“You stiff necked people”
Stephen’s speech (in Acts 7) before the Jewish Council is a history lesson! Why? For what purpose?
He reviews all that had happened since the time of Abraham. But the members of the Council would have known their history? But was it just academic knowledge to them? Had they failed to draw lessons for themselves from it? Yes! – and the same failure is evident today!
As we read the chapter we see Stephen is tracing the things God had instigated since he called Abraham from his homeland in Ur. The lesson is clearly that his people should be aware and, as a result, be awake to the actions of God, If they do this, they will respond in faith. The same challenge faces us today!
Stephen’s lesson then looks at the experiences of Joseph in Egypt when God acted and miracles occurred. Next there are the incredible events when they leave Egypt – and more drama at Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments are given and a tabernacle created. Following this there is the establishment in the land under Joshua – and the dramas in the days of David.
Stephen’s final point is the great Temple built by Solomon, which was rebuilt by Herod just before the time of Christ, forty-six years of work! His audience evidently gloried in the sense of prestige the Temple gave them in the eyes of the people. The tragedy is that the thinking of his audience was focussed on themselves and not on their Creator.
God is far greater than just a being that dwells in a temple.
The climax of Stephen’s speech is to quote Isaiah,
“Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool” (verse 49).
That was the climax of the history lesson, the aim of which was to portray the real lessons for them – of the relationship with God that they should have learned from the failures in history.
Stephen suddenly challenges them,
“You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit (God in action) as your father’s did …” (verse 51).
He accuses them, you
“betrayed and murdered … the Righteous One” (verse 52).
What brave words … and now they murder Stephen, but that event was in time to be the catalyst in the conscience “of a young man named Saul” (verse 58) who was to become a “chosen vessel” and lead to an incredible life of dedication, “for all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). This is the lesson of scripture as we trace the outworking of these events.
Can you see God working in your life when – and since – you were “called”? Or, maybe it hasn’t happened yet! Are you seeking for it to happen – or are you among “the stiff-necked people”?
Let us read God’s word every day; regularly praying, being ready to co-operate with your Creator and His Son, who sacrificed his life – for you? His sacrifice was for all who sincerely seek – from their hearts – a relationship with the Creator.