7 Then the high priest questioned Stephen. “Is what these people are saying true?” he asked. 2 “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” Stephen replied. “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham. At that time Abraham was still in Mesopotamia. He had not yet begun living in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said. ‘Go to the land I will show you.’ (Genesis 12:1) 4 “So Abraham left the land of Babylonia. He settled in Haran. After his father died, God sent Abraham to this land where you are now living. 5 God didn’t give him any property here. He didn’t give him even a foot of land. But God made a promise to him and to all his family after him. He said they would possess the land. The promise was made even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 “Here is what God said to him. ‘Your family after you will be strangers in a country that is not their own. They will be slaves and will be treated badly for 400 years. 7 But I will punish the nation that makes them slaves,’ God said. ‘After that, they will leave that country and worship me here.’ (Genesis 15:13,14) 8 “Then God made a covenant with Abraham. God told him that circumcision would show who the members of the covenant were. Abraham became Isaac’s father. He circumcised Isaac eight days after he was born. Later, Isaac became Jacob’s father. Jacob had 12 sons. They became the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. 9 “Jacob’s sons were jealous of their brother Joseph. So they sold him as a slave. He was taken to Egypt. But God was with him. 10 He saved Joseph from all his troubles. God made Joseph wise. He helped him to become the friend of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over Egypt and his whole palace. 11 “There was not enough food for all Egypt and Canaan. This brought great suffering. Jacob and his sons couldn’t find food. 12 But Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt. So he sent his sons on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was. Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 “After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family. The total number of people was 75. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt. There he and his family died. 16 Some of their bodies were brought back to Shechem. They were placed in a tomb Abraham had bought. He had purchased it from Hamor’s sons at Shechem for a certain amount of money. 17 “In Egypt the number of our people grew and grew. It was nearly time for God to make his promise to Abraham come true. 18 Another king became ruler of Egypt. He knew nothing about Joseph. 19 He was very evil and dishonest with our people. He beat them down. He forced them to throw out their newborn babies to die. 20 “At that time Moses was born. He was not an ordinary child. For three months he was taken care of by his family. 21 Then he was placed outside. But Pharaoh’s daughter took him home. She brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was taught all the knowledge of the people of Egypt. He became a powerful speaker and a man of action. 23 “When Moses was 40 years old, he decided to visit the people of Israel. They were his own people. 24 He saw one of them being treated badly by a man of Egypt. So he went to help him. He got even by killing the man. 25 Moses thought his own people would realize that God was using him to save them. But they didn’t. 26 “The next day Moses saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to make peace between them. ‘Men, you are both of Israel,’ he said. ‘Why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was treating the other one badly pushed Moses to one side. He said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ (Exodus 2:14) 29 When Moses heard this, he escaped to Midian. He lived there as a stranger. He became the father of two sons there. 30 “Forty years passed. Then an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush. This happened in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw the bush, he was amazed. He went over for a closer look. There he heard the Lord’s voice. 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers,’ the Lord said. ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ (Exodus 3:6) Moses shook with fear. He didn’t dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals. The place you are standing on is holy ground. 34 I have seen my people beaten down in Egypt. I have heard their groans. I have come down to set them free. Now come. I will send you back to Egypt.’ (Exodus 3:5,7,8,10) 35 “This is the same Moses the two men of Israel would not accept. They had said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ But God himself sent Moses to rule the people of Israel and set them free. He spoke to Moses through the angel who had appeared to him in the bush. 36 So Moses led them out of Egypt. He did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for 40 years in the desert. 37 “This is the same Moses who spoke to the people of Israel. ‘God will send you a prophet,’ he said. ‘He will be like me. He will come from your own people.’ (Deuteronomy 18:15) 38 Moses was with the Israelites in the desert. He was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai. Moses was with our people of long ago. He received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our people refused to obey Moses. They would not accept him. In their hearts, they wished they were back in Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us a god who will lead us. This fellow Moses led us out of Egypt. But we don’t know what has happened to him!’ (Exodus 32:1) 41 That was the time they made a statue to be their god. It looked like a calf. They brought sacrifices to it. They were glad because of what they had made with their own hands. 42 But God turned away from them. He left them to worship the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets. There it says, “‘People of Israel, did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for 40 years in the desert? 43 You lifted up the place where Molech was worshiped. You lifted up the star of your god Rephan. You made statues of them to worship. So I will send you away from your country.’ (Amos 5:25–27) God sent them to Babylon and even farther. 44 “Long ago our people had with them in the desert the holy tent where the tablets of the covenant were kept. Moses had made the holy tent as God had commanded him. It was made like the pattern he had seen. 45 Our people received the tent from God. They brought it with them when they took the land of Canaan. God drove out the nations that were in their way. At that time Joshua was Israel’s leader. “The tent remained in the land until David’s time. 46 David was blessed by God. So David asked if he could build a house for the God of Jacob. 47 Instead, it was Solomon who built it for him. 48 “But the Most High God does not live in houses made by human hands. As God says through the prophet, 49 “‘Heaven is my throne. The earth is under my control. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Where will my resting place be? 50 Didn’t my hand make all these things?’ (Isaiah 66:1,2) 51 “You people! You won’t obey! You are stubborn! You won’t listen! You are just like your people of long ago! You always oppose the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your people didn’t try to hurt? They even killed those who told about the coming of the Blameless One. And now you have handed him over to his enemies. You have murdered him. 53 The law you received was brought by angels. But you haven’t obeyed it.”
I am struck by verse 53 – the people of Israel received the law in no ordinary way. They received it through angels, delivered to them by Moses. And Moses, when he received the law, came down with his face glowing – he had to cover his face with a veil because his face was glowing so much.
And yet, the people of Israel still were able to soon enough find reason to resist the Holy Spirit, and end up killing the very people God kept sending to help them.
This passage really says to me
one thing…unless the Holy Spirit breaks through in my heart, I will end up no better off than the Israelites. I am responsible for one thing – to keep choosing openness to, surrender to, and being led by the Holy Spirit.
God, may I never be found by you to be stiff-necked. Instead, I choose to keep myself open to and led by your Holy Spirit. And Your Holy Spirit always has and always will lead me to Jesus Christ – the Righteous One.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh