Last week, we saw that the persecution of the church had scattered Christians out of Jerusalem and into the regions of Judea and Samaria.
Philip went to the city of Samaria and started preaching the gospel. So many people were getting saved that the apostles Peter and John came to check things out. There was a huge revival going on. We pick up at verse 25 of Acts 8...
Peter and John affirmed what Philip had been teaching: that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had in fact died for their sins and resurrected again. They taught the Samaritans the Word until they had to return to Jerusalem. And on their way, they stopped at many of the villages in Samaria to preach.
You would think that Philip was set. A huge church had been established in the city of Samaria, and revival was taking place. He was in prime position to minister to these people for the rest of his life and let God work through him as their pastor and teacher and evangelist.
But God had other plans. He sent an angel to tell Philip to leave the revival. To go 40 or 50 miles south to a desert road.
I cannot imagine being put in Philip's position. I'd probably be telling the Lord, "But the work just started to happen here! The ministry has so much more that needs to be done! And I'm the guy to do it! I won't be any good to anybody on that deserted stretch of highway!"
But instead, Philip was obedient to the direction of the Lord and headed south to the road that stretched between Jerusalem and Gaza.
When Philip was walking along this road in the desert, he saw a Ethiopian caravan traveling from Jerusalem back to Africa. Today, we think of Ethiopians as a nation of starving, poverty-stricken people. But in these ancient times, Ethiopia was one of the four great powers of the world (along with Rome, Persia, and China). And one of the top-ranking Ethiopian officials was in this caravan: a eunuch who was in charge of all the queen's treasure.
He had taken this trip to Jerusalem to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. He'd obviously been trying to seek the true God. But even when reading the Scriptures, he'd run into confusion. Having probably purchased a copy of the scroll of Isaiah in Jerusalem, he was trying to understand it. But he couldn't seem to make heads or tails of it.
If Philip had been bitterly arguing with the Lord all the way down, I doubt he would have been open to hearing God's instructions. But Philip remained pliable in God's hands, and so he was in tune with the Lord when the Spirit said, "Go up and join this chariot.”
The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the book of Isaiah out loud. I'm guessing he'd read it silently a few times, and wasn't getting it, so he decided to read it out loud - maybe even to the people around him - for understanding. But it wasn't working.
Then this Jewish stranger comes running up to him and asks, "Do you understand what you're reading?" The Ethiopian understood what the words were, but couldn't for the life of him figure out what they were saying. So, he invited Philip up to explain it to him.
The Ethiopian had made it to chapter 53 of Isaiah and hadn't understood much. He asked Philip for clarification. "Who is this talking about... who exactly was led as a sheep to slaughter?"
Philip grabbed the opportunity, because the passage was prophetically speaking of Jesus Christ.
Normally, I would use this as an opportunity to jump into a lengthy study of the Old Testament prophecies that point so clearly to Jesus. At very least, I would spend most of our morning reviewing the amazing prophetic statements about Jesus in the book of Isaiah.
But we are currently doing that on Sunday nights in great detail. We learned about the Jesus' virgin birth, about His deity, about His main mission to the Jews, and extended message to the rest of the world. We've learned that He was the despised servant of men, but will soon be the glorified King of Kings. We learned that He would be a new covenant, and tonight, we'll talk about how He says,
Is. 50:6 I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
Over the course of the next few Sunday nights, we'll continue this series called "Jesus in Isaiah" in which we cover everything that Philip must have said to the Ethiopian eunuch about this.
But this morning, I want to zero in on the amazing "coincidence" of these two men being in the same place at the same time. Think of the circumstances which God orchestrated... He interrupted Philip's revival ministry and sent him to a travelers' desert road. At the same time, he'd put a desire in the heart of a man from Ethiopia to know Him more. The man had just gotten a scroll of Isaiah, but God prevented him from understanding it, causing him to read out loud a portion of the book that spoke of Jesus. God intersected these two men's travels with perfect timing.
Do you know that God is constantly doing this? It's why I cringe every time a Christian uses the word "lucky" There's no coincidence or luck. There is only divine Providence - God's orchestration of events to work them out perfectly the way He plans.
It's why the baby Moses "just happened" to be found by the Pharaoh's daughter when she went to bathe (Exo. 2:5). She was the one woman who had the ability to spare the life of that Hebrew baby.
It's why, when Ruth went to glean in the fields, she "just happened" to come to Boaz's field first (Ruth 2:3). If she hadn't chosen that field, she and Boaz never would have met, meaning that there would be no King David, no King Solomon, and no Jesus born in Bethlehem!
There are countless examples of this in the Scripture, and in our own lives. Very often, we run into an amazing set of circumstances. Running into just the right person at just the right time, when all the circumstances are coming together in just the right way. Should we attribute these things to luck or coincidence? The Bible says,
Prov. 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
My exhortation to you today is to go ahead and make your plans and live your life... but be aware that things will happen when you don't expect them to, in a way you don't expect them to. And when they do, remember: there are no accidents in the kingdom of God.
Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Things certainly worked out well for both Philip and the Ethiopian. The eunuch was saved, baptized, and went on rejoicing. And God kept using Philip in powerful ways as he preached the Word.