Water In The Desert

In Acts 8:26, we read about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Now if you’re like me, you wondered what a eunuch was. This word is mentioned several times in the Bible, but I never really sought out its meaning. With this particular story, I felt it was important to gather more details since it’s pretty short and sweet, but like everything in the Bible, has a purpose and a lesson. A eunuch is a man who has been castrated, especially one who is employed to guard women’s living areas. This particular man was a eunuch of great authority under the queen of the Ethiopians. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah when the Spirit told Philip to go to the chariot.

With the introduction of this character, a question was raised. Why would a foreigner be going to Jerusalem to worship? The answer came to be an important detail of the story. God-fearing Gentiles, aka, non-jews, sometimes traveled to Jerusalem to the temple to worship, though they were not allowed to actually go in but stay in the outer courts- hoping for a glimpse inside.

Though we don’t know how he obtained possession of a scroll of Isaiah, which was rare and expensive in those days, he was obviously drawn to Judaism and thirsted for the knowledge of God. Not only was he excluded for being a foreign official, but being a eunuch also went against Jewish customs that prevented him from entering the temple. (Deuteronomy 23:1-3, Leviticus 21:18-20)

So Philip approaches the man and asked him if he understands what he is reading, to which he replies he can’t unless someone explains it to him. In 8:32 we see the passage of Isaiah he was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The man asked Philip who Isaiah was talking about in this passage, and Philip used this prophecy to present the good news about the suffering servant- Jesus!

As they walked along the road, they came across some water, which, since they were in the desert, may indicate that God presented this opportunity so that he could be baptized. When the man sees the water, he asks Philip to be baptized. In some manuscripts, verse 37 includes words exchanged between the two: “Philip said, “if you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

It’s not one of the more elaborate, detailed stories in the Bible, but it’s message packs a powerful punch. This man who was a Gentile and considered impure by ancient laws, was pursued by God when he sent Philip to him, leading him to be saved. Many Jews in this time still clung to the Law as the way to God, even though Jesus came to fulfill it. This story shows that no matter what or who we are, what has happened to us, where we live or what we do, grace is still available to us through the blood of Jesus.

A man considered less than by God’s own people was saved not because of his background, but because of his faith and belief in the Son of God.

It really is that easy. All because one man paid the price. Thank you God for your mercy on me.

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