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3. A Strange Command

We are now going to study Acts 8:26-40 verse by verse. We begin with verse 26. Read it attentively.

NKJ Acts 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert.

A Message For the Messenger

Philip had to act as messenger for the Lord. God used an angel to call him for this work.

The angels are servants of the Lord. They are spiritual beings that are usually invisible, but at times appear in human form. In the times of the Bible they were often sent out to tell people what God wanted to say to them.

It was a messenger of this type that now appeared to Philip. But do we know Philip well enougn? We've heard so much about him. Who precisely was he?

We read of him for the first time in Acts 6:1-7. The leaders of the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem needed help in the care of widows in the congregation. Therefore the apostles decided to let seven deacons be chosen so that they could assist in the daily care of those in need in the congregation.

Complete the following sentences with the help of what is given in Acts 6:1-7.
1. Seven men who were known to be full of the ______________ and ______________ were chosen from among the believers as deacons (Acts 6:3).
2. The first two deacons whose names are mentioned in Acts 6:5 were _________________ and _________________.

Stephen was the first martyr (witness) who, because of his faith in Jesus Christ, was murdered. The Jews stoned him to death (Acts 6:8 - 7:60).

Immediately after the death of Stephen, a great persecution of Christians broke out. In Acts 8:1 we read about what resulted from this: "All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria." The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message (Acts 8:4).

Among these believers who had to flee for their lives we find our friend Philip. In Acts 8:5 we read that he ended up in Samaria and began telling the people there about Christ.

Look at all that we know so far about Philip:

* Philip was a member of the Christian church in Jerusalem. In foreign Samaria he was now alone, cut off from his congregation.
* Philip was a deacon. His area of responsibility no longer existed. The people he looked after had been driven away from Jerusalem.
* Philip was also an evangelist. In fact he was so close to the Lord and so full of the good news of salvation that he preached Christ to the Samaritans. He performed miracles of healing among them and brought them great happiness.

A command from God

Now we know more about the angel of the Lord and about Philip. But we have not finished with verse 26. We must listen to the instructions which the angel gave Philip.

Look again at Acts 8:26 in your Bible and complete the verse on the dotted line:
Then the angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Arise and go _________________ ______________ ____________ __________. _____________ _____________ ______________(This is desert.)

Things had gone well with Philip's work in Samaria. Acts 8:6 and 14 tell us what happened there. We know that Philip did good work in Samaria because:

1. He worked wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Samaritans listened attentively to his message.
3. The Samaritans later accepted the Word of God.

Yes, Philip did a lot to spread the kingdom of God in Samaria. That was why the angel's message to Philip sounded strange. He was told to go away, leaving the enthusiastic crowds of Samaria. He had to turn his back on all who had come to faith through his preaching. He had to leave the open door in Samaria. Where was he to go? To a deserted, lonely road between Jerusalem and Gaza in the south west of the land.

There was more than one road between Jerusalem and Gaza, but it is clear that Philip had to take the road which cut through the inhospitable area.

He had to travel south to reach this road. The words in our text can mean either "go south" or "towards the midday". Some Bibles use the one translation, and some the other. This need not confuse us. If Philip had to go to the Gaza road "at midday" it merely emphasizes that the road was strange and deserted. Travellers always tried to avoid journeying at that time of the day, when the sun was at its hottest.

Indeed, a strange instruction. Philip had to drop his excellent work. He had to go at an unusual time on a lonely road where it was unlikely that he would meet anybody.

And yet: this command came from the Lord. The angel, the messenger from the lord, delivered it himself. So Philip knew he had to obey the voice.

God still talks to people today. He speaks through the Bible. When we read the Bible we know it is God who speaks to us. And we must obey.

He also speaks through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. God's Spirit makes the Bible clear to us. If we pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to us when we read the Bible, He will do it every time. God does not leave us stumbling about in the dark. He sends the light of His Word. Then we can see the path we have to take.

Turn to Psalm 119:105 and complete the following verse:
(NKJ) "Your ___________ is a ____________ to my feet And a ____________ to my path."
Look also for Psalm 43:3 in your Bible and write out the prayer of the psalmist here:
(NKJ) "Oh, send out ______ ________ ______ _______ _________! Let them lead me."

Do you allow yourself to be led by the Bible, the Word of God?

Remember: God speaks to His children. Even if we sometimes receive unusual instructions which ask us to do things which we would rather not do, we must obey the voice of the Lord.

Questions to answer:

1. God does not often send angels to give instructions to people in our  days. How does God speak to us nowadays?
2. What is the most important work of deacons in the church?
3. Why was the instruction which Philip received from God unusual?
4. Why was Philip nevertheless willing to obey the command?