Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition
In the first verses of Acts chapter 8, we read where Philip and John had wonderful success spreading the Good News in Samaria, and had come back to their “home base” in Jerusalem to tell the others about what God had done. We don’t know what Philip’s plans were in Jerusalem. Maybe he wanted to take some time off after an intense time of ministry. Maybe he wanted to be more involved in the established church in Jerusalem after starting up several churches. Maybe he was eager to find his next opportunities.
We can be pretty certain he didn’t think his next assignment would be to take a trip into the wilderness.
This passage illustrates Philip’s dedication to God through obeying what appeared to be a ridiculous assignment: “go to the middle of nowhere.” By the way, the Greek word translated here as “toward the south” could also be translated “at noon,” and traveling on a desert road in the middle of the day is even more absurd. Philip trusted the leading of the Spirit more than he did his common sense, and Acts simply states, “he got up and went.”
What do I do with this passage? God has blessed me with an able mind and enough common sense to have kept me alive for many years. In the churches where God has led me to serve, I’ve developed a number of skills and talents that have supported worship and ministry. God has led me into some interesting business environments as well, and I have knowledge and abilities in other ways that can be used to support the Kingdom. I’m praying those words Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 6:3: “Here am I; send me!”
But Isaiah and Philip both showed wisdom where I’m feeling impatient. Isaiah didn’t just go, he asked, and waited for God to answer. Philip was ready to go, but waited for where and when God would send him. Isaiah doubted his qualifications and abilities, but accepted the assignment. Philip must have wondered about the purpose of going into the wilderness, but he went anyway.
That’s the lesson I’m getting out of this passage today: having faith in God means that we listen for God to answer the what, when, and where of where we serve. When God is ready, we like Philip, get up and go.
Scripture passages from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.