Thursday, April 30, 2009

'I Bless The Rains Down In Africa'

Today's Word:
Acts 8:26-40 (Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch)
Psalm 66:8-20 (When I appealed to God in words, praise was on the tip of my tongue)
John 6:44-51 (The Bread of Life Discourse V: "The bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world")

The scene shifts temporarily from the unrest in Jerusalem to the sojourns of the apostle Philip. Yesterday's passage had him traveling north to Samaria - a place with which Jews held much enmity. While one might expect that Philip would encounter as much hostility in Samaria as in Jerusalem, Luke records that he was accepted almost immediately Many are baptized. He's successful enough that Peter and John soon follow and call for the people to receive the Holy Spirit. With the relatively short distance between these areas, we can surmise with some accuracy that this new development didn't sit well with Saul and his followers. Still, it shows how powerful was the preaching of the apostles and how much the people longed to hear God's word.

With a new base of believers established to the north, Philip is prompted to head south, along the road toward Gaza and Egypt. While traveling, he meets up with the carriage of an official of the Ethiopian court; the national treasurer. He is returning to his country from Jerusalem. Luke states that this official was worshiping there, so it would appear he is following the Jewish faith. He is reading the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) and is not certain of whom the writer is referring. Philip, having recently received the revelation connecting this passage to Jesus, shares this with the treasurer as they continue their journey south. They come upon a spring of water, and Philip is asked if there is any reason not to receive baptism on the spot. Philip senses that this man is ready and once it takes place, Philip is whisked away elsewhere, leaving our Ethiopian official to marvel at what has happened and praise God the remainder of his journey home.

Philip may not have made it to Africa himself; but the Church eventually established a community in Alexandria in Egypt. Thus was the Gospel planted on another continent. It would spread soon enough across the Roman Empire and the three continents which were parts of it. Like the rains from the heavens, or the manna in the desert, the Good News was heard, found, and eagerly received. It's also important to note that, apart from the hostility in Jerusalem, that many experienced a conversion of heart in relative peace. A Spirit-filled people were finding meaning and a direction in their lives. Blessed are those who hold a similar meaning and direction today!

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