Part 1 (continued)
Stephen responds to the high priest’s question. His sermon takes the entire chapter and recounts the history of God’s dealing with Israel…beginning with God’s call to Abraham and ending with Moses.
It stands to reason he would focus on Moses since this is where his accusers landed…saying Stephen was speaking against the law, the temple and the customs that Moses gave them.
His response points out, through their own history, that Moses himself – called and appointed by God – was rejected by the people of God before they entertained accepting him. Rejected not once but twice! First as one who came to lead them out of Egypt and secondly when he was on the Mountain receiving the 10 Commandments. The point I see is that though Moses was sent by God, the people were unbelieving. They didn’t believe Moses, and in taking that position, they showed their unbelief in God.
It was a nice history lesson until he nailed them with the last few lines:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Basically – you always resist the Holy Spirit – just like your forefathers did. You didn’t receive the message of the law even though angels delivered it to you! OUCH!
(Let’s face it. We have a hard time accepting God might be in something we are not expecting or we don’t approve of. Unfortunately God does not consult with us for our opinion on His doings. We are stiff-necked people – just like they were – quick to persecute rather than believe.)
The other thing I notice in this passage is how perfectly God provided for the people he chose. From Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Jesus, He worked out every detail for their care. Stephen recounting these facts might have reminded them of how God had acted in the past. A little quirky maybe to their mind, but God had a proven track record and by now they might have been more adept at perceiving His work.
This didn’t sink in with them either because they were uncircumcised in hearts and ears. Circumcision represented the covenant God made with Abraham asserting his offspring would make a great nation (God’s chosen people). Any male who was not circumcised “will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen.17:14) It would have been a big slam to call them uncircumcised. But their unbelief accomplished just that – it cut them off from God.
He has demonstrated His faithfulness to man. We should return the favor.
Be open to God’s way of doing things.
About the World?
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – Sir Winston Churchill