Acts 7:42

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:
‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness,
O house of Israel?
Acts 7:42

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The previous verse said, “And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” Now Stephen continues to describe the conduct of Israel, saying, “Then God turned.”

The idea here is that in forsaking the Lord, the Lord will forsake them. It is the warning Joshua gave to the people –

“But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.’” Joshua 24:19, 20

In God’s turning, Stephen next says, “and gave them up.” Instead of continuing to appeal to Israel to do what is right and to worship Him, the Lord essentially says, “Ok. Have it your way. If you will not worship me, we’ll see if the gods you do serve will help you.” That is the same thought found in the Song of Moses –

“He will say: ‘Where are their gods,
The rock in which they sought refuge?
38 Who ate the fat of their sacrifices,
And drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise and help you,
And be your refuge.’” Deuteronomy 32:37, 38

The Lord allowed Israel to follow their own gods, and when times of trouble came, they had no one to turn to. The gods they trusted in were out “having a party” and too busy to help apparently. In actuality, they didn’t exist because they were not gods at all. Stephen next says that God gave them up “to worship the host of heaven.”

It is a term describing the sun, moon, planets, and stars. The word “host” signifies an army. Their regular movements and the way they are set in the heavens is as if they are arrayed for battle. The worship of this host is seen, for example, in 2 Chronicles –

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He also built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, ‘In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.’ And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 33:1-5

These and other such verses refer to Israel serving and worshipping the created “host of heaven” rather than the Creator of those hosts. To support his words to the council, Stephen next quotes Scripture, saying, “as it is written in the book of the Prophets.”

The Hebrew Bible of today is divided into three sections, commonly referred to as the Tanakh. It is an acronym combining the first letters of those sections, the Torah (the books of Moses also known as the Pentateuch or simply “the Law”); the Nevi’im (the Prophets); and the Ketuvim (the Writings). A similar division is referred to by Jesus in Luke 24 –

“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’” Luke 24:44

As for Stephen’s words noting the book of the Prophets, he specifically cites the book of Amos, saying –

“Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness,
O house of Israel?”

The words are specifically being remembered from Amos 5:25 –

“Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings
In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?”

The words of Stephen will continue to cite Amos, but the question of Amos 5:25 begs a negative answer. Israel was out worshipping other gods, failing to give the Creator of the heavenly host credit for His handiwork. But right in the same chapter of Amos, the Lord is directly credited with the creation of these things –

“He made the Pleiades and Orion;
He turns the shadow of death into morning
And makes the day dark as night;
He calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth;
The Lord is His name.” Amos 5:8

The Pleiades and Orion were, and still are, known constellations. It is He who made them. Their structure and placement are according to His wisdom alone. Why worship the lesser? The Lord is the Creator.

Life application: The Bible does not deny that there is structure and order in the alignment of the stars. On the contrary, it acknowledges it. These heavenly bodies tell their own stories. This is acknowledged in several places in both testaments. An example of this is found in Jacob’s blessing upon his son, Judah –

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” Genesis 49:10

The words here are believed to be the heavenly sign that the Magi understood to refer to the coming of the Messiah. When Leo, Regulus, and the moon were in a particular alignment, the coming of Messiah was known to have occurred. Likewise, Peter has already spoken in Acts 2 of the moon turning to blood. That refers to an eclipse. Such events are placed or timed according to God’s purposes.

Having said that, there is no reason why we should try to predict the future based on such events. This is as common as holes in a donut shop, but it is not a sound way of determining the future. Only after the event takes place should we expect to understand that it has been fulfilled. Eclipses come and go, the movement of the planets and stars continue to take place with their set precision, and we are to be about worshipping the Creator of those things. His wisdom in how such things align is up to Him and we will understand it after those things are revealed.

Heavenly Father, You have truly displayed wisdom in how You have structured all things. We can see it in the movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars. And yet, we err when we look to them to reveal to us our destinies. Rather, we should look to You, the Creator of them, for our hope, our joy, and our delight. May we never substitute that which is less for the joy that is found in You alone. Amen.