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. “And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. “And David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?’ says the Lord; ‘OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? ‘WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?’ “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
As it turns out, Stephan, the literal table waiter, full of “Spirit and wisdom, faith and the Holy Spirit, grace and power,” delivered a stabbing sermon of his own. For those of you keeping count, this is now the fourth stabbing sermon spoken to the scribes, Sadducees, elders, Pharisees and people of Israel, thus far in the book of Acts.
In our current cultural climate in the West, generalizations are all but outlawed. Unlike changed definitions and dubious definitions, I see why we shy away from over-generalizations. It is almost always inaccurate to lump an entire people group into a certain specific category. For instance, all Irishmen are not cabbage and potato eating drunkards, though many are.
Nevertheless, what we fail to understand and recognize is that generalizations are like hyperbole or exaggeration. That was a simile. We take things too literally rather than understand the literary license when literary devices are implored. This is especially true concerning the sacred Scripture–the Holy Bible. We treat the word of God as though it was written like a manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla. It was not, it is a literary masterpiece that spans thousands of years and multiple languages and genres. Which is why we use 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.
Could you imagine the backlash if the apostle Paul took to Twitter in the 21st century and tweeted, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons?” Of course, we know or should know, the context. Paul was quoting one of their own, notice; “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.'” Paul was in agreement with this statement but we know that this statement is a “generalization” and an over-exaggeration, based on the context. Paul states that “many rebellious men,” especially of the circumcised, must be silenced. Therefore we know that it is not literally “all,” but figuratively. It’s right there in black and white. Or in my case, as you read this, black and taupe. They say taupe is very soothing, which is precisely why I chose it as a contrasting background to my unsettling words. Now I don’t know who they are, but I do know that black and white is a metaphor for the printed word.
Now that we have done due process to literary devices, which is another example of eroding elements of the West, we can re-engage the context understanding that Stephan speaks truth, using some literary license, to paint a picture with a very broad brush. He also says incredible statements, without directly saying them, nevertheless the implications are clear as day. He uses a chronological, historical timeline and narrative to point to Jesus and the failures of the people present, along with the people past. For time’s sake, we have broken this stabbing sermon of historical recollection into three parts, but Stephan said it as a whole, uninterrupted. Remember what we have read as we read.
“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. And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David.” While a superb summary, Stephan doesn’t speak on the time of the Judges or King Saul. Probably because it would be redundant and the people present would infer and recollect the times of the Judges by the summary made in the book of Judges; “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” But rather than look at what Stephan doesn’t say, we will delve deeper into what he does say and at the charecters upon whom Stephan mainly focuses.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. Let’s sum up the summary. Abraham believed God and left his homeland to a place where he had no inheritance without a son. But he eventually had several sons, the one of the promise was Issac. Isaac had Jacob and he lived in the promise land, temporarily, but when famine hit the land he and his family fled the land for Egypt, where his supposedly dead son, Joseph was. They all died in Egypt. But after 400 years, their descendants were slaves in Egypt, Moses led them out of Egypt, but not into the promised land. Joshua led them into the promised land after the death of Moses but he was never made king. David, the alleged epitome of excellence, was made king and wanted to build the temple but never could because of his violence. Therefore his son built the house of the Lord. “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands.”
Do we see the sublime string of progression that leads to regression, especially as it concerns David and the temple? Let’s look at another question; who was the greatest of all these men? Was Solomon, who technically speaking is an illegitimate child, a more godly man than his father, David? Was David, the murderer, more godly than Moses, the murderer? Was Joseph, who endured much and never murdered anyone but who was a spoiled brat who bragged about his dreams more godly than Issac, who lived a quiet life and also never murdered anyone, but favored Esau over God’s choice of Jacob? What we see in these immensely imperfect people is they believed God, who never fully accomplished their goals, juxtaposed to the rest of the world, especially their descendants.
Today’s text really highlights this. “And David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.” Stephan doesn’t say why David couldn’t build the temple but the people present knew. They also knew that David did desire to dedicate a temple but God wouldn’t allow it due to David’s past. David, himself, recalls what the Lord said to him, to his son Solomon. “But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood, and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’”
Abraham was a “type” of Jesus. Isaac, while not much is said about his life, was the quintessential “type” of Jesus. Certainly we see Solomon as a “type” of Jesus. But Moses, Joseph and David were all “types” of Jesus, in two different ways. First, they were shaped shadows of the Messiah. Their lives pointed to Christ. But not only did they point to Christ, they pointed out the need for Christ. Lump all the “types” of Jesus together and we see the wide valley of deficiency. Think of it, Moses never set one toe, ever, in the promised land. David, the quintessential king, warrior and shepherd, couldn’t build a temple for the Lord. They were all mighty men, full of faith, but ultimately all fall short.
David wrote much of the psalms, possibly as many as 75 recorded psalms, probably with many others not penned for posterity. Much of the Bible is written about David, and much more mention him. Even the gospel of Matthew begins; “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” David is mentioned in Ruth, 1+2 Samuel, 1+2 Kings, 1+2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, his kingdom is heavily alluded to in Lamentations, frequently the focus of Ezekiel, and in most other prophetic books. David is included in all the Gospels and, as we see today, the book of Acts. Paul writes about David frequently and he is all over the pages of Revelation. Yet he could not build a house for the Lord because of his bloodshed, most of which was because the Lord, himself, made David a great warrior. This is where the needle slides off the record–eeerrreee. Wait…what? David took his bloodshed to a higher degree than the Lord intended, much higher, and we see in his speech to his son, Solomon, David accepted the Lord’s decision. Plus, it was not about David, nor Solomon or Moses, the tabernacle or temple. All of these were types and shadows.
Now, think about the rest of Israel. If David couldn’t build a temple and Moses couldn’t enter the promised land, what chance did Israel have to work salvation for themselves? Zero! This is not an over-generalization, in fact, it’s a gross understatement. Because it wasn’t only Israel that stood condemned, it’s the entire world. But the world was not the focus of Stephan, the generalization of Jews was. Once again, lest I be called antisemitic by the dogmatic dispensationalists (who herd up Jews in Israel, for their alleged, ultimate slaughter, which the dogmatic dispensationalists dub, “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” which “will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall,” way worse than the holocaust), I remind you of the due process of literary license. I have myself said, “the church doesn’t replace Israel, the church is Israel.” We, as Paul wrote, are grafted in. We are supported by the root. Jesus was Jewish and the entire church, up to this point, was Jewish. Nevertheless, they, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon, believed God. We have read recently that many priests came to believe God. We’re about to find out if the scribes and other people present believe God in the blanket statement of generalization made by Stephan.
Without further ado, the generalized, super-stabbing statement from Stephan, first quoting the Lord: “‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?’ says the Lord; ‘OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?’ You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
Ah, rhetoric. Another outdated relic of pragmatic thinking and reasoning. Definitions are out, rhetorical reasoning is out, debate is defunct and arguments are all but outlawed. It seems as though the only form of communication is to yell, “homophobic, misogynistic, sexist racist!” But this is actually good news; it means that they have no other argument. The same goes for the dogmatic dispensationalists, who rather than articulate an argument which considers the context, scream, “antisemitic mocker and scoffer!” I truly wish we could be of one mind, centered on the cross of Christ but they refuse. Therefore, by all means, call me antisemitic. Be like your narrow-minded nemesis. Be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Take a small sample of my script and secure a soundbite for yourself. But answer me the following question, dogmatic dispensationalists: are we out of here in a rapture at the last trumpet before the Antichrist is revealed? I listen to the dogmatic dispensationalists more than I do anyone else. Their answer is “yes.” If you, in your mind, answered, “no,” you are not a dogmatic dispensationalist. But the book-selling, dogmatic dispensationalists dubiously claim that at the last trumpet, before the Antichrist is revealed, we will be gone. They also put the final nail in their coffin of eschatology by saying that after Revelation 4, the church is not mentioned because they are gone. Problem: there are seven trumpets in Revelation after the alleged final trumpet. Bigger problem: their go-to text of 1+2 Thessalonians reads; “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
Let them continue to call me an antisemitic mocker and scoffer, I’ll continue to consider the context. Speaking of, let’s zero in: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
It has been a while since we have read it, so that I will ask; to whom was Stephan speaking? A hint: you is plural in the original Greek. A flashback to Acts 6: “But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking…And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council…And they put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’ And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. And the high priest said, ‘Are these things so?'”
Context is king, we notice that the people present were calling Stephan antisemitic. Stephan was speaking directly to his blood relatives, Jewish people. Yet they were not his “faith of Abraham” relatives. We must accept the difference between apostate Israel and believing Israel, which now includes the gentiles. “Russell P, where is that found in the context?” “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” “Russell P, I am not convinced.” I presuppose that is because of our presuppositions, that all Israel are the chosen people of God. Even though Paul writes, “it’s not all Israel who are descendants of Israel.” Notice the context and descriptions. Stephan doesn’t call their fathers, “our fathers,” but “your fathers.” He’s taking a page out of Exodus where the Lord refers to the Israelites as “your people,” to Moses and not, “My people.” Notice also the mention of their “uncircumcised hearts.” That cuts to their heart, much pun intended. He speaks to them in Jewish terms but distances himself from them. Literally they were circumcised which is a Jewish covenant, but figuratively they were circumcised in the wrong place. Once again, Stephan is not comparing them to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses or David but contrasting them. However he is comparing them to the murderers of the prophets, their fathers, and saying that they are the murderers of the Messiah.
Notice that Stephan not only distances and distinguishes himself from them, but also distances and distinguishes them from Abraham and the prophets. Yet he directly links them to those who killed the prophets by calling them “your fathers.” Similar to what God did to Moses in exodus yet very different. Moses was not a descendant of the people but a type of Jesus to them. Whereas Stephan places the people present as descendants of the prophet killers. But wait, it gets worse. Stephan then states, rhetorically; “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”
It is a generalization, but it is a Jewish generalization. Context is king, notice the conclusion confirmation; “you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” Stephan wasn’t speaking to Greeks. Stephan was speaking to fellow descendants of Jacob. Yet Stephan no longer makes this distinction. In fact, Stephan claims that their fathers were the people who murdered the prophets. Stephan is not literaly speaking to all Israel, but to the apostate, self-righteous, but most importantly, unbelieving-in-Jesus Jews. I wonder what their reaction will be? We will see absolute proof of apostate Israel.