“‘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? Has My hand not made all these things?’” Acts 7:49-50 NKJV
I have been giving spoilers to warn you – you see, we met Stephen and he is super awesome and everything we should be as Christians. We love Stephen, but Stephen dies – and it is quite the blow to us and even more so to the early church.
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen
Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 7 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV).
Stephen’s Address: The Call of Abraham
7 Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. 5 And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. 6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. 7 ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ 8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.
The Patriarchs in Egypt
9 “And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Now a famine and great [a]trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, [b]seventy-five people. 15 So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. 16 And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.
God Delivers Israel by Moses
17 “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till another king arose who did not know Joseph. 19 This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months. 21 But when he was set out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.
23 “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. 25 For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And the next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren; why do you wrong one another?’ 27 But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.
30 “And when forty years had passed, an Angel [c]of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 saying, ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 ‘Then the Lord said to him, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and 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?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Israel Rebels Against God
37 “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him[d] you shall hear.’
38 “This is he who was in the [e]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[f] to give to us, 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. 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?
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.’
God’s True Tabernacle
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.
48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
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?’
Israel Resists the Holy Spirit
51 “You stiff-necked[g] 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.”
Stephen the Martyr
54 When they heard these things they were [h]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.
- Acts 7:11 affliction
- Acts 7:14 Or seventy, Ex. 1:5
- Acts 7:30 NU omits of the Lord
- Acts 7:37 NU, M omit Him you shall hear
- Acts 7:38 Gr. ekklesia, assembly or church
- Acts 7:38 sayings
- Acts 7:51 stubborn
- Acts 7:54 furious
MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:
Matthew 5:16- “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
One more reason to love Stephen is that he is an anointed and amazing speaker / teacher of the Word of God and a testimony to Christ! He is bold. Very Bold. And it enrages the people. As we go through his address to the priests, we will see he uses the word – it is the word that cuts, that is anointed, that convicts, and that does a work in the hearts of man. I can’t emphasis this enough – you want to hear powerful sermons? Find someone speaking just the WORD. No antidotes about the cat stuck in a tree and no distractions of putting culture first. People want to be sanctified, they want to come out of culture, and they do not want to be like the world anymore – Find someone who shows you Jesus!
I was speaking with other Christians the other day about the old revival preachers who would set up a tent and speak – and fire would come from their mouths and the congregation would rush the stage and beg: What must we do to be saved? And how today, we make vague altar calls, if any (they are not standard at every service), and people do not respond – actually many have their coats on and are trying to figure out the quickest way out of the parking lot, so they do not have to sit in a line of cars to leave.
How did these revivalist preachers do it? By two major things:
First they had a prayer person or team fervently praying! These prayer warriors are the real stars of the show. Prayer and intersession work. Without them, the Spirit of the Lord would not fall like it did. Let us recall from just the last 6 chapters of Acts that prayer was also the secret sauce of the Apostles’ and Stephen’s ministries. They were in one accord praying, how many times? And they prayed for days at a time – not just an hour prayer meeting once a week (not saying prayer meetings are bad). But these people prayed and prayed for each other fervently. In my life, I have only been to one prayer meeting where everyone was praying for each other as well as others in the church who were not at the prayer meeting. I am not saying we are wrong – I am saying we can do better. Let’s look closer at the early church and these old time revivalists and do better!
Second, these old time revivalists preached the word of God. Just the word. Like Peter’s example of a sermon that we studied last week. And like Stephen’s example, today. When Peter preached, they all said: what must we do to be saved?! Right there! No altar call or call to action needed – the Holy Spirit prompted a move. Same with the old revivalist.
Now Stephen, his sermon was powerful and anointed – but he did not have a repentant crowd. He had an enraged crowd. Was it his sermon? No, the sermon was fine – it planted seeds we may see grow in the future. God get more glory, and His plan moves further, by bringing Stephen home. Let’s dig into this:
In verse 1 the high priest asks Stephen if he has been preaching Jesus and doing signs and wonders in His name. And Stephen opens His mouth and starts at Abraham and His promise from God. As a priest it may have been very insulting that Stephen is trying to “school” them on the history of their people. Quickly Stephen goes from Abraham to the twelve son’s of Jacob (as we recall, God made His twelve son’s each a tribe). Next he briefly covers the history from Jacobs son’s selling one of their own into slavery in Egypt to the famine and restoration to the death of Jacob.
The next portion of history, that Stephen covers, seems to parallel what was happening in my world as well as a pattern throughout history. Can you relate?
Verse 17 “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham…”
First there was a promise and when it is almost time for God to release a huge and amazing promise – The following seem to be the steps that must happen first.
ONE – A Time of Oppression
There is a treacherous attack from the enemy! For the people of God it was an oppressive Egyptian ruler. What is/was it in your life?
When I was working at my last Job and struggled with an evil boss it was so much like the Israelites being oppressed in Egypt (just not as extreme – but it was a time of oppression).
TWO – A Time of Preparation
God raised up, prepared, and equipped Moses and Stephen gives a quick summary of how Moses ended up the one God used. Notice how it took 80 years? God doesn’t move fast – and His timing is always perfect. Another thing to notice is the time of equipping happens at the same time as the oppression. During this time you have a wakeup call that there is a problem (Moses seeing the beatings). You try to say the problem is someone else’s and walk away from it (Moses fleeing Egypt). But you can’t get away from the birth of a calling.
When I was working in that terrible job was when I started this blog – and anyone reading back then through now, recalls me going through the trials and making hard choices and being prepared, by the Lord (while I ignorantly cried out to God: ‘why is this happening to me?’ – Hey thanks for sticking around and going through it with me.) Anyway, when you are oppressed already and then the trials and temptation start as well – it means God is preparing you. Hang on tightly and DO NOT LET GO OF GOD! Can you relate?
THREE – The Calling
Stephen continues to explain – Moses was called at a burning bush. Where God explains he has seen the oppression (and Moses can’t say he hasn’t seen it too, God lets us see it nice and clear by experiencing it in one way or another. Moses wasn’t beaten, but He saw it and understood.) So in this third stage we all realize our calling. Some of us have amazing, life changing experiences with God (like Moses at the burning bush). I have known I was called to preach and teach from an early age – but no clear direction or picture of what that looked like. So when I got to this stage it was a recall. I remembered. I had a pastor tell me, that God showed Him, that God was going to restore what the enemy stole from me and to remember my calling.
FOUR – Time in the Wilderness Place
We all wander a wilderness after an amazing God moment (like the red sea). Do you remember when I left my job and God gave me a business – what an amazing HIGH and a miracle!! I was on my way to the promise land free from that oppression!! Glory to God. But it’s a long time in the wilderness. I have had losses and struggles and hungered and thirsted. I may have even rebelled against His plan a little – by job hunting and hoping for an easier way out. (Don’t worry, I repented!) But it is a lot a waiting! I feel like I am still in the wilderness. So I suppose soon will be more battles as I enter the promise. Yes, here comes the promise!
What a nice little reminder of the pattern to get there! But that was not Stephen’s point. He takes a little bit to get to his point, but WOW is it a bold and scripturally grounded point!
So Stephen continues his lesson by switching to the Tabernacle of God in the wilderness, and in the promise land, right up to the time of David, who prepared for the building of the temple.
“But Solomon built Him a house.” Verse 47
Then He switches it up again by reminding them of the scripture that God doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands!!! I love how he describes the sovereignty of God by quoting scripture! Which scripture did he quote? You are going to LOVE this: Verse 49 cross references 5 scriptures! FIVE!
Check out 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 6:18, Isaiah 66:1, Matthew 5:34 and Matthew 5:35. (Sorry to make you do some research.) AND Then Verse 50 cross references Isaiah 66:2. So, we can see Stephen was quoting Isaiah – but He covered a whole lot of scripture in the process!
Let’s read it again:
“‘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? Has My hand not made all these things?’” Verses 49-50
What is Stephen’s point? Well, he finally gets to it. I has shown a pattern of the Israelites struggling and rebelling against God as God tried to save them – and then he called them out to be the stiff-necked people just like all the generations before, who persecuted and killed prophets and then the Messiah! He also threw in other hard words like, uncircumcised, betrayers, and murderers. Stephen, you may have been a bit too bold? But he was speaking as guided by the Holy Spirit. He did not make an error. Stephen did good.
As He finished speaking he saw heaven, and Jesus, and he knew. They cast him out of the city and began to stone him. So he cried out to ask for their forgiveness – that God would not charge them with this sin. And God took Stephen at that moment, all while they stoned him.
But let’s take a look at verse 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.”
The witnesses were the Sanhedrin priest who were questioning Stephen and to whom the above message is addressed. The loose, flowing cloak and the scarves, which was worn as an outer garment and accessories, would have impeded the free action of their arms, and had therefore to be laid down. And laying them at the feet of someone would indicate that that person was overseeing and consenting to this stoning.
This is how we first see and meet the man, Saul, who would be radically transformed into Paul the Apostle. Nothing like a cliff hanger for the weekend! Ha!
But here is a thought. If you were dying and had a few moments to live, wouldn’t you be like:
ONE: Hey God – if there is anything in the way of me getting to heaven, please forgive me of all unrighteousness and help me get in?
TWO: Hey God – can you forgive these other sinning people?
Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. I mean, I do feel I have salvation assurity – but it doesn’t hurt to ask for one last washing so I can march in squeaky clean! As for forgiving others who are killing me?
I had a conversation with a friend this morning about the meaning of forgiveness for us humans and if it includes the not holding anything against them, or still feeling pain and hurt because of what they did. We discussed the whole healing process. But to be like Stephen who was physically hurt (to death) and didn’t let it hurt him spiritually? How do we get there? My friend said it is the difference between human realm forgiveness and spiritual forgiveness – the latter being seal with supernatural healing. He claims he isn’t a Bible scholar and he certainly doesn’t nerd out on the Word like I do, but that is a profound way of looking at it – if forgiving others looks like Stephen’s response. Right up and through his death – Stephen is an ideal Christian and the goal we should set for ourselves.
Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!