Lord Jesus, Receive My Spirit
Comments for Study 9
Memory Verse: 59-60
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I. Teaching the Bible Under Pressure (1-16)
>1. In response to the question of the high priest, what did Stephen teach about Abraham's calling? (1-3)
"Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?" To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'" -Acts 7:1-3
* Stephen didn't answer yes or no. He addressed the charge that he spoke against the temple by teaching what happened in their history before there was a temple. He shows from history that God was with and worked with his people even before there was a temple.
* "Brothers and fathers" -Stephen addressed them from a Jewish perspective. They were related in the flesh and if any of them were believers in Jesus then they were related in spirit. The high priest was certainly not a believer in Jesus.
* "listen to me!" -Note the exclamation point. When ancient Hebrew writers wanted to put emphasis on a statement they pressed hard as they wrote causing the words to be bold. Stephen did not hold back. He was not timid. Perhaps when he called them brothers some started to murmur; thus causing him to shout out to get their attention.
* "the God of glory" -God clothes himself in glory and light. Glory means to reveal. God revealed himself with glory to the Jewish fathers.
* "appeared to our father Abraham" -Implies he was visible to Abraham. God was with Abraham even though there wasn't a temple to go to worship him. God gave Abraham a personal promise and Stephen is going to show how God kept the promises. The Jewish leaders loved the temple and all the religious rites that went along with it. Yet they did not love the God who is personable, as personable as he was to Abraham. Stephen is showing that the temple means nothing if you don't have a relationship with God as Abraham did.
* "Mesopotamia" -Mesopotamia (from the Greek "between the rivers") is the designation of the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Mesopotamia applies more generally to the entire Tigris-Euphrates valley. Abraham was from the city of Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur was located on the Euphrates River 100 miles from the mouth of the river (The Euphrates river flows into the Persian Gulf). Ur's founding is not clear to me. Ur was a great city for quit some time including Terah's time. Today they have found and excavated the sight which is in modern day Iraq/Iran. It was quit an advanced walled city with canals, two harbors, a huge palace, and several temples. Education was well developed at Ur, for a school was found there with its array of clay tablets. Further studies have revealed the fact that commerce was well developed and that ships came into Ur from the Persian Gulf bringing diorite and alabaster used in stature making, copper ore, ivory, gold and hard woods. Ur was the center of the worship of the moon god, Sin. (Those in Haran also worshiped this god. Haran was in the land of Asshur's and Aram's descendants who were also sons of Seth.) The Babylonian empire was located in this area.
* "before he lived in Haran" -Haran became an important city in northern Mesopotamia located on the Balik River and was perhaps named after Abraham's brother, another of Terah's son and Lot's father. Abraham's father moved his family north after Haran's death, apparently with plans to go to Canaan. Abraham and his father settled in Haran. Abraham eventually left his when God told him to go to Canaan. (Gen. 11) However, the first call of God was in Ur. (Gen. 15:7, Ne. 9:7)
* Abraham worshiped the idol Sin like every one else in Ur and Haran when God called him to the Promised Land. (Joshua 24:2-3)
>What was the characteristics of Abraham's life in the land of Canaan? (4-8)
"So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. God spoke to him in this way: 'Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,' God said, 'and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.' Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs." -Acts 7:4-8
* "the land of the Chaldeans" -the southern district of Babylonia. The name was later applied to a region that included all Babylonia.
* "After the death of his father" -Gen. 11:26 Does not mean that all three sons, Abraham, Nahor, and Haran, were born to Terah in the same year when he was seventy years old. However, it is possible it could have happened. (Gen. 11:26-12:1) It is possible that Haran was Terah's firstborn and that Abraham was born sixty years later. Thus, the death of Terah at two hundred five years could have occurred just before Abraham was seventy-five in Haran.
* Abraham lived by faith that God would give him many descendants.
* Abraham died with no visible proof other than one son of promise that God would keep all the other promises. He died hoping and waiting.
* Stephen concentrated on the promises in Genesis 15 instead of Genesis 12.
* "four hundred years" -Some imply that this is a round number and Exodus 12:40-41 statement of four hundred and thirty are exact years. God told Abraham that his descendants would be in another land for four generations, four hundred years. (Gen. 15:13-16) Moses was the great-grandson of Levi, son of Jacob and brother to Joseph according to Exodus 6:16-20. 1 Chron. 7:22-27 list ten names of generations between Ephraim, the son of Joseph, and Joshua. Ten generations at forty years each would equal four hundred years (Stephen's number). God's promise to Abraham is prophecy, as was all his promises to Abraham. The fulfilment of prophecy is sometimes two fold and/or repeated more than one.
* "God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision" -In Genesis 17:10-11. The essential condition for the religion of Israel was set with circumcision, not temple worship and Mosaic religious customs and laws.
>2. How did God help Joseph who came to Egypt? (9-10)
""Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace." -Acts 7:9-10
* Joseph had nothing but God was always with him. He had not temple. He had not priest. He had no Levitical rites. However, like Abraham before him, Joseph had a personable God who was always with him.
* Joseph's brothers rejected God's chosen and sold him into slavery because they were jealous. Jealousy was the reason that Stephen now stood before the Sanhedrin with false accusations against him. Joseph was chosen by God to do something special and God manifested that in his youth. Stephen was also chosen by God which was manifested in the miracles that he performed. Joseph and Stephen were treated wrongly for the same reason. One final point, these facts also applies to Jesus.
* Joseph was the fruit of God's covenant with Abraham even though no one saw it but Jacob at the end of his life when he blessed him.
>How did Joseph meet his father Jacob and his family (11-16)?
"Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money." -Acts 7:11-16
* Stephen's point in Abraham and Joseph is that God's word to Abraham recorded in verses 6-7 and God's faithfulness in keeping it. God raised Abraham's descendants, the Israelites twelve tribes into a nation in Egypt and brought back their bodies to the promised land. All this was done without a temple.
* God used Joseph by preparing a place for the Israelites to dwell and grow into a huge nation. This was fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. All this was done by God without a temple or any type of religious institution. During Stephen's life God was with them personally in Jesus and then the Holy Spirit.
* By this point the high priest was completely bored with Stephen's speech because it was something they had known their whole life. Stephen begins compressing details, for example verse sixteen, including the tradition that the twelve were buried in Canaan with Joseph.
* "seventy-five in all" -The Hebrew Bible uses the number seventy (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5; Dt. 10:22) and the Greek translation (the Septuagint) adds the names of two sons of Manasseh, two of Ephraim, and one grandson of each. This makes the seventy-five that Stephen uses, a Greek Jew.
II. Israel's Failures (17-38)
>3. How did Pharaoh treat the people of Israel who multiplied greatly? (17-19)
"As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. -Acts 7:17-19
* "for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham" -The point Stephen is trying to make, God fulfills his promises. He will use that to explain the work of the Holy spirit and how they are rejecting it just as their ancestors did.
* "dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers" -This was God's hand preparing the people to want to leave the riches of Egypt. God's way of fulfilling the promise was hard for the Israelites at this time.
* On the outside this seemed like a threat to God's promise, but in actuality it was the personable God of Abraham working out his plan.
>How could Moses be brought up in an Egyptian palace? (21a)
"When he was placed outside" -Acts 7:21a
* Moses was placed outside of Israel. He became an Egyptian, one of them that was oppressing Abraham's descendants.
* God's providence is seen in the salvation of Moses.
* Moses was a dead man, but God protected him. One could even say that God brought him from death through the faith of his parents. Not only was God working with his people without a temple, but they weren't even in the promised land.
>What was the result?(20, 21b)
"At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. -Acts 7:20-21
* "no ordinary child" -His parents recognized something in Moses that set him apart from other babies. Some could say that this was the love of a parent seeing something that was not there. However, Moses had a least two older siblings. So the parents were not new to babies.
* "Moses was educated" -God was preparing him for service to be a leader in one of the highest educational system in the world at the time. Joseph and Daniel were prepared in the same way. God's sovereign hand is seen. The Old Testament does not state Moses education in Egypt; however other ancient historians Philo and Josephus agree with Luke.
* Moses life can be divided into three forty year periods. In each period God work in him in different ways. The first period was mental training in Egypt to be a leader servant. The second period was practically training in Midian being a leader servant. The last forty year period was recording God's will and leading the people out of Egypt as their servant.
>4. Why did his people reject Moses, although he was sincere in trying to help his people? (23-28)
"When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?' "But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?'" -Acts 7:23-28
* "When Moses was forty year old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites" -Indicating he did not visit them before.
* "Moses thought that his own people would realize" -Moses knew he could lead the people. He had a sense of mission. However, he over-evaluated people's opinion of him. He was not ready to lead God's people. God would work on his time frame when Moses and the people were ready.
* "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" -Moses, Joseph, Jesus, and Stephen were all rejected by leaders of Israel even though God had appointed them to serve his people.
>Where did he escape and for how long? (29-30)
"When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. "After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai." -Acts 7:29-30
* "Midian" -One of Abraham's son by Keturah (Gen. 25:1-6) by this name settled the land east Egypt and the Red Sea, around both sides of the Gulf of Agaba. (Gen. 37:25, 36; Ex. 2:15-21) In the time of Moses they were rich nomads and well documented as such. (Num. 31:22, 32-34) Their name has long since vanished from history.
* "where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons" -Mt. Sinai is located between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Agaba. Moses did not go to far when he left Egypt, just far enough to get away from the hand of Pharaoh.
* Again, Stephen's point is that God was working before anything to do with the temple was instituted because the God of their ancestors was a personable God. God appeared to Moses in the middle of a bush not a temple
* "an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert" -Exodus chapter 3 states that the angle was standing in the middle of the bush, the bush was burning yet not consumed, and the angle was actually the LORD God of Israel surrounded by his glory (aka light, fire). The LORD was surrounded by the "shekinah glory" mentioned in study one of Acts. The Shekinah glory is not a fire, the reason the bush was not consumed.
>5. When Moses met God, what was God's message to him? (31-34)
"When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord's voice: 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. "Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.'" -Acts 7:31-34
* God revealed his plan to Moses. God's calling to Moses was clear.
* Before his encounter Moses had not really known God.
* "I have indeed seen the oppression of my people" -This was on Moses mind ever since he visited his people (forty years earlier).
* "I am the God of your fathers..." -God identified himself. He is a personable God that one can see, hear, and understand. He has a name that he is called by.
* "Come now, I am sending you back to Egypt" -Moses was now ready. His time had come only because he now knew the LORD God, not just knew about the LORD God. Human education was not enough. He was now humble, having fear of God, ready to follow God's instructions; something the leaders now standing before Stephen did not have. How was Moses humbled; by his brothers in Egypt, by being having the lowest job as a shepherd, and receiving a job through his wife. Proud people go their own way. Humble people go God's way. That is why it says, "God opposes the proud, but exalts the humble."
>How did God use Moses? (35-36)
"This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert." -Acts 7:35-36
* God used MOses greatly and was with his people, leading them, even though there was no temple.
* God fulfilled his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
>What was God's specific revelation through Moses in regard to the Messiah and the Word of God? (37-38)
"This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us." -Acts 7:37-38
* "Moses who told the Israelites" -Stephen brings his point to the forefront. Jesus is the link to the promise to Abraham. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. Jesus is the prophet that Moses spoke about. Jesus is the one whom called to Abraham. Jesus is the one who called to Moses from the bush. Jesus is the greater plan of God. Abraham and Moses knew this.
* "He was in the assembly in the desert" -Jesus was the column of smoke by day and fire by night that lead the Israelites. (Ex. 12:42; 13:17-18, 21-22)
* "the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai" -Jesus came down the mountain just before the Israelites were given the ten commandments. (Ex. 19)
* "living words" -The words of God are active and powerful. The ten commandments were the first words the LORD gave to the Israelites. (Ex. 20:1-21) They were followed by other commandment. (Ex. 20:22-23:33) All this happened before they were instructed by the LORD to build the tabernacle and later the temple. (Ex. 25)
* The tabernacle was given so the Israelites could come to the LORD after they left Mt. Sinai, during the entire time he traveled with them to the promised land.
* All Stephen pointed to was that God was with the people whether there was a tabernacle or not. God isn't restricted to a tabernacle and a temple.
III. God's Word Rejected (39-50)
>6. What was the consistent pattern of the people of Israel in regard to God and his word? (39-48)
"But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt--we don't know what has happened to him!' That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: "'Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile' beyond Babylon. "Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God's favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him. "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: -Acts 7:39-48
* "refused to obey him... rejected him" -As mentioned above Stephen is going to make the point that the leaders before him are no different than their ancestors because they rejected the Messiah as their forefathers had rejected Moses.
* "in their hearts they turned back to Egypt" -Even though they physically didn't go back, they really wanted to. Their hearts were not changed. Stephen would say that those before him were no different than they. Jesus taught, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt. 12:33-37)
* "Make us gods who will go before us" -When they followed the column of smoke and fire they had to go wherever God lead them, which was in a desert. If they made their own gods they could make it go wherever they wanted to go because a crafted idol is dead. The Israelites missed the whole point of what God was doing. Abraham didn't and went where ever God told him to go.
* "the worship of the heavenly bodies" -More than the sun, moon and stars; this also referred to fallen angels, who can appear as angles of light.
* "written in the book of the prophets" -Stephen quotes Amos 5:25-27 as translated into Greek by the Septuagint, except that he replaces Damascus with Babylon in view of the fact that the final exile of Israel from the promised land was carried out by the Babylonians (Amos was speaking first of the Assyrian exile of the northern kingdom.)
* "the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship" -Molech is a transliteration of the Hebrew word related to word for “king” but describing a foreign god or a practice related to foreign worship. The meaning of “Molech” is debated. Rephan is a term for a foreign, astral deity. The Hebrew Masoretic text reads Kaiwan, the Babylonian name for Saturn. (Holman Bible Dictionary)
>What was God's revelation about the Temple Worship? (49-50)
"'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?'" -Acts 7:49-50
* God didn't only live in the temple. God couldn't be confined to one locality, though he had told them to meet him there.
* Magnifying the temple diminished the reality that God is sovereign in history and calls men no matter where they are at.
* Magnifying the temple ignored the reality of the ancestors of faith.
* Magnifying the temple gave the illusion that God was for one people only. So the priests became the main focus instead of God who dwells everyone and is the God of everyone.
* The temple was to accommodate the Israelites, not to accommodate God. The temple was not that important to God except that it was to help his people.
* The temple is not the essence of a life of faith in God.
* Some Christians and so called Christian groups do the same thing. They think they are elite and unique in God's revelation, that they somehow have determined and received a higher calling than others. They call themselves God's soldiers on the front line of God's work while every one else has missed out of knowing God. At this point you might say that is what Stephen believed. The difference is that Stephen just pointed out that the Bible, especially the first five books (that is all the Sadducees believed was God revealed) backed up what he had said and taught earlier. He was not claiming that he knew something that they did not know. They both knew it. The difference between the two was that Stephen and all Jesus' follower accepted it while the Sadducees (made up of priests rejected it.
* Those who seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin "produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." (6:14) Stephen now repeated what he actually taught. He did not give a yes or no to the high priests question. Instead, he told him exactly what he had been teaching, what he must have learned from the apostles, who in turn learned it from Jesus.
* The LORD is the God of salvation, grace, and fellowship with his cleansed people. He is not the God of legalized worship practices. Jesus is the LORD God, the God of history, dynamic and active in people lives and human history.
IV. The Stoning of Stephen (51-60)
>7. How did Stephen rebuke the Sanhedrin members? (51-53)
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him--you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." -Acts 7:51-53
* "stiff-necked people" -People who have a one tracked thinking, faith, belief, heart, etc. Its a term that means stubborn refusal to accept what is obviously true.
* "with uncircumcised hearts and ears" -Was not hearing and accepting God's truth.
* Stephen exposed their sin problem. Their pride was greater than the truth in their hearts.
>What their response to Stephen's sermon? (54, 57-58)
"When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. -Acts 7:54
"At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." -Acts 7:57-58
* This is the natural response to God's word, not a spiritual response. The natural response is an emotionally controlled response.
* "Saul" -He would be called by God and renamed to Paul. Saul was in Jerusalem and probably sat with his teacher Gamaliel in the Sanhedrin as pointed out in an earlier study.
* Saul must have remembered this sermon for he wrote on its content later in his letters.
>What do you learn from Stephen's death? (55-60)
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. -Acts 7:55-60
* Glory, not shameful, with faith in Jesus.
* "receive my spirit" -His resurrection faith was exposed and testified too.
* Stephen had no fear of death.
* I can see the people moving their eyes to see what Stephen saw, but then refused to turn their head out of pride.
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