Cotton fields of Texas.
Thursday, 7 April 2022
Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?” Acts 7:1
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Chapter 6 ended with the charge of blasphemy raised against Stephen while he stood confidently before the council. As it is noted of him, “his face was like the face of an angel.” He had nothing to fear because the truth was on his side, even if he was falsely accused. And even if the false accusations prevailed in the court, they could not prevail over his security in Christ. Hence there was nothing to be timid about.
Chapter 7 now opens with a simple question from the high priest who is obviously in the position to lead the council. Luke records this, saying, “Then the high priest said.” As this is a matter of a religious nature, it is handled under the authority of the high priest. Rome decided if a conquered nation could worship its god or gods, and to what extent they were allowed to do so. They understood that a nation that can practice its religion openly was likely to be less of a threat than one that could not.
The religious life of Israel was found acceptable to the Romans and so it was allowed to continue, even if politics were involved in the matter of appointing high priests and the like. With this authority allowed, the Sanhedrin met, and the high priest conducted his duties for the nation, leading the religion accordingly. In this case, the question asked of Stephen is, “Are these things so?”
It is a simple question, anticipating a plea of guilt or innocence, but with the allowance that the one charged could speak in his own defense. In this case, the simple question addressed to Stephen will turn into 52 verses of response, none of which directly answers the high priest’s query. Instead, it will be a history lesson concerning the state of Israel’s relationship with, and continued rejection of, the Lord. Stephen’s words ahead are much more of an accusation against the nation than were the simple charges of blasphemy against him.
The events now, even the questioning by the high priest, are similar to what happened at the trial of Jesus –
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. Matthew 26:57-63
Life application: Stephen has a choice concerning his response. Should he try to defend himself against the false charges, or will his response serve a greater purpose if he speaks of other matters? In his case, he will actually go on the offensive. Though he may not have fully realized it at the time, his words now form a lengthy note of accusation against Israel.
As this is recorded in the word of God, it stands as a testimony to why Israel was punished, sent into exile, and has lived under the curses of Deuteronomy 28 for the past two millennia. It is up to Israel, meaning the leadership of the nation, to acknowledge their guilt and to call on Jesus (see Matthew 23:37-39).
Although it is right and proper to support the nation of Israel, it is not right to blindly support them without calling out their guilt. They bear guilt in rejecting the Lord, and they bear the guilt of failing to measure up to the laws found within the covenant they agreed to at Mount Sinai. Until they come into the New Covenant, they remain bound to the Old. Pray that those in Israel will have their eyes opened to their state before the Lord – both as individuals and as a nation.
Heavenly Father, the Bible is Your witness to the world – both Israel and the world at large – as to what You are doing in redemptive history. Help us to never withhold telling the entire story that we are aware of when it is needed to open people’s eyes to whatever truth they have not yet grasped. May we be ready to tell anyone and everyone about those things that are clearly presented in Your word that will help them understand the things You expect of them. Amen.