Bible stories of hope: an Ethiopian - by James Archer

 

 

 

Bible stories of hope is a series comprising a reading about someone's encounter with God, some notes about how they may have seen it, and a prayer.  

Reading – Acts 8: 29-39

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

 

So when Philip ran towards the chariot, he heard an Ethiopian official reading from Isaiah the prophet.  Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 

He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”  Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him.  The portion of Scripture he was reading was this:

 

“He was like a sheep being led to be killed.  He was quiet, as a lamb is quiet while its wool is being cut; he never opened his mouth.  He was shamed and was treated unfairly.  He died without children to continue his family.  His life on earth has ended.”

 

The officer said to Philip, “Please tell me, who is the prophet talking about – himself or someone else?”  Philip began to speak, and starting with the same scripture, he told the man the Good News about Jesus.

 

While they were travelling down the road, they came to some water.  The officer said, “Look, here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptised?”

 

Then the official commanded the chariot to stop.  Both Philip and the official went down into the water, and Philip baptised him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away; the officer never saw him again.  And the officer continued on his way home, full of joy.

 

Notes

The official had travelled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem in search of the living God.  He was now returning home after the festival, bewildered and disappointed.  He pulled out once again the book of Isaiah, which the rabbi had told him would explain it all.  But he couldn’t make head or tail of it.  To help him concentrate, he read out loud.

 

“Do you understand it?”  Of course not.  Hang on a minute – that was someone’s voice asking the question!  He looked out, and saw a bobbing head – someone was jogging through the desert beside him!  “Stop the coach.”  He must find out what was going on.

 

He hardly noticed the bumps or the time as Philip explained it all.  At last, someone who could cut through the mumbo-jumbo, who seemed so full of the living God, for whom it all made sense.   

 

“Look! Water! We must be through the desert.  Why shouldn’t I be baptised?”  His heart was filled with praise for the God who had revealed himself to him, a man from a distant tribe who had no right to expect anything.  After Philip had vanished, he turned back to Isaiah, full of joy:

 

“You will call for nations you don’t yet know not. And these nations that do not know you will run to you because of the LORD your God, because of the Holy One of Israel who honours you. So you should look for the LORD before it is too late; you should call to him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:5-6)

 

It could have been written specially for him.  Now the Spirit of God had given him understanding.  He couldn’t wait to get home so he could tell all his friends about it.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you that you search us out when we don’t deserve it.  Give me understanding so that I can tell my friends why you fill me with hope.

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