You know how sometimes you read through your Bible, perusing a familiar book you’ve read a dozen times before, and suddenly you stop — you stare — and you think, “Who put that there? It wasn’t there last time I read this. Or at least I didn’t see it quite this way…”
In my journey through Acts with my Bible Study Fellowship group, I’ve discovered and rediscovered many stories, incidents, and snippets of wisdom. So far, my favorite has been a little story of a man named Philip and an Ethiopian servant.
When people talk about their favorite Bible characters, Philip isn’t someone who comes up a lot. He didn’t kill any giants, he didn’t have super strength, he didn’t part the Red Sea — but he did something that, for many of us, is even harder.
Philip was a deacon of the early apostolic church, and was one of their early missionaries, often referred to as “Philip the Evangelist.” After leaving Jerusalem, he stepped out in faith to preach the good news of Christ in Samaria, where an enormous revival followed his teachings. So great was the work he did there that Peter and John themselves came to Samaria from Jerusalem to see exactly what was happening, and to encourage him in his task. Things were going amazingly for this guy.
Then one day, in the middle of all this, God spoke to Philip, saying “Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” That was it. No explanations, nothing. Just leave your great, grand, fruitful work in Samaria, leave Peter, leave John, and go down to a quiet, dusty, hot desert road and stand there. No further instructions, just go.
And you know what? Philip went.
He walked down the road as God had commanded, and along the way he met an Ethiopian servant who was reading the book of Isaiah, perplexed as to its meaning. Philip explained to him who Christ was, the man believed and was baptized, and then God miraculously swept Philip away, and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing.
If you were Philip, would you have obeyed the call? Would you follow such a crazy command, leave the obvious work for something as mundane as standing in the sun on a desert road? I don’t know if I would.
But God knows the plans He has for each person. He cared about the Ethiopian, and wanted Philip to go out of his way to minister to the man. He has work for you and I as well. Next time He asks me to do something crazy, I want to remember Philip, and follow his example.