Read Acts 7:17-34

[17] “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. [18] Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ [19] He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. [20] “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. [21] When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. [22] Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. [23] “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. [24] He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. [25] Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. [26] The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ [27] “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? [28] Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ [29] When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. [30] “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. [31] When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: [32] ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. [33] “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. [34] I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

Meditate

Consider

“If there is one thing true of Christianity, it must always be expressible in contemporary terms. It fails if it cannot speak to people as they are” (William Barclay).

Think Further

Some 600 years have passed since Abraham and 400 since Joseph, but God has not changed, nor have his purposes. The God of Abraham is the God of Moses (32). God’s promise remains sure (17) and will be carried forward through Moses. It is achieved through suffering and despite the weakness and fallibility of the agent. The people were powerless, and Moses weak. Only when God reveals himself and issues his call can things change.

Thus far the Sanhedrin are with Stephen. They would no doubt agree with all he was saying, but they miss the significance. They do not see that God has acted again in ways that were not anticipated. They have missed the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. Nor are they really living in the light of the story. Stephen has yet to come to the climax; this is a story of the people of God who sometimes listen to his word and respond, but who frequently reject it. The episode featuring Moses demonstrates both. He was rejected by the people before his leadership was accepted and, later, he had to face their grumbling and rebellion. This story is typical of the relationship of God and his people. It is worth asking to what extent we, too, reject the word of God.

There will be a twist in the tale, but for the moment Stephen is showing that he shares their story; he is one of them, with a common ancestry. The bridges that we will build with our audience today will be different, but no less important. Our common humanity, our experiences of joy, loss, success and failure, our longing for something we cannot fully define; these are the stories we share with one another.

Apply

Think of the “stories” of the people you will meet this week. How can you bring their stories alongside God’s story?