“’Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’
This is desert. So he arose and went.”
“’Go near and overtake this chariot.’
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’”
Do you see what I see? There’s a pattern here, a pattern that reaches back to the beginning of man and right out through your computer monitor and into your life. It is the pattern of God commanding His people and them responding in faith.
It was a pattern that was both established with and broken by Adam in the beginning. God told Adam that He could eat the fruit of every tree but one, and, sure enough, Adam ate of that one forbidden tree. The result, of course, is death.
But if the result of disobeying God is death, what can the result of obeying Him be but life?
“Now the Lord said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.’
So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him” (Genesis 12:1,4).
What was the result of Abram’s obedience? He received what was promised: he was made into a great nation, his name was made great, he was a blessing, and in him all families of the earth were blessed.
“So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’
And he said, ‘Here I am.’
‘Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’
But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’
So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you.’”
What was the result of Moses’ obedience? The deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their entrance into the Promised Land.
And what was the result of Philip’s obedience? The salvation of the Ethiopian eunuch, who took the gospel to Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, and probably to many others.
What was the result of your obedience? Oh, right. We haven’t talked about that yet.
The fact is: God speaks to His people, commanding them to do His will. He may not speak through angels to you or out of a burning bush, but assuredly He is speaking to you, commanding you to do certain things. You are not Abram, and your obedience will not necessarily give you a promised land. You are not Moses, and your obedience is not likely to lead God’s people out of slavery.
But God is speaking to you, commanding you to do His will. If He doesn’t speak to you in obvious or loud ways, that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking to you. I find that He often whispers and that, consequently, I often miss what He’s saying because I drown His voice out with my daily noises. The fact that He whispers doesn’t mean He can’t be heard. In fact, He happens to have given you superhero hearing. The same Spirit who whispers the will of the Father is also the one who hears the will of the Father within your spirit.
Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors. Although Horton Hears a Who isn’t my favorite by him, I like the idea of there being a vibrant, teeming, spiritual world that is audible if only we would listen. Except that this small, quiet, and invisible world is really the largest and most important world in the world.
And so I want you to listen today. Find a quiet time and space and practice listening. If you don’t hear anything, keep listening, and not just today. Make it a habit to listen for the Lord. When you pray, don’t do all the blabbing: leave time to listen for His voice.
When you do hear His voice, He may ask you to do something improbable, or at least beyond your comfort level. That’s one of the ways you know it’s Him. If you could do it all by yourself and had it all laid out beforehand; if it was exactly what was expected by you – you might never hear Him or feel the need to listen.
What was it that the Lord told Philip when He sent him? To go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. And what’s the very next thing Luke tells us? “This is desert.” Now why would Luke include this? Who cares?
The significance is that God has just told Philip to go to a desert. Then what? God doesn’t say. In fact, God doesn’t tell Philip much at all. But what little God does command, Philip does immediately. The result was the rejoicing of the eunuch in verse 39.
I think it’s also important to see what it is that the Lord wanted Philip to do. He wanted Philip to explain the Scripture to the Ethiopian eunuch and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I think we believe that people just become Christians through osmosis or something (at least Christians in the U.S.) What we forget is that for everyone who is a Christian there was a Philip or, more likely, a procession of Philips who taught him about Jesus Christ.
Shove a Bible in someone’s face who’s never heard of Jesus Christ before, and you’d be surprised what theology he comes up with. As the Ethiopian eunuch discovered, the Scriptures need to be interpreted, which means there must be an interpreter.
“How can I (understand the Scriptures), unless someone guides me?” the eunuch asked. Once again, we find the necessity of the Church, through whom Jesus Christ speaks and acts.
Who knows? Maybe God is asking you to go somewhere today where you’ll come across an Ethiopian eunuch of your own. If not, what else might be waiting?
There was a game show in the 60s called “Let’s Make a Deal,” which some of you will remember. Audience members came dressed up in outrageous costumes in hopes that they would get to make a deal with host Monty Hall. He might give them $100 to begin with and ask them if they wanted to trade it for what was behind Door #1. When they got that prize, they might be allowed to trade it for what was behind Door #2. Sometimes they traded up and ended up . . . with a brand new car! Other times, they got zonked and got something like a room full of ping-pong balls or a llama.
You’ve just been handed your normal day today. But what might be behind Door #2, if you listen to the Lord, and He tells you to go through it? Who knows? But I do know three things.
First, God will never stick you with a “Zonk,” as the bogus prizes were called. Second, if God has asked you to do it: you should definitely do it, and He will give you strength to do it! Finally, if God has asked you to do it and you obey, then He will bless you.
Prayer: O Lord, who has known me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and who has consecrated me before I was born, I ask that you would teach me Your will. Give me ears to hear Your voice and a heart to do Your will. May I, by Your grace, go to all to whom you have sent me, speak whatever You command me to speak, and do whatever you desire. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Spend some time today listening to God. Part of your listening may be recollecting things He has already told you which you have forgotten.
Resolution: I resolve to listen for God’s voice today and, having heard, to obey.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson