Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Running after the Eunuch’s Chariot, Acts 8:26-39

26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:26-39)
Usually when people visualize this story, they imagine the Eunuch sitting in a stopped chariot, reading Isaiah.  I’ve realized that actually, it all happened in a moving chariot. 

The first tipoff is Philip runs to join himself to the chariot.  Running seems like overkill with a stopped chariot, with a moving chariot, it makes perfect sense.

The second point is the eunuch invites Philip to “come up and sit” in the chariot (v31).  If the chariot was stopped, this seems like an oddly chummy “come sit by me,” and Philip could just as well sat down on the ground and taught.  But if the chariot was moving, it makes perfect sense to let Philip hop on the chariot and sit down so that he doesn’t have to continue the conversation while running and tire himself out.

Third point is the text says, “And as they went on their way” (v36), which makes perfect sense that they were still moving.  If they were stopped, what would cause them to start in the middle of such a conversation so interesting to both of them and why wouldn’t something be said about why they started?

The fourth point in the text that says “a man of Ethiopia….had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning” (v27-28).  Obviously the eunuch was traveling, not stopped at the side of the road. 

Now, it might seem odd that the eunuch could sit and read in the chariot while it was moving, but it seems that is just what he did, regardless of bumps and such.  (Maybe he wasn’t the type to get carsick … or chariot-sick while reading)  To me it is interesting that he read aloud.  I read somewhere (I forget where) that back in those days all reading was done aloud.  Reading silently may have been thought a difficult task, much as many people today might think it difficult to read music silently and know what it sounds like.

What does it really matter if the chariot was moving or not, though?  What do we gain from this bit of intelligence?  If the chariot was moving, then it shows us what Philip was willing to do to follow the directions of the Holy Ghost to join himself to that chariot.  (I suppose the modern equivalent would be running after a limo leaving a parking lot.)  We get a better sense of Philip’s meekness and confidence in those spiritual impressions.  He didn’t worry about looking stupid or worry that he wouldn’t make it; he exerted himself and ran to catch up with the chariot.  Only as he caught up did he hear the eunuch reading Isaiah and discover that there was a missionary opportunity for him to take.

For me, Philip’s example is a challenge to get closer to the Spirit so that when the impression comes to leave my comfort zone, I will be ready to trust and obey that it will be for my good and/or for the sake of a missionary opportunity within reach if I will exert myself.


Ramona Gordy said...

I like this Michaela.
This record of scripture reads like a page out of my husbands life. I have blogged about his missionary adventures, I call him the "Accidental Missionary". He is a truck driver, and two years ago he blew through an area going 20 miles over the limit and was immediately he was pulled over by a State Trooper. As the trooper walked up to his rig, my husband was uttering a prayer for mercy concerning an impending ticket. The trooper asked him what he was doing and my husband said he was praying, so the trooper said "Son, if you're praying, why not pray for me too".

Now I don't know if the trooper was joking, but my husband said that at that moment, he felt a strong inspiration to pray for him, so he grabbed his hand and prayed a heartfelt prayer for someone he had never met. After he opened his eyes he noticed that the trooper had tears in his eyes. He asked my husband "How did you know about me, have we ever met?". So my husband again was inspired to bear a testimony of the Fathers love for him,and his family. To make a long story short, he gave the man a card with the number to contact missionary's, and about a year later this man and his entire family was baptized and later sealed in the Temple as a family.

So maybe you think, this was a one time opportunity, but the Lord works in mysterious ways. A few weeks ago, again my husband blew through the same area, and was pulled over. He had said his prayers before the trooper came up this time. So this trooper looked at him and said" Do you know who I am? Nope my husband said," I am a friend of Stephens," the trooper he met earlier. This trooper said "I was told to look out for you and give you a message, it was about the other trooper. It seems that now this man is investigating the church because of the testimony of his friend.
PS No ticket was issued each time LOL:)

Michaela Stephens said...

Wow. I have mixed feelings. I'm happy for your husband's missionary efforts, but it would be nice if they arose from something besides speeding.

Still, thanks for sharing those stories.

Ramona Gordy said...

It just goes to show you, that in some circumstances, God does work with our weakness's and loves us all the more.