Our passage is Acts 8:26-40. We are all familiar with the story of the meeting of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip the evangelist.
So here is this important person, head over all the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. He is returning to Ethiopia after worshiping God in Jerusalem. He is passing through a desert region. There is nothing but sand and sagebrush for miles. But he comes to a "T" in the road--a place where the the road he is on meets another road perpendicular to it. He has two choices. He has to decide.
God Arranges the Meeting
God works in our lives providentially. He arranges situations so that we are helped toward His kingdom, but never forced. God knows where everyone is at all times. He had His eye on the Ethiopian eunuch. How it was, we do not know, but this man had become a worshiper of the true God. He is coming from the rugged Ethiopia/Sudan region of northeastern Africa. He would go up to Jerusalem for the great feasts when he could, and had now started the trip home.
He was a rich man. Outside of a small number of kings and warriors, we don't meet many wealthy persons in the Bible who own their own conveyances. But he is riding in his vehicle headed south. Providentially, God brings Philip the evangelist down exactly the same road at exactly the same time.
It is a road to the desert. It is not paved. And yet, he is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Doubtless the man actually has a copied scroll of Isaiah's book. Unless he knew Hebrew, this could have been a copy from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of what we usually call the Old Testament Scriptures.
He has an interest in the Scriptures, even willing to try reading on a bumpy dirt road with no shock absorbers. God has arranged everything. Even exactly the passage where he is reading: Isaiah 53:7.
I'm sure you recall the passage well. We just did a five sermon series on Isaiah 53. He is reading at verses 7-8.
There is hardly a better place in the Bible to begin to preach Christ than right there.
The basics of the atonement are there. Jesus bore our afflictions and bore our punishment in our place. He was innocent, but He did not offer any resistance to receiving our punishment because, unlike Jesus, we were guilty. He was dying for us, in our place; He was being judged for us, in our place. He was dying for our transgressions.
In her book, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White puts it as clear as human language can put it:
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. "With His stripes we are healed" (The Desire of Ages 25).
Second Corinthians 5:21 reminds us "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
This is the vast transaction, the undeserved gift of the infinite God to finite man. Eternal life is offered, and it cannot be earned. The only way that a universe of numerous autonomous free intelligences could work, universal unselfishness, is the gift He offers us. Every being can be happy, joyful, fulfilled, at one with God and each other.
Our fitful life of self-indulgence, crazy curves, countless missteps and mistakes, and outright wickedness and violence, can be traded for His spirit of mercy, goodness, and kindness. It is crazy simple. But no one is forced to choose it. All are granted this life, all have a probation, a time-limited opportunity, all come to a "T" in the road of their life. But God does not force you to go one direction. You can choose the bad path. But why would you?
We also Come to a “T” in the Road
Like the Ethiopian eunuch, you and I are also passing through a desert. Ours is the desert of postmodern thought where there are no definite values, and everything is relative to everything else. This has been called the "post-truth" era. There is supposedly no central story, no consensus-agreed island of immovable reality out there anywhere. Just an endless, empty, parched, desolate desert of nothing. There are no ultimate values, there is no meaningful past nor future to hope for. Just existence.
They decided in the 1960s that "God is dead," that the underlying narrative upon which western civilization is built, the Judeo-Christian path, was ended and replaced by nothing. So they played and built their castles and empires in this world of nothing, and left it to us. We are the grandchildren of nothing. Our identity has been stripped away.
And now in 2020 a group of self-appointed rich elites, filled with boredom and loathing (a bad mix) have decided to remake the world in their atheistic technocratic pattern. In the desert they've left us, there is no "T" in the road because there are no cardinal directions, there is no north or south, no meaning, nothing to die for, nothing to live for. There is no sin and no savior, no righteousness, and no evil. Just nothing.
Morality—Praise God—it Still With Us
But suddenly, impossibly, looming up on this gerbil-wheel desert road, is a "T." How can it be? They thought they had weened us off those absolute, binary values. With all their mind-numbing media and secular politics, sex-saturated entertainment, and poison, and their appointed class of experts and censors--surprise, surprise--morality is still there. People still have a sense of right and wrong. And in the closing weeks of 2020, people are still making their choices when they come to the "T" in the road.
Did you see a "T" in the road anywhere in the Bible description? No, not really. There was not a physical "T" in the road that we know of. The "T" in the road was in the heart of the eunuch. He desired to choose Jesus. He wanted to confess his faith in Christ as Messiah. He longed to enter the death to the world and rise in newness of life.
He was not content to be a half-believer. He understood Christ was calling Him to follow Him into Jesus' crucifixion and rise in Jesus' resurrection.
We have two choices: eternal death or eternal life. But the choice for eternal life is the choice to die with Jesus and be reborn. The choice of eternal death is the choice to die without Jesus and never be reborn.
We live our lives. We gain life experience. We make decisions. Some are good, some are terrible. And all along the road of our life there are opportunities. There are times when God's angels meet us along the road, saving us from our mistakes, salvaging us when we have fallen, intervening if our probation is still open. It is a truly remarkable journey, and it goes past very fast.
The angels do a lot to patch us up and keep us going. But more interesting are the sharing opportunities God gives us. He wants us in His house. And although the angels could preach and teach better than we could, their pure intellects and singing ministry included, God sends preachers. Loud ones and soft ones, famous ones and infamous ones, whatever the mix, He sends us back and forth to each other, men and women, boys and girls. He sends the fallen and redeemed sons of Adam to do this work of soul saving. Philip was whisked down the road to the time and place where the eunuch's life would be decided.
Realize with me, that the eunuch had come to a "T" in the road. His life had come to a place where God was ready to do His utmost for the man.
We know very little about his personal life. But we do know that all of us, rich or poor, are faced with temptations and tests of many different kinds. Jesus is acquainted with all our life, and He wants us so badly.
The Chasing God
You might have heard at some time Thompson's famous poem, the hound of heaven. It tells the story of a man fleeing God and God pursuing. You and I both know He is ever pursuing us. The chase is on, always on. But then by His grace we say yes to Him. We stop at the "T" in the road, and turn His way.
Listen, and see if you see something of your story here (these are excerpts from that poem):
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways, of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated, down titanic glooms of chasmed fears, from those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat--and a Voice beat more instant than the feet--"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me." To all swift things for swiftness did I sue; clung to the whistling mane of every wind. But where they swept, smoothly fleet, the long savannahs of the blue; or where, thunder-driven, they clanged His chariot--fear could not evade the Love that did pursue. Still with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, came on the following feet, And a Voice above their beat--"Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me." Nearer, nearer draws the chase, with unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy; and past those noised feet, a voice comes yet more fleet--"Look, naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."
Friends, we hide from God but He chases after. We spend our lives pursuing the trivial, the empty, the mighty but it's not so mighty. And without God, for whom the hole in our heart waits, we are just running on fumes, running on empty, from one empty pit to another.
All things reveal us, that we are betraying His goodness. He chases after us. But he does not force us to receive Him. But He continues the chase. But we don't know the length of our road; we don't know where the path runs out and our probation closes. The chase is not endless; it is the measure of our lives. But we do not know the length of our life. He longs for us to answer Him, but we fly on toward final doom. Where are we on the ending road?
In the poem, nothing shelters the fleeing person, while he turns away from God's presence. Everything is breakable, nothing keeps out the rain. There is no shelter from the storm. We need Him, but we flee from Him towards a deadly end. And steadily, relentlessly, He pursues in hops that we will at last turn before it is too late.
Nothing will bring peace or contentment to us, while we evade His outstretched arms. But He will not force us to receive Him. But He comes on in the chase, hoping to spare us the misery and emptiness and darkness of a demon-controlled, spoiled life. He cannot be content with our leaving, our sad runaway race. His heart aches for us, and He pleads for us to turn, but He doesn't force us. And He chases, arms all outstretched, nail-holes there, asking us just to turn and love Him.
God chased. We ran. And finally, most of us turned and embraced Him. Where is your heart today, my brother? My sister? Are you running from the Hound of Heaven? Are you running with Him? Are you helping in the chase? Are your feet wearing the shoes of the gospel? Are you enrolled in His army, or fleeing His love?
God made Him to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He writes you as a letter to the world. Listen:
In every one of His children, Jesus sends a letter to the world. If you are Christ's follower, He sends in you a letter to the family, the village, the street, where you live. Jesus, dwelling in you, desires to speak to the hearts of those who are not acquainted with Him. . . . Christians are set as light bearers on the way to heaven. They are to reflect to the world the light shining upon them from Christ. Their life and character should be such that through them others will get a right conception of Christ and of His service. If we do represent Christ, we shall make His service appear attractive, as it really is (Steps to Christ 115-116).
At the end of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch--did you see how it ends? Acts 8:36-39:
Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized? Then Philip said, 'If you believe with hall your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing."
So baptism isn't the end; it is the beginning. And being chased by the hound of heaven, and surrendering and falling into the nail-pierced hands of the Lord Jesus is not the end, it is the beginning. And living in a world today that says God is dead and there is no truth, is not a call to a whimpering hopeless end, but to be part of Heaven's end-time turn-to-Jesus message. And all of us are His preachers. All of us are His co-runners. All of us are called to be in the pack, hunting and fishing for souls.
This is the time, the place, the hour, of Heaven's power. This life everyone comes to the "T" in the road. We can say "yes" and go down into the water, or pass on to flounder in the mud. God wants you to have hope today. Jesus died exactly for you. He is chasing, chasing after. And He is calling this congregation to join Him in the chase for hearts. Then we will go on our way rejoicing.
Fremont MI SDA 2020-11-14
Muskegon MI SDA 2020-11-14