FFF 14:6 (June-July 1968)
The Evangelist and the Ethiopian
Scripture Reading Acts 8:26-39
Many years ago two Africans, a master and his servant, were driving by the desert route that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza. The former had been to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27). This man, like so many well-meaning people before and since, had earnestly gone through the required rites and rules, but failed to find the true peace that the knowledge of the Messiah alone can give. But he had procured an unerring guide to that knowledge in a roll of the Prophet Isaiah.
The Ethiopian “was returning, and sitting in his chariot reading Esaias the Prophet” (Acts 8:28). On his return journey this nameless man travelled not only by the desert way but also along the avenue of Bible thought. On this wonderful journey he was engaged and employed in a most profitable occupation of reading the story of the Messiah. He had reached the climax of the Book of Isaiah, the 53rd chapter, and was actually reading the words: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer; so opened He not His mouth: In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” While thus engaged, a voice at his side inquired, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” The speaker was Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8) who had at that particular moment run alongside the chariot.
It well becomes us to especially note that Philip was so anxious to spiritually help this man that he “ran thither to him” (Acts 8:30). Had he not done so, this dear man, a most inquiring reader of Isaiah, would, had he continued his reading, have been occupied with what we now know as the 54th chapter of Isaiah which presents an entirely different line of thought to that set forth in the previous one, the 53rd. We have here a most impressive and important lesson which we do well to learn and lay to heart especially by all those who seek to serve the Lord. Let us, then, not delay but be willing to be active and alert in carrying the message of redeeming love and be up and doing in the blest service of our Lord and Master. It will require decision and daily dependance upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to witness and work in a becoming manner for our absent, but soon coming LORD.
We now return to hear the answer given by the Ethiopian to the Evangelist. “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (v 31), and he bade Philip to come up into the chariot and sit with him. There, “Of whom speaketh the Prophet this; of himself or of some other man?” asked the Ethiopian. At once Philip “opened his mouth and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (v 35). What a privilege! As the African carefully listened, he was convinced like millions since, both Jews and Gentiles, that this Jesus was indeed the Messiah the hope of Israel, and the Saviour of all who trust in His work of salvation. The most fruitful result of his personal belief was seen in that he confessed his new-found faith, was baptized, and “went his way rejoicing” (vs 36-39). Well might he rejoice since he had believed that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (v 37), and had in his possession a copy of the imperishable writings in the Roll of the Prophet Isaiah. What a possession!
The Ethiopian was a man of great authority in the world, Chancellor of the Exchequer to his Queen, Candace, a common designation of the Ethiopian sovereigns. Returning to this Queen he bore a priceless treasure in this particular copy of the Prophet Isaiah. True, within the Royal residence were many choice valuables of rich and rare distinction, but none to outclass and outshine this precious and particular part of the Old Testament. The message of Isaiah 53 outlasts and outlives every age and every generation, and is still read by millions throughout the whole world. Can such a story ever grow old? The Queen of the Ethiopians has for ever passed away, her palace, her power and all her possessions. Her words, wisdom and works are no more. “But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25). This ever blessed living Word contains treasures far exceeding all earth’s gems and gold; treasures that those who find them by faith in Christ can never lose in
Time or Eternity. We must never forget there are in the Sacred Scriptures treasures of God’s love, of the sacrifice of the Sinless Son of God, of His compassion, mercy, grace, cleansing power, eternal life and forgiveness. Oh, what priceless treasures!
The Ethiopian and millions of mankind have passed away, but, blessed be God, there still remains the Book of Isaiah with it’s wonderful 53rd chapter. To this chapter we do well to turn and engage in the most profitable occupation of musing and meditating upon the One who is presented to our wondering and adoring gaze. Thus musing, thus meditating, we can only look into those awful depths of death and judgment as solemnly set forth in this chapter, Isaiah 53, and bow our hearts and heads in worship.
In drawing our message to a close our sincere prayer is that we seek the needed grace to take a deeper interest in the Word of the living God. This shall be evidenced by the fact that we want the Bible, the whole Bible. The man of Ethiopia had only the Roll of the Prophet Isaiah. We need nothing but the Bible as authority and chart on life’s voyage. Having such a Book, the Book of books, the child of God can face all that life may hold. The Holy Scriptures, from commencement to close, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, ever delight to pour out their unstinted wealth and weight of testimony and tribute to our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal God. Oh, what an outpouring!