Acts 7:23

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Friday, 29 April 2022

“Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. Acts 7:23

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).

Stephen’s last words spoke of Moses being learned in all the wisdom of Egypt, something not referred to in the Old Testament. He also referred to Moses being mighty in words and deeds. Now, Stephen gives another insight not previously recorded in Scripture, saying, “Now when he was forty years old.”

The translation falls short. The verb used is pléroó, to fulfill. Furthermore, it is imperfect. It more closely says, “And when a period of forty years was fulfilling to him.” In other words, it is as if his life was coming to a set point where there would be a change in him. At that time, an inner impulse came upon him. As Stephen notes, “it came into his heart.”

The Greek bears an idiom, saying, “it arose upon his heart.” It is as if this inner impulse suddenly activated and there arose into his thinking (the heart being the seat of reasoning and understanding) something that he had not previously experienced. It is similar to the words of the Greek translation of Jeremiah 3:16. There, referring to the Ark of the Covenant, it says that “it shall not ascend upon the heart.” As for Moses, nothing is said of why this came about, but it is the timing of the event that opens up the narrative. He was forty at this time.

As this is so, Moses’ life was divided up into three periods of forty years. He was in Egypt till he was forty. He went to Midian and was there forty years until his calling. He then led Israel for forty years. Bullinger defines the number forty by associating it “with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement—(not judgment, like the number 9, which stands in connection with the punishment of enemies, but the chastisement of sons, and of a covenant people). It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8).”

This very suitably defines the periods of Moses’ life. Taken together, they equal one hundred and twenty, the time recorded as the life of Moses upon his death (Deuteronomy 34:7). Of that, Bullinger notes that the number one hundred and twenty “is made up of three forties (3×40=120). Applied to time therefore it signifies a divinely appointed period of probation.”

As Moses is emblematic of the law, this is a marvelously fulfilled pattern. As for Stephen’s words, they continue with “to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.” This is what arose upon his heart. It was an inner impulse probably weighing upon him to discover his roots and to understand who he was as a person. With this mindset, Stephen will next continue the narrative.

By specifically naming them as “the children of Israel,” it is a clear indication that there should be a bond of fellowship between them. Upon his coming to them, they should acknowledge him as their own and treat him accordingly.

Life application: In this verse, one can see the guiding hand of the Lord in how He is working out the redemptive narrative to meet His plan. It is like the call of Abraham, the seemingly chance meeting of Abraham’s servant with Rebekah at a well, and so on. Various things occur that seem unrelated or through simple good luck, but each was purposefully arranged in order to lead His chosen instruments through history until it finally arrives at Jesus.

This will continue to be true at the rapture of the church. The Restrainer will be taken out of the way, and only then will the antichrist be revealed. There is nothing arbitrary about how the events of history are unfolding. The plan is known to God, it is set, and it will come to pass.

This should not lead us to a fatalistic attitude though. We are living out our lives as individuals, and God is not forcing us into decisions. We can sit on the porch all day and wait for a welfare check, or we can be industrious and get to work. Those are personal choices, and we will be accountable for each such thing we do.

Despite this, we should be comforted that there is a process that is occurring around us that has been set and that we will participate in when the time has reached its fullness. Because of this, let us not be troubled as those of the world are. Whatever happens to us in this life, it is a part of the human experience. But what will happen to us when Christ comes is a part of His divinely appointed plan for His people.

Live in the world, but do not live as the world. In this, we will be demonstrating faith in God’s overarching plan that is guiding us to a very good end.

Heavenly Father, help us to not be fearful when troubles or catastrophes occur. May we stand fast on the sure promises You have spoken out to us in Your word, being reassured that a good end will be the result, even if the way is difficult or even dangerous at times. We know that You have all things under control. Hallelujah and amen.