Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we’re in the Book of Acts:7:41. Verse 41 says, “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.”
Dave: I wish we could just recreate the scene, but we don’t have time. But let those who are interested for a deeper study go back and read it. At the base of Mount Sinai, God has spoken with an audible voice from the mountain. He has given them the Ten Commandments. First commandment: You don’t have any other gods. They have all agreed to this; they swear by it, “We will obey.” And Moses is up on the mountain. He doesn’t even get back down with the tables of stone upon which God writes the Ten Commandments when they have already broken the very first one, and then they fall into immorality, and so forth. So they have made another god - incredible! And they make a golden calf, and they say, “These be the gods that led thee out of the land of Egypt.” That’s why Moses smashed them in anger, because they have already broken them.
Now, interestingly (we were talking about Islam), the Qur’an says that the golden calf was made by a Samaritan! Now, that’s 700 years before the Samaritans even existed. There are so many mistakes in the Qur’an of this nature.
And then, Tom, we were talking about those who - well, on the one hand, it says God blinds their eyes, blinds them further, because they are not willing to know the truth, and that’s these people. Here they are - they’ve had all the evidence: the Red Sea opens up, manna (we talked about that), the pillar of fire by night, pillar of cloud by day, everything, all the demonstration, all the proof, signs and wonders from God Himself, and they turn against Him! So, what is God going to do? I mean, what more could you do? You couldn’t offer them any more than he had given them.
Tom: Yeah, and, Dave, I think what Stephen is trying to demonstrate here is that they have rejected Moses - they have - down through history, and now they are rejecting the individual Moses was a type of, and that is Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Dave: Right, exactly. So the next verse says, then, in line with what we were talking about earlier, “Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” So it’s very clear.
God says, “Look, this is what you wanted. I’ll let you have it. Go for it.”
Tom: And again, this is their history, the accusers, so… Verse 44: “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.”
Dave: Well, Tom, again, this is more of history, and it says Jesus - that’s Joshua, and he brought them into the land that God gave them. But they had a tabernacle, and that’s - I mean, so many lessons we learn from the tabernacle: what it was made of, all the pieces of furniture, the altars, the mercy seat, the inner veil into which only the high priest could go once a year - not without blood, which he offers for himself and for all the people… You remember in the New Testament, and I don’t know how the Rabbis explained this, but when Jesus died on the cross, when He had paid the penalty for our sins, that veil in the temple - I mean, it was so thick you couldn’t possibly tear that, and it was torn from the top to the bottom, signifying that now with the sacrifice of Christ in fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices, the way into the presence of God, not just once a year by the high priest only, for everyone!
So the writer in Hebrews 10 says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus a new and living way,” and so forth. So this was a picture of - well, the habitation that God would have among men, and it says in John 1, that He tabernacled among us. In other words, you’ve got the tabernacle made of skins and so forth in the Old Testament, and the sacrifices of animals, and now here comes God Himself tabernacling among us as a man.
Ephesians 3 says, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” So here is God as a man tabernacling among men as He dwelt in this tent for the children of Israel. So these are incredibly powerful types - pictures that we get from the Old Testament all fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and this is what he is laying out for them.
Tom: Verse 47: “But Solomon built him a house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?”
Dave: What Stephen is saying reminds one of Acts 17 in Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill. “The God that made heaven and earth…” I’m quoting Paul now. He’s on Mars Hill where the skeptics and the various philosophers came to hear…
Tom: So-called scholars.
Dave: Right, and Paul says to them, “The God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is he worshiped with men’s hands, as though he had need of any thing, seeing he gives to all life and breath and all that we possess, and has made of one blood all nations of men that dwell on the face of the earth.” Interesting, the plan was the same for every race, every people.
But anyway, this is what he’s saying. “What was this then? Are you disparaging the temple?” Jesus said, “You destroy this temple and I will build it in three days.” Well, He meant the temple of His body, but He did tell them that Solomon’s temple would be destroyed. So there are some tremendous lessons that Stephen is giving these people from their own Scriptures, from their own history.
Tom: Verse 51: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Dave, Stephen’s not here to mollify, to placate, to compromise anything, but now he is laying it out for them, isn’t he?
Dave: You know, that’s one of our problems today, part of the apostasy: “Let’s say it in positive terms. Psychologically we don’t want to upset these people.” Robert Schuller says we shouldn’t call anybody a sinner - might upset them. You want to build their self-esteem. Jesus suffered on the cross to sanctify His self-esteem and to give us self-esteem. And obviously, Stephen is not concerned about building up their self-esteem, and he’s certainly not thinking of his own self-esteem, which isn’t even a biblical term. We are to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Christ. And Paul tells us in Philippians [2:3], “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
So Stephen, he’s going to die for this, but he is going to tell them the truth. And, Tom, we certainly wouldn’t put ourselves in the category of Stephen or Paul, but we do try to tell the truth, because the truth spoken in love - that’s what it says: “Speak the truth in love,” and the truth…Jesus said, “If you follow my Word you will know the truth, the truth will set you free.” And we simply try to go by the Word of God, present the truth, and this is our responsibility. One day we will give an account to God whether we did that or not. Did we try to please men? Did we water down the message so that they might believe it, but then it’s not the real message? Or were we true to God and to His Word? Some will believe and some will not.