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Stephen sets them up for a fall. Acts 7.17-50

Kingdom Sign and Outpost: Acts 6 and 7 (5)

Pray Psalm 105.1-6.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Sing Psalm 105.1-5.
(Warrington: Give to Our God Immortal Praise)
Give thanks unto the Lord Most High; call on His Name, before Him cry!
Make known His deeds in every land; sing praise for all the works of His hand.

Glory in God, rejoice in heart, all you who seek His holy part.
Him and His strength and Presence seek; His works proclaim, His judgments speak.

Read Acts 7.1-50; meditate on verses 17-50.

1. How did Stephen connect Moses to Abraham?

2. What did Stephen say about Israel in the wilderness?

Recall that Stephen was on trial here because he supposedly spoke against “this holy place and the law” (6.13). Having started at the top, rooting his defense in God’s covenant with the patriarchs, Stephen continued to unfold that theme through Moses, David, and the prophets. He was only emphasizing things every one of his hearers would have known and affirmed, including the important point that the rebellious people of those days failed to see what God was doing and to do what He required of them (vv. 17-43).

Here, like Emily Dickinson, Stephen was “telling it slant” and building a case against his accusers. As they nodded along in assent to everything he was saying, they set themselves up for his “Thou art the man!”  

The Tabernacle, which was the dwelling place of God and familiar and beloved by every Jew in its day, was replaced by the Temple, which was authorized by God through David and constructed by Solomon (vv. 44-48). But if we think God dwells in a Temple made by men (v. 48), thus making that building something so sacred no one would ever dare to think of it being replaced, then, Stephen implied, we have failed to understand the same Word of God we’ve been affirming up to this point (vv. 48-50).

 Stephen was leading his accusers to affirm God’s grace and faithfulness, and the requirement of obedience to His calling and commands; to recall the developing nature of God’s covenant with His people, that changes came at significant points in the covenant; and to remember that obedience to God’s Word, not veneration of temples or traditions, is what really matters. They listened in agreement as he prepared to hoist them on their own petard. He would show that they were not keepers of the covenant they so revered; they had not listened to Moses who promised a great Prophet to come; and they had misconstrued the role of the temple in the divine economy. They were the guilty ones, not he.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Stephen brought some very important issues to the fore about working our Personal Mission Field.

He shared a bit of Moses’ heart with us: “For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7.25).

At this point in his life, Moses appears to have been afflicted with the same problem that so many today are afflicted with: The Billy Graham Syndrome. Yes. It is a thing. Let me give you the symptoms: You think that what you are doing for the Lord is not important unless there are huge numbers of people involved. And you think that only professional Christians are the ones who are sent to live and share the Gospel. Happily, fevers and headaches are not attenuating symptoms.

Here is how Moses improved; and we can too. The symptoms lessen, and we can get on with our lives. We realize that we are called to live and do the work and Word of God. Faithfully. Right where we are. The people God has called us to are important. And we see and understand that our work is important. The sphere is where we live. We do not need to go to the furthest jungle or desert to do this. We do it right where we are.

For forty years Moses obeyed God. He was a good son-in-law. He was a good husband and father. He worked hard. He was faithful to all God gave him to do. And then God moved him on from where he was to do a little more. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matt. 25.21). “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much…” (Lk. 16.10).

And yes, then Moses was called to deliver his people. But here, in Stephen’s sermon, he is remembered for speaking these prophetic words about Jesus: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Acts 7.37).

And we can give the same word of Good News to all the people in our Personal Mission Field. We can love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can serve God only. We can be faithful bearers of the name Christian. We can keep the Sabbath Day holy. We can honor our father and mother. We can refuse to kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, and covet. (Ex. 20.1-17) We are filled with the Holy Spirit. We can do this!

When Moses was looking to be used in the wrong way (Acts 7.25) he was not successful. But when he was faithful and obedient to his calling, where he was, and with whom he was, God used him mightily.

Please know how important your Personal Mission Field is; because without you, it won’t be worked.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2.10).

For Reflection
1. What is your Personal Mission Field? What is God sending you there to do?

2. What can we learn from Stephen’s defense about how to share the Gospel with lost people?

3. What is for you the most important lesson from Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin?

Stephen pointed out that Moses, the very one the Jewish leaders accused him of speaking against (6:11), was rejected by the leaders’ forefathers as God’s appointed leader and redeemer—just as the leaders were rejecting Jesus. It was this same Moses who spoke of the coming of Jesus in Deut. 18. Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Acts 7.35-40

Pray Psalm 105.6-11, 45.
Praise God for His promises, His faithfulness, and His power to work in and through you for His glory. Commit this day to walking in His Word, and seek His Presence and power to make you His faithful witness today.

Sing Psalm 105.6-11, 45.
(Warrington: Give to Our God Immortal Praise)
You holy children of Abraham, you chosen ones of Jacob, stand!
He is our Lord, of wondrous worth; His judgments are in all the earth.

He will His covenant faithfully guard – His oath, the promise of His Word.
That which He to our fathers swore, He will perform forevermore!

So let us all in our Savior confide, and in His holy Law abide.
Let us observe His glorious Word, and praise our sovereign, faithful Lord!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

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You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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