Friday, December 02, 2011

New Year: Acts 7-8 for Nov 18

Let's not let "Oh, I know this story" prevent us from reading about the martyrdom of Stephen as if for the first time, in Acts 7.

Much has been made of Stephen's knowledge of the Old Testament. If he was a Hellenistic Jew he certainly carries the torch well for knowledge of the Old Testament outside the borders of Israel, just as Paul later does. Paul, who was present at this speech, but was as yet unconverted, possibly was hearing something said, by a person who used his language, yet refuted his views all the more.

Just as important is the reflection of the chapter on us. Stephen's speech shows that reciting the history of the nation need not be an hagiograph of the nation. How often have you heard a story of the Israelite wandering in the wilderness that uses the facts Stephen found in Amos 5? (Acts 7:42-43)? Today, the chief use being made of the wanderings in the wilderness, is to exhort us to not follow their example of unbelief. And well we shouldn't. But when have you heard a sermon about the idol factories in the wilderness, and not to follow those!

In his dying words, Stephen's example shows another rarity. It is perfectly compatible to be very much a critic of someone, yet forgive them from your heart and seek at all costs, their forgiveness (7:60).

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