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Acts 7:23-43, Stephen’s Speech to the Council

Thursday, April 12

Effecting Change

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

 protest

Stephen's speech to the Council continued with his account of Moses' work helping God save Israel from Egypt. Interestingly, even though Moses was looking out for his kin when he murdered the abusive Egyptian, the Hebrews who witnessed the event didn't think Moses was so great. They thought he was acting inappropriately by serving as judge. He was actually responding to the injustice he saw over and over in his own community. 

Recently I was engaged in a conversation with someone who was irritated with local protesters closing down the highway. "All they're gonna do is piss people off," they said. "Why can't they just protest peacefully without causing problems for the rest of us?"

The thing is, the correcting of injustice requires discomfort and disruption. The whole point of a protest like the one they staged is to disrupt the complacency that has brought us to this point. No one changes unless the pain of remaining the same is more than the pain of changing.

Stephen tried to increase the discomfort felt by the Council. It led to his death. But it was a fruitful death. As a martyr, he brought many to Christ. Like Moses before him, he did effect change.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 7:23-43

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’ 

“It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands.

"But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? No; you took along the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’"