A Foreigner’s Faith
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 56:1-8
Lesson Scripture: Acts 8:26-39
Lesson Aims: To recognize that God uses all believers to witness to the world; to rejoice in the knowledge that all are included and to find scriptures to share when evangelizing.
Background: Do we as God’s people really understand faith? Reciting the definition found in Hebrews 11:1 simply implies that we know some words. Comprehending those words reveals a much broader and deeper level of behavior. One’s faith includes long-suffering, patience, steadfastness and a willingness to stand alone if necessary. As we live out our faith, it isn’t always easy or popular, however, we press on. Our lives must resemble God’s nature; if not, are we really a part of Him? Last week, we encountered Simon who saw faith and God’s power as commodities for sale. Is God pleased with this?
There are some who also see faith as the authority to put others down or to exclude them. Our faith must be rooted in God, not self with all of its worldly trappings (fame, wealth, power). In order for our faith to be stronger, it is vital that we study the Word of God! This study has to be consistent and sincere. Yes, there are times that we don’t understand, but study anyway because God will make it plain or will send someone to reveal it to you. Sunday School, Bible study and workshops are excellent tools to aid in your understanding. When you experience a sermon based on scriptures that you’ve studied, your appreciation is heightened. The Ethiopian eunuch in today’s lesson didn’t understand what he was reading, but God sent someone to open his eyes. God may call you to do the same – are you studying on a consistent basis?
Lesson: Historically, foreigners are unwelcome outsiders who are watched carefully. They tend to be incorporated into society if they can add value to it. They may be allowed to participate in some activities. Philip, the former deacon now evangelist, is directed to go south of Samaria to the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. Obedient to God, he leaves the region, heading for the desert road. Meanwhile, there is an Ethiopian eunuch on that road who is studying from the book of Isaiah. Ethiopia is also known as Cush (Kush) or Nubia. It is highly possible the Ethiopians were exposed to Judaism through Sheba, “queen of Seba located in the southwest corner of Arabia” (Harper Collins Study Bible) or “remnants of those scattered after the Babylonian Captivity” (UMI Direction). There are several qualities about this anonymous eunuch worth mentioning. Being an eunuch makes him a trusted official of Candace’s (title for queen) government. Having great influence, he was responsible for the queen’s treasury.
Next, his visit to Jerusalem was to worship. A key point to make here is that he wasn’t castrated, like most eunuchs; therefore, he could enter the Temple. Deuteronomy 23:1 forbade the others. For him to desire to worship God, he must have been able to enter the Temple. Do we claim to love God yet fail to study and worship Him? In his chariot returning home, the eunuch is reading out loud (customary) a portion of Isaiah that he doesn’t understand. A chariot here is not like the ones built for racing or for battles. More than likely it is a luxury carriage that seats more than one and is designed for comfort on long trips. Led by the Spirit, Philip approaches the foreigner asking if he understands what he’s reading. Invited to explain, Philip rides as he gives his witness to the read Scripture (Acts 8:32-33 and Isaiah 53:7-8). This is the one who came for the disenfranchised, the disinherited, the least, the lost and the left out! This is Good News because all are included! Seeing water, the eunuch asks to be baptized. When they come out of the water, the Spirit whisked Philip away. The eunuch returns home, rejoicing over his salvation.
Application: Faith inspires study. Study and worship nurture your faith. How can we resemble God if we don’t know about Him? Life forces us to face many ups and downs, what then is the believer’s anchor? A friend said to me that study and worship nurture her faith. It does the same for the rest of us as well. Study His Word today and grow!