“This Looks Like a Job For…” – Act 8:26-40

When we discern God’s will for us, we are to then set out to do it. Excuses such as, “But I’m busy!” Or, “That will be inconvenient for me.” Or, “I’m too old.” Or, “Why me, someone else would be a better candidate for that mission.” Whatever myriad of excuses we can come up with to avoid doing God’s will are unacceptable.

Upon discerning God’s will you are to go and do it—and do it willingly, joyfully, and with the knowledge that God’s will is being done through you. That’s called obedience, my friends. Because Christ has given his disciples a mission in this world, we must listen for his call.

So, look at the rest of v. 27 through 28.

27b And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

In a place in the desert, along the road south of Jerusalem, God had set up a divine appointment for Philip to keep. This is a very important meeting, with huge implications. Luke’s placing of this account, as the gospel flies from Jerusalem into the world, does several things. We have already seen that phase two of the Lord’s mission (from Acts 1:8) was in full effect with the gospel going to Judea and Samaria. With this account we are now shown that phase three of the Lord’s plan is underway—the gospel going to the ends of the earth. Hence, it prepares us for what is to come with the gospel mission to the Gentiles. Further, it shows us that prophecy is being fulfilled. And all that is quite important. But I want you to consider how this account blows away boundaries and how it opens up the Kingdom of God to anyone who believes with a saving faith in Jesus Christ, even folks with whom we might be very uncomfortable.

So, who was this man to whom God miraculously transported Philip the Evangelist? We are told several distinct things about this man: he was an Ethiopian; he was a eunuch; he was a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; he had come to Jerusalem to worship; he was returning to Ethiopia; he was seated in his chariot; and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Okay, that is a lot of descriptive language. And, it’s really easy to run quickly by it, but it’s worth a pause. From Philip’s point of view, there really could not have been someone more “other.” Very likely, this guy was way out of Philip’s normal experience (a rather exotic figure and a far more radical individual that the Samaritans, even).

That he was an Ethiopian tells us a few things. For one, his race was probably that of a black African. Some have speculated that he was one of the lost remnants of the Jews (perhaps fulfilling Isaiah 11:11, which mentions Ethiopia as a place from which the Messiah would call the remnant of his people), and such is a possibility. The previous verse, however, Isaiah. 11:10, speaks to the gospel going to all the nations. Paul, in Rom. 15:12, quotes it as part of his reasoning of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. So, Isa. 11:11 is not a definitive proof he was a long-lost Jew. And, it seems unlikely he was. Luke, here in Acts, does not tell us that the man was a Jew, or a proselyte. Such would be important information, and Luke is very descriptive. Also, such would seem at odds with the flow of Luke’s message. So, without a further ethnic description by Luke, his identification as an Ethiopian naturally tells the reader that his race was “other,” from Philip’s point of view—a black African; a Gentile. He had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was reading Isaiah, which lets us know that he was most likely what is called a God-fearer, a Gentile sympathizer to Judaism and its God—much like Cornelius in Acts 10.

Another thing was that Ethiopia, his home, was outside the Roman Empire, and it was considered to be at “the ends of the earth,” which hearkens to the Lord’s mission given in Acts 1:8. Darrell Bock describes Ethiopia’s location:

Ethiopia is to the south of Egypt (Ezek. 29:10) and is known as Cush in the earlier books of the OT (Gen. 2:13). It is in what today is known as the Sudan, and it was in the Nubian kingdom, whose capital was Meroë.[1]

So, the man was “the ends of the earth,” come near, so to speak.