Stephen’s Sermon
1The high priest asked, “Are these accusations true?”
2Stephen replied, “My fellow Jews and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was living in Iraq and before he moved to Haran in Syria. 3God said to him, ‘Go! Leave behind your country and your relatives. Begin your journey and come to the land that I will show you.’
4“So Abraham left southeastern Iraq and began his journey. He settled in Haran and stayed there until his father passed away. Then God had him move to the land of Israel with only a promise. 5Although God gave him no parcel of land he could call his own, not even a footprint, yet he promised Abraham that he and his descendants would one day have it all. And even though as yet Abraham had no child, 6God spoke with him and gave him this promise:
‘Your descendants will live in a foreign land with a people
who will make slaves of them
and oppress them for four hundred years.
7But I will judge the nation that enslaves them,
and your descendants will be set free
to return to this land to serve and worship me.’
8“Then God entered into covenant with Abraham, which included the requirement of circumcision. So when he became the father of Isaac, he circumcised him eight days after his birth.
9“Isaac then became the father of Jacob, who was the father of our twelve patriarchs. Jacob’s sons became jealous of their brother Joseph and sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God’s favor and blessing rested upon Joseph, and in time, 10God rescued him from all his oppression and granted him extraordinary favor before Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh appointed him as the overseer of his nation and even of his own palace.
11“Then a devastating famine came over all of Egypt and Canaan, bringing great misery to the people, including our ancestors, who couldn’t find food. 12But when Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt, he sent his sons, our ancestors, on their first trip to purchase grain for their family. 13On their second trip to Egypt, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and because of this, Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family and where he came from.
14“Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and his entire family, a total of seventy-five people, to come and reside in Egypt. 15Eventually, Jacob died there, along with all of his sons, our forefathers. 16Their bones were later carried back to the promised land and buried in Shechem, in the tomb Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor.
17“The time drew near for God to fulfill the prophetic promise he had made to Abraham. Our Jewish people had increased greatly in number, multiplying many times over while in Egypt.
18“Another king, who had forgotten how Joseph had made their nation great, arose to rule over Egypt. 19He was an abusive king who exploited our people with his smooth talk. With cruelty he forced our ancestors to give up their little boys as he committed infanticide!
20“Then Moses came on the scene—a child of divine beauty. His parents hid him from Pharaoh as long as they could to spare his life. After three months they could conceal him no longer, 21so they had to abandon him to his fate. But God arranged that Pharaoh’s daughter would find him, take him home, and raise him as her own son. 22So Moses was fully trained in the royal courts and educated in the highest wisdom Egypt had to offer, until he arose as a powerful prince and an eloquent orator.
23“When Moses turned forty, his heart was stirred for his people, the Israelites. 24One day he saw one of our people being violently mistreated, so he came to his rescue, and with his own hands Moses murdered the abusive Egyptian. 25Moses hoped that when the people realized how he had rescued one of their own, they would recognize him as their deliverer. How wrong he was! 26The next day he came upon two of our people engaged in a fist fight, and he tried to break it up by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers! Why would you want to hurt each other?’
27“But the perpetrator pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who do you think you are? Who appointed you to be our ruler and judge? 28Are you going to kill me like you did the Egyptian yesterday?’
29“Shaken by this, Moses fled Egypt and lived as an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30After forty years had passed, while he was in the desert near Mount Sinai, the Messenger of Yahweh appeared to him in the midst of a flaming thorn bush. 31Moses was astonished and stunned by what he was seeing, so he drew closer to observe this marvel. Then the Lord Yahweh spoke to him out of the flames:
32‘I am the living God, the God of your ancestors.
I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’
“Trembling in God’s presence and overwhelmed with awe, Moses didn’t even dare to look into the fire.
33“Out of the flames the Lord Yahweh said to him:
‘Take the sandals off your feet,
for you are standing in the realm of holiness.
34I have watched and seen how my people
have been mistreated in Egypt.
I have heard their painful groaning,
and now I have come down to set them free.
So come to me, Moses,
for I am sending you to Egypt to represent me.’
35“So God sent back to Egypt the man our people rejected and refused to recognize by saying, ‘Who appointed you to be our ruler and judge?’ God sent this man back to be their ruler and deliverer, commissioned with the power of the messenger who appeared to him in the flaming thorn bush. 36This man brought the people out from their Egyptian bondage with many astonishing wonders and miracle signs—miracles in Egypt, miracles at the Red Sea, and miracles during their forty-year journey through the wilderness. 37This is the same Moses who said to our ancestors, ‘The Lord God will raise up one from among you who will be a prophet to you, like I have been. Listen to everything he will say!’
38“Moses led the congregation in the wilderness and he spoke face-to-face with the angel who spoke with him on the top of Mount Sinai. Along with our ancestors, he received the living oracles of God that were passed down to us. 39But our forefathers refused to obey. They pushed him away, and their hearts longed to return to Egypt.
40“While Moses was on the mountain, our forefathers said to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to lead us, because we don’t know what has become of this Moses who brought us out of Egypt.’
41“So they made a god, an idol in the form of a bull calf. They offered sacrifices to it and celebrated with delight what their own hands had made.
42“When God saw what they had done, he turned away from them and handed them over to the worship of the stars of heaven, as recorded in the prophetic writings:
‘People of Israel, you failed to worship me
when you offered animal sacrifices
for forty years in the wilderness.
43Instead you worshiped the god Moloch,
and you carried his tabernacle, not mine.
You worshiped your star-god, Rephan.
You made idols with your hands
and worshiped them instead of me.
So now I will cast you into exile beyond Babylon.’
44“God gave Moses the revelation of the pattern of the tabernacle of the testimony. By God’s command, he made it exactly according to the specifications given to him for our ancestors in the wilderness. 45The next generation received possession of it, and under Joshua’s leadership they took possession of the land of the nations, which God drove out in front of them. The tabernacle was carried about until 46David found loving favor with God and prayed for a dwelling place for the God of Jacob, 47but it was Solomon who built him a house.
48“However, the Most High God does not live in temples made by human hands, as the prophet said:
49‘Heaven is my throne room and the earth
is but a footstool for my feet.
How could you possibly build a house
that could contain me?’ says the Lord Yahweh.
‘And where could you find a place where I could live?
50Don’t you know that it is my hands
that have built my house, not yours?’
51“Why would you be so stubborn as to close your hearts and your ears to me? You are always opposing the Holy Spirit, just like your forefathers! 52Which prophet was not persecuted and murdered by your ancestors? Name just one! They killed them all—even the ones who prophesied long ago of the coming of the Righteous One! Now you follow in their steps and have become his betrayers and murderers. 53You have been given the law by the visitation of angels, but you have not obeyed it.”
Stephen Is Stoned to Death
54When they heard these things, they were overtaken with violent rage filling their souls, and they gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, overtaken with great faith, was full of the Holy Spirit. He fixed his gaze into the heavenly realm and saw the glory and splendor of God—and Jesus, who stood up at the right hand of God.
56“Look!” Stephen said. “I can see the heavens opening and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God to welcome me home!”
57His accusers covered their ears with their hands and screamed at the top of their lungs to drown out his voice. 58Then they pounced on him and threw him outside the city walls to stone him. His accusers, one by one, placed their outer garments at the feet of a young man named Saul of Tarsus.
59As they hurled stone after stone at him, Stephen prayed, “Our Lord Jesus, accept my spirit into your presence.” 60He crumpled to his knees and shouted in a loud voice, “Our Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” And then he died.