God's Sense of Irony Has A Purpose

We all need a wake-up call.

Acts 7:17-29 (ESV)

“But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 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, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 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?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

Stephen is now over half way through the longest sermon in Acts and he hasn’t mentioned Jesus once. Where’s he going with this?

He’s summarizing the history of Israel – a history of God always keeping his promises and Israel always rejecting the Holy Spirit and the prophets. Where he’s going is that their rejection of Jesus is just part of a pattern.

Moses’ interaction with the two quarreling Israelites is Stephen’s first example of this pattern of rejection. He makes much of their retort, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?

Because the answer to their question is, literally, “God,” their rejection of Moses is perfectly ironic. This sets up the pattern. They accuse Moses of acting like a ruler when being a ruler is the farthest thing from his mind. So, what does God do? He makes Moses ruler over all of Israel.

God’s ironic response to Israel’s rejection of the Holy Spirit and the prophets has a purpose. He’s trying to get their attention. God uses the most “in your face” thing imaginable as a wake-up call.

Steven is using this as a wake-up call too. The council’s on the wrong side of history and they can’t see it.

But their blindness is our blindness. Wake-up calls are a never-ending part of our relationship with the Lord. That’s why God’s responses to our actions – and even our prayers – is often surprising.

Whenever puzzling things happen, whether in response to prayer or not, put your thinking cap on.

Is God trying to get my attention?

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.