And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…
Simon the sorcerer and the Ethiopian officer are at contrast. In his seeking, Simon's heart was not right in the sight of God, while the heart of the Ethiopian commended itself to Divine favour. Simon was after power — the Ethiopian was after truth. The thought of the one was only of self — the other had no thought of self at all. Simon was rebuked, but the Ethiopian was helped. Simon was filled with fear — the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing. Note, then, the danger of approaching God with wrong motives, and the encouragement to every one who sincerely desires to know and do the will of God; how severely a selfish seeker may be rebuked, and how ready the Holy Spirit is to help an earnest inquirer after truth. Let us see what the Holy Spirit did to help such an one.
I. HE SENT TO HIM A HELPER. Notice the instrumentalities employed — angelic and human — teaching us the value that in heaven is placed upon a single soul. There is here, too, a suggestion of the way that angels are made ministering spirits. The angel "spake" unto Philip, but he could not be the guide into the way of life. It needed a redeemed soul to speak of a Redeemer. The world is to be won to Christ, not by the testimony of angels, but by the witness of saved men.
II. HE SENT TO HIM A SUCCESSFUL HELPER. Philip has a good record as a Christian worker. He was the sort of instrument that the Holy Spirit could use. Though in the midst of a great work, he gives it up without even a query to go down to a desert. His faith accounts both for his obedience and his success. It takes great faith to give up a work for one that seemingly is small. But teaching one man in a desert may be of more importance than teaching a thousand in a city.
III. HE DIRECTED THE HELPER IN HIS WORK. Philip not only was sent down, but was told what to do. The juncture was admirably timed. The Holy Spirit never inspires to unseasonable labours.
IV. HE SENT THE HELPER TO ONE WHO NEEDED HELP. The Ethiopian was a man of station, and had made some progress in the right way. But that which brought him help was the cry of his soul for truth. That cry had been heard in heaven even before he had consciously called, and the answer was at hand!
V. HE SENT A HELPER OF TACT. The fact that one is sent by the Spirit should not cause him to be careless of methods, but should make him call to his aid all the skill and ability of which he is the master.
VI. HE SENT A HELPER CONVERSANT WITH THE SCRIPTURES. Philip could fit the prophecy to the facts. And not merely that, he showed his familiarity with other prophecies. "Beginning from this scripture," Philip preached Jesus. If one desires to be a power for Christ, he should become familiarly acquainted with the Word that bears witness to Him.
VII. HE SENT JUST THE HELP THAT WAS NEEDED. Having heard the Word explained, the Ethiopian joyfully accepted the truth, and desired immediately to have that rite performed that would seal him to Christ as a believer.
VIII. HE CAUGHT AWAY THE HELPER WHEN HE WAS NO LONGER NEEDED. Naturally, both instructor and scholar would have liked to have kept company together indefinitely. But the purpose of Philip's sending had been accomplished. There was work for the evangelist to do elsewhere, and work, it is to be presumed, for the Ethiopian to do at home.
(M. C. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.