Life is not a movie. It’s not a book. It does not always follow a predictable path. Perhaps that’s part of the beauty. We have these moments that are unexpected. Events happen that we did not anticipate, and yet, they can be some of the most memorable or significant moments in our life.
Philip is part of the early church. He has just been appointed a leader in the church when persecution breaks out in Jerusalem. So, like many in his community, he flees Jerusalem to the relative safety of Samaria where things go well. But then he receives an invitation. Actually, it’s more of a command. It’s from God. He is told to leave. Leave this place where he is feeling safe and comfortable and go. Specifically, go south, on the desert road, toward Gaza.
The directions are very specific, however they don’t make sense. Go down the desert road to Gaza. The problem is that the city of Gaza is in ruins. It has been for 100 years. So the instruction is leave this place where you are comfortable, this place where things seem to be going really well, and go, go down the desert road toward the ghost town.
It doesn’t make sense, and yet that’s the journey. Philip obeys.
As he is walking this road he gets another nudge from God. This one is not quite so specific. This time he is told to stay near a chariot. He obeys and it’s not long before he hears a man inside reading from the book of Isaiah.
Philip understands what God is up to, and after asking the man inside if he can understand what he is reading, Philip is invited to come inside the chariot and explain it. The passage is Isaiah 53. It’s about Jesus. Philip explains the life and sacrifice of Jesus predicted in this section of the Scriptures and the man’s life is utterly transformed.
This is arguably Philip’s finest moment. It is the story for which he is most remembered, and yet it was an unexpected journey. The initial invitation didn’t make sense. What could have been the point of travelling a desert road toward a ghost town? God knew. Philip would be part of a conversation which would be retold through the centuries and would make it’s way back to the capital of ancient Ethiopia. According to the early church father, Iranaeus, as a result of this conversation with Philip, the Ethiopian eunuch in the chariot became the first missionary among his own people.
What significant moment could await us, if we are prepared to move when God says move? What might God do in and through us when we are courageous enough to step into unexpected moments?