian carried the good news of salvation by faith in Christ back to his homeland and shared it with all those within his sphere of influence. He ignited a spark that spread in a distant land.
The translation of Philip from one location to another with no need for conventional travel is one of the most intriguing events found in the Bible.
He was snatched up in miraculous fashion, just as Elijah and Ezekiel had been in the Old Testament. I have read numerous reports from credible sources suggesting that translations occur even today.
Do you think that's possible?
Contact me by e-mail and let me know what you think.
Pastor David Goode is the senior pastor at Heart of Worship Ministries, which meets on Sundays at 3 p.m. in the arts and crafts room at the Port St. Lucie Community Center, 2195 Airoso Blvd., across from City Hall. Column reviewed by Nance Cox.
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