Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bible Reading: Acts 7v1-8

"Then the high priest asked Stephen, ‘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 Harran. “Leave your country and your people,” God said, “and go to the land I will show you.”
‘So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. 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 enough ground to set his foot on. 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: “For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,” God said, “and afterwards 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."
Stephen has been arrested, brought before the Council and falsely accused of blasphemy against God and Moses.  Now, in front of the Council what will Stephen say?  Stephen, as he begins to answer the High Priests question, is trusting Jesus promise that words would be given to him and what words they are.  Stephen filled by the Spirit brilliantly expounds the Old Testament history of God's people applying it to challenge those in front of him, and disprove their charge of blasphemy.  He flips the trial on its head.  Buy the end he is not in their dock, they are in God's dock.

Stephen begins by expressing his kinship with them.  "Brother and fathers, listen to me!"  Stephen doesn't distance himself from them but begins by seeking to show that he is a fellow Israelite, he hasn't abandoned or rejected their history, no, his faith in Jesus is the end result of fully understanding their history, of being one of God's people.  This is no finger wagging telling off from a dispassionate academic.  This is a compassionate declaration of the fact that Christ is the ultimate fulfilment of all the Old Testament pointed to and promised and a call to repentance.

He seeks to show the amazing way God has worked through history.  Beginning with Abraham who believed the promise of God(5), was given the sign of the promise in circumcision and who lived by faith.  Stephen is seeking to show that there is no disconnect between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Stephen has not abandoned Abraham and the covenant rather he has fully embraced it.  He is not blaspheming against God as he has been charged, rather he is obeying God and everything God promised and planned and brought to pass.

His belief in Christ is rooted in God's work throughout history.  So is our faith.  Yet so often we know the New Testament so much better than the Old.  The Old Testament is not a Jewish book, it is our history because it reveals our God and his wonders to us.  It is of immense value to us, and we are poorer for its neglect.

With that in mind we are going to explore the Old Testament roots behind Stephen's teaching for the next few days. 

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