It's Our Story
Heavenly Father, in You are laid up all the wonders of wisdom, truth, and holiness. Form me after Your heart.
Read ACTS 7:39-53
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.
How hard it is not to feel smug about the faults of others—that is, until you are able to clearly see your own!
There are two ways we can read the history in the Bible. We can read it as their history: what the people of Israel did, the wrong turns and the tragic consequences. Or we can read it as our history: ways our predecessors in faith were dealt with by God, mistakes we are prone to and temptations we are likely to face. Sadly, over the centuries the Christian Church drifted towards the first view, promoting a hostility between Jew and Christian which culminated in genocide in the twentieth century.
As Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin reaches its climax, he addresses the audience with passionate, hard-hitting rhetoric (51-53). He is clearly recounting “our” history, echoing prophets like Moses and Amos (quoted in vs. 42,43) and emphasizing the twin themes we have seen in Jeremiah. First is the pervasive temptation to idolatry (41). Japanese businesses recently wanted to erect a statue of a bull in their financial district to bring them better fortune. The twist is they are copying one in the USA. Second, where the futility of idols is largely accepted, as it was among Jews after the exile, there is the temptation to pin God down in buildings and rituals. Places and forms for worship are helpful—God guides us to create them (44)—but the divine repertoire is far greater than we can imagine (49). Stephen understood Jesus’ message that the temple would not remain the focus for God’s people, and paid with his life for explaining that. Soon Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would find people of other nations grafted by the Holy Spirit into their community of faith, sharing their ancestors and their history. Sadly, many of them would find that too hard to accept.
In what ways are you and your church warmly welcoming people of other nations and backgrounds into the community of faith? Pray never to be a hindrance to them.
Lord, I can be so like ancient Israel. As You press in on me with new challenges, new calls, I push back against You. Help me, rather, to obey You.
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