1 “Is this true?” the high priest asked.
2 “Brothers and fathers,” he said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 3 and said to him:
Get out of your country
and away from your relatives,
and come to the land
that I will show you.
4 “Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this land you now live in. 5 He didn’t give him an inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, but He promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way:
His descendants would be strangers
in a foreign country,
and they would enslave
and oppress them 400 years.
7 I will judge the nation
that they will serve as slaves, God said.
After this, they will come out
and worship Me in this place.
8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision. After this, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob with the 12 patriarchs.
9 “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all 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. 11 Then a famine and great suffering came over all of Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food. 12 When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors the first time. 13 The second time, Joseph was revealed to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 Joseph then invited his father Jacob and all his relatives, 75 people in all, 15 and Jacob went down to Egypt. He and our ancestors died there, 16 were carried back to Shechem, and were placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 “As the time was drawing near to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people flourished and multiplied in Egypt 18 until a different king who did not know Joseph ruled over Egypt. 19 He dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our ancestors by making them leave their infants outside, so they wouldn’t survive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He was cared for in his father’s home three months, 21 and when he was left outside, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted and raised him as her own son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his speech and actions.
23 “As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided to visit his brothers, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 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?’
27 “But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him away, saying: Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?
29 “At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. 30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came: 32 I am the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. So Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have observed the oppression of My people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to rescue them. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt.
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, Who appointed you a ruler and a judge? —this one God sent as a ruler and a redeemer by means of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness 40 years.
37 “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers. 38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
“Is this true?” the high priest asked.
“Brothers and fathers,” he (Stephen) said, “listen: The God of glory appeared…"
In the middle of the book of Acts, we’re confronted by a drama centered on the person of Stephen. Acts 7 is Scene 2 in a three-act play. We find Scene 1 in the words at the end of Acts 6.
Stephen, having boldly shared the message of Christ with those who would listen, had been brought before the Sanhedrin. A jealous and angry mob—on the basis of trumped-up charges—had accused Stephen of blasphemy. They’d taken his message, twisted his words, and used them to say things Stephen never intended.
The conclusion of the story in Scene 3 follows Stephen’s message. It comes in the closing words of Acts 7.
Stephen had shared his testimony with the members of Israel’s religious council who had questioned him. Their response to his defense was a savage death by stoning, a common sentence for those convicted of blasphemy.
I found it interesting to reflect on what happened in the moments in between, in the powerful second scene of Stephen’s story. The high priest asked him if the charges leveled against him were true. Instead of an impassioned plea to spare his life, or a whining session about how it was all so unfair, as we might choose to do, Stephen simply slipped into the character that was most comfortable for him—one that found total confidence in the God of Israel.
He began with the calling of Abraham. He continued by sharing story after story from Israel’s history. Each one was another example of God’s faithfulness to His people and how all of it led to the coming of Christ.
His was an amazing story with tremendous power. But what may be lost amidst the drama of what Stephen said is the power of who was watching.
As we move from Scene 2 into Scene 3, it’s revealed that one witness to Stephen’s message and his eventual death was a man named Saul. You and I know him better as Paul, one of Christianity’s greatest missionaries and the writer of most of the New Testament.
Keep in mind the stories Stephen recounted weren’t new to Paul. In one of his letters, Paul said of himself that he was an excellent student of Israel’s religious history. Rather, Paul’s life would be touched by the faith of Stephen in the face of persecution.
Later, Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus sealed his conversion to the faith. But we may never know the role that Stephen’s martyrdom played in this. There’s no doubt, though, that it did.
Imagine it. Faced with the hypocrisy of the religious elite, false charges brought against his life, and the looming reality of his death, Stephen was still pointing people to God. Which brings to mind a very important question: who’s watching you?
Life gets unfair. We all know that. But do you still testify of God’s faithfulness? You get tired and overwhelmed by life. But does your story, even in those darkest moments, point others to God?
All around you, people are watching as you take on the trials that face you—just as they watched Stephen during his trial. Whose story will they hear—yours or God’s? You may never know the impact you have on the witnesses to your life. Make sure it’s telling of His greatness in all things.
- What trials are you facing as you enter today? How could you use these challenges to share of God’s faithfulness in your life?
- Do as Stephen did. Think back on the journey of your life. What are some of the most noticeable ways God has stood by you in tough times?
- Who are some of the key people that God may have as “witnesses” in your life? What action could you take to encourage them as they begin their journey of faith?