Read Acts 8:26-40
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” (Matthew 7:22-23, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 242: Eunuch. There is certainly a lot to unpack in the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Before we can understand the account itself, we ought to understand the components of it. First, we all know of the Gaza strip, which is a contested strip of land that the Israelis fight over with the Palestinians who live there and govern it. It is a small strip of coastal and that strategically borders Egypt.
As far as Biblical history is concerned, the Philistines were located in Gaza originally. Of course, the Philistines and the Israelites did not have a good relationship with one another and it is this group of people which Samson, Saul and King David, among others, notoriously fought against. In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the area during his Egyptian campaign, and then it became a part of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Dynasties after that. By the time of Philip the Apostle, the Gaza strip was a part of the Judaean Province of the Roman Empire.
The Eunuch that Philip runs into on the road to Gaza, was a high court official who was the head of the Queen of Ethiopia entire treasury. In the account, the Queen is seemingly named Kandake, or Candice; however, Kandake/Candice was not a name as much as a title. It is in dispute whether or not she was the the sole queen and ruler or if she co-ruled with a King; however, most scholars point to Amantitere as the name of this particular Kandake. Not much is really known about her other than that she was quite affluent. It has been speculated that she may have been Jewish; however, this is little more than speculation due to the fact that her Eunuch was reading Isaiah. It is possible, as there were Jewish settlements in the area; however, that proves little.
As for the Eunuch, he was clearly at the very least a “God-fearer”, or someone who was non-Jewish, but who believed in the Jewish God and came to worship in Jerusalem at the Temple. It is even possible that he, himself, was Jewish. As with all Eunuchs, he was castrated, meaning that he had at least his testicles, if not his penis as well, surgically removed. This form of emasculation was done on slaves who were assigned to the courts of royalty. These Eunuchs served in a variety of different positions, most notably but not limited to, guardians of royal harems.
Our particular Eunuch directly served the queen herself as her treasurer. He was a highly valued person in the queen’s court and was clearly permitted to travel to Jerusalem in order to worship in the Temple. No, doubt, he was probably also there on diplomatic business as well. When Philip ran into him, he was reading Isaiah 53:7-8, which is the prophecy of the Suffering Servant. When he asked Philip to explain to him what he was reading, Philip used that opportunity to talk about how Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of the messiah, who would be a suffering servant through whom God would bring about Salvation for the whole world.
The beauty of this is that we clearly see that the early Jewish Christians saw Isaiah 53 as clear prophecy of who Jesus was. Beyond that, we see how powerfully transformative that passage is in light of Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, prophecied about hundreds of years prior to the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Eunuch believed and got baptized, becoming an early convert to the Christian faith.
Following that Philip was “snatched away” by the Spirit of the Lord. Our fancies can get the best of us hear and we can imagine that Philip vanishing in thin air and appearing elsewhere; however, it would be a mistake to read it that way. Rather, this is poetic license to say that following the Eunuch’s conversion, Philip did not stick around; rather, he followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and found himself being led to a town farther North. The term “snatched” is from the Greek word ἁρπάζω (pronouced harpazō), which means “carried away”, “snatched”, “take away by force”. In other words, Philp felt compelled by the Spirit to go elsewhere and abruptly left the presence of the Eunuch.
We should be challenged by this. In this passage, we see how the Holy Spirit works. We get called to one thing and, then, the Holy Spirit compels us to go elsewhere. We, as God’s people, get too attached to the seasons we find ourselves in and we are being reminded that, at any moment, God could snatch us away and send us to serve Him elsewhere. Are you okay with that? Are you, like Philip, willing to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit? Are you willing to go where you are being sent? Or do you prize your comfort more than your faith in God? I challenge you to reflect on your relationship with Christ and his Lordship over your life.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If we are going to truly call Jesus Christ our Lord, we must be willing to submit our lives to his Lordship.
Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you. Help me to grow stronger in my submission to your way. Amen.