SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Stephen was seized by the Jewish religious leaders for supposedly speaking against Moses and God. When asked if the accusations were true, he responded with a history lesson of the most important Jewish people from the Old Testament. Here is a recap of that history:
- Abraham was chosen to leave his people and follow God. He was told his descendents would become a great nation, be enslaved and then freed. Abraham believed God and had a son, Isaac, who had a son named Jacob.
- Jacob had twelve sons, one of whom was Joseph. Joseph made his brothers jealous, so they sold him into slavery. Joseph became a slave in Egypt and eventually worked his way up to being the highest ranking leader under Pharaoh. Then a famine hit, which forced Jacob and his sons to travel to Egypt, where Joseph took care of them.
- Long after Joseph’s death, a new Pharaoh became ruler and enslaved Abraham’s descendents. Moses was saved from infanticide and grew up in an Egyptian household. Later, he fled to the desert after committing murder. Years later, God appeared to him and sent him back to Egypt to set his people free from slavery.
- Moses took God’s people out of Egypt as God sent plagues and parted the Red Sea. Moses told the people that “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people,” which was a reference to Jesus. God gave them the Ten Commandments, but people didn’t obey. God had them make a large tent called the Tabernacle to be used for worship.
- After Moses, a man named Joshua led the people into Israel.
- Years later, David became King of Israel and wanted to make a Temple for God. But God chose David’s son, Solomon, to build the Temple.
- Stephen took great care to point out that, initially, Moses was rejected by the Jewish people, like Jesus was. He was sent to deliver them from Egypt and they didn't want his help, just like those listening didn't want Jesus' help. The Israelites refused to obey Moses in the desert, and the Jews were refusing to obey Jesus then. He warned them of their hard hearts that resist the Holy Spirit. It is those words that filled them with hatred and ultimately got Stephen killed.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- As Stephen started his speech the religious leaders would have been nodding their heads in approval. They knew all of the stories he was sharing. But then, Stephen announced that they had resisted God by murdering Jesus. The religious leaders and other Jews turned into a mob and killed Stephen by stoning- throwing big, heavy stones at him until he died from the trauma. Stephen knew this would be their reaction, but he chose to die than not follow Jesus. We need to do the same. We need to be committed to follow Jesus wherever it leads.
- Where is Jesus leading you, or what is he leading you to do that you'd rather not? What has been your excuse for not doing what you know you need to? Commit right now to doing God's will, even if it will be difficult, and even if you may not like the consequences.