Script for the June 23rd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the June 23rd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is Esther 9-10 and Acts 7, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.
If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may answer it on the next podcast.
We left off yesterday in Acts 6, where Stephen was proclaiming the Gospel, and the religious folks didn’t like it. So members of the Sanhedrin took him by force and coaxed some pseudo-witnesses into making false, outlandish claims against him. The “witnesses” were lying, but that didn’t matter. They wanted to squelch Christianity before it grew any larger, and they believed the best way to accomplish this was to make an example of those who were making the biggest waves.
In verse one, the high priest asked: “Are these things true?” But, honestly, the high priest wasn’t interested in the truth. He wasn’t open-minded and wasn’t interested in changing his opinion. There was nothing Stephen could have said that would have changed anyone’s minds in that gathering.
So, Stephen didn’t waste his time defending himself. He had to have realized that he was either bound for prison or even death no matter what he said. So rather than building the case for why he was right about Jesus, he spent his entire “defense” incriminating the Jews.
In essence, Stephen’s entire monologue revealed how the Jewish nation was perpetually rejecting the Lord and bringing harm to His prophets. Stephen would end with driving the truth home that the Sanhedrin’s present actions were consistent with what the Jews had done for their entire national history.
In verses 2-8, Stephen started with Abraham. He went back to the beginning of the Jewish race to the father of the Hebrews. Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin of how God called Abraham out of Ur and brought him into the Promised Land. While Abraham didn’t inherit any of it in his lifetime, the Lord gave him a promise that his descendants would one day inhabit the land.
In this initial part of his narrative, Stephen appears to point out that the people of Israel would not even exist if it had not been for the Lord. They were a special people because God had brought them into existence by setting Abraham apart for Himself. It would seem that Stephen was inferring that since Israel owed its existence to the Lord God, they should follow and obey Him. He owned them.
Stephen said that Abraham fathered Isaac, and then Isaac fathered Jacob, the father of the twelve patriarchs of Israel.
In verses 9-10, Stephen recounted how Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery even as God gave Joseph favor and exalted him. This introduces the theme that will characterize the rest of Stephen’s monologue: the people of Israel horribly mistreated the people that they did not like. And the people they did not like were frequently people God loved.
In verses 11-16, Stephen talked about the great famine God used to bring all 70 or so of the Israelite clan to Egypt. They thrived under Joseph’s leadership. But hundreds of years passed, and a king of Egypt arose who did not know Joseph. The new Pharaoh felt threatened by the prolific Israelites, so he commanded that all Hebrew males were to be killed at birth.
In verses 20-29, Stephen talks about Moses. He mentioned that Moses was raised in the best that Egypt had to offer. Yet, at age 40, his heart began to move toward his people, the people of Israel. When he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew slave, he killed the Egyptian. To his surprise, even though he would be God’s deliverer for the Jews, they despised him and rejected his authority over them. So, he fled to Midian. Once again, the person God would use to lead the people of Israel was initially rejected by Israel.
In verse 30, Stephen talked about Moses and the burning bush. God commanded Moses to go back to Egypt to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery. Then Stephen pointed out again the theme he is driving home – Israel typically rejected those God sent to lead them.
Acts 7:35 (CSB): “‘This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?—this one God sent as a ruler and a deliverer through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.’”
Then, Stephen quoted Deuteronomy 18:15, a clear prophetic reference to Jesus.
Acts 7:37 (CSB): “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites: God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.”
When Stephen quoted this passage, he tipped his hand. He was going to get to the One who was the fulfillment of that prophecy. He would demonstrate how Israel, once again, mistreated and even killed the One that God sent to them.
In verses 40-41, Stephen recounted how the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord and refused to submit to their leader. They called upon Aaron, who was apparently a weak leader, to create for them a god to worship. He built a golden calf for them. Once again, they demonstrated a heart of rebellion and wickedness.
In verses 42-43, we read that the Lord “gave them up to worship the stars of heaven,” Moloch, Rephan, and other gods. This simply means that God’s patience with their rebellious spirit had run its course. So He took away His restraining hand and let them fall headfirst into the sin they so desperately craved.
But these verses ended with a warning: “So I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.” God’s judgment was going to come upon the people because of their idolatry and wickedness.
In verses 44-50, Stephen recounted how Moses had made a tabernacle and Solomon built a Temple to the Lord. These places of worship allowed the Israelites to worship and enjoy their God. He had come to dwell among them, which made their idolatry and wickedness all the greater.
And this is where Stephen stops the story, points his finger in the faces of the pseudo-religious leaders, and claims that they are doing exactly what their Jewish ancestors did.
Acts 7:51-53 (CSB): “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
Many contemporary Christians believe there should have been eleven commandments, not ten. The eleventh should have been: “Thou shalt be nice.” Yet, while we realize that Jesus was generally kind and gracious to most folks, he was rarely nice to the hypocritical religious leaders. Their hearts were utterly devoid of any love for the Lord, yet they were exerting their religious influence to lead others away from the Lord. God had sent His own Son to earth, and they killed him.
Friend, when dealing with outsiders, we need to be gracious just as Jesus was.
Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT): “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
But when we are confronting folks who claim to be saved, who should know better, and who are teaching and living in such a way that they are pushing others away from the Lord, then kindness can go out the window. We call them out, using tailor-made language to shake them to their senses, if possible. If they are offended, then so be it.
If you are uncomfortable with what I’ve just said and don’t realize how Jesus talked to the hypocritical religious folks, just read Matthew 23. You’ll observe that Jesus had nothing but harsh words for those who had the façade of religiosity and were pushing people away from knowing the Lord. Jesus saved the most brutal of words and names for such folks.
How did the religious folks respond when Stephen dared to confront them with their sin?
Acts 7:54 (CSB): “When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him.”
They were so angry that they couldn’t see straight. “Gnashing their teeth” is an animalistic way of showing rage as they exposed their teeth and ground them together. Clear, cogent thinking was gone. Emotion was in control. There was no way that Stephen would survive this.
We are told that Stephen found comfort in a Heavenly vision the Lord gave him. But even as he told them of his vision, it moved them into action. They killed him.
Acts 7:55-58 (CSB): “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, ‘Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
Have you ever been hit with a rock? I have. It hurts really bad. But I cannot imagine being hit by stones of all sizes coming from every direction. It would be a torturous death. It took far too long to kill someone that way. But God was gracious and appeared to have taken Stephen to Heaven before the large rocks had accomplished their task.
Acts 7:59-60 (CSB): “While they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And after saying this, he fell asleep.”
This is the account of the first recorded Christian martyr. Rather than deny his Lord or reject the truth of Scripture, he stood courageously as the Holy Spirit enabled him.
Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us the story of Stephen. Even though it was unjust, we know from Your Word that it is the normal response a Christian should expect from the sinful world. So many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries are persecuted, tortured, and killed each year.
Help us to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ that we may never meet this side of Heaven. We pray for their safety. We also ask that You would give them the grace and courage to stand up for You regardless of what evils they face for doing so.
And help us, Lord, to be courageous in our own country. Help us stand up for You even when the consequences we would currently face pale in comparison to so many around the world.
We pray this in the Name of the One who can give us what we need to stand courageously, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!