“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 17

‘Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian, 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, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.’

Acts 8:26-31

“I can do this on my own.” “Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.” “I don’t want to put you out.” These are all things we say to ourselves, when we want to show we are up to the task, or want the satisfaction of doing something, completely, on our own. And in some cases, we’re right to think this way. Parents know they must get their children to the point where they can do any number of things on their own without Mom or Dad’s help.

But there are other things that require more than just you: Family, a sport, a town, a nation, and a church. There is no such thing as a family, sport, or church of one. God builds into these ways of being together, the means to grow in each of these areas. We can’t become a better family member, if we never spend quality time with spouses, children, and cousins, and grandparents. Even if you play a solitary sport, like Golf, you need a coach and you play better against other people. And, of course, there is no such thing as a Christian without a church.

It also turns out that Bible reading – something that seems pretty solitary – , is really best done in groups, or at least pairs. And this, not just because someone might know more than you, or might have a different point of view that complements your own. It appears – especially in this story about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch – that God uses reading together, in a profoundly unique way. If we read together, in the way that Philip and the Eunuch do, God will do stuff that won’t happen any other way.

One of the biggest things God will do, is to unite complete strangers around the reading of the Bible: People from totally different worlds – an Ethiopian and a Jew; a royal functionary and a missionary; someone who is exploring what this God-thing might mean, and someone who is convinced that God was one of us in Jesus Christ. God is at work in both people, long before they meet: In Philip, whose ear is tuned to God’s voice; in the Eunuch, who may not hear God, yet, but in whom God is working, by directing him to His Word, and putting questions on his heart.

Is there someone in your life who, like the Eunuch, is starting out with God and his Word? Or is that person you? The best group I can recommend you go to, to read together in the way that Philip and the Eunuch did, is church: The careful, prayerful reading of Scripture, and preaching based on Scripture, is where you will be quipped to meet that person in your life who is beginning to read and have questions. And, it is the place where, if you have questions about “What these people really believe?”, you can begin to get answers.

Prayer: Lord, there is much that you expect me to do on my own – things that parents, mentors, and friends have taught me to do. There are some things I have tried to do on my own, and I see – now – that you never meant for me to do that. Lord, lead me especially to that place and that people – the church – where your Word is opened, taught, and understood. Amen.

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