“An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: ‘Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is the desert road.) So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud” (Acts 8:26–28).
Philip was one of the “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) chosen to serve the church as Deacons. His name appears second in the list, right after Stephen’s.
Philip had faithfully served in Jerusalem, and then, obedient to Christ’s great commission (Acts 1:8), had carried the Gospel beyond Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria. This became a pivotal moment in the evangelization of the world. As Philip “proclaimed the Messiah” to the half-breed Samaritans, “the crowds were all paying attention to what Philip said, as they listened and saw the signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5–8).
As great masses of people were coming to saving faith in Jesus, God did something unusual. God directed Philip to leave his productive and fruitful ministry. Did God reward Philip’s faithfulness by sending him to a more glamourous or lucrative position? … to bigger cities? … to bigger congregations? No. God sent him to the wilderness and to an audience of one.
God sent an angel to Philip. Why, I wonder, didn’t God send the angel directly to the Ethiopian? God could have allowed Philip to remain in Samaria. He could have commissioned the angel to attend to his business with the traveler in the desert. Why? God didn’t give the Great Commission to the unredeemed angels. He commissioned the church. He commissioned people like Philip, like me and you, people who were once “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1) to carry the great news of new life in Jesus. Angels haven’t experienced God’s saving grace. We have. Philip had.
Philip, obedient and faithful, left Samaria, traveling south on the dusty road that led to Egypt and northern Africa. That’s where Philip found a lonely traveler. Dressed like royalty, the African was headed home to Ethiopia. He’d traveled hundreds of miles, searching for truth, for peace, for meaningful significance, for joy. He was rich and powerful, but empty and alone. After an under-whelming and unsatisfactory experience of worshiping in Jerusalem’s temple, he was still seeking. Perched in his chariot, the man was reading aloud from a scroll.
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth” (Acts 8:32–33).
Philip asked, “ ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ ” Seated next to the African, “Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture” (Acts 8:30–31, 35).
God was gracious to the Ethiopian. God sent Philip.
Who’s the seeker today? Who is searching for peace and joy? Who is lost and alone, waiting to hear the Good News? Maybe that one is reading the Bible, thinking, “How can I understand, unless someone guides me?” Who is your audience of one? Who needs to know God’s great grace? Who?