God’s Word of Spiritual Renewal
Acts 7:23-43: Today’s reading is a continuation of Stephen’s defense before the Council, and it comprises the longest part of his speech. He recounts the story of Moses and the Israelites’ disobedience and their rejection of God.
“Moses is the one who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will send you a prophet just as he sent me, and he will be one of your own people.’”
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to find out how his fellow Israelites were being treated. 24He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his help and took revenge on the Egyptian by killing him. ( 25He thought that his own people would understand that God was going to use him to set them free, but they did not understand.) 26The next day he saw two Israelites fighting, and he tried to make peace between them. ‘Listen, men,’ he said, ‘you are fellow Israelites; why are you fighting like this?’ 27But the one who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28‘Do you want to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled from Egypt and went to live in the land of Midian. There he 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. 31Moses was amazed by what he saw, and went near the bush to get a better look. But he heard the Lord's voice: 32‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and dared not look. 33The Lord said to him, ‘Take your sandals off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34I have seen the cruel suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans, and I have come down to set them free. Come now; I will send you to Egypt.’
35 “Moses is the one who was rejected by the people of Israel. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ they asked. He is the one whom God sent to rule the people and set them free with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush. 36 He led the people out of Egypt, performing miracles and wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37 Moses is the one who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me, and he will be one of your own people.’ 38 He is the one who was with the people of Israel assembled in the desert; he was there with our ancestors and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and he received God's living messages to pass on to us.
39“But our ancestors refused to obey him; they pushed him aside and wished that they could go back to Egypt. 40 So they said to Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who will lead us. We do not know what has happened to that man Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 It was then that they made an idol in the shape of a bull, offered sacrifice to it, and had a feast in honor of what they themselves had made. 42 So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
‘People of Israel! It was not to me
that you slaughtered and sacrificed animals
for forty years in the desert.
43It was the tent of the god Molech that you carried,
and the image of Rephan, your star god;
they were idols that you had made to worship.
And so I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’
Stephen recalls Israel’s disobedience and the people’s refusal to obey Moses. In Christian tradition, Jesus is regarded as a prophet like Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15) who is rejected by his own people (Luke 4:28-30). Just as Moses led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, Jesus is regarded as the “new Moses” who liberates people from bondage to sin and death. What are your thoughts about these parallels between Moses and Jesus?
Holy Jesus, by freeing me from bondage to sin and death, you have given me the gift of eternal life. I thank and praise you for loving me so. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Those experiencing rejection
Acts 7:44—8:3: Stephen is put to death.