The Scripture Summation of Stephan, Part 2; Moses

Acts 7:20-44

And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. “And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son. “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand. “And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ “But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? ‘YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?’ “And at this remark MOSES FLED, AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he became the father of two sons. “And after forty years had passed, AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF MOUNT Sinai, IN THE FLAME OF A BURNING THORN BUSH. “And when Moses saw it, he began to marvel at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.’ And Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. “BUT THE LORD SAID TO HIM, ‘TAKE OFF THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE ON WHICH YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND. ‘I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT, AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM; COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT.’ “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. “This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’ “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, SAYING TO AARON, ‘MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT—WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.’ “And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. “But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘IT WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? ‘YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP THEM. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON.’ “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.

From the get-go, I have two reactions, ouch! And, duh? Let me explain my thoughts. While Stephan is not saying anything they didn’t know, he is building to a dramatic climax unscene and unsensed by the people present, while preparing them for it, with a scathing statement of familiar fathers of their family. Nevertheless, in this section of Stephan’s superbly spoken scriptural summary, we see something slightly shift and yet stay the same, specifically in the summary. Abraham was the leader of many people, even without having a son but it isn’t mentioned much by Stephan. This is because Stephan speaks to the sons of Israel about the sons of Israel–he is building, chronologically concerning the so-called covenant community. Stephan contrasted Abraham and Moses with the rank-and-file Israelites. We know Abraham had his doubts and we know Moses also had his fair share of doubt, but these are not included in the summary of Stephan. Rather than speak on their sins, Stephen focuses on their faith. We see this also in the book of Hebrews.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.” And about Moses the writer wrote; “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.”

Yet of the people, who should have known exactly where they were going, Stephan says, “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, SAYING TO AARON, ‘MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT—WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.’ And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘IT WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP THEM. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON.'”

As Stephan is building, we also build. To any newcomers and by way of reminder to those returning, here we utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions.

CAGED

  • CONTEXT
  • ASPIRATIONS OF AUTHOR
  • GENRE
  • EXAMPLES
  • DIVIDE

We understand the truth that, unless we are learning for ourselves, we only know what we have been taught. Yet rather than learn for ourselves, we rely heavily upon what we are taught. Therefore, when reading certain stories in the Scripture, we tend to bring our imprinted presuppositions into our reading. We don’t read hoping to be changed but hoping that our preconceived notions will be confirmed. The most difficult thing for a person to do is admit when they are wrong and to subsequently change their mind–at least for the better. That is, changing one’s mind to align with the mind and words of God. We see this in Stephan’s Scriptural summary where Abraham had his mind changed to leave his homeland to a enter a land where he had no inheritance which his offspring would inherit, even though he was old and had no offspring. Did Abraham doubt, lie, stumble? Of course he did but Stephan doesn’t focus on this. Moses also, killed an Egyptian man and fled the scene for forty years but returned in faith. Stephan presents the juxtaposition between the likes of Abraham, Moses and the prophets to the people.

Notice; while Stephan sums up Abraham and Moses, he doesn’t show the similarities between them and the people. Stephan doesn’t compare and contrast, he contrasts. Abraham kept right on walking, even though he stumbled. He says the same about the sojournings of Moses. Look at the context. “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? ‘YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?’”

This is of particular interest because Moses could have sided with the Egyptians. After all, he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Stephan highlights the hypocrisy of the man accosting Moses. Moses took the side of the slaves and not the privileged place in the palace of Pharaoh–we forget that. Moses could have had a footloose and fancy free lifestyle in the palace of Pharaoh, but he couldn’t stand for the injustice dealt his people. (We see this in the sublime summation of Stephan and in the book of Hebrews.) That is until they turned on him. They didn’t get it.

“They did not understand.” Forty years later, “this is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, SAYING TO AARON, ‘MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT—WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.’ And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.”

No, Stephan doesn’t tell the entire story; for time’s sake and to build an argument he keeps it simple and hits enough highlights for them to understand–did they? We, like they, probably know more of the story about which Stephan speaks, yet we are in agreement that Stephan is doing a satisfactory summary. Actually, we know it is sublime, yet it is simple. And we realize that even with the faults, doubts, mistakes, missteps and down-right sinful behavior of Moses and Abraham, the complete context causes the chasm of contrast to widen between Moses and the people. For time’s sake we won’t look at them all but will consider one carefully, taking our vitamin E, Expository Exegesis of Examples. We will expound on the example that Stephan gave, when Israel, on their legally binding wedding day, committed adulterous acts against their God.

“And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’ So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I shall come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people…Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me…You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves’…Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'”

The Lord brought plagues to Egypt but spared the Israelites, parted the Sea of Reeds so that the Israelites could cross on dry ground but drowned the Egyptian army in them, fed the children of Israel with manna and meat, appeared in fire and smoke, gave them water in an arid area, but it was not enough for them, they wanted to go back into slavery at every hardship. This is applicable to us, but that’s the easy part; we must notice the many signs and wonders of which God preformed in their midst, and the words that followed when Moses went up the mountain. We see the irony that as God was giving the greatest commandment to which they agreed to be bound, the people were only days away from breaking the commandment. But even more importantly than seeing the quick succession of sin in the people, we need to see the patience and pleading of Moses for the people. We will see more of this next time, the Christ-like pleading of Moses, Lord willing.

When the Lord saw what had happened, he said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

Wait a minute! Who brought them out of Egypt across the Sea of Reeds? To whom do the people belong? Way before we changed pronouns, God changed pronouns. God used to call Israel, “my people,” now he’s calling them, “your people” to Moses. Is God insinuating that it’s Moses’ fault for their behavior? Nope, notice the context. God says to Moses that he will destroy Israel and “I will make of you a great nation.” God doesn’t blame Moses but the people themselves. Stephan is also demonstrating this,  to a lesser degree perhaps, or perhaps to a higher degree. Nevertheless notice the grace of Moses and the changed, again, pronouns.

Moses “entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth?’ Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You did swear by Yourself, and did say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”‘ So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” Moses interceded for the people, again.

We remember that Stephan quotes Moses, saying, “this is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’” Stephan is going somewhere with all of this and we are along for the ride.

We see the situation building towards a climax yet Stephan is not quite finished contrasting the masses with the individual– in today’s text, it’s the contrast between Moses and the children of Israel. One last contrast is made. For time’s sake I will hit the highlights, we’ve already read the context. Moses did as he was instructed and built the ark, tossed in the tablets and erected the tabernacle accordingly. But the people “TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH [they] MADE TO WORSHIP THEM.”

Stay tuned, it gets worse.

 

 

 

 

 

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