International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 13, 2017
Purpose: To grasp the importance of and commit to ministering to the marginalized
Bible Lesson: Acts 8:26-39
Background Scripture: Acts 8
Key Verse: Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. (Acts 8:35)
Acts 8:26-39 (CEB)
(26) An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) (27) So, he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) (28) He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. (29) The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.”
(30) Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”
(31) The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. (32) This was the passage of scripture he was reading: Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent so he didn’t open his mouth.
(33) In his humiliation justice was taken away from him. Who can tell the story of his descendants, because his life was taken from the earth?
(34) The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” (35) Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. (36) As they went down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look! Water!
What would keep me from being baptized?” (38) He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. (39) When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This is our second lesson on being called in the New Testament. As we saw last week, a group of seven Greek disciples (deacons) had been appointed by the twelve to serve the Greek speaking community widows and others that were not being served by the Jewish community in the new church.
I find it very interesting that two of those appointed, not only served the Greek community within the church, but became some of its greatest and most influential members of this new church in Jerusalem and beyond. Remember it was Stephen’s words that Saul/Paul heard before he set out for Damascus.
Philip was so attuned to the Holy Spirit and he was so obedient, God could use him in an enormous way. Many scholars believe that Ethiopia was the first nation to declare itself Christian. We know from Solomon’s words; the Queen of Sheba had brought the Jewish faith to Ethiopia about a thousand years earlier.
Now this Eunuch, from the court of, the Queen of Ethiopia, is sought out by God and instructed and baptized by Philip. Undoubtedly, he returned to Ethiopia with a new understanding of the prophet Isaiah and what had happened in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.
There are many lessons we can learn from Philip and the Eunuch. From Philip, we learn the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit, and in obeying the commands given. This was not the road Philip would normally choose, but it was the one god wanted him to travel.
In 1920, Robert Frost published his wonderful poem “The Road Not Taken,” which ends, “I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence; Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Life gives us the choice between two roads. One road leads to the ways of the world; one road leads to the kingdom of God. The latter route is the road less traveled. Philip chose to take the road less traveled, and it made all the difference. He trusted God; he went where God asked him to go and he did what God asked him to do. Moreover, because he was willing to take this road less traveled, God used him to make a major impact on the world.
The Eunuch also gives us a lesson in the importance of study and the openness to listen to the Holy Spirit who teaches us. The Eunuch was an outcast in the Jewish religion, he could not worship the God he loved in the temple, because he was forbidden to enter it. It is easy to understand why he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. When he read Isaiah 56:3-7 he must have been encouraged:
(3 )Don’t let the immigrant who has joined with the Lord say,
“The Lord will exclude me from the people.”
And don’t let the eunuch say,
“I’m just a dry tree.”
(4) The Lord says:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
choose what I desire,
and remain loyal to my covenant.
(5 ) In my temple and courts, I will give them
a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.
I will give to them an enduring name
that won’t be removed.
(6) The immigrants who have joined me, [a]
serving me and loving my name,[b] becoming my servants,[c]
everyone who keeps the Sabbath without making it impure, Philip
and those who hold fast to my covenant:
(7 ) I will bring them to my holy mountain,
and bring them joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their entirely burned offerings and sacrifices on my altar.
My house will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples
This Eunuch probably returned to Ethiopia full of new enthusiasm as well as a new understanding of the God he worshipped.
How open are you to God’s call in the form of the Holy Spirit on your life? It could be as simple as taking another road, or just going across the road. My hymn for this week is “Here I Am Lord.”