Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
— Acts 8:30-31
It was a divine appointment. All Phillip had to do was obey the instructions he received from an angel of the Lord and he would be face to face with someone whose life would be changed forever by Jesus.
In Acts 8:26-40, we are very clearly told that Philip was specifically directed to this man, and to the meeting place, in a remote location in the desert. The Bible tells says he was a very important Ethiopian man, returning home from his time of worship in Jerusalem. He was reading a scroll from Isaiah 53:7-8 while driving his chariot (which proves you can spend time with God in you car!). The only problem was he didn’t understand what he was reading. He needed someone to explain it to him.
There could be no mistaking it. God intended to save this one individual. This man was being sought by God. Here, in the midst of a Samaritan revival, and before the accounts of wide-spread evangelism of Gentiles, this Gentile was sought and saved by God, a kind of “first-fruits” of that which was to come.
“Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” That was the question the Ethiopian dignitary had for Philip. But how could Isaiah be speaking of himself? The preceding verses spoke of the death of this mysterious figure, but a substitutionary death—a death for the benefit of others:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him (Isaiah 53:4-6).
It’s a good thing Philip knew the Bible, because if he didn’t, he would have had to say, “I don’t know. Can I get back to you?” But this was an opportunity that had to be seized. Philip was about to tell this man that the prophecies of Isaiah concerning Messiah were fulfilled in the person of Jesus.
The eunuch joyfully accepted Philip’s words and gave his life to Christ. When the Ethiopian saw water (a rare thing in this desert place) he wished to make the best use of it. He wanted to be baptized. Evidently, the Ethiopian had learned the importance of baptism for a true believer. When the chariot stopped, both got out, went down into the water and Philip immersed him in the pool of water - baptizing the newly converted Christian.
The Bible reminds us time and time again to prepare ourselves for such opportunities. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
God guides. He specifically and undeniably guides men to do that which they would not have ordinarily have done Philip had prepared himself for the opportunity that was waiting for him. And you must prepare yourself for the opportunity that might be waiting for you today, tomorrow, or the next day.
I have found that when I am sharing the Gospel, whether it’s preaching or one-on-one, the most powerful tool I have is the Word of God. Learn God’s Word. Hide it in your hearts and minds. Then, like Philip, we’ll be ready for the opportunities God sends our way.
The Ethiopian met God in a deserted place, when he came to realize that his religion was not enough, and Jesus was the Savior who died for his sins. Have you met the Savior yet? I pray that if you have not, today might be the day.