Hunkered Down Devotion

Acts 8:26-39 (Voice)
26 A heavenly messenger brought this short message from the Lord to Philip during his time preaching in Samaria:
Messenger of the Lord: Leave Samaria. Go south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road.
The message was especially unusual because this road runs through the middle of uninhabited desert. 27 But Philip got up, left the excitement of Samaria, and did as he was told to do. Along this road, Philip saw a chariot in the distance. In the chariot was a dignitary from Ethiopia (the treasurer for Queen Candace), an African man who had been castrated. He had gone north to Jerusalem to worship at the Jewish temple, 28 and he was now heading southwest on his way home. He was seated in the chariot and was reading aloud from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
29 Philip received another prompting from the Holy Spirit:
Holy Spirit: Go over to the chariot and climb on board.
30 So he started running until he was even with the chariot. Philip heard the Ethiopian reading aloud and recognized the words from the prophet Isaiah.
Philip: Do you understand the meaning of what you’re reading?
The Ethiopian: 31 How can I understand it unless I have a mentor?
Then he invited Philip to sit in the chariot. 32 Here’s the passage he was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures:
Like a sheep, He was led to be slaughtered.
Like a lamb about to be shorn of its wool,
He was completely silent.
33 He was humiliated, and He received no justice.
Who can describe His peers? Who would treat Him this way?
For they snuffed out His life.
The Ethiopian: 34 Here’s my first question. Is the prophet describing his own situation, or is he describing someone else’s calamity?
35 That began a conversation in which Philip used the passage to explain the good news of Jesus. 36 Eventually the chariot passed a body of water beside the road.
The Ethiopian: Since there is water here, is there anything that might prevent me from being ceremonially washed through baptism and identified as a disciple of Jesus?
Philip: [37 If you believe in your heart that Jesus the Anointed is God’s Son, then nothing can stop you.  The Ethiopian said that he believed.]
38 He commanded the charioteer to stop the horses. Then Philip and the Ethiopian official walked together into the water. There Philip baptized him, initiating him as a fellow disciple. 39 When they came out of the water, Philip was immediately caught up by the Holy Spirit and taken from the sight of the Ethiopian, who climbed back into his chariot and continued on his journey, overflowing with joy. 


I know people that call them ‘Godincidences’, others call them divine appointments, and I am sure there are other names for the special type of encounter that we read in this passage from the book of Acts.

This particular event is where the Coptic Christian Church in Ethiopia, one of the first and oldest Christian movements in the world (and perhaps the very first outside Israel/Palestine) traces its origin too.   Other than being an interesting bit of trivia, this information is useful for us because it highlights the far-reaching effects that these seemingly random, often very short, interactions can have.

Philip did not wake up on the morning of this event knowing that he was going to have an opportunity to share the gospel – or that there might be a miraculous element to his day.  The Ethiopian official had no idea as he began his journey on that road that his life was going to be forever changed and that he would be part of the founding of a long, strong branch of the Christian faith.  

Much like Philip and the Ethiopian official, when we wake up each day, none of us know – for sure – what that day is going to hold.  None of us are given the full scope of God’s plan for the world and for our lives.  

At the same time, I think we don’t have to simply ride the wave of ‘fate’, coincidence, or whatever else we want to call it.  Rather, like both of the characters in this story, we can prepare ourselves for those divine appointments that might be coming.

The Ethiopian official, just by the fact of being there, has already taken steps to be ready when God calls.  The context tells us that he was either a believer or, at least he was curious to know more about Jesus.  But, he had very limited knowledge and understanding of scripture and what it means.   He recognized that he needed to know more and so he sought knowledge, he chased after it.  

This act alone prepared him prepared him to meet not only Jesus (ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find) but also the plans and opportunities that God had in store for him.  When we seek out God, when we thirst after knowledge about Jesus and a deeper relationship with Jesus, God will never leave us disappointed.  

Phillip was prepared in a different, perhaps rarer way.  Philip first was listening to and for the voice and leading of God.  He is only on that road to meet the Ethiopian official because he was obediently following God’s direction.  

Even more unusual was his focus as he went on his way.  Rather than being focused on himself, wondering what he might encounter – perhaps even expecting some kind of divine appointment – he wasn’t looking inward, but rather he was outwardly focused.

Philip was paying attention, he heard the Ethiopian official reading scripture and made sure he didn’t miss his divine appointment.  You and I don’t know what might be in store for us today or tomorrow, but we can seek after Jesus and knowledge of God, we can be listening to and for the voice of God, and focused on others and the chances we have to share God’s love with them.

Sharing God’s Love, 
Chip  

Prayer:  Lord, make us aware of the divine appointments you have made for us and by your Spirit, make us ready to meet them.  Amen.

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