Summary: In this long defense, Stephen reveals the gracious heart of God as He worked with the nation of Israel for centuries to reveal Himself to them.
Passage: Acts 7:1-60
Intro: You may be familiar with the famous short story titled “The Gift of the Magi”
1. story of young married couple, very poor, at Christmas
2. Stella had beautiful hair, Jim had a fabulous watch
3. Stella sold her hair to buy Jim a watch fob, Jim sold his watch to buy Stella some wonderful combs for her lovely hair
4. great news in the story, both rejoiced in the sacrificial love of the other.
5. the gift reveals the heart of the giver.
6. in this long statement by Stephen before the Jewish leaders, the gracious heart of God is revealed.
7. at the same time, the sad inability of the Jews to see it is also shown.
8. Stephen gives a powerful historical overview of the nation of Israel and there consistent preference for the things God gave them over a relationship with God.
9. God revealed His nature to them through what He gave, and He does the same to us.
10. let’s not miss it!
I. God Revealed His Gracious Nature by
Promising the Land
1. Stephen was on trial for proclaiming Jesus
2. saw last week, charged with blasphemy against the Law and against the Temple
3. the Jews were all about 3 things: the Law, the Land, and the Temple
4. and we will notice how Stephen points out the true nature of each of these gifts.
5. begins with the story of Abraham, living in Mesopotamia.
6. God gave him a promise of land, v5
7. frankly, Abraham had no land, no house, no children. He did have a beautiful wife and lots of livestock.
8. but he believed God, and though he never received the land in his lifetime, he did get children whose offspring would ultimately possess the land.
9. but there was nothing Abraham did to earn this land, to deserve it.
10. God chose him, God gave him this promise of land in Genesis 15
PP) Genesis 15:18-21
11. there were no strings attached to this land. It was a unilateral promise of God
12. in Stephens time, the land was the possession of the Romans, though the Jews lived there in poverty and political servitude.
13. God had given it to them forever, though their ability to enjoy it had been destroyed by their consistent disobedience.
14. the Jews may have thought they deserved it, but the land they possessed, and possess today, is a statement of the gracious nature of God.
II. God Revealed His Saving Nature by Rescuing Joseph and the Nation
1. Joseph was one of twelve brothers, Dad’s favorite, brothers jealous
2. they sold him into slavery , but God elevated him in Egypt
3. God’s purpose to save Israel from famine by providing food thru Joseph
4. but of course they ended up in Egypt, where they became slaves. V19
5. but this set up an even greater rescue, when God sent Moses to free them.
6. the Jewish slaves in Egypt originally rejected Moses, v27
8. he did rescue them, though not without enduring much whining about His methods. V39
9. but God continued to save; God continued to rescue all the way to the Promised land, though with a 40 year detour caused by disobedience
III. God Revealed His Righteous Nature by Giving the Law
1. we forget that in the early history of the world, few people had a clue what God expected.
2. and by the time Abraham was born, the percentage of uninformed people was huge!
3. so God chose to reveal His perfect righteousness in what He calls the Law
4. He revealed the Law through Moses in a powerful display
5. this was a gracious act, because it taught the people of Israel who God was and what He was like.
6. it revealed a character willing to judge and willing to forgive.
7. this is the same character revealed in the Book of Revelation!
8. the Law revealed the perfect holiness of God that could only be attained through the sacrifices that God Himself would provide.
9. and yet the Jews of Stephen’s day had concluded that just having the Law was enough, without looking beyond it to the heart change that it sought.
PP Isaiah 29:13
10. David got it!
11. Stephen is painting quite a picture here, of a gracious God pouring out gifts, and a blind nation focused on the gifts and completely ignoring and even rejecting the Giver.
IV. God Revealed His Loving Nature by Giving the Temple
1. to the Jews, the Temple was everything
2. it had begun as a tabernacle in the desert.
3. as we study the design of the tabernacle, given by God, the purpose is clear.
4. it was a place for God to be able to dwell among His people and not destroy them