Acts Chapter Seven
Read Acts 7:1-36
v1. “THEN SAID THE HIGH PRIEST, ARE THESE THINGS SO?”
Apparently the high priest presided over the Sanhedrin. He asks Stephen if indeed the charges made against him were true and gives Stephen an opportunity to make his defense. As we noted earlier this allows Stephen to present one of the most powerful sermons that these men, or any others, have ever heard.
v2. “AND HE SAID, MEN, BRETHREN, AND FATHERS,
HEARKEN; THE GOD OF GLORY APPEARED UNTO OUR FATHER ABRAHAM, WHEN HE WAS IN
Stephen’s address to this group of men is very similar to that of Paul at a later time:
Acts 22:1 “MEN, BRETHREN, AND FATHERS, HEAR YE MY DEFENSE which I make NOW UNTO YOU.”
Genesis 11:31-32 “AND TERAH TOOK ABRAM HIS SON, AND LOT THE
SON OF HARAN HIS SON’S SON, AND SARAI HIS DAUGHTER IN LAW, HIS SON ABRAM’S
WIFE; AND THEY WENT FORTH WITH THEM FROM UR OF THE CHALDEES, TO GO INTO THE LAND
OF CANAAN; AND THEY CAME UNTO HARAN, AND DWELT THERE. AND THE DAYS OF TERAH WERE TWO HUNDRED AND
FIVE YEARS: AND TERAH DIED IN
v3. “AND SAID UNTO HIM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY, AND FROM THY KINDRED, AND COME INTO THE LAND WHCH I SHALL SHOW THEE.”
referring to Genesis 12:1 where God
did indeed tell Abram to leave
Hebrews 11:8 “BY FAITH ABRAHAM, WHEN HE WAS CALLED TO GO OUT INTO A PLACE WHICH HE SHOULD AFTER RECEIVE FOR AN INHERITANCE, OBEYED; AND HE WENT OUT, NOT KNOWING WHITHER HE WENT.”
v4. “THEN CAME HE OUT OF THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS, AND DWELT IN CHARRAN: AND FROM THENCE, WHEN HIS FATHER WAS DEAD, HE REMOVED HIM INTO THIS LAND, WHEREIN YE NOW DWELL.”
told in Genesis, Abram took his father, wife, nephew and others, left Ur of
Chaldea and came to
v5. “AND HE GAVE HIM NONE INHERITANCE IN IT, NO, NOT so much as TO SET HIS FOOT ON: YET HE PROMISED THAT HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM FOR A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS SEED AFTER HIM, WHEN as yet HE HAD NO CHILD.”
promise was made to Abraham even before he had a son; that the
v6. “AND GOD SPAKE ON THIS WISE, THAT HIS SEED SHOULD SOJOURN IN A STRANGE LAND; AND THAT THEY SHOULD BRING THEM INTO BONDAGE, AND ENTREAT them EVIL FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.”
God told Abraham that his seed would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years:
Genesis 15:13 ‘AND HE SAID UNTO ABRAM, KNOW OF A SURETY THAT THY SEED SHALL BE A STRANGER IN A LAND that is NOT THEIRS, AND SHALL SERVE THEM; AND THEY SHALL AFFLICT THEM FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.”
This is exactly what happened:
Exodus12:40 “NOW THE SOJOURNING OF THE CHILDREN OF
ISRAEL, WHO DWELT IN
Paul ties this all together for us in his writing:
Galatians 3:16-17 “NOW TO ABRAHAM AND HIS SEED WERE THE PROMISES MADE. HE SAITH NOT, AND TO SEEDS, AS OF MANY; BUT AS OF ONE, AND TO THY SEED, WHICH IS CHRIST. AND THIS I SAY, that THE COVENANT, THAT WAS CONFIRMED BEFORE OF GOD IN CHRIST, THE LAW, WHICH WAS FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS AFTER, CANNOT DISANNUL, THAT IT SHOULD MAKE THE PROMISE OF NONE EFFECT.”
v7. “AND THE NATION TO WHOM THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE WILL I JUDGE, SAID GOD: AND AFTER THAT SHALL THEY COME FORTH, AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.”
we know that this nation was
Exodus 3:12 “AND HE SAID, CERTAINLY I WILL BE WITH THEE; AND THIS shall be A TOKEN UNTO THEE, THAT I HAVE SENT THEE: WHEN THOU HAST BROUGHT FORTH THE PEOPLE OUT OF EGYPT, YE SHALL SERVE GOD UPON THIS MOUNTAIN.”
And God did
v8. “AND HE GAVE HIM THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION: AND so Abraham BEGAT ISAAC, AND CIRCUMCISED HIM THE EIGHTH DAY; AND ISAAC begat JACOB; AND JACOB begat THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS.”
The seal or sign of this covenant with Abraham was circumcision:
Genesis “THIS is MY COVENANT, WHICH YE SHALL KEEP, BETWEEN ME AND YOU AND THY SEED AFTER THEE; EVERY MAN CHILD AMONG YOU SHALL BE CIRCUMCISED.”
And then Stephen proceeds to review the Israelite linage down to the twelve tribes, calling the heads of these twelve tribes the Patriarchs.
v9. “AND THE PATRIARCHS, MOVED WITH ENVY, SOLD
says they were moved by envy, the ASV says they were moved by jealousy, and
sell Joseph they did! But that was God’s
plan wasn’t it? God sent Joseph to
Psalms 105:17 “HE SENT A MAN BEFORE THEM, even JOSEPH, who WAS SOLD FOR A SERVANT.”
v10. “AND DELIVERED HIM OUT OF ALL HIS
AFFLICTIONS, AND GAVE HIM FAVOUR AND WISDOM IN THE SIGHT OF PHAROAH KING OF
God’s plan all the way.
Send a representative to
v11. “NOW THERE CAME A DEARTH OVER ALL THE
piece of God’s plan comes into place. A
famine occurs in the land where
Genesis 41:54 “AND THE SEVEN YEARS OF
DEARTH BEGAN TO COME, ACCORDING AS JOSEPH HAS SAID: AND THE DEARTH WAS IN ALL
LANDS; BUT IN ALL THE
All of the
lands were affected but
v12. “BUT WHEN JACOB HEARD THAT THERE WAS CORN IN
This is found in the first part of Genesis 42. What does the word corn mean here, are we talking about what some folks make hominy grits out of or something else? The Greek word commonly translated corn in scripture is more generic and means “grain” in general. Actually we’re told that the word could just as well be translated victuals or provisions - food.
v13. “AND AT THE SECOND time JOSEPH WAS MADE KNOWN TO HIS BRETHREN; AND JOSEPH’S KINDRED WAS MADE KNOWN UNTO PHAROAH.”
second trip of his brothers to
v14. “THEN SENT JOSEPH, AND CALLED HIS FATHER JACOB TO him, AND ALL HIS KINDRED, THREESCORE AND FIFTEEN SOULS.”
How many people were there? Who all did Stephen count?
Genesis 46:26-27 “ALL THE SOULS THAT CAME WITH JACOB INTO EGYPT, WHICH CAME OUT OF HIS LOINS, BESIDES JACOB’S SONS’ WIVES, ALL THE SOULS were THREESCORE AND SIX; AND THE SONS OF JOSEPH, WHICH WERE BORN HIM IN EGYPT, were TWO SOULS: ALL THE SOULS OF THE HOUSE OF JACOB, WHICH CAME INTO EGYPT, were THREESCORE AND TEN.”
All the production of Jacob’s loins, all except his son’s wives were numbered at 66, add Joseph, Jacob and Joseph’s two sons and you have seventy. Who must we be missing for we know that Stephen was speaking as directed by the Holy Spirit and his statements are true? Commentators agreed that Stephen is counting Joseph’s grandsons.
v15. “SO JACOB WENT DOWN INTO
They stayed through the time that Jacob and all his sons died.
v16. “AND WERE CARRIED OVER INTO
SYCHEM, AND LAID IN THE SEPULCHRE THAT ABRAHAM BOUGHT FROM A SUM OF MONEY OF
THE SONS OF EMMOR the father OF SYCHEM.”
We’re told that Abraham did not inherit any of the land of Canaan from God’s promise to him and his seed, yet we find that he owned a burial cave and if we turn to Genesis we find that Jacob owned a field at Shechem, how can that be? They were both purchased with money during the time that they lived there, not given as part of God’s promise.
v17. “BUT WHEN THE TIME OF THE PROMISE DREW NIGH,
WHICH GOD HAD SWORN TO ABRAHAM, THE PEOPLE GREW AND MULTIPLIED IN
What promise is he referring to?
Genesis 12:7 “AND THE LORD APPEARED UNTO ABRAM, AND SAID, UNTO THY SEED WILL I GIVE THIS LAND: AND THERE BUILDED HE AN ALTAR UNTO THE LORD, WHO APPEARED UNTO HIM.”
Genesis “BUT IN THE FOURTH GENERATION THEY SHALL COME HITHER AGAIN: FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE AMORITES is NOT YET FULL.”
And in Stephen’s sermon the time had come that God would fulfill his promises.
v18. “TILL ANOTHER KING AROSE, WHICH KNEW NOT JOSEPH.”
Several generations have passed, and understandably there would arise a new regime, a new king who did not remember, or maybe not even appreciate the arrangement that the Israelite nation had with Egypt during the time that Israel’s son was Egypt’s governor. Again we see the plan of God in execution, not as a result of His direct intervention but rather through the process of time and providence.
v19. “THE SAME DEALT SUBTLY WITH OUR KINDRED, AND EVIL ENTREATED OUR FATHERS, SO THAT THEY CAST OUT THEIR CHILDREN, TO THE END THEY MIGHT NOT LIVE.”
regime, this new king feared
v20. “IN WHICH TIME MOSES WAS BORN, AND WAS EXCEEDING FAIR, AND NOURISHED UP IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE THREE MONTHS.”
Amram, a Levite, had married a woman named Jochebed. They have already two children, Miriam and Aaron but now Moses is born. They protect him until he’s three months old and hide him from those who might carry out the king’s commands. Stephen tells us that this was three months. How do we know that the time was three months?
Exodus 2:2 “AND THE WOMAN CONCEIVED, AND BARE A SON: AND WHEN SHE SAW HIM THAT HE was a GOODLY child, SHE HID HIM THREE MONTHS.”
Does he being a “GOODLY” child mean that he was any better than others born at the same time? No, this is again God’s providence, God’s plan in action. All children are “GOODLY” aren’t they? Especially grandchildren.
v21. “AND WHEN HE WAS CAST OUT, PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER TOOK HIM UP, AND NOURISHED HIM FOR HER OWN SON.”
Jochebed; after taking care of Moses for three months can’t
do that any more. The baby’s cry was
strong enough that he would be heard readily and they have a problem. I’m sure we all remember the story of how she
hid him in a reed basket and but that basket on the river
v22. “AND MOSES WAS LEARNED IN ALL THE WISDOM OF THE EGYPTIANS, AND WAS MIGHTY IN WORDS AND IN DEEDS.”
raised, educated and treated as though he was a grandson of the king. We don’t know but that he was prepared to become
king some day. However, even the priests of the
Exodus “AND MOSES SAID UNTO THE LORD, O MY LORD, I am NOT ELOQUENT, NEITHER HERETOFORE, NOR SINCE THOU HAS SPOKEN UNTO THY SERVANT: BUT I am SLOW OF SPEECH, AND OF A SLOW TONGUE.”
v23. “AND WHEN HE WAS FULL FORTY YEARS OLD, IT
CAME INTO HIS HEART TO VISIT HIS BRETHREN THE CHILDREN OF
told how Moses was moved to visit the children of
v24. “AND SEEING ONE of them SUFFER WRONG, HE DEFENDED him, AND AVENGED HIM THAT WAS OPPRESSED, AND SMOTE THE EGYPTIAN:”
v25. “FOR HE SUPPOSED HIS BRETHREN WOULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD HOW THAT GOD BY HIS HAND WOULD DELIVER THEM: BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD NOT.”
Things just don’t work unless they’re done God’s way do they? Moses knew, Stephen tells us and Luke records by inspiration; that it was God’s plan for him to lead the Israelite nation out of bondage. I don’t remember knowing this before I put this lesson together. I’ve just always kind of assumed that Moses didn’t know what God wanted him to do until instructing him at the burning bush. Has anyone else had that impression? But Moses knew at this at this point in time that God had chosen him to lead his brethren out of bondage and he apparently supposed that his brethren knew that too.
v26. “ AND THE NEXT DAY HE SHOWED HIMSELF UNTO THEM AS THEY STROVE, AND WOULD HAVE SET THEM AT ONE AGAIN, SAYING, SIRS, YE ARE BRETHREN; WHY DO YE WRONG ONE TO ANOTHER?”
The next day Moses tries to make peace between two of his brethren who were striving one against the other. I think we could interpret this as physical violence, fighting.
v27. “BUT HE THAT DID HIS NEIGHBOR WRONG THRUST HIM AWAY, SAYING, WHO MADE THEE A RULER AND A JUDGE OVER US?”
You notice who has the problem with Moses’ interference, the one who was doing wrong, not the one who was being wronged. And his basic question was; who are you to try to interfere, who made you our ruler.
v28. “WILT THOU KILL ME, AS THOU DIDDEST THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY?
The man asks; are you going to kill me like you did the Egyptian yesterday? Moses has gotten himself in a pickle. Isn’t that what most often happens when we try to help God? Isn’t this what Moses has been doing, helping God to get started freeing his people?
v29. “THEN FLED MOSES AT THIS SAYING, AND WAS A
STRANGER IN THE
Who was Madian that this land was named after? He was another son of Abraham. We’re told by scripture that after Isaac’s mother (Sarah’s) death that Abraham married again:
“THEN AGAIN ABRAHAM TOOK A WIFE, AND HER NAME was KETURAH. AND SHE BARE HIM
ZIMRAM AND JOKSHAN, AND
fled to the
v30. “AND WHEN FORTY YEARS WERE EXPIRED, THERE
APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF
lived in the
v31. “WHEN MOSES SAW it, HE WONDERED AT THE SIGHT; AND AS HE DREW NEAR TO BEHOLD it, THE VOICE OF THE LORD CAME UNTO HIM,”
What was strange about this burning bush? The fire didn’t consume it. It burned but didn’t burn up as would be the natural order of things.
v32. “saying, I am THE GOD OF THY FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB. THEN MOSES TREMBLED, AND DUREST NOT BEHOLD.”
It’s would be a fearful thing to stand in the presence of God, wouldn’t it. We’ll find out some day. Moses, who probably wasn’t bothered by a lot, realizing that God is talking to him, doesn’t even dare to look toward the voice he’s hearing. But God’s nearby all the time isn’t he? He knows everything that anyone ever needed or wanted to know about us whether we want Him to or not. We’re in God’s presence at all times.
v33. “THEN SAID THE LORD TO HIM, PUT OFF THY SHOES FROM THY FEET: FOR THE PLACE WHERE THOU STANDEST IS HOLY GROUND.”
This was the custom wasn’t it? If you stood in the presence of God, you did so without shoes because the very ground you stood on was holy:
Exodus 3:5 “AND HE SAID, DRAW NOT NIGH HITHER: PUT OFF THY SHOES FROM OFF THY FEET, FOR THE PLACE WHEREON THOU STANDEST is HOLY GROUND.”
Is God concerned about how we’re dressed or not dressed as the case may be when we come to worship him today? Does our dress at Bible Study or in worship tell something about our reverence for God? Men and women are to both dress modestly, Paul though the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us direction in I Timothy 2 especially regarding women being modestly dressed. But if we treat the worship service as a “come as you are party” what does that tell us about our attitude toward God. Wouldn’t that say that we don’t hold him in very high esteem? Think about it.
v34. “I HAVE SEEN, I HAVE SEEN THE AFFLICTION OF
MY PEOPLE WHICH IS IN
It has been 40 years as man counts time. Moses is 80 and his most important life work is just starting. God’s own good time has come for his people to be delivered. He tells Moses, now I want you to go do what you were so eager to do forty years ago. Stephen continues to remind them of the greatness of Moses, his dedication to God’s way, his esteem in the sight of God. Hardly the action of a man who has blasphemed the name of Moses is it?
v35. “THIS MOSES WHOM THEY REFUSED, SAYING, WHO MADE THEE A RULER AND A JUDGE? THE SAME DID GOD SEND to be A RULER AND A DELIVERER BY THE HAND OF THE ANGEL WHICH APPEARED TO HIM IN THE BUSH.”
Here Stephen starts to build his defense of Jesus. This Moses that the Israelites had rejected 40 years before has now been chosen by God and is being sent to rule His people. Jesus Christ was also rejected by these same people that Stephen is preaching too at this time and He will also, in God’s own good time, be sent to deliver them from the grave and rule over them for eternity.
v36. “HE BROUGHT THEM OUT, AFTER THAT HE HAD SHOWED WONDERS AND SIGNS IN THE LAND OF EGYPT, AND IN THE RED SEA, AND IN THE WILDERNESS FORTY YEARS.”
Jesus Christ had come before the people and the rulers of
“HE SENT MOSES HIS SERVANT; and AARON WHOM HE HAD
CHOSEN. THEY SHOWED HIS SIGNS AMONG
THEM, AND WONDERS IN THE
Now Stephen gets to one of the main points that he wants to make in his sermon.
Read Acts 7:37-50
v37. “THIS IS THAT MOSES, WHICH SAID UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, A PROPHET SHALL THE LORD YOUR GOD RAISE UP UNTO YOU OF YOUR BRETHREN, LIKE UNTO ME; HIM SHALL YE HEAR.”
This prophecy of Moses was well known to them and Stephen quotes it almost word for word as we have it translated today in the KJV:
Deuteronomy 18:15 “THE LORD THY GOD WILL RAISE UP UNTO THEE A PROPHET FROM THE MIDST OF THEE, OF THY BRETHREN, LIKE UNTO ME; UNTO HIM YE SHALL HEARKEN;”
Peter had quoted this same prophecy in his sermons that they had probably also heard:
Acts 3:22-23 “FOR MOSES TRULY SAID UNTO THE FATHERS, A PROPHET SHALL THE LORD YOUR GOD RAISE UP UNTO YOU OF YOUR BRETHREN, LIKE UNTO ME; HIM SHALL YE HEAR IN ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER HE SHALL SAY UNTO YOU. AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS, that EVERY SOUL, WHICH WILL NOT HEAR THAT PROPHET, SHALL BE DESTROYED FROM AMONG THE PEOPLE.”
v38. “THIS IS HE, THAT
WAS IN THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS WITH THE ANGEL WHICH SPAKE TO HIM IN THE
This Moses was the one who received the “LIVELY ORACLES” or living oracles, the Covenant, the Law; from an angel in the wilderness of Sinai, we find this confirmed in other scripture.
Deuteronomy “GO THOU NEAR, AND HEAR ALL THAT THE LORD OUR GOD SHALL SAY: AND SPEAK THOU UNTO US ALL THAT THE LORD OUR GOD SHALL SPEAK UNTO THEE; AND WE WILL HEAR it, AND DO it.”
Galatians “WHEREFORE THEN serveth THE LAW? IT WAS ADDED BECAUSE OF TRANSGRESSIONS, TILL THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE; and it was ORDAINED BY ANGELS IN THE HAND OF A MEDIATOR.”
Hebrews 2:2 “FOR IF THE WORD SPOKEN BY ANGELS (the old law) WAS STEDFAST, AND EVERY TRANSGRESSION AND DISOBEDIENCE RECEIVED A JUST RECOMPENSE OF REWARD;”
So it was this Moses who received the law in the wilderness from the messenger of God. He didn’t fare much better than Jesus did he? The ancestors of the men who refused Jesus, refused Moses.
v39. “TO WHOM OUR FATHERS WOULD NOT OBEY, BUT THRUST him FROM THEM, AND IN THEIR HEARTS TURNED BACK AGAIN INTO EGYPT.”
And we remember the story. While Moses was on the mountain receiving this law from God what was happening back down below? Within the time span of forty days the Israelite nation had lost their faith completely, created idols of gold to worship and completely turned their back on Moses and God.
v40. “SAYING UNTO AARON, MAKE US GODS TO GO BEFORE
US: FOR as for THIS MOSES, WHICH BROUGHT US OUT OF THE
complain that Moses, though he was speaking for God, makes to them promises of
freedom; brings them out here in the desert and then disappears. Hadn’t they seen the signs and wonders in
Deuteronomy “AND I LOOKED, AND, BEHOLD, YE HAD SINNED AGAINST THE LORD YOUR GOD, and HAD MADE YOU A MOLTEN CALF: YE HAD TURNED ASIDE QUICKLY OUT OF THE WAY WHICH THE LORD HAD COMMANDED YOU.”
They wanted god’s, not God. Very quickly Moses says they turned aside out of the way of the Lord.
v41. “AND THEY MADE A CALF IN THOSE DAYS, AND OFFERED SACRIFICE UNTO THE IDOL, AND REJOICED IN THE WORKS OF THEIR OWN HANDS.”
The Psalmist writes:
Psalm 106:19 “THEY MADE A CALF IN HOREB, AND WORSHIPPED THE MOLTEN IMAGE.”
describes their idolatrous worship.
Stephen calls it “the idol.” Many
scholars think that since
v.42 “42Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?”
The Psalms of Asaph describes God’s attitude toward his rebellious people this way:
Psalms 81:12 “SO I GAVE THEM UP UNTO THEIR OWN HEARTS’ LUST; and THEY WALKED IN THEIR OWN COUNSELS.”
The word translated “gave them up” is the same word that Paul uses in:
Romans “24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:”
He literally abandoned them to do their own thing their own way and in
the terms of the Israelites allowed them to wander in the wilderness until they
died. They worshipped the celestial
bodies of heaven, the bull, Mnevis
v.43 “43Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”
When left to their own devices, even after God had brought them into the promised land; the Israelite nation took to worship, Moloch, the god of the Amorites. Part of their worship was to offer children to this idol god as live sacrifices. It was an image with the head of an ox with arms outstretched in which children were placed and then burned by fire from underneath to consume the offering.
We think of this as being atrocious, horrible and unspeakable and we’re perhaps even embarrassed to discuss such but children by the thousands are sacrificed to the gods of convenience, pleasure and selfishness in this country every day. Our government has made it legal, it’s called abortion.
v.44 “44Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.”
The Israelite nation had the tabernacle to remind them of the presence of God in their midst. If we but would remember, the mercy seat above the ark of the covenant; was the symbolic seat, the throne of their King, Almighty God.
Exodus 26:30 “30And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount.”
The worship facility, the worship
content, means, methods, everything was to be according to the pattern that God
had given them. Hebrews 8:5 tells us the same thing, Moses was to follow the
pattern shown to him on
v.45 “45Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;”
The Jesus in this verse is not our
Lord, but rather Joshua, another translation of the same name. The worship of God in the tabernacle and
later in the temple was all according to the commandments given to the Israelite
nation through Moses. Joshua had the ark of the covenant carried over
And God gave them the land promised to the Abraham for his seed:
Nehemiah “24So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.”
v.46-47 “46Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47But Solomon built him an house.”
David found favor
before God and desired to build God a more permanent house of worship than the
tabernacle but was constrained by God, not allowed to go so. His son, Solomon, built the first permanent
house of worship for
I Kings 6:1 “1And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.”
v.48-50 “48Howbeit the most
High dwelleth not in
God does not live in houses made by man’s hands, just as God does not dwell in our houses of worship today. Solomon knew that:
I Kings “27But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?”
Then Stephen quotes the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 66:1-2 “1Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
v.51 “51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
Just like the news gambit that some of us enjoy listening to occasionally. Stephen has told them about all of these things, the rebellion and idolatry of the Israelite nation and how Moses was chosen of God to lead them out of physical captivity. Now he tells them the rest of the story. Now that one who was to be like Moses; Jesus the Messiah as been sent to lead them out of spiritual captivity; but they are just as rebellious, obstinate, and disobedient to God as their fathers. This is the seventy or so most prominent religious leaders of an entire race of people. They are just like their fathers:
Isaiah 48:4 “4Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;”
Obstinate, stiffnecked, neck like an iron sinew and hard headed, like it was made out of brass. Why did he call them that? The same reason that Jeremiah did in his prophecy:
Jeremiah “10To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.”
The word used in the Greek here for resist means “to fall against, to rush against” as to rush against an enemy in combat. This is the only place it is used in the New Testament. Stephen charges them with treating the Holy Spirit of God as an enemy; a true charge because of their persecution of Jesus Christ and the events that are about to happen.
v. 52-53 “52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
In their history it is recorded:
II Chronicles 36:16 “16But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
The record inspired of God says they continued until there was no remedy, they were so reprobate and rebellious that redemption was no longer possible. Jesus in his parables concerning the vineyard and its husbandmen brought the same message:
Matthew “35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.”
Mark 12:6-7 “6Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.”
And they ignored and rejected the law spoken to them by God (Exodus 20:1).
Stephen has made a charge that they cannot and will not ignore as we know. Instead of being on trial himself he put the Sanhedrin on trial in God’s court and they stand condemned. In his presentation he makes four major points:
First; God began with Abraham and in his dealings with his people brought them along much like a teacher would do children in a classroom. He developed, prepared and made them ready to receive the one who would bring redemption to mankind.
Second; the temple was
not God’s exclusive dwelling place. He
appeared to Abraham in a heathen land, Joseph was blessed in another heathen
Third God was patient and longsuffering with his children even though they gave him no reason to be such. Joseph was persecuted by his brothers, they rebelled against Moses and an entire generation died lost in the wilderness as a result, they rebelled against the promised Messiah, the one who fulfilled all of their prophecies the same way.
Fourth he showed up their false witnesses by his teaching from Moses and the prophets. And then he helps them see just how much they really despised the commandments and precepts of God and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s more than they can stand, they react violently.
v.54 “54When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”
They are not just pricked in their hearts as those on Pentecost, but cut to the heart and react like mad dogs in the alleys of the city. Our English language leaves a little to be desired in the translation here as the real meaning of the words is not that they ran and bit him but that they were so enraged that they ground their teeth. The physical violence comes in a couple of more verses.
v.55-56 “55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
At this point, Stephen is allowed to see a glimpse of heaven. It is as though Jesus, sitting on the throne next to God, has risen to his feet in support and agreement with the preaching of Stephen. Stephen describes the scene that he sees to the Sanhedrin and that is the final straw; that brings out the reaction of physical violence against him.
v.57-58 “57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”
They will hear no more. Their mock trial has become what it really was in the first place; the vindictive, mob reaction of those who were enemies of God. They stop their ears, just like a child that sticks his fingers in his ears and screams in a temper tantrum; rush upon Stephen, take him out of the city and stone him. They don’t even bother with the Roman authorities that rule their city and have forbiden them to carry out an execution.
They do have the presence of mind to carry out the Mosaic requirement to carry out their execution outside the city (Leviticus 24:10-16, Numbers ). The witnesses had to cast the first stone according to Deuteronomy 17:7 and to do so they took off their outer garments so that they would not be hindered or constrained by them and laid them at the feet of Saul. This is our first record of Saul who became the Apostle Paul.
v.59 “59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Having just seen Jesus standing in heaven, Stephen prays to God that He might receive his spirit.
v.60 “60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen’s attitude toward these people was much the same as that of Jesus when he was on the cross. He prays to God that he does not hold them accountable for this sin, that they, if repentant as those were on Pentecost, could be forgiven. The word sleep is used here rather than death, do we know why? Even though Stephen is physically dead, just as we will be when we leave this earth, if Jesus does not return first, his spirit is very much alive in that it is not separated from God. Consequently sleep is a very appropriate description of physical death for those who are the saints of God, Jesus used it often. The Greek word that is translated “fell asleep” means just that and is the source word for our English word cemetery, the sleeping place of the dead.