Acts chapter 7 is an important pivotal moment for Christianity. It has the first Christian martyr, lays the groundwork for Christianity spreading throughout the world, and introduces Saul. Chapter 7 starts with Stephen being asked to explain himself about his statements from the previous chapter by the high priest of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were like the supreme court for Israel. Stephen gives what looks like a history lesson that they would already know, but he does this in a way that highlights key moments to build a pattern. He’s also not providing a defense, he’s just stating some truth!
First – God is not restricted to a building!
God never confined himself to one place, He even makes an analogy to shift our perspectives – in Acts chapter 7 verse 49 it says:
"Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord."
When God “promised land” (see what I did there?) and promised Abraham children, Abraham had a relationship with God which didn’t need a temple or any physical structure to go visit God. Stephen then picks up Joseph’s relationship with God, who also did not build any idols or temples to be close to God. Then he brings up Moses, who…once again…you guessed it. Little baby Moses didn’t build a house for God to protect him. God even appeared to Moses in the wilderness as a burning bush. The Sanhedrin were stuck worshiping the temple of God instead of God the temple. People today still have this type of mindset.
Second - God’s appointed were rejected!
Joseph was rejected by the OG Israelites – literally the sons of Israel were already starting the rejection game and sold Joseph as a slave! Moses was rejected, repeatedly. When he first protected one of his own people, after he brought them out of Egypt and they ended up in the desert for 40 years, the calf. Jesus was rejected – the high priest talking to Stephen was most likely the same high priest, Caiaphas, that had also held Jesus’ hearing. And here Stephen is, getting rejected as he is showing the Sanhedrin their true selves and how they are stuck in their old stiff-necked ways. They even ground their teeth making mean faces at him and then covered their ears when they didn’t like what he said.
What comes to your mind when a toddler doesn’t hear what they want to hear? They at least make a disgruntled face, sometimes stomp away, and worse yet – might even plug their ears! They don’t want to hear it! You might remember the analogy Jesus used in Matthew 9:17 how old wineskins can’t hold new wine. The Sandhedrin were the old wineskins and they behaved like toddlers who made angry faces with their teeth, plugged their ears, ran at him and at the end of the chapter, even broke their own laws to stone and kill Stephen. This is how far from God they had come.
Third - Stephen was steadfast!
Stephen laid the groundwork for showing that there was no theological reason to prevent the gospel from spreading to the rest of the world. Nothing was getting in his way, even to the death. And when it got to that point, something miraculous happened – he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This means Jesus stood up for this moment with Stephen, Jesus had Stephen’s back!
What can we learn from all this? You need to remember that God is everywhere at all times and always with you. People will reject you and what you say and don’t be surprised if they do so in childish ways! But no matter what, Jesus has got your back even while he’s up on the throne.
Stay steadfast! Live a full, whole life for God, giving everything you have!