Monday, June 1, 2020

Acts Study, Session 16

Today we pick up our study in Acts 7 where we take a closer look at Stephen's address to the nation.


Teaching Notes
Chapter 7
VERSES 1-2: Then said the high priest, Are these things so? (2)  And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, (3) And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. These verses are interesting in that they go beyond the Genesis 12 account which simply says that the Lord had said unto Abram to The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham. So that means that God actually appeared in, most likely, a human form, thus a Theophany. Stephen, as we will see, reviewed Israel's history beginning with Abraham, and how God in the past had consistently prepared the nation for their coming King and Kingdom.

VERSE 4: Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran (Haran): and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. (5)  And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. The point is that God had made a promise to Abraham that had not yet been fulfilled in his lifetime.

VERSES 6-7: And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. (7)  And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. This is speaking of the bondage that Israel endured in Egypt. And, of course, God judged them when he delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians under Moses with the plagues.

VERSES 9-10: And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. (9)  And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, (10)  And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. This speaks of the betrayal of Joseph's brothers in selling him into slavery, where he, through a series of events, ends up being the governor over all of Egypt. I believe this is a type and a foreshadowing of how Israel had also sold its Redeemer not knowing who he was.

VERSES 11-13: Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. (12)  But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. (13)  And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. This is when Jacob sent the remaining brothers to get grain in Egypt because of the drought that the land was going through (Gen 42:1-3; Gen 42:8). Verse 8 there in Genesis reminds me of Joh 1:11. Later we find that Joseph could not restrain himself any further and revealed himself to his brothers (Gen 45:1-4; Gen 45:15).

In the same way, Israel did not recognize Jesus as their Redeemer, but one day they will according to Zec 12:10-12 and Zec 13:6. Stephen is making an attempt to show the nation that what their forefathers had done to Joseph, they had done to Jesus! But, as we have already mentioned earlier, they did it in ignorance (Act 3:17). Also, we discussed, had they known who he was and done what they did in total knowledge, God would have brought judgment down on them immediately. Jesus even said from the cross, Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

Interestingly enough, Stephen will later declare the same words as they are stoning him later in Act 7:60. He asked God to forgive them for their ignorance! Why was this so important that their ignorance is brought out? Because, again, had they known full well what they were doing, God would have destroyed them according to the law of murder. The law makes it clear that if someone knowingly, premeditatively killed someone, it was life for life. However, if it was an accident, grace was extended for the person to flee to the City of Refuge (cf. 1Co 2:6-8).  The example of that grace is furthermore displayed in the next verses.

VERSES 14-16: Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. (15)  So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, (16)  And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem. Joseph showed his brothers mercy, just as God was about to show mercy to Israel as we will see in a little bit through the very man that would oversea Stephen's stoning: Saul (v.58).

On another interesting note, this burial place, Sychem, is holy to all three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It contains the bodies of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Rebecca, and Joseph. 

Speaking of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, you need to read The Genesis Record by Henry Morris. By the way, it would not make the list of most politically correct books in today's world. Anyway, in Genesis 6 we are told that Noah had three sons (Gen 6:10). 

Then in Genesis 10, we have what is called the Table of Nations which describes where each of these sons and their descendants settled after the flood (Gen 10:1). In short, Shem's descendants are known as Shemites and they settled in what today is the Middle East. It is felt that through Shem's descendant, Joktan, came the Orientals and through his descendant, Peleg came the Asians. Thus all Jews, Asians, and Orientals are considered to be Shemites. Ham's descendants are known as Hamites and they settled in what today is known as Africa. Japheth's descendants are known as Japhites and they settled in what today is known as Europe.

Also, linguistically, through Shem came the Semitic languages; through Ham came the Afro-Asiatic languages, and through Japheth came the Endo-European languages. Religiously, through Shem came Judaism, through Ham came Islam, and through Japheth came Christianity. It goes on and on. Fascinating study!

Some will even point to the fact that through Christ, the plan was to redeem man back to himself, of course, through the nation of Israel. This is seen in the fact that the conversion experiences in Acts were those of a Shemite, and Hamite, and a Japhite. In 8:26-37 we see the conversion of an Ethiopian Eunuch who was a descendant of Ham. In 9:1-6 we see the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul who was a descendant of Shem. In 10:1-5 we see the conversion of Cornelius, a centurion who was a descendant of Japheth. Just interesting to me. 

VERSES 17-19: But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, (18)  Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. (19)  The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. Hard to not notice that Stephen here is still addressing the Nation of Israel. No Gentiles. No Body of Christ. The only Gentiles so far are the Egyptians. 

VERSE 20: In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: I don't think that exceeding fair does not been that he was a pretty baby. The translations say that he was lovely in the sight of God. Others like the NIV say he was no ordinary child. It means that he was special in some way and that would be in how God was going to use him. Notice also that by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we are filling in a lot of gaps that the Old Testament just does not mention. 

VERSES 21-22: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. (22)  And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. Again, this is information that can not be gleaned from the Old Testament accounts. As a son of Pharoah's daughter, he was second behind Pharoah himself. He was highly educated and wielded much power in not only words but also deeds.  

If you pay close attention, you will see that Stephen divides Moses' 120-year life span into three forty-year periods: 40 in Egypt, 40 on the backside of the desert,  and 40 leading the children of Israel. 

VERSES 23-25: And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. (24)  And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: (25)  For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. Some will say that when Moses went out the first time and was moved to deliver the Jews, but not called to deliver the Jews. 

I have a thought process for you. There is a difference between a burden and a call. Just because you are burdened, doesn't mean that God wants you to do anything about it. Too many move on burdens today and not calls. 

Notice that he tried to deliver them they understood not. Again, Stephen has repeated Israel's history for a reason. Just as the people did not understand that Moses was there to deliver them, so too, the vast majority of the Jews that Stephen was speaking to did not understand that Jesus was there to deliver them as well. Every word out of Stephen's mouth was trying to show them that Jesus was their long-awaited deliverer just as Moses foretold this in Deu 18:15-19. 

Of course, Israel had already rejected and crucified him in ignorance, but Stephen is telling them that it is not too late! That takes me to Acts 7:13 when he said, And the second time, Joseph was made known to his brethren. So too here, they are being given a second opportunity to accept their Messiah and his offer of a Kingdom. If they had, he would have returned a second time, seven years later! That is why we call it the Second Coming. 

VERSES 26-27: And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? (27)  But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Back to Moses when his deed was discovered, they said, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? That is the same thing that the nation said we Jesus offered to be their King! We have no king but Caesar (Joh 19:15)! Stephen is bringing on the heat!

VERSES 28-30: Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? (29)  Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. (30)  And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. Here we see another forty years of Moses' life on the backside of the desert.

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