Acts 8:26–40 (ESV) — 26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36And as they were going along the road they came to some water and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Not every human heart is ready to receive Jesus Christ. Different people are at different places in their spiritual journey. Some aren’t willing to hear the gospel, but others are, and God knows where that person is every moment of the day. You and I can’t tell what’s going on inside another person’s heart, especially by merely looking at their outward appearance. But God knows the secret thoughts and longings within each of us. And He knows there are people all over the world, some of whom would really surprise you, who would come to Him today if only someone would tell them the truth in a way they could understand.
Philip shows us that God is aggressive. He will send believers after those with open hearts. He will arrange divine appointments. Putting you and me next to someone who needs to hear the truth is of utmost importance to Him. It’s a matter of life and death for many, and His great loving heart bursts with compassion for them. So if you and I will learn to listen and obey, like Philip, He will do whatever it takes to have our path cross with theirs. And this is where prophetic guidance comes in.
Philip meets the Ethiopian official is an example of what we might call a “divine appointment:”God speaking to one of His servants and directing him or her to someone who needs to hear the gospel or receive ministry.
Accidentally cross paths with someone
Luke 10:29–37 (ESV) — 29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
He also miraculously guides His servants. He might use an angelic messenger, or a prophetic vision (Ac 16:6-10
Philip’s example challenges us. First of all in the way he was guided. An angel told him where to walk and then the Holy Spirit pointed out the person he was to talk to and how he was to meet him. The process was very spiritual and intuitive. There’s nothing wrong with evangelistic programs, but this wasn’t the result of a program. This was Philip hearing God’s instruction and doing what he was told.
Second, Philip had great personal effort and showed remarkable courage. It took a lot of faith to do what he did, and there must have been moments while walking down that road when he questioned himself. We don’t know how far he walked before he caught up to that carriage. Certainly, there would have been a guard riding along who would have been alarmed by a stranger running up and then jogging beside them. And then to initiate a conversation with a foreign official was a bold step. But Philip did it, and the question his example raises is, “Would I do that?” Is this just an interesting story about how God worked during the early years of the church, or does He still do that kind of thing today? Must I show courage as Philip did? And there’s no avoiding the thought, “Has He already tried to direct me to divine appointments in the past, but I didn’t recognize what was happening, or refused?”
This is not a radical exception, this is the normal Christian life. We’ve just grown unfamiliar with it.
Doing what Jesus did
Philip wasn’t the first person to function like this. There are many examples of this type of guidance in the Old Testament, but no one in the Bible relied on divine appointments more than Jesus Himself. In fact, He said this was the only way He functioned. Listen:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself unless it is something, He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing… (John 5:19, 20)
Questions to ponder:
1) Did you find God or did God find you? If you’re a believer tell us how you met Him.
2) Have you ever had a “divine appointment?” How did God guide you? What did you say? What happened?
This sermon was adapted from Pastor Steve Schell. Find his notes at http://archive.nwcfoursquare.org/viewMessage.php?mID=636