Summary: A sermon using the Acts 8 account of Philip and the Ethiopian to show how God works miracles in the deert times

Acts 8:26-40 English Standard Version (ESV)

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter

and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,

so he opens not his mouth.

33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.

Who can describe his generation?

For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Miracles in the desert.

In our lives we all face times that are difficult or not easy – We find ourselves in situations that are very much desert situations. It is often in the hardest of times that God works the greatest miracles. I have watched that work out in practice during the last week.

The Christians of Soviet Russia were in such a position in 1917 a communist revolution swept to power and swept away the Christianised Tsarised society that had existed for centuries – it thrust them into the desert. But a strange thing happened

Instead of the mass exodus away from the Church that the Soviet government expected to result from the persecutions that were heaped on Christians, men and women continued to flock together to devote their lives to God. Historian Dmitry Pospielovsky concluded that by the 1980s, the percent¬age of believers had either very marginally declined or was in fact higher than during the years 1915-1917, when the tsar was still in power.29 The church in Russia had not survived as a relic but as a strong community of believers.

Stories such as this one about Alexandra Solzenhitzen illustrate what can happen in the wilderness that is so powerful for the Christian

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner in Russia.

he was on a program of hard labour and slow starvation.

One day he felt like giving up.

He felt his life could not make a difference.

He sat down on a bench knowing that when he was spotted by a guard he would be ordered back to work when he failed to respond the guard would bludgeon him to death. As he sat waiting, head down, he felt a presence. slowly he lifted his eyes. Next to him sat an old man with a wrinkled, utterly expressionless face. Hunched over, the old man drew a stick through the sand at Solzhenitsyn’s feet deliberately tracing out the sign of the cross.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the rough outline his entire perspective shifted.

Yet in that moment, he knew that the hope of all mankind was represented by that simple cross - and through its power anything was possible.

Solzhenitisyn slowly got up , picked up his shovel and went back to work - not knowing that his writings on truth and freedom would one day enflame the whole world.

The cross was a miracle in the desert and the miracle in Russia’s desert, as far as I can understand it, is that Holy Russia as it was described brfore the revolution, became holier.

Today I would like to explore the reading from Acts chapter 8 to help us to understand the miracle God is trying to do with us in the desert situation.

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