1-13-19 Happy New YOU! – New Covenant, New People

kthomasCommunity Study

Scripture:

Acts 8:26-39 (NIV)
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch 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.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c]38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

 

Context:

The Ethiopian eunuch’s religious resume is most interesting and detailed. As with Philip, the narrator carefully locates him on Judea’s map: “he had come to Jerusalem to worship” (v. 27b) and “was returning home” (v. 28a). He was evidently a proselyte from the diaspora who had recently made a hard pilgrimage as a mark of his profound religious devotion, since the farther one journeys the more devotion one exhibits. The reference to “worship” in Jerusalem is provocative since eunuchs were forbidden to enter the Temple for worship (see 3:8). By juxtaposing “eunuch” and “worship” the narrator perhaps imagines that the Ethiopian’s recent “worship experience” has triggered a theological crisis over his future in the household of Israel. His social class – “a court official of Queen Candace in charge of her treasury” (v. 27a) – only intensifies the impression that he is spiritually hungry and not materially impoverished.

The final feature of the eunuch’s profile is that “he was reading the prophet Isaiah” (v. 28b). Perhaps dwells on Isaiah because of its hopeful references about Ethiopia’s participation in the blessings of God (Isa 18:1; 45:15). The quoted prophecy from Isa 53:7-8 (see Acts 8:32-33) provides the prophetic intertext necessary for interpreting the second half of this story, as Philip uses this passage as a springboard for sharing the good news about Jesus.

– Adapted from the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol X, p.143.

 

Questions about the Scripture:

1. The Ethiopian eunuch has wealth, power and position, and yet something was missing within. How is he representative of the spiritual condition of many in our culture today? In what ways?

2. He did not make the arduous, 1000 mile trek to Jerusalem because he wanted to see new sights. He was likely very much aware of his deep spiritual need and as a result was on an intentional spiritual journey.  How in touch are you with your deep spiritual need?  Where are you on your journey? (Just becoming aware?  Starting to pack my bags?  On my way to Jerusalem?  Baptized and rejoicing?).

3. After all that effort, the eunuch was likely turned away at the Temple, which was still operating under an Old Covenant policy of exclusiveness (Deut 23.2). Yet as he was returning home from this disappointment, God sent Philip to meet him on the “desert road” to share the good news about Jesus.  What does this tell us about God’s New Covenant love for all?  Have you ever encountered God’s love when you were on a “desert road?”  Briefly share you experience.

4. God called Philip, but not just Philip. Is there a person you know who is currently on a “desert road” that you can reach out to this week?   Pray for one another as you respond to God’s call.

 

Community & Personal Action Items:

Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:

1. Write It Down.  A young Japanese man named Kandura was born with a terribly deformed body and face. Few people ever saw him because his parents kept him in seclusion.  Kandura loved listening to his AM radio and ended up tuning in to a Christian program that communicated the unconditional love of Jesus through those small speakers.  Later, when a Japanese Christian visited Kandura, he readily put his faith in Jesus Christ.  He wrote this short letter as a result.

“Day by day as I walk this road of blessing, I receive the fruits of faith in my hands. These blessings come from my Lord, Who is my strength and my hope.  Praise the Lord, for He gives me this wonderful salvation!”

What would your letter say?  Take a moment to write it down and then spend some intentional time dwelling on God’s personal, unconditional love and what it means to you.

2. Remember.  As mentioned above, we are neither defined by our inner brokenness nor our outward appearance.  We were created with the potential to become a member of God’s family and to be transformed into the image of Christ Himself. This affords us great value in God’s sight!  Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.

MEMORY VERSE:  “”I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” — Psalm 139:14