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ACTS
Chapter 7
Spiritual Guidance
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1.  "And the high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’"

The Court was now in session (these may have been "religious" men, but for Stephen, it was a Court of Law).  Stephen, with his "face like an angel" (6:15), was accused of blasphemy (6:13), and he was on trial for his life.  Actually, God Himself was on trial by these "religious" men, for Stephen truly represented God.  And these "judges" themselves were on trial, because they chose to come against God, and this man of God.

It continues to be astonishing to me that Stephen would be allowed to speak for such a LONG time.  And that should be very reassuring to us.  The Holy Spirit of God shut up the mouths and the rebellious hearts of the religious leaders, until such a time as Stephen had FINISHED the work for which God had placed him upon this earth.  It was only after his words were utterly complete, that these men were ALLOWED (Verse 57 & forward) to continue their work against him.

Verse 2.  "And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers!  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,’"

Chuck Smith, of Calvary Chapel, provides an excellent exposition of this chapter, pointing out that a key to chapter 7, is actually found in chapter 6, verse 14, and context.  These men constantly looked to their "fathers" (the patriarchs) for authentication as to the basis of their religious leadership of Israel.  They were indeed the sons of such men, but Stephen would point out their "fathers" actually were SINNERS, one and all.  And so, Chuck continues, were these men – sinners one and all.

There is another thread which weaves through this chapter, and that is the scarlet thread of faith in God.  These men looked to their "fathers" but they also looked to their own "success" in keeping the law.  Stephen would demonstrate that, from Abraham onward, their progenitors were NOT saved through keeping the law, but by the grace of God, operating in ordinary people, through faith in Him.  Stephen would lead them to the consistent and logical outcome of such trust:   to the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.

Their "fathers" began with Abraham, the "father" of Israel and the father of all who have faith in God.  He calls those of the Sanhedrin "brothers", because he, like them, was of the nation Israel.  Paul (or Saul) was in the audience, leaning forward, and listening intently to every word uttered by Stephen, this man of Jesus Christ.  Abraham was not from Israel at all, by the way, but from the city of Ur, a place about half way between Babylon and Susa (the capital of Persia); somewhat south of them both.  By language, custom, dress, and national origin, these Jews, if they met him, would have probably regarded Abraham as some kind of "foreigner."  He was unlike these men, in speech, appearance, and especially in the area of faith in God.

Verse 3.  "and said to him, ‘Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.'"

The high priest had demanded an answer, and Stephen continued.  Since the accusation involved half-truths, there was really no simple (human) correct response, and Stephen was continuing in the power of God.  This is a fascinating history of God’s dealings with His people.  This section on Abraham is a look at the nature of faith, for when he was called (Genesis 12:1 and forward), God did not fully reveal to him where he was going, but initially he was just to "go", with the details somewhat unclear. He believed God.

Abraham had some inkling of the journey, but wandered to the northwest, ending up in Haran.  He believed that God is good, and took the next step of faith, which is to recognize that God 1) knows what He is doing; and 2) His intentions toward us are both good and honorable, in all He does.  Abraham went, not because he fully understood where he was going, or why he was going there, but because he trusted in God.  The Lord God knew what this journey was about, and that was sufficient for Abraham.

Verse 4.  "Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran.  From there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living."

It’s interesting that in Genesis 11:31, Terah, Abraham’s father, took Abraham from Ur to Haran.  And the call may have been first to him (Terah).  No matter, for in relation to the call of Abraham, it was the Holy Spirit Who took BOTH (all) of them.  There have been some concerns (compare the last verses of Genesis 11, with the first verses of Chapter 12), about whether Terah was still alive or not, when Abraham left.  Abram (as he was called at that time) may well have left, and then returned, learning of the imminent death of his father; then leaving for good, after the death.   What is clear is that this progenitor of both the Jewish and Arabic peoples, was a man of great faith in God.

Verse 5.  "And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his offspring after him."

Abraham had no real possession in this land at all (except for a cave he purchased for purposes of burial), and yet God PROMISED all of it to him and his children (Genesis 13:15 and other places).  Obviously, the promise of the land has been fulfilled (his descendants are once again in the land), but he did not SEE that fulfillment in his lifetime.

It is also noted that when God uttered these promises, Abraham had no child, and had no reasonable human expectation of ever having one.  As time went on, the likelihood actually DECREASED, as Sarah and Abraham became older and older.

We tend to want RESULTS - NOW, whereas God, Who created the earth and all that is in it, sees "1,000 years" as "like a day" (Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8).   Abraham is regarded as the "father of all who believe" (Romans 4:11), not because he got what he wanted, but because he TRUSTED in the One Who gave the promises.

Verse 6.  "But God spoke to this effect, that his offspring would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years."

I should imagine that Abraham experienced in the Lord (as recorded in  Genesis 15:13) what we (when we follow God) find - surprise (and joy)!  Abraham had decided to follow and trust God (Genesis 15:6), and the Lord had appeared to him.  All this involved a reference to CHILDREN, to this (presently, at that time) childless man.   Note that a terrible darkness came upon Abraham (Genesis 15:12) but God was with him - as He is with YOU, during the dark times of YOUR life.

Just as Egypt (the nation that enslaved Israel) became a tool in the hand of God, to shape His people Israel, so "trouble", at the Lord’s direction, can turn the ordinary person into someone beautiful, in the sight of God.

These descendants yet to be born, would be enslaved for 400 years.  But in Exodus 12:41, this time is revealed as precisely 430-years.  I believe the extra 30-years, reflects God’s patience with Moses, who just was not ready to lead Iarael at the 400-year mark.  (And the people themselves were not ready to be set free).  Genesis 15:16 reveals another delaying factor - "The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete."  God would not allow the invasion of this 400 + years in the future people, until faith in Him was truly gone from the land.  There was a remnant of faith (as Rahab in Joshua 2), but faith in God would be essentially GONE from that place, when Israel marched into Canaan.

Verse 7.  "'and whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,' said God, ‘and after that they will come out and serve me in this place.'"

The two promises to Israel, in this verse, are the same two promises that are given to ALL who love the Lord.

1) The "bully" who is allowed to mistreat people, for a time, will be judged for what he does.  The purpose of Israel, in Egypt, was both illustrative, and curative in nature.  A process was in motion, that would lead them away from unbelief (which is like a sickness), and to faith (health of the soul).  And both their successes and failures would reveal to all of future history, the road we too, must travel to our Lord.  Though persons in YOUR life, may be allowed to send trouble your way; woe to the person who, in any manner, harms one of the "little ones" of our Lord.

2) You will be rescued from any harm that comes your way. I recall the promise (a prophesy, actually) that was extended to the Ten Boom sisters (of "The Hiding Place") - they would both be released from prison by the New Year.  Right after that, Bessie died.  And then Corrie was released from the concentration camp, because of a "clerical error."  The one, God set free to be with Him, and the other, also in Him, would remain in this world for a time.  Your trouble is temporary, and your freedom, already a fact, will last - forever!

Verse 8.  "And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs."

Circumcism was the outward manifestation of a life dedicated to God.  The external sign was never enough, for it was to be a reflection of that which is INSIDE the person who bears the mark.  Signs can be misleading.  Our servicemen, in World War II, would return to this country, often with a tattoo such as a "heart" somewhere on their bodies.  The words inside the heart might be "mother", or a girl’s name, such as "Gina."  But later, you find them married to someone named (possibly) "Joan."  To whom did that man belong?  Was it "Gina" who was written on his arm?  Or "Joan" to whom he (hopefully) gave his whole life?  The answer, of course, is "Joan" and that was Stephen’s point in these verses. These men were sons of the patriarchs, sons of the law, but did their lineage (and the marks on their bodies) make them right before God?

Verse 9.  "And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him,"

In this verse, we see agreement with Chuck Smith’s assessment, that Stephen in the Holy Spirit was pointing out that their "fathers" who they relied upon, were sinners who did wrong.  If your "righteousness" is based in some outward thing of this world, your foundation is corrupt and you will fall.  These religious leaders knew that, and were beginning to see where Stephen was going.  Among the sons of Israel, Joseph was the one who exhibited faith in God, and he was the one condemned and sold into slavery by his brothers!

The incident (where Joseph was sold) is recounted in detail, in Genesis 37, and forward.  Notice that "God was with him" (Joseph).  This is a joyous promise to those who have given themselves to God and yet have trouble in life.   You may be "sold" into some kind of "slavery" or another, but God is with you.  You may have walked one minute, but entered the slavery of a wheelchair in the next, but God is with you.  Your confinement is only temporary – as it was with Joseph (and also with Stephen), so it also is with you.

Verse 10.  "and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household."

Genesis 41, begins with Joseph in prison, but then he became the governor of all Egypt.   The chapter concludes with the famine, which was to bring his brothers to him.   The real place of our deliverance, by the way, is in eternity. Jesus Christ "was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5 and context).

God was WITH Joseph (in his prison and at all other times), and He is with you.   Your outward condition, good or bad, is but for a moment, and then, like Joseph, you will see the favor of God, and be a "governor" in His kingdom.   "We shall judge angels" (1 Corinthians 6:3) Paul tells us.  We are not to strum harps in eternity; but rather to do the work of God.

Verse 11.  "Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it; and our fathers could find no food."

A severe famine (Genesis 41:53 & forward) came over both these areas (the country of Egypt and the land of Canaan), and the people were suffering.  It should be recalled that a prophesy had been given to Abraham (Genesis 15:13) that the people of Israel, would be in a foreign land, and afflicted, for 400-years.  Those of Israel, were mostly not persons of prayer to God, and they were not likely to ever fulfill the prophesy and start the 400-years.  Therefore, the famine would drive them to Egypt, and it became a tool which would bring about the will of God.

You have to wonder about the "famine" in your life. You may want a spouse, and feel your life will be a "famine" until you have one (or you may have one and wish you did not).  Illness, job loss, a death, and the positive aspects of our lives as well – events will change us and drive us in a direction that God intends, and will ultimately do the will of God in our lives.  I have thought about all the other characters in the region who were affected by this famine.   Were all the Moabites, the Edomites, Ishmaelites (and possibly the electric lites), affected by this famine?  Yes they were, for God is doing His work in the lives of every man, woman, and child on earth, to bring us to faith in Him.

Verse 11.  "Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it; and our fathers could find no food."

A severe famine (Genesis 41:53 & forward) came over both these areas (the country of Egypt and the land of Canaan), and the people were suffering.  It should be recalled that a prophesy had been given to Abraham (Genesis 15:13) that the people of Israel, would be in a foreign land, and afflicted, for 400-years.  Those of Israel, were mostly NOT persons who prayed to God, and they were not likely to ever fulfill the prophesy and start the 400-years.  Therefore, the famine would drive them to Egypt, and it became a tool which would bring about the will of God.

You have to wonder about the "famine" in your life.  You may want a spouse, and feel your life will be a "famine" until you have one (or you may have one and wish you did not).  Illness, job loss, a death, and the positive aspects of our lives as well – events will change us and drive us in a direction that God intends, and will ultimately do the will of God in our lives.  I also have thought about all the other characters in the region that were affected by this famine.  Were all the Moabites, the Edomites, Ishmaelites (and possibly the electric lites), affected by this famine?  Yes they were, for God is doing His work in the lives of every man, woman, and child on earth, to bring us to faith in Him.

Verse 12.  "But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time."

The famine had become worse, and Jacob was desperate now.  Food was low, and they had to have wondered, "What is this all about?"  Well, it was about God’s intentions for them.  In Genesis 15:16, it was revealed they would be "strangers in a strange land…four hundred years."  This famine had a lot of purposes in the lives of the people in that region, and specifically for Israel, it was the goad which pushed them to Egypt, to the will of God.  Jacob was hungry, his little ones were hungry, and they would go to Egypt.

Verse 13.  "And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family was disclosed to Pharaoh."

For a long time, I was troubled by Joseph’s response to his family, when they came to Egypt, to buy grain.  I found this "cat and mouse" game he played with them, a little disturbing as to his character.  But then I realized it was the character of his BROTHERS that was being tested.  After all, THEY were the ones who had wanted to kill Joseph, and that was the last he had heard of them, until this time.

Let’s look at Joseph’s perspective (Genesis 37 & forward).  His brothers threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery.  As he was being taken to Egypt, he must have remembered all the talk about Abraham’s nephew Lot, who was captured, but then was rescued by Abraham and his 300+ men (Genesis 14).  Why didn’t Jacob (Joseph’s father) take men and rescue HIM, like Abraham did for his nephew, Lot?  Joseph spent literally decades in Egypt, in prison and in slavery, remembering and wondering about all these people who were supposed to have been his family.  His brothers hurt him.  His father did not rescue him.  Only Benjamin had done him no harm.

So Joseph tested them (who knew whether they might try to kill him again?), but then (Genesis 45) he made himself known to them.

Verse 14.  "And Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all."

Much has been made, by the critics, that Genesis 46:27, says "seventy souls" went to Egypt, whereas Stephen, here in Acts, puts it at seventy-five.  Matthew Henry reminds us that Stephen used the Septuagint translation (as Luke, in Luke 3:36, where Cainan, not in the Hebrew text, is inserted, because it is in the Septuagint).   Matthew Henry also points out that, by excluding Joseph and his sons (who were already in Egypt, reducing the number to 64), and adding the sons of the eleven patriarchs, the number IS seventy-five.

The important thing is (for us and for the critics), the prophesy would be fulfilled – Israel would go to Egypt. 

Verse 15.  "And Jacob went down to Egypt and there passed away, he and our fathers."

"Jacob went down to Egypt."  As reflected in Genesis 46, he went with reluctance, and it took a famine (along with the "return to life" of Joseph) to get him there.  Remember, when you read this brief account, that all was foretold (Genesis 15:13 & context), long before it ever happened.  Same with you and me. We fret and worry and strain at our circumstances.  Yet all is within the foreknowledge (and love) of God.

There is a problem here.  Jacob died, and more – all the "fathers" died.  Our fathers die, and so do we, unless the Lord returns very soon.  Then what happens to our hopes, our dreams, the "treasures" (Matthew 6:19-24) we have laid-up?  The answer is, that if we are in Christ, every hope, each and every dream, and all our "treasures" will be ours (in Him) forever!  You wonder, does that mean my car will be there?  Tabby the cat?  My job?  It means that we will be SATISFIED when we are with our Lord, and every need will be met in Him.  You’ve always wanted to be permanently satisfied, and now you will be.

Verse 16.  "And from there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem."

Often we worry - what will happen to us?  Will we become "bones" like these people?  What if I am called to some land and am eaten by cannibals or my children become hungry?  So we often play it "safe" and don’t go.   Yet there is actually no safety in our caution, and there is ALL safety, when we go in the will of God.  Yes, all die (Exodus 1:6), regardless of our decisions in life, but notice the care given to the very bones of these people.  This care, and more, God has for you.  I am fascinated by Ezekiel, chapter 37.  Our bones, though scattered, shall be knit together, and we are to be made alive – (that chapter relates to Israel, but it is also for every child of God).  We are to be made new - in Him.

Abraham was given ALL the land, but all he ever actually possessed was this cave in Shechem (Genesis 7:16 & context), to be used as a tomb for his beloved wife.   But this tiny piece of ground was like a down payment of much more, because all the land does belong to him and his descendants.  You may feel the promise of much, but actually have little.  Don’t lose heart, for all is yours - in Christ Jesus.

Verse 17.  "But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt,"

Just as the people multiplied in Egypt, our population on earth is multiplying at this time.  Thomas Malthus (the economist) was somewhat right, for 6-billion people is just too many.  Our fears are increasing, and out of that fear, has come the incredible mass murder of our unborn children.  But the time of deliverance for Israel was near (predicted in Genesis 15:13), just as the time of our deliverance is at hand (Revelation 3:11).  Our little ones cry to us from the laboratories to which their parts have been taken for research.  As a people we do not hear them.   The Lord does hear, and He will return for all who suffer in this world, with both vengeance and redemption in His train.

Verse 18.  "until there arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph."

Just at the time they should be leaving the land (the 400-years was just about up), there arose another Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8).  I would have done it the other way, and created a super-friendly Pharaoh, who would encourage the people, help them, and give them ample provisions for the journey.  But God knew these people would not have gone, except it was impossible for them to stay.  Our choice would have been for physical comfort, but His choice was toward faith in Him.   Physical comfort will not last, but faith in God will last forever.  If it seems your boss or your spouse is contrary, remember this Pharaoh, and realize that God is doing a much greater work in your life than you would, if you could control your circumstances.

Verse 19.  "It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive."

If you deal treacherously with people, and oppress them, it is not something that can be hidden - it is KNOWN.  We think that most everything we do is secret - not known to anyone.  No so.  Just like this written material is a public record, just like the infamy of Pharaoh is made public to us, ALL will be revealed, when we kneel before the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah.  It is good to confess your sins to Him now, and not to wait for some other time.

He caused their little boys to be killed.  "Exposure" was a practice of the time, and was used as a form of "birth control."  If parents did not want a child, they simply took the baby outside of the city and left it, for whatever "fate" might bring to it.  Up until the Roe v. Wade decision, we were a people notable in history for protecting our little ones, born and unborn.   When we abort our children, we become like this Pharaoh, and will be judged (God loves our little ones).  Our only hope is Christ, who died for Pharaoh’s sins - and your sins - and mine.

Verse 20.  "And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father's home."

Jesus said "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14).  God loves all children.  He loved Moses and every little one who has ever existed.   He had a special work for Moses, and though he was "exposed" at three months, because of the bad law of Pharaoh, he would live to do the work of God.  Many of the other little boys died, but God loved them no less - He received them, every one, into His kingdom, into His Arms.

Verse 21.  "And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh's daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son."

There was no need for Stephen to go into great detail, at this point, about the trip of this baby, down the Nile, and into the life of Pharaoh’s daughter, for his hearers knew every bit of it.  These events are recorded in Exodus 1:1-10, where the baby was floated, in a tiny ark, toward the arms of the daughter of Pharaoh.  His circumstances of life were decreed by God, and so are yours (and mine).

The will of God is that we come to Christ.  The will of God is that we will eat food.  Both are necessary to LIFE (there are different ways to be hungry) and Christ is just as necessary to the starving person, as a good meal.  God will nurture you and me.

Verse 22.  And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds."

It’s interesting that the man God selected to be the "deliverer" of his people, was born exactly at the time when Hebrew boy babies were being killed, by the order of Pharaoh.  The "darkest" hour will often be the time of God’s deliverance, which is why you are to "rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16).   It’s no accident he was given "all the wisdom of the Egyptians," which was considerable, indeed.

They had calculated, for example, the correct distance from the earth to the sun; and the pyramids were an architectural feat for ANY culture, any generation.   Note that he was "mighty in words and deeds." The teaching that he had some kind of lisp or other speech impediment (see Exodus 4:10; "I am not eloquent… I am slow of speech") is just not true.  Here was a man who would learn humility for the purposes of God.  (He would be "slow of speech" because he would have much less to say than before).

Verse 23.  "But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel."

Here is a man who knew who he was a Hebrew.  His stepmother (Pharaoh’s daughter) said, when she first saw him, "This is one of the Hebrew’s children (Exodus 2:6).  In this verse (a reflection of Exodus 2:11), he decided to visit "his brethren."  This is important because some teach he did not know he was Jewish, until he was around 40-years of age.  It was his real mother, who first placed him into the ark (Exodus 2:3), and then nursed him (Exodus 2:8-9& context) as he "grew" for some considerable time. He knew who he was.

Verse 24-25.  "And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.  And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand."

This section demonstrates that Moses understood, at 40-years of age, that he was to be the (human) deliverer of Israel.  It certainly would have seemed logical to him.  He was born at the right place, was raised in the right circumstances, and at the right time (the 400-years they all knew about, was just about up).  Verse 24 reveals he was strong and no doubt skilled in weaponry, for he successfully defended one of the Hebrews, who was being beaten (Exodus 2:11) by an Egyptian.  Exodus 2:12 reported he looked "this way and that way" and buried the Egyptian in the sand.

People were about to find out about what he had done, and God, of course, knew it all.   Nothing is hidden from God. 

But the people he was to deliver - just did not understand.

Verse 26-27.  "And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, "Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?  But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’"

It seems that Moses was "testing the waters," deciding if the evidence indicated he was to deliver the people Israel.  Some dispute whether he could have "felt" a "call" in his heart to lead them, alleging the Holy Spirit was not in God’s Old Testament people, but merely upon them.  That position, of course, isn’t true, as evidenced by 1 Peter 1:11, Ezekiel 2:2, 3:24, and other places, where it is indicated the Holy Spirit was IN the prophets of old.   Moses knew the call of God, and he was responding to his Lord.

Note this quote of Exodus 2:14, where it is seen that Moses was rejected by the very people he was supposed to lead.  The ground of your call from God (we who are in Him are all called), is not measured by the response of our contemporaries.  God will work in them, even though it may be 40-years (or never) until they respond.   It must be noted the true response to the work of God, is created by God, and not by the one He sends.  If Moses was ready, at that time, the people were not.   The answer to the question they asked, "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?" is - God! Be careful to not come against the work of God.

Verse 28-29.  "You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?  And at this remark, Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons."

This event did not occur as in the movie "The Ten Commandments."  In the film, Pharaoh banished him (Charlton Heston) from Egypt, but the real Moses (not portrayed by an actor), simply ran away.  Pharaoh did hear of the killing of the Egyptian (Exodus 2:15) and Moses fled for his life.

Human authority and leadership must act in two ways, in the human sense.  The heart of the one must be fixed to lead, and the hearts of the others must be fixed to follow.  Here, if the one was ready, the others were not.  They rejected him and insulted his attempt at leadership.  Troubled, afraid, Moses fled into Midian, where he raised a family and tended sheep.

Was Moses really ready to lead?  The true leader is actually the servant (Philippians 2) as Christ on the cross, who served us all, by dying for you and for me.   Moses became the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3), a statement which must have been added by his assistant/secretary Joshua, because if Moses had written it, then he would not really have been humble.  It was the 40-years he was about to experience that would turn him into the man who could serve these people, in the power and love of God.

Verse 30.  "And after forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush."

Forty years had passed, and Moses was now 80-years old.  When you’re 40 (or 20 or whenever - the prime of life), the tendency is to feel you can do - anything.   Then add the call of God, and you’ve got a zealot who is willing to go.   But now, it was 40-years later.  To have thought you were some kind of "deliverer" of your people, and then to spend 40-years in embarrassed reflection - he must have had tremendous doubts about himself, his call.  Add to this Moses’ comment in Psalm 90:10 ("his" Psalm), we can see he thought a person 80-years of age, was about to die!

He certainly wasn’t likely to be a fountain of optimism, at this point in time, and now here was this burning bush!  Well, not exactly burning, though, for we see in Exodus 3:2-3, that it was full of fire, but it was not being consumed!  What was this, anyway? In spite of himself, his curiosity drew him closer. . .

Verse 31.  "And when Moses saw it, he began to marvel at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord:"

Exodus 3:4 reports that when God fully had the attention of Moses, through the agency of the "burning" bush; then He called to Moses.  Once you have become a true student, you don’t ever fully lose the desire to learn.  God correctly looked to this tendency in Moses, who was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22).  It was at that moment, when Moses forgot all his cares, his regrets, and his "what-ifs" (from 40-years ago), that God spoke to him through the bush, calling "Moses, Moses" (Exodus 3:4).  And Moses, spellbound by what he was seeing (and hearing), replied, "Here, I am."

Verse 32.  "’I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.' Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look."

The "bush" spoke again (Exodus 3:6); more accurately, the Voice behind (or through) the bush spoke once more, identifying Himself as "the God of your fathers; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."  Moses trembled greatly, and stopped looking.  Exodus 3:6, reports he "hid his face" (I would, too), for he was afraid to look upon God.  40-years before, Moses had not been afraid (until he fled) - now he was afraid.  This is the kind of "fear" David reported as "clean" (Psalm 19:9).  This is the fear (Proverbs 1:7), that leads to understanding.  Moses was now ready to lead.  Knowing this, God would send this man of God.  The man was ready and the time was now.

Verse 33.  "But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’"

In Exodus 3:5, Moses had been commanded to remove his sandals.  This was a sign of respect, in that time and place, much like "doffing the cap" (taking off the hat) would be, in future millennia.  This is reflected here, in Stephen’s recitation, and it is good to remember that wherever God is, that place is holy.

Let’s share a "secret" - God is everywhere!  He is not limited in time and space as we are.  Therefore, the place where you are right now - is holy (set apart for God).  Honor Him where you are, for He is there.  The persons you meet are holy, for he has created them.  You can pray everywhere, at all times, for He is near.

The place in which you are, right now, is holy ground.  Honor God in your heart and life, right now, for He is with you.

Verse 34.  "I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt."

Stephen observed that God saw the afflictions of His people (a quote from Exodus 2:24-25).  God sees your afflictions, as well.  He hears your cries and intends to deliver you.  I have heard it taught that God, in Jesus, learned about our sufferings, as He walked the earth, and died for us.  There is something to that, but actually, He already knew.  It is us (you and me) who learn, as Moses learned, that God knows and cares.  By seeing Him walk on earth (in the Gospels), and suffer the life of a man, we KNOW that He understands.  He hears your groans (and He cares for you).

Verse 35.  "This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush."

As Stephen continued his talk to the religious leaders, he looked right at them, and reminded them that their "fathers" rejected Moses.  The one we reject, tends to be the one chosen by God.  This is true in marriage, for the one God sent to us, is all too often the one we reject, in 10 or 20 years.

And this is certainly true of Christ Jesus.  Inside of ourselves, we hunger for our Redeemer.  We know we are debtors, who can never pay enough.  We did a small group study, recently, on the "treasures of earth" (Jesus said "don’t lay them up") and the "treasures of heaven" (Matthew 6:19-24).  We often don’t really grasp what God wants, and usually don’t have a clue about the "treasures of heaven."  Jesus has made Himself our Treasure, the Passover Lamb, Who takes away our sins.  We are redeemed through faith in Him.   Just to trust in Him is to have exceeding riches in glory, abundantly, greater than we could ask or think.

Verse 36.  "This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years."

The one they rejected (Moses), brought them out.  They had said "Who made you a ruler and judge over us?" and it was he (Moses), who "stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back" (Exodus 14:21).  Note that Moses brought them out, "after he had shown signs and wonders…40 years."   From the time Moses thought his life was over (at 80 years of age), the Lord wondrously used him and worked through him, for 40-years (He lived to be 120).  In your life (as Yogi Berra said) "It ain’t over ‘till it’s over."

While Jesus was on the cross, they mocked Him, saying "If You are King of the Jews, save Yourself" (Luke 23:36).  Actually, it is us who have mocked Him through our previous rejection of Him, and ALL people need to be saved.   One of the thieves crucified with Him, mocked Him (Luke 23:39), while the other received Him as Savior (Luke 23:40-43).  Israel needed Moses (who they rejected), and the world needs Jesus Christ.

Verse 37.  "This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, "God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’"

Stephen here quotes Deuteronomy 18:15, that God would raise up a Prophet, like himself (Moses).  There were many prophets in Israel, so Moses was talking of a particular Prophet, at some point in the future.

Now, there was no doubt about Who was being discussed here, for Peter had already publicly associated Deuteronomy 18:15, with Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22).  Right after those words were uttered in Acts 3, "the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Saducees" arrested Peter and the others (Acts 4:1-4).

It’s amazing that the leaders of Israel were still listening to Stephen, at this time, and I am more convinced than ever, that the Holy Spirit simply froze them in their seats, until this recitation was complete.  As J. Vernon McGee points out, this dialogue is really "the Spirit’s interpretation" of the Old Testament, and He (the Son of God) would be heard.

Verse 38.  "This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you."

Verse 38 is fun, because the word "congregation" (NKJV), referring to Israel in this verse, is really "ecclesia" or "church" ("called out ones").  Those who place a strong dividing line of separation between God’s work in Israel, and God’s work in the church, have trouble here.  It isn’t the differences between us we should be emphasizing, for we are to be "ONE" (John 17) in Christ.

I like it that Moses received living words, to pass on to us.  The Bible has certainly become alive to me, and the Spirit does precisely that (brings life) to those who receive our Lord.  If you are having trouble understanding Scripture, I recommend prayer.  In 1969-70, I read through the whole Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, and understood nothing.  The lack of understanding concerned me deeply, so I prayed.  He answered and is still answering that prayer.  He gives understanding to those who simply ASK.

It’s interesting that Stephen (and the Holy Spirit) reports an "angel" (messenger) spoke with Moses, for when the commandments and other instruction was received, it was clear in Exodus 31 (and surrounding chapters) that the Lord spoke to him.  Yet this curious blending of the Lord and His angels occurs elsewhere.   In Exodus 3:1, it was the "angel of the Lord" who appeared to Moses in the flame of fire, but (3:4), it was the "Lord" who spoke.  Our Lord loves us so much that there becomes a blurring of where He leaves off and we begin - we are ONE in Christ, one in Him.

Verse 39.  "And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt,"

And suddenly, the text turns, and bites the spectators.  As J. Vernon McGee points out, Stephen has not precisely defended himself, and has not truly addressed the charges against him.  He merely has painted a vast and beautiful portrait of Israel, on the canvas of time.  Now he turns, and we see the paint brush he held, has become a sword.  In the next few verses, he plunges the sword into the hearts of his hearers.

Abraham was a man of faith, and so was Moses.  It is faith, operative through the His grace, which defines us in relation to God.  Dr. McGee points out that there always was a "remnant of believers" in Israel, and he continues, "In the visible church…there is a remnant of believers."  By that, he meant that, much like Israel, there are many in the outward church, who appear to be Christians, but really are not.  We are not so different from the Israel of that time.

Stephen used the phrase "our fathers" relating those disobedient ancient ones, to himself and to his audience.  "In their hearts, they turned back to Egypt."  Stephen’s hearers had turned back, for they were essentially not men of faith.  Where are our hearts, today?

Verse 40.  "Saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt -- we do not know what happened to him.'"

Years ago, I decided, in relation to this verse, that we (people) prefer "gods" (idols) that are not able to do anything at all, for then we can go anywhere we want, pretending it is the "gods" who lead us.  This verse is a recitation of Exodus 32:1 (Stephen was an excellent expositor), where Moses was up in the hills, and they (the people) impatiently could wait no longer for him.  Waiting is so hard, but part of the definition of faith, in my opinion, is to learn to wait on the Lord.

These were people who had just seen the waters of the Red Sea, OPEN before them.   They experienced the destruction of the Egyptian armies, and witnessed the death of the first born of Egypt (while their first born were spared).  Surely after all this, God, who remembered the Egyptian army, would not forget their leader, Moses!  Yet, the people had essentially no faith, and looked to outward things, instead of trusting the invisible God, who had just saved them (and saves US, right now).

Verse 41.  "And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands."

When we’re gosh-awful pleased with ourselves (they were rejoicing in religion), it does not mean we’re doing the right thing.  As we see in Exodus 32:6, they became fervently religious at that point (they "offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings") but were not Godly, in what was done.  At this very time, by the way, God was giving Moses "two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God" (Exodus 32:18).

You can count on it, that God is doing something WONDERFUL for you, (upon the "mountain of God" in relation to YOUR life) right now.  Certainly, Jesus died for you, and by accepting Him, you receive it all.  He is also gleaning every "treasure in heaven" that may be extracted in relation to your life, looking with excitement to your future joy.  What are you doing now, for Him, and what will you be doing, when the Lord returns?

Verse 42-43.  "But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel.  You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship.  I also will remove you beyond Babylon."

"God gave them up to worship the host of heaven" (NKJV).  He had offered Israel a life of faith in God, but they chose instead to do it their way.  His sentence? - He let them go.

This was basically what He did with me, years ago, when I became afraid of His call to ministry, and ran away from Him - He let me go.  I did not understand, fully, what I was doing, but I did run, and He let me go.

When I turned back to Him, exhausted and repentant (15-years later), He was there!   The ministry wasn’t, though.  Before He allowed that "door" to open again (and I now WANTED it to open), there would be literally decades of spiritual "corrective surgery" within my heart and life.

As we see in verse 43, the person (and nation) who will not be a servant, will become a slave.  Opportunities that are extended to the "young" person in Christ, may not be extended again; perhaps not for a long time.  The phrase "and I will carry you away beyond Babylon" (Jeremiah 25:9-12), means a great deal to me, personally, and should be a warning to us all.

Verse 44.  "Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen."

There are some who question whether the Bible is the exact Word of (the Creation of) - God.  The answer is found internally, in the character God developed within the human authors.  Those who don’t believe (often don’t want to believe), attack the authorship in Scripture.  They do this, because it is so clear (when you accept the Scriptural accounts) that the Lord took ordinary men, and fashioned them into faithful men of God.  You see this clearly in Acts 7, especially in relation to Moses.  He was a man, essentially groomed to become a Head of State (Egypt), who learned he needed more than a good education.  He became a rural sheepherder, for 40-years, learning in advance what it took to lead a recalcitrant people (Israel), through the agency of leading sheep!  He also learned to follow God, and became a man of wonderful integrity.  The kind of man you would have to believe as an author.

This "Tabernacle" was built according to the precise pattern God selected.   In other words, this kind of honesty and precision was a characteristic of Moses.   He was the author of the Torah, the Penteteuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).  Jesus refers to the "gift that Moses commanded" in Matthew 8:4.  He quotes the "Book of Moses" in Mark 12:26.  "Did not Moses give you the law?," Jesus asks in John 7:19. Jesus commented, in Mark 7:10, "Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’

He quotes Numbers 21:9, in John 3:14, with no hesitation, "Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…" - accepting that account.   And if you accept Jesus as the Son of God, you will recognize that He was there, and saw Moses lift up that serpent.  Considering he (Moses) was the author, and he built the Tabernacle with such accuracy, surely he did the same with the Word of God.  You can depend this is the Word of God.

The prophets and apostles became (in the power of God) the same kind of men.  They committed their lives to obeying and serving God.  Like the Tabernacle was one structure with many parts, Scripture, Old and New, is a Book (written especially to you), inseparable in all its parts.  Those who discount it, just do not know what they are doing.

Verse 45.  "And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David."

The Tabernacle (see verse 44) is a parable of the work of God in our lives.  Years ago, in Tucson, I taught the Penteteuch or Torah (the first five books of the Bible), and it came alive for me, as I realized every sacrifice, each aspect of the Tabernacle, speaks of what God has done.  The real Temple, the true ark of the covenant, always was in heaven (Revelation 11:19).  What we had was a copy, given that we might understand what is in the mind and heart of God.

"Our fathers" (Stephen continues to carefully identify himself with his audience, those of the Sanhedrin), stayed close to the Tabernacle at all times, and so must we also cling to our God.  Only when we are near to Christ, can we become what we were meant to be.  Are you dissatisfied with life? --– Cling to Him.

Verse 46.  "And David found favor in God's sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob."

David (a continuation of verse 45) found favor with God.  Can you believe that? This man, who stumbled & fell so much, found favor with God!  It’s true, and in that fact is all we ever need to know about the grace of God.  He has mercy on those who simply and honestly trust in Him.

At a family gathering, in Tucson, AZ, a man loudly told me he could "never believe in God."  He continued, "Do you know why?"  To my "no," he responded, "It’s because of David…if God could love David, I cannot love God."  It turned out he "studied 11-years for the priesthood" but left, because of this outward reason:  that God loved David.

He just did not understand that God is not only a God of Judgment, but also He is the God of Mercy.  David understand that, and he found favor with God.

Verse 47.  "But it was Solomon who built a house for Him."

In 2 Samuel 7 (through Nathan the prophet), God provides an excellent reason why certain doors are open to us (in life) and others are closed.  David would not be allowed to build the earthly temple (he was a man of war), but God also opened future history to him, that David might see the blessings on him and his family – forever!   He closes some doors, but then opens better ones.

God is expressing Himself in this world, through you, even if you do not like Him or want Him.  Our Lord had a message to express through David, not only through his works and words, but also from the character of his life.  This was a man of war, doing the work of God, obtaining the land for the people, and as such, he would not build the building erected for God.  This was left to do by his son, Solomon, who, for all his flaws, was a man of peace.  And it is peace God brings to You, when the Holy Spirit literally moves right into your body and life (1 Corinthians 6:19 "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit").

If a "door" closes in relation to you (like it did to David about the Temple) – just trust in God, Who is communicating to the world, through the people He has created.  David would not build the Temple, for he did not send the right message. Solomon, even with his mistakes, sent a more appropriate message and DID build the earthly Temple.

Verse 48.  "However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:"

This is extremely important for us to see, because it is so tempting for us to think that God lives in our Church building, our denomination, or the creed(s) of human ideas.  God does not live in our works – We, if we are alive at all (we are, if we are in Christ), live in HIS works (in what He has done).  It is not the other way around.  In 1 Kings 8:27, after the Temple Was built, Solomon correctly prayed "Will God indeed dwell on earth?  Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.  How much less is this Temple which I have built?"

Verse 49.  "‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘or what place is there for My repose?’"

This verse is essentially a quote of Isaiah 66:1-2, where God reveals He is greater than the works of our hands.  For us to build a house for Him, would be like your child building a house out of the children’s building blocks in his toy chest (which you gave to him), and inviting you to live there.  It would not hold you, and even if it did, you could not truly make such a "house" your true home.

The verses in Isaiah conclude, "But on this one I will look; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word."  Again, it is not us who build adequate houses for God.  It is God who has built for us.  His words "What kind of house will you build for Me," convey that we must look to God, rather than ourselves.  Humility, in this context, is merely a recognition that our God is great enough to do the job (whatever it is in our life), and we are not great enough at all. We look to Him.

Verse 50.  "Was it not My hand which made all these things?"

As it says in Psalm 102:25, God created the heavens and the earth.  Consider for a moment the interstellar vastness, thought of as "outer space."  We humans are starting to wonder if it is infinite in scope, for we cannot see the "end" of any of it (it’s just too large).  Yet God, if He wished to (see Isaiah 40:12), could contain all of it within the span of His "Hand."

People also wonder if the universe will last forever.  Perhaps it simply expands and contracts, within billions or trillions of years (as Carl Sagan postulated).  God continues speaking through the Psalmist (Psalm 102:26); "They (the heavens) will perish, but You (God) will endure."  This is essentially like Hebrews 13:8 – "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever."

To rely on this place, this universe, is like leaning against a rotten board – it will break and you will fall.  Look to the Creator, for He will last (and in Him, so will you).

Verse 51.  "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did."

Every good speech (or essay) contains a well defined conclusion.  Stephen never did respond directly to the charges against him, but instead reached right into their hearts, representing their "fathers" as
1) sinners, who rejected the will of God and the prophets of God; and 2) to the extent they pleased God, it was because of their faith, and not because of some success in keeping the law.  In his concluding argument, he says "You’re just like your fathers."  Note it is now "your" fathers; not "our" fathers, anymore.

He called them "uncircumcised in heart," which is like accusing a Church member of being "unbaptized inside."  My wife once referred to me as "stiff-necked" and I think she had a point.  We tend to be a people of outward religion, resisting the Holy Spirit within us.  It was not just Israel who has resisted the Lord; it is us, right now.  In 2 Corinthians 13:5, we (the Church) are to fearlessly examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith.   When we know we are His; it only draws us closer to Him.

Verse 52.  "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?   And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;"

When we studied the Book of Ezekiel, 2 Chronicles 36:14-16 (& context) was discussed.  The priests and the people of Judah transgressed more and more "according to the abominations of the nations…"  Have you noticed that the divorce rate in the Church is pretty much the same as it is for everybody else?   (And God certainly likes marriage).  "And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers…because He had compassion of His people.   But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arise against His people; until there was no remedy.

What if a true prophet of God came into our midst today?  Would we receive him?   Would we scoff at him, as Israel did?   In America today, it is considered wrong to speak the Name of Jesus Christ, in public buildings, such as government offices and schools.  We are not to pray to God openly, in the Name of Christ.  How long until the wrath of the Lord arises against us? Until there is no remedy?

Jesus Christ was the One sent to us, to save us from who and what we are.  At what point will He no longer tolerate our rejection of Him who was sent to you and to me?   Will our children pay the price for our stiff-necked response to God?

Verse 53.  "you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."

The law of God is wonderful.  It is "perfect, converting the soul…making wise the simple…rejoicing the heart…enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7-8).   The legal system of the western world is based on the law of God.  When I took "Contracts" in law school, I remember wondering where all this ancient British law came from, about an ox goring someone once; but if he gores someone a second time, he’s liable. Years later, I read the Bible, and saw that it all came from the law given to Israel.  If we kept the law, all would be much better in the world, for the law is good.

What, in that context, is the law - to America?  It (Galatians 3:23-25) is a guardian, keeping us, until God’s faith in wrought within us.  The law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ (to show us our need), that we might be justified by faith in Him.   When we don't allow our courts to display the ten commandments, we defy God.

Stephen’s hearers had not kept the law, and did not obey God, any better than their "fathers" (any better than you and me).  They had been given the law by the direction of angels, and yet disobeyed all that was given.  They broke the law and pretended to themselves that they had not.

Verse 54.  "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him."

There are events in our lives that cut through every defense mechanism, through all the pats on the back we like so much, and suddenly, in great trouble, we see - ourselves.   The death of a child opens us up like this, and God will send someone like Stephen, who will show you to you.   When this sort of thing happens, we tend to respond in one of two ways.  Seeing ourselves, we also encounter our need of God, and recognize in that instant, He is utterly real.  We will either 1) turn to Him, or 2) turn away from Him, with every fiber of our being.

If we choose the latter, we will also strike out at His people.  To "kill the messenger" is an old expression, which is not amusing at all, when it literally occurs.  Stephen was the messenger, and as he stood before them, he knew he was about to die.  He watched them, as they gnashed their teeth at him, and understood they were so angry, they were literally tempted to bite this man of God.

Verse 55.  "But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;"

Right here on earth, in these bodies, with these eyes, we can see the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Our Lord was not sitting (in this vision), He was standing, filled with concern for Stephen, just as He also is concerned for you.   To see God, in such a manner, is to KNOW Him, through His Holy Spirit.

What Stephen, this great man of God, had (his relationship with God) - is not far from you right now.  Peter said (Acts 2:38), "Repent…be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  Do you want to meet God?  Give yourself to the Son.

Verse 56.  "and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’"

For a long time, I was incredibly shy about giving my "testimony."  I felt, "What if they ask me about some verse I mention, & I can’t find it?"  The answer about our shyness (fear) is right here in this verse.  Sometimes testimonial encounters can become a theological debate, but that is rare.  A true "testimony" is just you, telling what you have seen and heard.   Uncomplicated and simple, just like Stephen in this verse.  He has just quoted, to the best of his ability, a lot of Scripture verses, without citing where they came from.  Now, he says, "I see…the Son of Man."  Has Christ revealed Himself to your heart?  That’s what you need to tell us, and that’s what people need to hear!  Simple and true, honest and open - the reality of Christ in your heart and life.  Quote the verses, best you can, but also let us know how He is REAL – to you!

Verse 57.  "But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse."

What’s the worst that could happen to you, today?  Well, a mob might rush at you, and hurt you!  Note, on that particular day, a mob did rush Stephen.  Yet that was not the worst.  We see, in the surrounding verses, that here was a man secure, in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Stephen, when he heard the Lord say "I am the door" (John 10:7, 9), knew those words were literally and completely true.

The worst would be to die without Jesus; dead to a Christless eternity.  That’s the worst.  In the very next moments, Stephen would die, but the Door was open and he went in to be with his Lord.  We could die at the hands of a mob any time, for any reason (they might just not like the way we look).

But if we have Christ, and if we are IN Him, every day is the best, for we are safe with Him and in Him - forever!

Verse 58.  "And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul."

Stephen now died - because he told the truth. In a way, he did directly answer the charges against him, for the "crime" he was accused of, was "blasphemy" (Acts 6:13), which was to "curse God" by lying about Him.   Stephen simply and logically drew a line from Abraham (a man of faith), to Moses (a man who faithfully gave God’s law to the people), to Christ (the completion of all faith, all law).

He told the truth, because Jesus is "the Truth" (John 14:6), and he is now with his Lord.  The "Saul" mentioned here, was leading the murder of this man, because the one who held safe the outer clothing of the others, was considered the leader at a stoning.  This Saul was the one who would later become Paul, apostle of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Paul later testified to the Jews in Jerusalem, about what he had done to Stephen (Acts 22:20).

Verse 59-60.  "And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’   And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’  And having said this, he fell asleep."

To die a painful, somewhat slow, humiliating death, is obviously one of the most stressful experiences that we could imagine.  Under such heavy pressure, the truth about a person is usually revealed.  For most people, what we would be thinking about at such a time, would be - escape!  How do I get out of here?  But not Stephen, and I find no better example of faith in action, except the Lord, Himself.

The thoughts of Stephen were, 1) upon the Lord, for he loved Him and reached out to Him; and 2) a concern for the people around him.  They were stoning him to death, and yet he called out in prayer, asking for them to be forgiven.  That is to say, he wanted them to be saved, through faith in our Lord (the only way to be forgiven of sin, is through the cross of Jesus Christ).

Notice that "bad" things do happen to good people, for Stephen "fell asleep" (he died).  Note also that when Paul was later stoned (Acts 14:19-20), "he rose up and went into the city."  God is sovereign, in your life and in mine.  If we live (as Paul did), it is for our good and His glory.  If we die (as Stephen did), the true results are precisely the same.  God always does His infinite best, for you and for me.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
www.fridaystudy.org
Ron@fridaystudy.org

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