· The high priest asked Stephen if the charges were true that he was saying Jesus was going to destroy the Temple and change the customs of Moses (from chapter 6)
· Stephen replied by giving a short review of Jewish history from Abraham to Solomon. He treats the Old Testament as if it was true history and not just as allegory or story.
· He addresses the men respectably as his Jewish brothers and fathers (or teachers)
· He speaks of Abraham
o Abrahams call to leave Mesopotamia to go to an unknown land
o God showed him the land that he would give Abraham’s descendants, not Abraham himself
o At the time Abraham had no descendants
o He foretells of his family being in Egypt for 400 years and His judgment on Egypt, and his descendants then being led to the promised land
o After the promise God made with Abraham the covenant of circumcision (which is when Abraham became “Jewish”)
o Abraham circumcised Isaac on the eighth day (Jews still do this today)
o Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to the twelve patriarchs
· He speaks of Joseph
o His brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery which took him to Egypt
o God turned the situation around and Joseph ended up the second ruler in all of Egypt
o Then he tells of how God used Joseph to save his family and bring them to Egypt
o There the twelve patriarchs died
· He speaks of Moses
o Near the end of the 400 years, God’s promise to Abraham was set into motion and a new ruler emerged who didn’t know of Joseph and treated the Jewish people harshly
o He ordered that baby boys be destroyed, but Moses was special and ended up being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.
o Moses was powerful in speech and action
o Moses wanted to protect his people (he had killed an Egyptian), but they didn’t see it that way and Moses fled
o God later visits Moses in the burning bush, declaring himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (The God of Jewish promise)
o Lord told him that he was on holy ground, and that His intention was to send Moses back to free God’s people (as promised)
o Stephen reminds them that Moses was initially rejected by the people of Israel
o But Moses was indeed from God and led them out of Egypt, miraculously through the Red Sea, and into the desert.
o He reminds them that Moses said that God would send them a prophet like himself
o At that Moses received living words (scripture) that would be passed on to the people
o He points out that the people rejected God several times and even wanted to go back to Egypt
o They then made an idol to worship rather than God
o He then quotes Amos 5:25-27 that says the people rejected God to worship things created rather than the creator himself.
o He reminds them that the people even had God present with them in the Tabernacle
o And that it was with them until their great king David came and wanted to build something more permanent which was actually built by his son Solomon.
o Lastly he points out that God does not ultimately live in something created by mankind and quotes Isaiah 66:1-2 as proof
· Up to this point Stephen hasn’t said anything that wasn’t taught in synagogue’s all across the known world at that time, but here his tone changes dramatically
· Stephen accuses them of being “stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” This is not new as God refers to Israel in this way several times through the Old Testament.
· He says that like those of old they resist the Holy Spirit and just like the people of old resisted and killed the prophets, they resisted and killed the Messiah (The Righteous one).
· He also accuses them of receiving the law but not obeying it (like the people when Moses initially gave the law)
· The Sanhedrin reaction was fury (not reflection)
· The Holy Spirit opens Stephens eyes up to the spiritual realm and he sees Jesus on the right hand of Father God. He declares this out loud.
· The Sanhedrin hear this as a declaration that Jesus is equal to God, which is blaspheme for a human to claim.
· They cover their ears in protest to the blaspheming and carry out the punishment for the crime which is stoning. (this is all cover for not dealing with the truth of their own hard hearts)
· We are introduced to Saul (who would become Paul the great evangelist)
· Stephen follows Jesus’ example and forgives his enemies right before he dies.
· The Old Testament isn’t just a prelude to the New Testament, it is God’s holy Word. There are lessons that God wants to teach me contained within. It isn’t just about them, it is about me.
· I need to be careful not to just read the Bible as stories from long ago, and remember that it is about people who are just like me. How many times have I received God’s Word in a great sermon, said amen, and then just went about my business as if God didn’t really matter?
· I also need to be careful that when people speak truth in my life that I hear it and not default to resisting and justifying myself.
Thank you for your word which reveals you and what you desire from me. Forgive me for not taking it more serious. Forgive me for hearing the word and not allowing it to penetrate my heart. Help me be a lover of your word, a doer of your word. May your word transform me, and may my heart be open to your correction. Thank you for the grace to be in process and not have to get it all together right this minute. At the same time, help me advance in my pursuit of Christ and run the race well.
In Jesus name I pray, AMEN
Posted on Thu, February 12, 2015
by Joel King