Stephen (Part 2)


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 7:9-43

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Stephen continues his address to the Sanhedrin, highlighting Israel’s tragic history of rejecting God’s messengers and wasting opportunities to be delivered from slavery, exile, and aimless wandering.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Last week we focused on Steven, a man described as full of faith and the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, and full of grace and power. In fact, we were told that this Stephen was performing great wonders and signs among the people. And the original Greek of that text told us this was happening on a continual basis. In other words, in the early days of the church in Jerusalem, around 32 Ad. Stephen was healing the sick and performing miracles on a similar level to that of the apostles.

He got into one or more debates with some men from local synagogues. Steven's arguments were all rooted in the Old Testament scriptures and inspired by the Holy Spirit, which is why we read that Stephen's opponents were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the spirit by whom he was speaking. Instead of recognizing the truth and responding to the gospel that Stephen was preaching, these men hardened their hearts, arranged false witnesses, brought charges against Stephen, and dragged him before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time. Specifically, they charged Stephen with speaking blasphemies against Moses, the Law, the Temple, and God himself. The reason for these charges is that the Jewish religious leaders known collectively as the Sanhedrin had been given power by their Roman overlords to try and punish only one specific type of crime, attacks against the temple in word or deed.

All other crimes had to go through Roman prefects who were overseeing the province of Judea at the time. So they charged Steven with the one crime they knew they could execute them themselves for blasphemy against the temple. Today we're going to pick things up where we left off last week. We're right in the middle of Stephen's address to the Sanhedrin. In response to these charges, every sentence that Stephen speaks is loaded with meaning and subtext that the Sanhedrin would have understood.

And as we study our way through this, I'll do my best to just bring out that subtext and that hidden meaning behind the text. As we make our way through this, we're going to pick things up. In Acts chapter seven, verses nine, stephen will now focus on a few specifics from the life of Joseph. He says the patriarchs became jealous, underline jealous. They became jealous of Joseph and sold them into Egypt.

If you're familiar with that story, steven is referring to the brothers of joseph, but he called them here the patriarchs. The patriarchs were the twelve sons of Jacob who became the twelve tribes of Israel. They were called the patriarchs because they were and are viewed as the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Steven reminds the Sanhedrin that their venerated patriarchs became jealous of their brother Joseph, the most righteous and Godly among them, and sold him to passing slave traders who then sold Joseph in Egypt, the mightiest empire in the world at the time. The heir would have been thick with tension.

As Stephen pointed out that Israel's pattern of rejecting God's chosen messengers began with the patriarchs, the fathers of the nation of Israel. The inference was that the Sanhedrin was walking in the same pattern as the patriarchs by hating their brother Jesus of Nazareth without cause because they were jealous of him, and their jealousy rendered them spiritually blind. And sadly. There are three times in the Book of Acts where we'll see the Jewish religious leaders become jealous when the crowds come to the apostles to hear the Gospel and be healed. Let's keep reading.

It says, but God was with him. God was with Joseph and rescued him out of all of his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over his whole household. Stephen repeats a point we mentioned in our previous study. The fact that God was with Joseph and blessed Joseph in Egypt proves again that God has never needed a holy temple, city or land to meet with his people.

Joseph's story in the Book of Genesis reveals that Joseph was a type. He was a prophetic picture of Jesus. In the Old Testament, there are these men whose lives are called types, as in a word like prototype or archetype. They were real men who lived, and the things written about them in the Bible are true. But God orchestrated events so that certain aspects of their life created a prophetic picture that would point ahead to the ministry of Jesus sometimes thousands of years later.

Joseph is one of these types of Jesus. Joseph was given authority over all that belonged to Pharaoh. Other than Pharaoh, joseph was the mightiest man in Egypt, more power than anyone else. The Heavenly Father has given Jesus authority over all things. Paul writes in Philippians two and it's on your outlines.

God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And Stephen continues in verses eleven now a famine and great suffering came over all of Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food. Steven makes a point here that I think is unintentional. I think it's the Lord speaking through him, even though he's not fully aware of it. As I mentioned earlier, the patriarch's rejection of Joseph was the first of what would become a pattern of Israel rejecting the messengers that God sent to her, and it was followed by a season of literal famine.

Similarly, Israel's rejection of Jesus plunged them into a spiritual famine that will last until the day when Paul writes, and then all Israel will be saved. For you see, like Joseph, Jesus has been empowered and positioned to save the very people who sought to arrange his demise. Says in verses twelve, when Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there the first time underlying the first time, now underlying the first. Three words of verse 13 the second time Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. Joseph invited his father Jacob and all his relatives, 75 people in all, and Jacob went down to Egypt.

If you've studied the Exodus story, you know that incredible scene where it's revealed that the most powerful man in Egypt is their brother. Not only is he alive, but he's the prime minister of Egypt and will use his position to save them and bring them into the kingdom of Egypt and prosper them all. Now, in the same way, Israel will not recognize who Jesus truly is until his Second Coming. When that time comes, Jesus will be revealed as the Savior of Israel, and the relationship will be restored, just as Joseph's relationship with his brothers was restored. So write this down.

It's your first fill in. Israel only received Joseph and Moses the second time they came to them, so it shall be with Jesus, Israel's Messiah, at the second Coming. At the Second Coming. Like the apostle Paul in Romans eleven, the prophet Zechariah foretells of this day in chapters twelve and 13 of his book prophesying from the perspective of Jesus. Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residence of Jerusalem, and they will look at me, whom they pierced.

They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly for him as one weeps for a firstborn. And then Zechariah also says, on that day, a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem to wash away sin and impurity. Just as Joseph's brothers repented and wept over their sin toward their brother, israel will do the same over Jesus on the day that he is revealed as their Messiah. I don't think Stephen had this in mind when he was saying this. I think he hoped that he and the apostles were the second visitation to the Sanhedrin and the Jewish people.

But that second visitation will be Jesus himself picking things up. Halfway through verse 15, he and our ancestors, joseph and our ancestors died there in Egypt, were carried back to Sheckham and were placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor and Shekham. Where were the first generation of the sons of Israel sustained, blessed, and prospered by God in Egypt? Not Israel. When their bodies were buried in Shekham, it was still Samaritanowned territory there.

Being buried there was actually an act of faith that God would fulfill his covenant and give the Promised Land to people from the tribe of Israel one day in the future. This is Stephen again, highlighting the fact that Israel was founded on faith in God. Before they had the law, before they had a temple, before they had a holy city, before they had a holy land, the patriarchs died with their faith in God, and Stephen now shifts his focus to a great man in Israel's history whose memory and name he had been accused of blasphemy. A man who likes Stephen was also a picture of Jesus, Moses. In verses 17, he says, as the time was approaching to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the promise that he would give Abraham's family line the Promised Land.

Stephen points out that God always has a plan. He always has a specific time when he will fulfill every promise he has made. Just as God appointed Joseph to be the prime minister of Egypt, so that he was there at a specific time, just as God appointed Moses to be there at a specific time, he has sent Jesus for a specific time. He says the people flourished and multiplied. Here we see it in Egypt.

Israel grew from 75 people to an estimated couple of million people in Egypt, the people of God, Israel, flourished and multiplied in Egypt. Again, God's work among his people was not limited or restricted to a temple, a city, or a specific location. Then, he says, until a different king who did not know Joseph ruled over Egypt. And Steven will now talk about how God orchestrated events in Egypt to accomplish his purposes for his people. And if you're familiar with the Exodus account, you'll know that this specific pharaoh woke up one day and became alarmed by the fact that the Hebrews were flourishing and multiplying.

He looked at them and said, these guys are going to take over Egypt. There's too many of them. If you studied the story of Israel across the Old Testament, or maybe you're doing it now with us in home groups, you'll understand. I thought about this for the first time this week. If God had not raised up this wicked Pharaoh to enslave Israel, they would never have left Egypt, ever.

Israel would not have cared enough about God's promise of a Promised Land to leave their comfort and prosperity in Egypt. We see this at the end of the Babylonian exile, when only a small fraction of the Israelis choose to leave Babylon and return to the Promised Land. Even when the king offers the money to rebuild Jerusalem. Most of them just stay in Babylon. They're like, we're good.

I like it here. Stephen doesn't mention this, but it's another example of Israel's collective pattern of stubbornness. Things had to get so bad in Egypt before they would even consider leaving. And even when they did, it didn't take very long before they were saying, maybe we should go back. God made promises in his word that Israel would become a political nation and dwell in the Promised Land again after they were scattered.

But after that happened, between 70 Ad and 120 Ad in the Diaspora, the land of Israel remained empty for most of 1900 years. Why? Largely because the Jewish people prospered in other places and only moved on to other places. When persecution got bad enough where they were, they weren't interested in returning to the Promised Land and faith. What did it take to get the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel?

Do you know what it took? The Holocaust. Literally. Look up the history. It took the Holocaust to get them to come back into the land so that God's promises could be fulfilled.

Now, knowing that, what do you think it will take to get Israel to accept Jesus as her Messiah? The answer, the tribulation. Scripture says two out of three of all Jews on earth dying in the Tribulation is what it will take to get Israel to the point where they're ready to welcome Jesus at the Second Coming. That's what it will take to break them. Verse 19.

He Pharaoh dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our ancestors by making them abandon their infants outside so that they wouldn't survive to try and control this explosive population growth among the Hebrews in Egypt, the Pharaoh enslaved them and demanded that all midwives who delivered babies immediately take them and leave them outside exposed to animals and the elements until they died. Verse 20. At this time Moses was born, at this time, the appointed time, and he was beautiful in God's sight. He was cared for in his father's home for three months. God had a plan and was preparing his chosen deliverer for his people, Moses.

And again, if you know the story, the Hebrew midwives didn't obey Pharaoh. They flat out disobeyed him. They refused to kill the baby boys. Stephen summarizes Moses upbringing and intentionally describes him as beautiful in God's sight to show the Sanhedrin that he, Stephen, reveres Moses, contrary to the charge that he has spoken blasphemies against him. When Pharaoh learned that the midwives were disobeying him, he gave a new command to his soldiers and people to simply go and grab and seize every Hebrew baby, infant and small child who was male, and throw them in the Nile River to be drowned.

But God had a plan to preserve Moses life. It says when he was put outside, pharaoh's daughter adopted and raised him as her own son. Knowing that soldiers would soon visit their house, moses parents, in desperation, not knowing what else to do, put him in a basket and floated him down the river and said, God do a miracle. And God did. Through a miraculous series of events, Moses ends up being found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who adopts him as a baby and raises him as her own in the palace of Pharaoh.

So, Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his speech and actions. Moses was raised by the best teachers, the greatest scholars in the most advanced civilization in the world at the time Egypt. He was a natural leader, gifted by God and highly educated. He was schooled, sparing no expense in all the customs of the land. Stephen once again shows his respect for Moses by describing him as powerful in speech and actions, a description the Sanhedrin knew full well also applied to Jesus of Nazareth, who was described by the travelers on the road to Emmaus as a prophet, powerful in action and speech before God and all the people.

Verses 23 when he was 40 years would, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. Again, God had determined that when Moses was 40 years old, it was time for the next step. Moses knew that he was a Hebrew. It wasn't a secret. And he knew somehow that God had called him to deliver his people.

Believing and sensing that the time had come for Moses to reveal himself to them and take charge and lead them to freedom, he went to go and see them. It says when he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. Moses comes across an Egyptian man physically abusing a Hebrew man, and he acts. And in that conflict, Moses ends up killing the Egyptian man. Verses 25 he assumed his people would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but underline this they did not understand.

When Moses came upon this Egyptian man abusing a Hebrew, he must have thought, wow, God is orchestrating this. I'm going to save this man, and this will be my introduction to my people. Their first interaction with me will be as a deliverer. What an entrance. But as Stephen points out, they did not understand.

They did not recognize him or receive him as their deliverer. The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other? Moses comes back the next day, finds the Hebrew men fighting among themselves, and tries to play the role of peacemaker. Note their response in verse 27.

But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday? The Hebrews responded as the wicked men in Jesus' parable of the ten miners in Luke 19 did, saying, we don't want this man to rule over us. They responded as the chief priests who were sitting before Stephen had responded to Pilate just months earlier at the trial of Jesus, shouting, we have no king but Caesar. The Israelites asked Moses who died and made you Pharaoh?

If we don't follow you, are you just going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday? Yeah. We all know verse 29. When he heard this, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. After 40 years had passed - underline 40 years - Moses now knew that not only were his people rejecting him, but they were going to snitch on him.

He would have been charged with murder, a capital offense in Egypt at the time. But not only that, Pharaoh would have surmised that he was initiating a Hebrew insurrectionist movement, a rebellion. So, Moses felt he had no choice but to flee. Stephen is making the point that Israel's rejection of God's chosen messenger, his chosen deliverer Moses - get this - because they rejected Moses, it delayed Israel's deliverance from Egypt by 40 years. 40 years.

And the question Stephen is asking the Sanhedrin under all of this is, are you going to make the same mistake? Are you going to remain in spiritual bondage and slavery because you refuse to welcome and receive and recognize God's chosen deliverer for you? Jesus of Nazareth, write this down Israel's rejection of God's deliverer Moses delayed her liberation by 40 years. It delayed her liberation by 40 years.

As a side note, just for you Bible nerds, it was only Israel's rejection of her deliverer, Moses, that caused him to leave the place where Israel was and take a Gentile bride. The typology with the church is obvious if you want to dig into that. Verse 30. After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight.

As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This was God announcing that whatever he was about to speak to Moses was part of his grand covenant plan that traced its roots through Jacob, back to Isaac and all the way back to Abraham. Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. The Lord said to him, take off the sandals from your feet now underline this, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.

The ground in Midian, outside the borders of the Promised Land, was made wholly by the presence of the Holy One, God himself. Any place inhabited by the presence of God becomes holy. And Stephen understood that God's presence was no longer restricted to only the temple or only within certain geographical borders. God's presence now resided in every man, woman, and child who placed their faith in Jesus. Because God's Spirit, his presence now resided in people.

He had made them holy. As the 18th-century poet and hymn writer William Cowper put it, "Jesus, wherever thy people meet, there they behold thy mercy seat. Wherever they seek thee, thou art found, and every place is hallowed ground." God continued speaking to Moses and said in verse 34, "I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning..." and then underline this, "...and have come down to set them free. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." God heard the cries of his people, sent them a deliverer, and through that deliverer came down to set his people free. This was, of course, what God had done to an ultimate degree. Through Jesus, he has seen his people in bondage to sin and death. He has heard their cries, and so he has sent a deliverer, Jesus Messiah, to set his people free.

And just in case the men of the Sanhedrin weren't connecting the dots, Stephen does it for them. In verse 35, "This Moses whom they rejected when they said, 'Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?' This one..." Underline this, ..."God sent as a ruler and a deliverer through..." And then underline this, "...the angel who appeared to him in the bush."

Stephen's point is that this is the pattern of Israel's history. They reject the deliverers that God sends to them. Make a note of this on your outlines. Israel's history reveals a pattern of rejecting the rulers and deliverers God sends to this day. There are rabbis who argue Jesus of Nazareth could not have been the Messiah, because if he were, Israel would have recognized Him almost 2000 years ago.

Stephen addressed the subjection by pointing out to the Sanhedrin that Israel had rejected both Joseph and Moses, who were only a small part of Israel's well-established pattern of rejecting God's chosen messengers. If you want to dig into this more on your own, we just don't have time today. I recommend looking into Jesus' parable of the vineyard owner in Matthew 21 33 to 46. I put that reference on your outlines. Pick it up in verse 36.

This man Moses led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness for 40 years. Underlying 40 years, israel rejected Moses the first time, and it cost them 40 more years of slavery in Egypt. They followed Him the second time only after he worked multiple signs and wonders, which were the famous plagues of Egypt. Do you see the parallels with Jesus here? Like Joseph, Israel accepted Moses only the second time he appeared to them.

So it will be with Jesus at the second coming after the signs and wonders of the Tribulation, israel will accept Jesus as her deliverer. Israel's stubbornness comes to the fore again. Soon after they start following Moses. When it looked like they were pinned against the reed sea, exodus tells us they said to him, and this is on your outlines. Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you've taken us away to die in the wilderness?

What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Isn't this what we told you in Egypt? Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians. It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. You know the story.

God moves miraculously, and Moses leads Israel through the reed seed to safety, which miraculously parts, and then closes in on the pursuing Egyptian army. And yet a short time later, the people are complaining and grumbling again. Stephen intentionally references that period of 40 years again, the length of time Israel wandered in the wilderness instead of going directly to the Promised Land. Now, why does Stephen do that? Because of the reason Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

You see, when Israel reached the border of the Promised Land, coming out of Egypt from slavery, they came to the Jordan River, and Moses sent twelve spies across the Jordan River into the Promised Land to spy out the land, the people living in it, the food available, the fortifications. Those spies were gone for 40 days. And when they came back, ten of the spies said, it's an amazing land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants in the land and they are going to eat us up. Only Caleb and Joshua said it is irrelevant if everyone in the land is a giant. God is with us.

That's all that matters. The people of Israel listened to the negative report of the ten spies and refused to cross the Jordan. They refused to trust God to keep his coveting and promises. They rejected God, they rejected Moses, and they rejected Joshua, who God had ordained to be their next deliverer. They rejected Joshua before he could even take the mantle of their next deliverer.

Consequently, God sentenced them to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years before they would get to try going into the Promised Land again. One year for every day the spies were in the Promised Land, and enough time for all the adults who were part of that faithless generation to die out. Steven's point was that just as Israel would, he been out of Egypt 40 years earlier, Israel could have been in the Promised Land 40 years earlier. The only reason she wasn't was because she refused to trust God and believe the deliverers that God sent her. Write this down Israel's refusal to believe God's promises delayed her entry into the Promised Land by 40 years.

It delayed her entry into the Promised Land by 40 years. In the same way. By rejecting Jesus, the Sanhedrin was condemning Israel to remain in bondage and aimless wandering. Verse 37. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.

Stephen is referencing Exodus 18, where God gave Moses a prophetic promise about Jesus the Messiah to share with Israel. Let me read a couple of verses to you from Exodus 18. This is what Moses told the people. He said, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

God says I, God will raise up for them a prophet like you, Moses, from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything. I command them. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name. When Jesus fed the 50, John tells us the crowd said, this truly is the prophet who is to come into the world.

They knew. They connected the dots. The regular people were recognizing this one who's feeding us miraculously. He's the prophet Moses was speaking about. Stephen is telling the Sanhedrin, god promised to raise up a prophet like Moses from among the people of Israel.

He commanded you to listen to him. He told you he was coming. He told you he would speak in God's name. But like your forefathers, you refuse to listen. Verse 38 he, Moses, is the one who was in the assembly underlying assembly in the wilderness with the angel, underlying the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors.

He received living underlying living oracles. To give us all of that is a reference to the time that Moses was given the Law, the Ten Commandments by God to give to the people of Israel. Stephen is pleading not guilty to the charge of blaspheming the Law. He affirms that he believes the Law was authored by God and given to Moses by angels, which is exactly what the Sanhedrin believed. Stephen is very intentionally referring to the Law as living oracles to make the point that the word of God is living, it is alive and still being actively fulfilled.

The Sanhedrin were treating the Scriptures as though they were closed dead documents when they would he had their eyes open and been looking for the fulfillment of God's promises, specifically the coveting of the Messiah. The word assembly in the Greek is the word echlesia, which you may know is used to describe the collective church body throughout the New Testament. There's a link being made here. You see, at Mount Sinai, the Law came down from God, and he made a people for Himself who were to be marked by their obedience to His Word. In Jesus, God came down and gave us Himself to make a new people for Himself who are marked by his spirit, his.

Presence dwelling within them, leading them to obey His Word. Through Jesus, God has once again gathered a people for Himself, and this time, because they have his spirit, they will not collectively turn away from Him. When you see the phrase the angel in the Old Testament, that's always a reference to the one also sometimes called the angel of the Lord. In other verses, who is it? It's the pre incarnate Jesus appearing to somebody.

So not only is the church, the new people that God has gathered for Himself and marked with his spirit, but the same angel who spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai and was there at the burning bush has come to the earth and spoken to us as Jesus of Nazareth. Verse 39. Our ancestors were underlying unwilling to obey Him. They were unwilling to obey Moses. Instead they pushed him aside underlined that, and then this is huge.

And in their hearts turned back to Egypt. Despite all the miracles, all the signs and wonders, despite giving the people the law from God, israel still refused to obey Moses. They turned their hearts back to Egypt. And in the Bible, Egypt is a picture of the world, the world system that has nothing to do with God. It's the antithesis of the kingdom of God.

Steven is saying at the end of the day, they love their sin more than they love God. They love their sin more than they love the deliverer God sent them. And if you want to talk about the Holy Land, just remember this write this down israel's ancestors loved Egypt more than they loved the Promised Land. They had to be dragged into the Promised Land, kicking and screaming in their hearts. They just wanted to go back.

They loved their sin. This is what Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter three, when he said, this is the judgment. The light has come into the world. And people love darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it so that his deeds may not be exposed.

It's not about evidence. It's not about signs and wonders. It's not because of anything lacking on God's part that people reject God. It's because at the end of the day, underneath it all, they love their sin more than they love God, and they don't want to give it up. You can have your sin or you can have God.

I'll take my sin. That's what Jesus said. And Stephen just keeps hitting the nail on the head over and over. And now he brings up the infamous golden calf incident from Exodus 32. In verse 40, they Israel told Aaron, make us gods who will go before us.

As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what's happened to him. They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made. Stephen reminds the Sanhedrin. Oh. Our sacred ancestors.

Let's just revisit history a little bit. Literally. While Moses is being given the Law. Literally while he's up on the top of Mount Sinai. And the whole mountain is enveloped in thick smoke with the presence of God.

While they can see that Israel is at the bottom of the mountain saying. I don't know if Moses is coming back down. Aaron, you're in charge. Make us a golden calf idol so we can have an orgy and worship that. Let's do that.

Steven said, do you understand this? Moses is on the mountain hearing from God at that moment, and they're already rebelling and turning away from they can see God. There is the smoke of his presence, and they're already rejecting Him in favor of idols because they turned their hearts back to Egypt already. The arrival of the Law certainly didn't make Israel righteous. And now Stephen describes what happened to Israel between the time they conquered the promised land and the time when they were taken away centuries later in the Babylonian exile, verse 42, god turned away and gave them up.

You see, when a person receives revelation from God, he lets them understand that he's real. He reveals to their innermost spirit something of himself. When a person receives that, has that, can see that, but still rejects it because they would rather keep their sin, scripture says God will ultimately let them have their way. He won't overpower them. He'll actually stop revealing the truth to them and say, okay, I won't reveal myself to you anymore.

I won't let you see truth anymore. I'll actually give your mind over to the sin that you love. So that the sin that you're committing that you know is wrong. I'll actually give you a mind that will start to believe it's right. That's a judgment of God on people who persistently reject Him.

It's terrifying. It's terrifying, and it's why it's so urgent that we repent and turn to God when we recognize our sin, when he's speaking to us, we have to respond then, because the Bible doesn't say that will go on forever. God does this today, and he did it to Israel thousands of years ago. God said, you've seen me, you've seen signs and wonders, and you still want to reject me. Okay, I'll give you a mind that will do that.

Paul describes this process in Romans chapter one. If you have your Bibles and want to turn there, I'm just going to read through it. We don't have time to exposite it at all. But in Romans one, beginning in verses 21, I'll read it to you. This is what God says happens to people even today.

And here's what's mind blowing just as I read this. Think about the world around us today and what you're seeing in culture, and then understand that the Apostle Paul was writing this almost 20 years ago about what was happening in culture then, and it was true a couple of thousand years before that, with Israel as well. Let me read it to you. Paul says for though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless and their senseless hearts were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four footed animals and reptiles. They started worshiping idols. Therefore, God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

For this reason, God delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men, in the same way, also left relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Amen. Committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.

And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, god delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving and unmerciful. Although they know God's just sentence that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.

Written 20 years ago it blows my mind every time I read it, and I think it's one of the most terrifying passages in scripture, because God is saying, if you reject the truth over and over again, I will take from you your ability to actually recognize truth, and you will start to believe such foolish things. And the whole time that you lose your grip on the truth and become more foolish than a three year old, you'll be patting yourself on the back, congratulating yourself for being so brilliant and smart. That's the judgment of God on those who reject what they know is the truth over and over 20 years ago. Can you imagine the tension? As Stephen says, you're concerned that what I'm teaching is blasphemy against our sacred history.

Let's talk about our sacred history. Verse 42 god turned away and gave them up to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the House of Israel did you bring the offerings and sacrifices for 40 years in the wilderness? You took up the 10th of Moloch and the star of your God Raphan the images that you made to worship. So I will send you into exile beyond Babylon. Steven says let's not forget about the Babylonian exile.

Why did our forefathers end up being taken prisoner and taken off to Babylon. Oh, yeah, it's because they killed God's. Prophets turned to pagan idols, offered up their children as human sacrifices to moloch, rejected the law, and rejected God. To write this down, Israel's ancestors loved pagan idols more than the living God. They covet pagan idols more than the living God.

Finally and inevitably, Israel killed the one about whom the prophets had been prophesying jesus the Messiah. Steven's point throughout his message, which will continue next week and wrap up, is clear. Steven says, Our sacred history is full of idolatry and rejecting God's messengers, and you are following in the footsteps of your wicked forefathers. Repent. Turn to Jesus.

Receive the deliverer God has sent you, and you will be set free. When Peter preached to the thousands on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, he addressed the repentant men as children of the blessed promises of the prophets. When Stephen addresses the hard hearted and unrepentant members of the Sanhedrin, he addresses them as sons of those who rejected Joseph and Moses, sons of those who murdered the prophets and ultimately arranged the death of Jesus. It's a heavy text, and I just want to draw one application from this for our lives. Before we pray, I want to ask you what the pattern is in your life.

When the truth of God comes to you through a person, through a message, through a video, through the Scriptures, when God sends a message to you, when you find that your conscience is being pricked, it's being troubled, it's being stirred. When God calls you to take a step of faith, do you obey? Do you respond? Or like Israel, do you stubbornly dig your heels in and refuse? Does God have to bring pain into your life just to get you to respond to Him?

He will.

God loves you enough to let the bottom fall out of your life. If that's what it will take to get you to respond to Him, every option is on the table. If you're being stubborn in responding to God, my exhortation is real simple change, change. Repent. Respond to God.

Say yes to him. The thing that hits me so heavily as I was studying for this is that we don't have 40 years to waste. You don't have 40 years to waste wandering in the wilderness, being in bondage to sin, being controlled by your sin, enslaved to whatever your flesh desires. You don't have 40 years to waste. You don't have four years to waste.

Life is short. You might not even have four days to waste. Do not think that if God is speaking to you and you are saying no, that you will hear his voice forever so that you can respond later at a time that's more convenient for you. He doesn't promise you that. Scripture says today is the day of salvation.

If you hear the word of the Lord today, do not harden your hearts respond today because you don't know that you'll hear it tomorrow. And if you keep saying no, you will wake up one day, you won't hear the voice of God and you won't be able to find the truth anymore. You won't be able to tell the difference between the light and the dark if you've never given your life to Jesus and he is calling you to do that today and you know it. Don't delay. There's no time to waste.

There's no time to waste. Come and talk to me or BJ after the service. We're not going to embarrass you. We're just going to have a conversation on the side and talk through how you can begin this relationship with God. If you need to repent, do that.

Do that. If you need to take a step of faith and you've been putting it off because it's hard, it's difficult, it requires sacrifice, do it. Obey the voice of God while you can hear it.

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