Acts 7: 1 - 40
7 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 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. 9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
The high priest (probably Caiaphas for those of you keeping score) asked Stephen if these charges were true. Politely Stephen offers his defense, but he doesn't defend himself - he defends the Gospel. Stephen reviews the history of Israel, which everyone would have known very well. Whether or not they understood what he was saying is hard to tell.
When he speaks of Abraham, his emphasis is on the faith that Abraham believed, even though he saw no evidence that it would be fulfilled. Can you believe if you don't see?
Note the part where Stephen presents the story of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into slavery, because it is very important. Here Stephen could very well be comparing how Joseph was treated by men to how the Sanherin treated Jesus. Then contrasting that with how God treated Joseph with how God treated Jesus. Can you believe if you are being treated poorly?
17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’
Fast forward 40 years and you now have Moses at a burning bush accepting the call to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians. Can you see it? The one that the people rejected is the one that God accepts. Even though some may reject you for your faith - do you accept their rejection or answer their call? BUT there is a fine point to be made here. If you present a witness of Christ to others that is deliberately offensive, if you consistently make most people around you angry (in the name of Jesus), if people are rejecting your faith because of your attitude you've need to rethink a few things. This is called a Martyrs Attitude. In other words, you think you are being Godly if people are rejecting you all the time in the name of Jesus. You don't have to force the Gospel down peoples throats. Present the Gospel in a light that makes them praise God for the fact that you are a person of faith. While there will be some who will reject you, as Stephen is about to find out, there are many, many more who are ready to accept Christ's love through your life.
In verse 37 Stephen reminds them that Moses said that there was one coming who was going to be like himself. These Jewish leaders know how the Apostles applied this passage, that they believed it was Jesus who came to fulfill that prophecy. They got Stephens point.
38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
Now Stephen really cleans their clock. Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law of God. What happened? The Israelites revert back to what they know. Idol worship. So Aaron builds a golden calf for them to worship. Why did that do that? All these slaves wanted to do was be a nation like the others. But their only reference was to look at what the other nations were doing and copy them. If Egypt worshipped statues, then they must need to worship statues too! Bad Idea. Do you do the same thing? When in doubt - don't wait on God - do what everyone else is doing. Can you hear your mother saying, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge would you do it too?"
But the point of what Stephen was getting to will be found in Day 9