Acts 7: 38-60

Written by kathleen on Mar 15, 2015 in - No Comments

 

Acts 7:38-60

Facing Reality part 2

38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,

Third thing they charged Stephen with was the fact that he had blasphemed the law and he slides into defending himself against this because they were lovers of the law

Stephen continues talking about Moses, because Moses and the law go together, so the transition is very easy.

We must remember there was no church in the wilderness as we know it. The reason he calls the group of Israelites the called-out ones is because they were called out of Egypt, not because they were the body of Christ or as we know it the church

There is a teaching that says the church replaces Israel in the context of the bible (replacement theology) That is an incorrect teaching of the scriptures.

The church is not Israel, but it certainly parallels it.

  • Israel was fed with bread from heaven.

The church partakes of the bread of Jesus’ broken body.

  • Israel was delivered by the blood of the Passover lamb.

The church is delivered by the blood of the crucified Lamb.

  • Israel came out of Egypt, which is a type of the world.

The church is called from out of the world.

  • Israel went through the waters of the Red Sea.

The church goes through the waters of baptism.

Stephen is saying, I’m not a blasphemer of the law. I believe they are living commandments not dead rules. I believe God ordained them and it is the living truth from the mouth of God.

So He continues to defend himself so that he couldn’t be accused of being one who thought the law was some kind of a dead issue or that he was a blasphemer of the law.

39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

The point is that here was Israel, claiming, “We are the ones who love the law. Stephen, says, “Oh really, look at your history. Who are you kidding?

He then begins to indict them as he proclaims “Whom our fathers would not obey.” He says, You’re always going back to the sanctity and sacredness of your forefathers. They were the ones that were disobedient but rejected him and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.”

When they were in the desert they desired Egyptian pleasures and Egyptian lifestyles and Egyptian gods.

And so they initiated the idolatries of Egypt at the foot of Sinai, and they kept those idolatries rolling through the history of Israel until   God finally got so upset with them He hauled them off to Babylon

for hundreds of years, and so what began at Sinai continued.

Remember they lusted after the meat of Egypt.  They said we are sick of this manna.  We are tired of it.  It’s bland, no flavor.  Oh, if we only had some garlic and onions to mix with it!  You know I haven’t bitten into a steak for so long,.  And here they were really murmuring and complaining over the angel food that God had given to them.  Tired of manna.  Manna splits, manna cotti, manna… you know just tired of this stuff (ever get tired of this stuff?)(thankful?)

Because they showed they didn’t care much for the divine order Stephen continues overlapping their rejection of Moses with their rejection of the law, so he continues that same theme with them saying you tell us what God says and we will listen.  But they didn’t. (They did not obey the Word of God.)

They knew they were to worship the true God, and they knew to sacrifice only to Him. And when they were building this idol and sacrificing to it, they knew they were disobeying God.

God’s first commandment of no other gods had long ago been given, anyway. They knew that. They knew that before it was written on stone. They knew they were to worship the true God.

And so they even violated that. Before it was even given them, they had broken and shattered the law. So Stephen’s simply saying, “You who are always saying, ‘We uphold the law,’ AGAIN just look at your history.

You were down at the foot of the mountain disobeying the law when God was up at the top of the mountain giving it. That’s how long it took you. And it was just after God had performed miracles to get you out of Egypt.

It’s always that way; you either have a man made god or you have a man being made by God.  You have gods that have been created by man and you have men who have been created by God.

The sad thing is, they made this calf; but what is more shocking is the sad words that follow in V. 42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: ‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

The idea behind then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven is very important because God just let them go.

And what did they do? From the time of the wilderness wandering to the Babylonian captivity, all those years in between, they just kept worshipping idols. It was a constant pain, constant problem. And Stephen brings that up about their rejection of Moses and the God who sent him, as Israel turned instead to corrupt idols, bringing upon themselves the judgment described in the passage quoted from Amos 5:25-27  “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried Sikkuth your king And Chiun, your idols,The star of your gods, Which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,” Says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.  ‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? The answer is, “No, we didn’t offer them to You.

So in a short little statement, Stephen recites the history of idolatry in Israel, from Sinai to Babylon. Reminding them all those years they had the law. They had teachers of the law, scribes, and students of the law. But Israel and their rulers just kept rejecting, rejecting, rejecting, rejecting. So Stephen says, “Don’t accuse me of blaspheming the law. Check your own history.”

43 You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch, And the star of your god Remphan, Images which you made to worship; And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.’

Moloch was the god of prosperity and success. He was the god to whom parents would offer their first-born children and watch them die burning on the arms of this idol; believing their families would be more prosperous and their businesses more successful as a result. Moloch is still worshiped by many today by putting careers before family “so we can have more success and prosperity as we’re climbing the corporate ladder.”

God declared, “If it’s idols you want,” “I’ll send you to Babylon where idolatry is flourishing.” For seventy years, the Jews would live in Babylon, where they became so sick of idolatry that to this day, devout Jews have a particular hate tread of idols of any kind

44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,.45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.

When God gave Moses the specifications, God said, be very exact.  Make it exactly like I have told you.  Why?  Because the tabernacle was a model of heaven.  The holy of holies, the presence of God surrounded by the Cherubim.  It was all a model of heaven.

These things were a type of what’s in heaven.  And God gave them this tabernacle, this place where they could come and meet with God. Where the high priest could go into the holy of holies.  Where there was that Shekinah glory and presence of God!

At the beginning of verse 44 He says, ” Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness.” Eliminating any excuses for them to try and say, “Well, maybe they were ignorant.” Or they might say, “Well, maybe they couldn’t help it. Maybe they forgot God.” They didn’t forget God!  They had the tabernacle of testimony right in front of their faces. All through the wilderness God had that tabernacle right in front of their faces, they camped around it and they stared it. And God said, “You have the testimony. You’re guilty. You’ve just plain old period rejected it.”

Stephen didn’t bring this up but: Later on, when they got the Temple do you remember what they did Ezekiel 8? They went in the Temple and drew false gods all over the walls of the inside of the Temple and went in and bowed down to them. There were a whole group of men in the Temple worshipping the sun. There were some women weeping for Tammuz, who was the false virgin-born “son,” the counterfeit of Christ, the supposed son of Ashteroth, the priestess of Babylonian cultism.

Here they were worshipping all these false gods and phony priests, like “the sons of Jaazaniah, every man with his censer in his hand,” making like they were priests and God said, “That’s what’s in My temple.” They rejected the testimony of the tabernacle in their midst

48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands,

Keeping the context in mind; these people who were so concerned about the temple, Stephen quotes the prophet, saying, “God never even asked for a temple. It’s foolish to think you can box the almighty God into a little temple. (Solomon said that; when he built the temple for God.)

We still try to put God in a box today by limiting His divine choice of what he can and cannot do. For example by saying not all gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today when the Bible is very clear when it says in 1 Cor 12:5 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit who works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. These types of things are God’s choice alone and anything man try’s to limit is a futile attempt of religion.

When Stephen uses the phrase and rejoiced in the works of their own hands is especially reveling. One of the accusations against Stephen was that he had blasphemed the temple.

It wasn’t that Stephen spoke against the temple, but against the way Israel worshipped the temple of God instead of the God of the temple.

Just as Israel worshipped the calf in the wilderness, so now they were worshipping the works of their own hands.

By this time the blood of Stephen’s audience was beginning to boil. After all, they couldn’t have liked being reminded of their own history, of their own tendencies, of what God had spoken so pointedly.

They couldn’t have liked being reminded that God never asked for a temple in the first place.

Look what he said in verse 49-50 as he quotes the prophet Isaiah chapter 66:1-2 49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’

“Don’t accuse me of blaspheming the Temple, or you have to accuse Solomon of blaspheming the Temple that he made. I’m just saying God’s bigger than your box.”

The Jews thought that because they had their temple, they were safe from harm, and God had to bless them. The prophets all warned them that the temple would not assure them of blessing if their hearts were not right.

He’s defended himself, held their attention, indicted them and presented Christ. And now comes the punch as he once again turns the tables on the religious leaders of Israel.

51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” 54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,  56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Israel’s religious life was a formality; they had the outward forms of religion but their hearts were not right with God.

They rejected the voice of the prophets, even persecuting and killing them and when Jesus appeared they rejected His Words and crucified Him!

And they continued to be stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.

For  us TODAY?