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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Day 25: Acts 8:26-40 & Prov. 11:12-20 - Do You Understand What You Are Reading or Do You Need a Guide?

Today's Reading: Acts 8:26-40 & Prov. 11:12-20

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. - Acts 8:31-32, ESV

Do You Understand What You Are Reading or Do You Need a Guide?

Many Christians believe that all they need is their Bible and a personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be a strong Christian. Does God expect His people to be able to understand the Bible on their own, with no guidance or instruction from others? Today's passage in Acts seems to show us otherwise.

Philip had been powerfully sharing the Gospel in Samaria when God called him to go south, to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. This road still runs today through the Negev, a dry desert area. Here, Philip found an Ethiopian eunuch, an official from the royal count of Queen Candace. This educated court official was reading a scroll of the phrophet Isaiah, but he did not understand what he was reading. He needed a guide. Thankfully, God had sent Philip to be that guide.

Philip began with that section of Isaiah that we now identify as Isaiah 53, and from there he explained the Gospel to the Ethiopian. As soon as the Ethiopian understood the good news about Jesus, he believed. He wanted to be identified with Jesus, so when he saw water, he asked if he could be baptized. [By the way, the language of vv. 38-39 does not indicate that the Ethiopian was baptized by immersion, since both he and Philip went down into the water and they both came up out of the water. We cannot read this as immersion in water unless we want to believe that Philip was immersed, too.]

On his own, the Ethiopian eunuch might have never made the connection from Isaiah 53 to Jesus, even if he had heard about the death of Jesus on the cross and rumors of His resurrection. But it's not just unbelievers who need a guide to understand the Gospel. God appointes teachers in His church for a reason, so that His people will be built up and equipped in the truth of His word.

So, don't be ashamed of needing good guides to understanding the Bible. Don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't understand, just like the Ethiopian eunuch did. God will feed you and teach you and grow you, as you seek Him in His word, with good help from reliable guides.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 11:12-20:

Heavenly Father, whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
Lord, we see so much belittling of others in our culture,
    so guard our tongues from such foolish sin. 
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Lord, may we never slander anyone,
    but may we prove to be trustworthy in all of our words.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
So, Lord, give us the wise counselors we need to walk in safety,
    and keep us from the foolishness of self-reliance. 
A gracious woman gets honor,
    and violent men get riches.
A man who is kind benefits himself,
    but a cruel man hurts himself.
Father, give us kind and gracious hearts toward others,
    never harming but always seeking to bless. 
The wicked earns deceptive wages,
    but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
    but he who pursues evil will die.
Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those of blameless ways are his delight.
Father, we know we are prone to crookedness,
    so preserve our hearts and lives from evil 
        and lead us in paths of righteousness, in blameless ways, for Your name's sake.
Amen. 

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