DISCLOSURE: This is a long post. You might want to get your brewed coffee.
I’m a storyteller.
That means my imagination runs wild and the muse shows up at any time, and even at Bible study. When it does, though, I get so excited but here’s the caveat:
Though this might be an accurate analysis, DO NOT quote my imagination (or insight) in a theology class. I repeat, DO NOT QUOTE.
That said, let’s get started.
Sometimes, I like to read certain books of the Bible over again to get a storyteller’s bird’s eye view (or something like that). Recently I picked Doctor Luke’s comprehensive treatise of Jesus’ life and followed up with the sequel.
I was rounding off the tenth chapter of the sequel when I felt that lightbulb moment. Well, it was first a flicker then the light came on. God decided it was time to reach the Roman seeker – Cornelius – so he sent for Peter. Typically, God initiates the conversion process in a person’s heart but calls his kids to close the deal. He wants to involve them in the business, you know, and he needs someone to welcome him into the family and perhaps discipleship. That was easy to chew until it occurred to me that Philip, the great evangelist lived in Caesarea as well! And it would be totally understandable for God to send a close-by apostle.
Wait – here’s the flicker – why did God choose Peter?
Remember Philip, who preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch and was caught off to Azotus and preached all the way to Caesarea? Yes. Philip “the Evangelist” could do the job. He did settle, according to Biblical history, in Caesarea with his four daughters and was in Caesarea in 37 AD when Peter visited (and years after that). “Diligent seeker” Cornelius could have been received by anyone close by.
I put on my wire-rimmed glasses and squinted at the Bible map, with a mug of coffee on my free hand. Caesarea is about 32 miles north of Joppa. I drive about 26 miles to work which takes me thirty to forty-five minutes (at forty-five to sixty-five miles per hour) depending on the traffic flow. Adjusting for terrain and medium of transportation, it would take Peter about eleven hours to walk to Caesarea. But he probably rode the horse carriage with Cornelius’ soldiers, so that’s down to about five to seven hours.
Why would God call Peter who was miles away to do the job?
The apt answer is I REALLY DO NOT KNOW. But I want to share the light bulb- maybe someone will pick a thing or two.
Maybe the moral of the story is not only to tell us that God welcomes people of all backgrounds (yes He does!). Maybe it was also to tell us that He doesn’t pick people for assignments like we think He does- by the proximity of location, ease of access or some other funny criteria we conjure. I think God picks according to His transcendent purpose and he can call anyone from half way across the world to reach anyone.
I imagine also, that one of His purposes was to reach Peter and break his strong biases. At that time, Jews thought it scandalous to even think of associating with a gentile. Eating their unclean foods or visiting them was a capital no. Philip obviously had no problem with Gentiles, for he promptly sat with, preached to the gentile Ethiopian Eunuch and baptized him. So it seems to me that God wanted it to be a teaching moment for Peter (He told us that anyway in verse 28). Despite the three-part blockbuster it took to convince him, Peter later struggled with this again in Galatians 2:11-14. Old habits die hard, I guess.
I might just be wild or weirdly making some sense here.
Either way, the point is God is not confined by zoning limitations in his dealing with man. He’s the one who initiates all eternally significant life events (which is pretty much everything that happens in this world) and provides all we need to do his will (including your flight ticket to wherever he’s going to take you).
Also, his project might actually be YOU, so don’t get disillusioned with “service” that you’re neglecting the character building process. Ask Peter.
Do not try to decipher the validity of His will by location proximity or present ease of access. It will shock you.
You “sha” know that he’s got the whole universe in his palms. By extension, God can bring a man from South Korea to serve a man in Igbo-ora, Oyo State so that he can move on to Los Angeles, California to reach someone who just migrated from Tibet.
Likewise, He can move you Katsina so you can meet your future wife/husband and then lead you both to settle at Switzerland. So God can reach you wherever you are.
It kind of adds up to one thing – stop sampling. Seek His purposes (and be ready to pack. LOL!) Here’s another curveball – you might not even know your real assignment until you get there.
P.S. Sometimes, it’s good to just read the books of the Bible. You might just find something interesting or weirdly possible. And in case you don’t know the books I referenced, (#cough) they are Luke and Acts. You’ll find them in a timeless library called the Bible. You should read them sometime.
What do you think about “Why not Philip?” Shoot me some comments.