October 18, 2023

Beyond the Rivers of Cush

Zephaniah 3:9-10; Acts 8:26-39

“From beyond the rivers of Cush, my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings.”

—  Zephaniah 3:10

Jesus told his disciples that they would be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). One of these “ends” was the Kingdom of Ethiopia, “beyond the rivers of Cush” (in modern Sudan).

The Ethiopian eunuch in our story traveled fifteen hundred miles across rivers, mountains, and deserts to worship the God of Israel in the temple in Jerusalem. However, Deuteronomy 23:1 states that no man with damaged or missing testicles (like the eunuch) could come near God’s holy place. And so it is likely that the man would have been turned away.

On his long journey back to end-of-the-earth Ethiopia, the man read from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7-8). He read about a man who suffered greatly, a man who appeared to be rejected by God and who suffered for the sins of other people. As the Ethiopian man wondered about this suffering man, a disciple of Jesus, named Philip, came alongside him and explained how this ancient prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. Philip shared the good news that through Jesus, all people, including faithful foreigners and eunuchs, are welcomed into God’s family (Isaiah 56:3-5). The Ethiopian man received the good news that day and was baptized into the family of God. Instead of encountering God in a brick and mortar temple, the Holy Spirit made his home in him.

Heavenly Father, we praise you that even if we have experienced exclusion in this world, through Jesus, you have welcomed us into your family and made your home within us. Amen.

About the author — Kristopher Walhof

Kristopher Walhof is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church who lives with his wife and seven-year-old son in rural Kenya. He teaches Bible and theology courses to theological students seeking ordination in the Africa Inland Church (AIC) denomination.

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