In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 9th August 2020

Music: YouTube- Standing on the Promises

Bible Reading: Acts 7. 1-5 &  44-60

Dying for the Faith

Here we go again, back with the Sanhedrin challenging the members of the early church. We saw previously that Stephen was not hesitant to defend the truth of the Gospel of Christ. He was an able person in the church, he could perform administration and was credited by being wise. Here in these verses we see something of his understanding of the OT and the history of the nation under the almighty hand of God. You can read the details of the history in the OT, here he gives the broad brush approach to the movement of the hand of God. Today we can only summarise these events, they do build up a picture of change which culminates with the coming of Christ and His accomplishments for all mankind.

History sets the Scene

He starts with the origins of the Jewish nation-

  • Abraham called to leave Ur by the God of glory.
    • He travels north to Harran and settles there until he is directed to another land.
    • On the death of his father, he moved by faith, he was given an eternal promise, which was currently being experienced in the present day.
    • He was promised an heir while childless.
  • 400 years of exile were also promised, and a period of slavery. Yet with hope of release.

The family grew and eventually we find them in Egypt due to famine. God prepared the way!

  • Jealous of Joseph, his brothers sold him as a slave, he was sold on to an Egyptian noble.
    • While in slavery, God gave him wisdom and he became the highest-ranking advisor to Pharaoh.
    • Famine struck; Joseph advised Pharaoh and the Egyptians were saved.
    • The Jacob family came to Egypt to buy food and discovered Joseph. They all moved to Egypt and lived under the protection of the Pharaoh.

All went well until a change meant a new King, who had not known of Joseph and the history of his wisdom. Then commenced the promised period of slavery until the birth of Moses.

  • God’s hand was in control, Moses did not die in the river, he was rescued and grew up in the Palace of Pharaoh, educated and eloquent.
    • He could not let his heart’s roots ignore a situation; he killed an Egyptian for ill-treating a Hebrew slave.
    • He thought he would be recognised by his people as their saviour, in fact, the opposite occurred and he fled the country.
    • When he was eighty, God called him to lead His people out of slavery by speaking to him from a burning bush.
    • God showed His power and care by releasing the nation from slavery and allowed them to cross the Red Sea, destroying the Egyptian army in the process.
    • For forty years, He led them in the wilderness, gave them His Commandments, yet, despite continual rebellion, idol worship brought them to the Promised Land.     

History points to Christ

Stephen is guiding them to consider the hand of God behind all that had happened. He was building up to the coming of Christ, who was the ultimate manifestation of the power of God. He is not finished with history, they worshipped idols and God promised exile.

  • He could not neglect David, the great warrior King. He established worship in a formal way for the people, especially with his worship songs, The Psalms!
    • He wanted to establish a more permanent centre of worship. In God’s will, Solomon built the Temple.

He reminds them that God is a Spirit and is worshipped everywhere, He does not need a created Temple with all its splendour. He wants worship from the heart. Name a prophet who was not persecuted! He challenged them. Your forefathers persecuted and even killed those who were proclaiming the coming Messiah.

History is Repeated

We can see how Stephen traced the two themes, the history of the people and their constant rebellion at the same time seeing the hand and power of God behind it all. What was the purpose of this speech, quite simply to show that their action could not divert God’s will? He then hits them with his punch line- you betrayed and murdered the Messiah! God gave you the law, the signs, the message but you ignored everything.

They could stand it no more! They were seriously angry and let their anger fall on him. Stephen was not finished; he tells them of a vision that he can see-

  • He feels the power of the Holy Spirit
  • He looks away from the anger of men towards heaven
  • He sees Jesus
  • Jesus standing at God’s right hand

This is too much, they shout him down, attack him and drag him out of the city and stone him. He is not finished yet, he prays to the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, he asks for forgiveness to his murderers and he dies falling into the arms of Christ. The crowd and Leaders return to the city, satisfied with their actions.

A simple statement introduces another man onto the scene, Saul, at whose feet they laid their coats while they carried out the stoning. Almost a throw-away comment, yet with great implication for the future.

As we look back over our lives, can we see the hand of God working in them? We need to find Christ as Saviour, so that we can put things into perspective. How far are we willing to go to defend the faith?

Music: YouTube- We rest on Thee

Page last updated: 8th August 2020 4:54 PM
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