Philip and the Ethiopian
Acts 8: He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road.
Philip is deeply involved in a great revival in Samaria. Miracles are taking place, and people are coming to faith in Jesus by the hundreds and, probably, thousands. The Holy Spirit is filling lives and Philip is at the heart of a real move of God. Then, the Lord speaks to Philip, sending him away from the action and out to the wilderness. Rather than ministering to thousands, he’s to watch for just one man, the one known in history simply as the Ethiopian eunuch. This person is more or less a mystery in the Bible. Here’s an African traveling to Jerusalem to worship. What’s up with that? Some think this proves the, mostly fictional, connection between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and that because of her visit to Solomon hundreds of years earlier that there’s now a pocket of Jehovah worshipers in northern Africa. Perhaps this man is one of those worshipers and, because of his standing in government, he’s able to make the long journey to Jerusalem to worship. It’s fun to speculate about stuff like this. However, for Philip, none of this matters. He’s on a mission from God to tell this mysterious man about Jesus and that’s what he does. The man believes in Jesus, asks to be baptized, and, as he’s baptized, Philip is whisked away by the Spirit to a town thirty miles away. As I read this story, I not only enjoy thinking of the mystery of the Ethiopian, but of Philip’s obedience to the seeming unreasonable orders of the Lord. If I’m in the middle of a great revival and the Lord tells me to leave it all and head out to the wilderness to find one person, I might be a bit hesitant, wondering if I’m hearing the Lord’s command correctly. Philip, though, just obeys and the result is this incident. Why this Ethiopian? My guess is that he becomes the first missionary for Jesus in Africa, boosting the spread of the Gospel in the direction opposite from Rome, which will soon be Paul and Silas’ territory. I may be wrong here, but it’s fun to think about stuff like this.
Take Away: The Lord’s definition of success is often quite different than ours.
God of the nations
Amos 9: Am I not involved with all nations?
Amos might as well have been speaking in another language so far as his audience is concerned. Without question, they have the corner of God. Hadn’t Moses been called by God to lead them out of Egyptian slavery? Hadn’t their great King David been chosen by God, himself? They’re the chosen people even if they don’t act like it. The prophet shatters their theology, telling them that God has an interest in all peoples, not just Israel. Even as his gracious hand was seen in the creation of Israel, it could also be seen in the creation of their neighbors: the Philistines and the Arameans. Granted, Amos goes right on to promise that unique blessings the Lord will pour out on Israel when he makes “everything right again for my people Israel.” Still, the point has already been made that God loves all his creation and that he’s working in the lives of all people, accomplishing his purposes. Of course, I want to enthusiastically endorse this message with a big “Amen.” Otherwise, I’m an outsider, blundering along, blindly feeling my way through life. God’s work among the nations may be different than what he was doing with Israel, but it’s just as real. I find it both interesting and encouraging that even in the book of Amos which is quite focused on Israel and Judah that I find this missionary element. Thank God!
Take Away: The Lord has an interest in all peoples
Leaving everything to follow
2 Chronicles 11: The Levites left their pastures and properties and moved to Judah and Jerusalem.
His subjects have requested that Rehoboam back off a bit and give them some breathing room but he foolishly promises more of the same. The result is that he loses half his Kingdom. From now on we’ll have twin kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Right off Israel enthrones an evil man who shuts down the worship of Jehovah God. However, not everyone in Israel is on his side and several relocate to Judah, not because they like Rehoboam all that much but because they want to worship the Lord. One group, in particular, is mentioned. Traditionally the Levites have served God, first in the Tabernacle and then at the Temple. Now, the Levites living in the new nation of Israel have a decision to make. Will they abandon their calling or will they abandon their property? Many, we’re told, decide for God. They leave home that they can be true to their calling and serve God in Jerusalem. I’m impressed by their decision as I’m impressed by stories of people who leave home to live in some distant place in response to the call of missions. The most many of us can say about following the Lord is that we’ve been inconvenienced at times. Here’s a group of people who abandoned everything to be faithful to God’s call on their lives. People who make that kind of decision are worthy of our admiration. The Lord’s impressed by it too. As Jesus says in Luke 18, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Take Away: Thank the Lord for people who are willing to live out their faith even in the face of real personal sacrifice.