Texas Capitol being worked on, 2010.
Saturday, 21 May 2022
which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, Acts 7:45
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
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The previous verse referred to the tabernacle in the wilderness, and that Moses was instructed to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Having seen a pattern, it then conveys to us an obvious truth. If there is a pattern, then the copy is not the actual thing that has been copied. Stephen will explain that in a few verses. For now, he explains more about the earthly tabernacle, beginning with, “which our fathers, having received it in turn.”
The Greek word translated as “having received it in turn,” is found only here in Scripture. It speaks of the succession of the tabernacle. It was fashioned at the time of Moses and it was the central point of worship for those who constructed it. Eventually, that generation died off, and the next generation received it in turn.
This is because the first generation was disobedient and failed to enter into Canaan when it was offered to them. They did not believe the Lord, and they were condemned to die in the wilderness. Only when that generation had died off would the people enter. Two exceptions to this were Joshua and Caleb who believed the Lord. It is this next generation that is being referred to. From there, Stephen continues by saying, “also brought with Joshua.”
Joshua is explicitly noted as being with the next generation. As the leader of the people, but as one of the previous generation, Stephen ensures that this distinction in him is made. He was of faith, and because he was, he led the next generation of Israel into Canaan. It was this generation, with Joshua leading them, that brought the tabernacle “into the land possessed by the Gentiles.”
Here, Stephen uses the same word found in Acts 7:5 where it speaks of promising the land of Canaan to Abraham “for a possession.” This is now its only other use in Scripture. The Greek literally reads, “in the possession of the nations.” Because of this, translations vary. Some see this as the act of possessing the land. But the word “possession” is a noun. It is, therefore, most probably speaking of the land that was possessed by the nations, and who would then be disposed from the land.
Also, it is to be noted that some earlier translations say “Jesus” in this verse instead of “Joshua.” The names of both in the Greek are the same. It is obvious that Joshua brought Israel into the land. But the similarity of the names is still important.
In reading the Greek, the mental connection to both is made. It is certainly historically accurate to translate this as Joshua, but in typology, it is good to know that the Greek names Joshua and Jesus are the same. Joshua brought the tabernacle of the Lord into the land possessed by the Gentiles. Jesus, the Lord, is the one who brought the knowledge of the Lord into the Gentile world.
It is this presence of the Lord as indicated by the tabernacle being brought by the next generation of Israel, and as led by Joshua, that enabled Israel to drive out the nations “before the face of our fathers.”
The Greek actually reads just the opposite, saying “from the face of our fathers.” It is the same expression used in the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 11:23. It is the Lord who does the work, removing the Gentiles from before Israel. Israel participated in the wars, but without the Lord, they could never have succeeded in accomplishing the task.
This process of removing the Gentiles, with the presence of the tabernacle among Israel, is carefully recorded in Joshua, and the battles in the land continue on through Judges. Saul, the first king of Israel dealt with this as well. This continued on, according to Stephen, “until the days of David.”
What this is referring to is not the removing of the Gentiles until the time of David, but of the presence of the tabernacle until the time of David. The removing of the Gentiles is a fact that occurred because of the presence of the tabernacle, but the main subject is the tabernacle itself. That will be seen in the next two verses.
Life application: The tabernacle is noted above as a copy of something else. As such, it is not the real thing, but only a type or shadow of the real thing. It is important to understand this because it was telling Israel that the One who dwelt in that tabernacle was not limited to it.
It is God in Christ that this tabernacle was modeled after. Until one sees this, he cannot fully appreciate that what God is doing is larger than just what is spoken of concerning Israel. To this day, people get excited about events surrounding the coming temple in Jerusalem, such as finding a suitable red heifer for sacrifice.
And, indeed, it is exciting in the sense that prophecy is being fulfilled, but it should not be exciting to think that Israel is going to build a temple for worship. As Jesus is the fulfillment of these things, it means that Israel has not yet learned this lesson. The sacrifice of a red heifer cannot do anything for Israel. Only what that red heifer anticipated, meaning the work of Jesus, can cleanse them.
Let us remember this. It is not good to send money to fund temple projects in Israel. In doing so, we are participating in Israel’s rejection of Christ! Be understanding of these things. We need to get out the word about Jesus, not about Israel’s return to an obsolete law.
Heavenly Father, we pray that Israel’s eyes will be opened to the truth of what You have done through Jesus. May their hearts be turned to You through Him. The law was ineffective in bringing them to a right standing with You. Only in Jesus’ fulfillment of it can that happen. Help them to see this, O God. Amen.