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Acts 7:42-60
The great harvest of souls that the Lord had been reaping in Jerusalem was nearing its completion.
Although thousands of individual Jews had been saved, the nation of Israel as a whole had rejected the
gracious offering of the glorified Lord through the members of His Body to repent of their sins and be
reconciled to God.

In one final communication, the Lord then spoke through His servant Stephen to lay out before Israel=s
rulers the grace that the Lord had extended to Israel throughout their history as a nation, and their steadfast
rejection of that grace. As we come to the conclusion of Stephen=s address to the nation, we will witness
Israel=s last, emphatic answer to the grace that had visited it.

The Spirit had been building His case against the nation, recounting through Stephen the faith of Abraham,
through whom the nation of Israel was conceived, and the faith of Joseph, through whom Israel was
preserved in Egypt. Stephen had spoken at length concerning Moses, both because the Jews of Stephen=s
day so revered him, and because Stephen had been accused of speaking blasphemous words against him.

Stephen showed that Israel=s current veneration of Moses had no basis historically, for the forefathers of
the nation had initially rejected Moses, and had resisted him as their deliverer. But the LORD continued to
extend His grace through the faith of Moses, birthing His nation through the waters of the Red Sea, and
bringing them to Himself at mount Sinai in the wilderness.

There, through Moses, the LORD offered Israel to enter into His covenant with Him - the eternal covenant,
to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6)- sons of God - who would inhabit an earthly kingdom, in the land
which God had promised to the seed of Abraham (Gen 17:7-8).

In the eternal covenant, it is the LORD who does all the doing; that covenant would be ratified in the blood
of His Christ. The forefathers of the nation - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - had all entered into this covenant
with the LORD, by faith believing Him for His Christ. But the nation that came from them would not
believe God for what He would do, seeking a relationship with the LORD based on their own doing, instead -
the works of their hands.

So the LORD gave them His expressed will - His commandments and statutes and judgments - all of which
they would have to keep perfectly, to have a relationship with God, based on their own doing. Then the
LORD provided them with a test of their obedience - and they utterly failed, as seen in the incident of the
golden calf.

Now, the LORD did not test their obedience for His sake - He knew that they could never keep the Law. The
test was for their own sakes - so that they could see what was in their heart to do - and what was in their
hearts to do? To sin. The test was so that they could see that they were sinners. But even while they were
being tested, God was teaching Moses the ceremonial Law, the system of sacrifices that would be offered
by the Levitical priesthood, in the tabernacle for which the LORD was providing the pattern to Moses.

All of these - the priesthood, the sacrifices, the tabernacle - spoke of the One who was coming, who would
put away Israel=s sin - and the sins of the whole world - so that they could enter into a covenant
relationship with God, being reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ. In this way, once Israel failed
the test of their obedience, and came to recognize that they were sinners, they would be able to see the
Savior that the LORD was providing for them - as pictured in the ceremonial Law - and receive Him.
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Israel did fail in their obedience - but they never recognized that they were sinners. Why not? It wasn=t
because they could not - they would not. Israel obstinately refused to recognize that they fell short of the
glory of God (Rm 3:23)- of His standard of righteousness.

What is God=s standard of righteousness? His Christ - His perfectly obedient Son. No less righteousness
that this is acceptable to our holy God. Can any man, by his own works, ever earn, let alone maintain, such
a standard of righteousness? No man can. There is none righteous - no, not one (Rm 3:10).

Yet for the rest of their history, even to our present day, Israel has continued to strive to establish their own
righteousness - through the keeping of the Law. Instead of resting themselves upon the strength their God,
to do for them, Israel has continued to try to do for themselves, apart from God. Instead of receiving the
righteousness of God, by faith in His Christ, Israel has sought to be accepted based on their own
righteousness.

Their prophet, Isaiah, spoke for them, saying, Awe are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses
(our righteous deeds) are as filthy rags@ (Is 64:6). Filthy rags were menstrual cloths - they were the oft-
repeated visual evidence that there was no life conceived within. Throughout their history, no matter what
were the works of Israel=s hands, they only served to show, time and time again, that Israel had no life
conceived in their Spirit.

This was borne out by the incident of the golden calf, and particularly by the wording which Stephen used.
The people had grown weary of waiting for Moses - for they had no faith in God, which would have caused
them to endure. What they chose to do instead of waiting was a manifestation of their lack of faith in God.
They didn=t want a real God, whom they could not see; they preferred a false god, that they could see - and
more to the point, one of their own making. Look again at verse 41 (read it). They rejoiced in the works of
their own hands. This is a picture of the spiritual condition of the nation. They worshiped their own works;
that which their own hands made. This, in the stead of worshiping the true and Living God. That is the
difference between religion - and a relationship with God.

Through Moses, the LORD had provided Israel with a physical deliverance from Egypt; but He could not
deliver Israel from themselves. For that, Israel had to choose to be delivered; then God could bring forth
their spiritual deliverance. But they chose not to be delivered; for that required submission to God. Israel
would not enter into a relationship with God - so God had no choice but to let them go, to pursue what was
in their hearts to do.

v. 42-43 Stephen brought out that the incident of the golden calf was just the first step that Israel took into
idolatry, which continued through their forty years in the wilderness, and even into their time in the land
that God promised their forefathers.

Having turned their back on the true and Living God, they rejected the Light. They loved darkness rather
than Light. Why? Because their deeds were evil. The Light showed their deeds to be what they were - sin
(Jn 3:19-20).

Under the cover of the darkness of idolatry, Israel was able to practice their evil deeds, fulfilling the lusts of
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the flesh and of the mind (Eph 2:3). They paid lip service to the LORD, continuing to bring their offerings
and sacrifices in professed worship of Him, while at the same time worshiping the host of heaven - the sun,
moon and stars - a practice of the other nations, from the time they rejected the LORD at Babel (Gen 11:4).
This is a mixture of worship - of truth mixed with lies - so was it any longer true worship? No.

Stephen emphasized the mixture in the worship of Israel, with a quotation from the prophet Amos. Turn to
Amos chapter 5. Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom during the height of their prosperity, speaking
of God=s judgment that would come upon them at the hand of the Assyrians.

[Amos 5:21-27]

v. 21-22 Notice that there is no mention of the sin offering. The LORD would not accept Israel=s offerings,
because there was no acknowledgment that they were sinners.

v. 23-24 The LORD would not accept their worship, for it was all form, and no substance; their hearts were
far from Him. Instead, they would incur the LORD=s judgment.

v. 25-27 This is the part Stephen quoted to the council. While the nation was offering sacrifices and
offerings to the true and Living God, they were concurrently worshiping images they had made to Moloch
and to Chiun. Moloch was the national god of the Ammonites, to whom human sacrifices were offered,
including children. Chiun, also known as Remphan (as in Acts), was the Assyrian star god, associated with
the worship of the planet Saturn.

Most likely, Stephen was not referring to a physical tabernacle for these idols, although such a thing is
possible; the idea is more likely that Israel worshiped these idols in the stead of the LORD, whose presence
dwelt in their midst in the tabernacle. Even as they carried the tabernacle, Israel was carrying these idols -
in their hearts.

Initially, the Israelites had reverted to the worship of an Egyptian god, in the form of the golden calf, that
they had carried in their hearts out of Egypt. The people had demonstrated remorse over that, but never any
true repentance; and without a change of heart, their heart remained the same - it was set on the worship of
that which they could see, that which they could make with their hands, imaginary gods that which would
allow them to worship - and do - as they please.

Despite the warnings of the LORD through Moses and the prophets, the nation continued in their apostasy,
assimilating the practices of the idolatrous peoples among whom they mingled, even throughout their time
in the land promised to them, and then won for them, by the LORD. The nation continued to carry idols in
their hearts throughout the period of the monarchy, in both Israel and Judah. Finally, the LORD brought His
judgment on them - first Israel was carried away into captivity by Assyria, then later Judah by Babylon.

Notice that Stephen made a significant change in the wording of the prophecy of Amos. In verse 27, where
Amos spoke of the LORD=s pending judgment on Israel, he said, AI will cause you to go into captivity
beyond Damascus@, which was the furthest significant point to the north in Israel, and beyond which
Assyria lay. But by the Spirit, Stephen changed the wording to Aand I will carry you away beyond
Babylon@, because he was including the captivity of Judah to the south by Babylon, which was beyond the
scope Amos= prophecy. In this way, Stephen summarized the captivity of the entire nation, a judgment by
the LORD upon their idolatry.
[Return to Acts]
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Stephen then spoke of the tabernacle of witness, in which the presence of the LORD dwelt among His people
in the wilderness.

v. 44 As mentioned before, it was the LORD who had instructed Moses on the building of the tabernacle
over a forty-day period on mount Sinai, after having given Israel the Law. Turn to Exodus chapter 25. The
tabernacle was to be made according to the particular pattern that the LORD gave to Moses - as Stephen said,
according to the Afashion@ (pattern) that Moses had seen.

First the LORD gave Moses instructions concerning the materials to be used in constructing the tabernacle.
As you can see in verses 1-7, the materials were very specific, and some of them would have been costly,
particularly in the quantities required. Moses was to obtain these materials from the children of Israel, and
they were to be given as a free-will offering to the LORD.

Where would the children of Israel have gotten the gold, the silver, the brass, the precious stones? From
the Egyptians, whom they had spoiled before leaving Egypt, according to the LORD=s instruction. So the
people would just be giving back to the LORD the spoils of the victory that He had obtained for them in
Egypt; giving back what was rightfully His. In verse 8, we read of what this was for.

[Exodus 25:8-9] So this was to make a sanctuary, in which the LORD would dwell among His people. This
sanctuary was to be made according to the exact instructions of the LORD to Moses. This pattern is given
over the next six chapters - and even here, we can see that there had to be even greater detail given to
Moses than was recorded. But what details we have show us an intricate picture of the Coming Savior. It
is the Christ who would be the sanctuary of God on earth, where the LORD would dwell among His people;
in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily (Col 2:9).

After the LORD had given Moses the pattern for the ark of the testimony and for the mercy seat, He spoke of
where He would meet Moses.

[Exodus 25:21-22]

v. 21 The ark of the testimony represented the throne of God; the seat of His rule - the place of judgment.
The ark of the testimony was so called because it contained the testimony - the two tablets of the Law that
the LORD had given to Israel. This was the second set of tablets - do you remember what happened to the
first set? Moses broke them, when he came down from the mount, and found that the children of Israel
were engaged in idolatrous revelry.

The LORD had made a second set, which were to be kept in the ark. These unbroken tablets in the sanctuary
were a picture of the Son of Man, who would keep the Law in His heart; He would always perfectly obey
the will of His Father.

The mercy seat completely overlaid the ark of the testimony. It symbolized Christ set forth as the
propitiation for our sins; He is the place where the judgment of God is satisfied concerning sin. God has sin
all covered, in Christ. In Christ, God can extend mercy to the sinner, who comes to Him through faith in
His blood (Rm 3:25).

v. 22 This was where the LORD met with Moses, and communicated with Him, above the mercy seat. So
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the mercy seat was where God would meet with a righteous man.

Turn to Exodus chapter 29. The LORD gave Moses details concerning the continual burnt offering, and then
spoke of where He would meet the children of Israel.

[Exodus 29:42-46] So the LORD would meet with the children of Israel at the door of the tabernacle. The
children of Israel could not enter in to the tabernacle, for they were not priests.

Do you remember the LORD had said that He would make them a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6)? But they
had refused His offer, choosing a covenant of works instead. Therefore, there would be a priesthood that
would mediate between the LORD and His people, putting them further away from the LORD - which is what
they wanted.

The place of meeting, for the people, would be the door - with the LORD on the inside, in the sanctuary, and
the people on the outside, in the court of the tabernacle. In this way, the LORD would dwell among His
people.

Turn to Exodus chapter 40. After the LORD gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle, and the materials
were brought, and the furnishing were made, Moses reared up the tabernacle.

[Exodus 40:33-38] A cloud covered the tent of the congregation - the sanctuary - and the glory of the
LORD filled the tabernacle. Was the LORD the cloud? No - the cloud was a cloud - seen as fire by night (v.
38). God is Spirit - immaterial - He is not made of things seen. But God does use things that are seen to
represent Himself.

The glory of the LORD, which filled the tabernacle, was seen by men as light - but it merely symbolized
God=s presence; the light was not God Himself. When the LORD spoke to Moses on mount Sinai, He came
to him in a thick cloud (Ex 19:9); but the LORD was not the cloud. The LORD descended upon mount Sinai in
fire and smoke to meet with the people (Ex 19:18), but He was not the fire and smoke. These were merely
physical manifestations of His presence, symbolizing that the LORD was there.

What is one of the attributes of the LORD, that you know of, which speaks to His presence? That God is
omnipresent; as God, He can be, and is, present everywhere at once. In that God dwells everywhere at
once, one of the places that He dwells is with His people - in addition to being everywhere else.

So the physical symbol of God=s presence did not indicate that He was there, and only there; the point of it
was so that God=s people would know that He was with them, and continued to be with them, through all
their wilderness wanderings, and on into the land; and that the place where they could come to meet God
was in the One in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily - in His Christ, who was pictured in the tabernacle.

[Return to Acts 7] So the fathers of the nation carried that tabernacle with them, that spoke of the One
who would come and put away sin, all the while that they were turned away from God in their sin.

v. 45-47 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. Joshua had led the children of Israel into the land of Canaan,
the land that was promised to the seed of Abraham by the LORD. This was the second generation of the
nation, born after the exodus from Egypt; the first generation had died in the wilderness, a judgment on
them by the LORD for their obstinate unbelief (Heb 3:17-19).
It was the LORD who drove out the Canaanites, who were squatters in the land. The LORD did so as Israel
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believed Him to make the conquests; but as they never fully believed God, they never entirely drove out the
enemy, who wound up being thorns in their sides, and led them into idolatry, as the LORD had prophesied
(Judges 2:1-23).

After this turbulent period of Israel=s history, when the LORD raised up judges to rule over the nation, the
people desired a king, and the LORD gave them one after their own heart - Saul, who would not submit to
the LORD. The LORD eventually had to remove the Spirit of anointing from him - the kingship. Then the
LORD appointed as king a man after His own heart - David. Through the obedience of David, the LORD
brought defeat to the enemies of Israel, and consolidated the nation under him (2 Sam 5:4-5).

When David was established in Jerusalem, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies all around, he
thought to build a house for the LORD - Stephen calls it a tabernacle, meaning a dwelling place, here. The
dwelling place for which the LORD had given Moses the pattern was a tent, which could be moved from
place to place - perfect during the forty years Israel was wandering in the wilderness.

But now, Israel was established in the land, and David dwelt in Jerusalem in a house of cedar. David
thought that it was befitting that, as the LORD had established them in the land that He had promised as their
permanent dwelling place, that the LORD should have a permanent dwelling place among them.

In His response, the LORD did not indicate that He was displeased with David=s suggestion, but He did say
that this was something that He had never asked for. It was for the LORD to decide if He would dwell in a
permanent house, and when; not for David to decide.

Nonetheless, it was for the LORD to decide such a thing for David; and so the LORD used the occasion of
David=s request to prophesy that He would make David a house, meaning a line of descent. A particular
descendant was alluded to in the prophecy, who would build a house for the LORD=s name -the son of
David, the Christ - through whom the LORD would establish David=s throne, forever (2 Sam 7:1-17).

The LORD later told David that he was not to build a house to the LORD=s name, because David had shed
much blood, as a man of war; instead, David=s son Solomon was to build the house of the LORD (1 Chr
22:8-9, 28:2-6). By the Spirit, the LORD gave the pattern for the temple to David, who gave it to Solomon,
along with all the materials and workmen that he would need to build it (1 Chr 28:11-19).

The temple of Solomon was built according to the pattern given by the LORD. When it was completed and
filled with its furnishings, and sacrifices had been offered to the LORD, Solomon spoke a prayer the LORD,
dedicating the temple to Him. Turn to 2 Chronicles chapter 6. I want you to see a little of Solomon=s
thinking concerning the temple.

[2 Chronicles 6:12-21] You can see that Solomon understood that the temple could not Acontain@ the
LORD God. He could not be contained in heaven or the heaven of heavens! The temple was just a place for
men, to come and meet God.

The tabernacle service continued for a time during the period of Israel=s monarchy, until the apostasy of
Judah became so pronounced that the prophet Ezekiel recorded his vision of the glory of the LORD departing
from the temple (Ez 9:3-11:23). Solomon=s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in their conquest of
Judah in 586 BC.

When the exiles returned to Jerusalem, Zerubabbel rebuilt the temple, which after 500 years was still
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standing during the day of Herod the Great, who decided to dismantle and rebuild it to curry favor with the
Jews, in 21 BC. That temple was not authorized by the LORD, and was not in accordance with His pattern.
And that temple did not contain the ark of the testimony, which had disappeared after the Babylonian
conquest.

In the day of Jesus, Herod=s temple was still incomplete. In fact, it would not be completed until 64 AD -
six years before it would be destroyed by the Romans, as God=s judgment on the unbelief of His nation.

[Return to Acts 7] Now we=ll continue as Stephen drives home his point concerning the nation and their
esteem for their temple.

v. 48-50 The prophet who spoke these words was Isaiah - words that echoed those of Solomon that we
read earlier. Solomon and Isaiah understood that the LORD could not be contained in a physical house; they
understood that the temple was for man, not for God. They knew that God is the Creator, and man, merely
the creation; they understood that man could do nothing for God, for He had no needs; nor could man give
anything to God, that was not already His.

The LORD was not looking for a home, or a resting place; in his prophecy, Isaiah went on to say that what
the LORD was looking for was a man with a humble and contrite spirit; a man who feared God at His word
(Is 66:1-2). Such a man, who believed God, and was willing to submit to Him, became a temple for God,
in the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19; Eph 2:22); and there, God would choose to dwell - in the heart. Where did
God find such a man? In His Son; and then, in those who became His, through faith.

v. 51 We can see that Stephen did not finish the passage in Isaiah. It would seem, based on the sudden
transition, where Stephen was now directly confronting the council, that Stephen=s recounting of the
nation=s history got cut off. What do you suppose would have caused this? It was almost certainly a
clamorous outburst on the part of the Sanhedrin - as they vehemently voiced their objection to what
Stephen was saying.

The fact that Stephen spoke of the temple as Amade with hands@ (v. 48) is significant. The wording tied
the temple back to the apostasy of Israel with the golden calf - Aworks of their own hands@, which they
worshiped (v. 41).

What Stephen was doing was taking the charge of blaspheming the temple, of which he had been accused,
and turning it back on the nation and their rulers, implying that they worshiped their temple, which had
been made with hands, instead of worshiping the true and Living God - that=s true blasphemy.

But was it not true? They had used the holiness of the temple as an excuse to keep men out of it, such as
the Gentiles and the disabled in society. God had never intended the temple to keep men out; it was meant
to bring them in. The temple was specifically intended to be the place where men could come, to meet
God.

And the Jews thought that, because they had the temple, they had God - as if God could be contained in a
box. But the temple was just a building. It was intended as an object lesson, to lead men to the Savior,
whom it pictured; but without the eyes of faith, that lesson was lost on the nation. That is why they didn=t
recognize their Savior when He came; they had never seen the picture of Him, in the temple.
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As the council voice their opposition to the words of Stephen, he responded by rebuking them. Stephen
labeled them as stiffnecked. This is a figurative expression taken from oxen that will not submit to being
yoked. To men, this means that they are stubborn and unyielding. The nation would not bow to their LORD,
who made them.

To be uncircumcised in heart and ears means that the nation was so callous toward God that they would not
listen to nor obey God=s Word. They acted as those who were uncircumcised - who were outside of the
covenant people of God, who had no knowledge of His will.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses had voiced the LORD=s command to Israel, that they circumcise the
foreskin of their hearts, and be no more stiffnecked (Deut 10:16). In this the nation had utterly failed; and
as such, would be cut off from God.

All through the history of the nation, they had resisted the Holy Spirit, as He sought to convict Israel of
their sin, and bring them in submission to their Savior; but they would not receive that yoke of blessing.
The Spirit spoke through holy men of God - the prophets (2 Pet 1:21).

v.52-53 Jesus had said, AO Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent to
you, how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen her brood under her wings, and you
would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; and truly I say unto you, you shall not see Me,
until the time comes when you shall say, >Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord=@ (Lk 13:34-
35).
Jesus was speaking prophetically of the nation=s rejection of Him, in His first coming. Since the nation
rejected Him, He had to leave them - God, leaving His temple desolate - until they are willing to receive
Him, when He comes again.

Stephen was showing that the fathers of the nation had persecuted the prophets, who spoke to them of the
Coming Christ, and now the nation had followed in their footsteps - and exceeded them - in putting to
death the Righteous One of God - His Christ.

In so doing, Israel had not kept the Law, given to them by the LORD in attendance by his heavenly host. In
rejecting Jesus, they had lost their hope of escaping the condemnation they were under, as lawbreakers.
Now the Judge of all the earth could not but find them guilty, and they would incur His sure judgment.
And that judgment would be seen to be just, as the nation would once again lash out against this final
prophet that God had sent.

v. 54-56 So the Spirit had issued His conviction. To be cut to the heart does not mean that the rulers and
the people experienced any conviction; the term refers to being utterly enraged. They were actually
grinding their teeth together, showing the violence of their emotions.

But Stephen was completely oblivious to them. Once he had completed his words to Israel, Stephen had
immediately cast his eyes toward the heavenlies, for it was there that he was already dwelling, in the Spirit
(Eph 2:6); and it was there that was all of his help, and his hope. That hope did not disappoint (Rm 5:5).
As Stephen gazed, the Lord opened the heavens to him, so that Stephen could see the glory of God. Where
is the glory of God seen? In the face of Jesus Christ. And that is who Stephen saw. He saw His Lord,
Jesus, at the right hand of the Father. But Jesus was not sitting; He was standing.
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This is the only occasion in the NT in which it is said that Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father.
What could be the significance of it? There are three things that come to mind.

Jesus had said, AEveryone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge
before the angels of God@ (Lk 12:8, Mt 10:33). By appearing to Stephen in a vision, Jesus was affirming
the words that Stephen spoke concerning Him.

Additionally, in a court, judges normally stood to render their verdicts. Here we see Jesus, the Judge of all
the earth, who had now stood up to vindicate his servant, even as his opponents prepared to condemn him.
Jesus, as the Judge, will bring their condemnation of Stephen back on the nation; a just retribution.

But there is something more personal here as well. Stephen=s earthly existence was quickly drawing to a
close, as he himself undoubtedly knew. Jesus was intimately involved in everything that was happening to
Stephen - and rose to encourage him to the end of his earthly course - for Stephen to see that Jesus was
ready, and waiting, to welcome Stephen to His heavenly home. That vision would see Stephen through to
the end.

Stephen, filled with the glory of God, could not help but speak out what it was he beheld, referring to Jesus
as the Son of Man - the term by which Jesus referred to Himself before the Sanhedrin (Mt 14:62). For the
opponents of Stephen, this was the last straw.

v. 57-58 I=m sure every person in that courtroom looked to see what it was that Stephen saw - but they
could not see it, for Stephen saw his vision with spiritual eyes. Nonetheless, the rulers and the people knew
exactly who Stephen meant by the Son of Man - and they would not hear another word of what they
considered blasphemy from this disciple of Jesus.

So they plugged up their uncircumcised ears; and they shouted, lest some word penetrate their
uncircumcised hearts; then they, as a mass, rushed on Stephen, seizing him, and hustled him outside the
city, where they stoned him to death.

We are given no sense that this was the result of a legal verdict by the council; instead, it would seem that it
was the judgment of a mob, which was composed both of the common people as well as members of the
council, all of whom were aroused to violent, impetuous action by the words of Stephen. This - was a
lynching.

According to Jewish law, a condemned criminal would be taken out to the edge of a city and thrown over a
drop at least twice the man=s height. If the fall did not kill the man, the witnesses against him were to be
the first to hurl large stones on top of him, aiming for the chest, until the victim died.

Under Jewish law, the criminal was to be stripped before killing him; but we have no record of that being
done to Stephen, probably due to the furious rage which was driving the mob. Instead, Luke records that it
was the witnesses who stripped themselves of their outer garments before they proceeded with stoning
Stephen.

It was common in that day to lay aside the outer garments for the purpose of work - but it is remarkable that
Luke puts this in the record, almost as if to point to the party that was truly guilty here - for those who were
stripped were the false witnesses. Under the Law, false witnesses in a capital case were to be executed
themselves.
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You may be wondering where the Romans were, while all this was happening. There is no sense that the
trial of Stephen took place during a festival; therefore, the Roman governor would not have been in
residence in Jerusalem, but in his palace in Caesarea. The action against Stephen may have gone unnoticed
by those in the Roman garrison, or may have occurred too quickly for them to intervene.

The rulers of the nation would have been unconcerned, knowing that they could explain the lynching to the
governor under the guise of a legal action against one who had blasphemed the temple - the only case in
which the Sanhedrin was permitted by the Romans to carry out the death sentence.

As the witnesses stripped of their garments, they laid them down at the feet of a young man whom we will
see much of in the book of Acts - Saul, also known by his Roman name, Paul. I wonder if Saul looked to
see what it was that Stephen had seen - for he too was zealous for God. One day, quite soon, he would
indeed see the Lord, for himself - and he would never be the same.

But at this time, Saul approved of the death of Stephen, and in guarding the coats, was doing what he could
to have a part in it. This would be a painful memory to Saul when he came to know the Lord himself (Acts
22:20).

v. 59-60 Stephen made his exodus out of this world, following in the footsteps of His Master. As Jesus
had called upon the Father, committing His spirit into His hands (Lk 23:46), Stephen called upon Jesus (the
word God is not in the original), asking Him to receive His spirit.

Then Stephen knelt down - choosing to die in a position of submission to his Lord. His final words were
again an echo of Jesus, who said, AFather, forgive them, they know not what they do@ - but again, Stephen
addressed His Lord, Jesus. Even in his parting words, Stephen laid out the deity of the Lord Jesus, and His
equality with the Father.

Luke records that Stephen then fell asleep. This is a term that is used almost exclusively for the death of
believers in the NT. When one sleeps, one becomes unconscious to the physical world, and conscious to
another world - for the believer, his heavenly home. One who sleeps also has the hope of waking again -
which the believer will do, in the resurrection.

Stephen had fought the good fight; he had finished his course. He has the crown of victory reserved for
him - a body of glory - of which his name so perfectly spoke - AVictor=s crown@. Stephen is in the
presence of his Lord, even now, where there are pleasures forevermore.

And Israel? They had given their final answer to the conviction of the Spirit; in the light of the open
heavens, they had slain His witness. The trial of the nation had come to an end; Israel was to be set aside
for a time, cut off as the people of God, as they are even now, until such time as they are ready to be
restored.