Acts 7:49

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
Acts 7:49

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Stephen had just said that “the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands.” To support this, he now cites Isaiah 66. His citation of Isaiah 66:1 and the corresponding Hebrew are listed in order here –

“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?” (NKJV)

“Thus says Yehovah:
‘The heavens are My throne,
And the earth is the footstool for My feet.
Where is this – the house which you will build to Me?
And where is this – the place of My rest?’” (CG)

Stephen begins by saying, “Heaven is My throne.” The translation should contain the articles that are found in the Greek – “The heaven is My throne.” It is as if heaven is the place where the Lord sits in authority and judgment over all things, looking down upon His subjects below, evaluating them, and directing them.

Heaven is the place of His hosts, and it is from there that He directs them as they then direct the course of human governments, accomplishments, and achievements. Stephen next says, “And earth is My footstool.”

Again, the definite article should be translated. It should read, “And the earth a footstool of the feet of Me.” It speaks of the earth being totally subject to Him. The place of the foot is the place where authority is exercised. As the feet of the Lord rest upon the earth, it signifies that He possesses all authority over it. Everything that happens on it is at His discretion and is subject to His will. With this understood, Stephen next says, “What house will you build for Me? says the Lord.”

The Greek word translated as “what” signifies “what manner.” It is as if the Lord says, “You are down there on earth. What manner of house could you possibly build for Me that could contain Me? Your human hands are insufficient to do such a thing!” This is based on the previous two declarations. If the Lord is ruling from heaven, and if His rule is over all the earth, then what earthly house would be sufficient to contain Him? With that, Stephen says, “Or what is the place of My rest?”

Again, the question begs for an obvious answer. Isaiah was quoting the Lord at the time when the first temple stood. Stephen is quoting Isaiah while the second temple was still standing. How could the people truly believe that the temple could contain the substance of the Lord in His fulness? It again calls to mind Solomon’s proclamation when the temple was dedicated –

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” 1 Kings 8:27

How could the Lord find rest in such a place? But there is a dwelling in which the Lord could find His rest. It is one not made with human hands. It is this that Stephen is trying to convey to the council.

Life application: The Bible is using anthropomorphism to make a point about the nature of God. This is not saying that God has body parts that are actually sitting on a throne in heaven with His feet resting on the earth. As John Gill says, “…these things are not to be literally understood, but are images and figures, representing the majesty, sovereignty, and immensity of God; who is the maker of all things, the governor of the universe, and is above all places, and not to be contained in any.”

It is good practice to actively remind yourself of this type of speech when reading the Bible and to think about what is being conveyed. What idea does each body part that is mentioned express? For example, the hand signifies that which accomplishes things. The right hand is the position of authority. The finger is that which directs and participates in the hand’s accomplishments. The arm signifies reach of authority and ability. And so on.

All the way through Scripture, God is using terms, ideas, and concepts that man should be aware of in any culture and in any language. So, think about the analogy and why it is used in the particular passage. What is the surrounding context asking you to consider?

When reading the Bible in this way, you will more fully grasp the intent of its words. Again, be careful to understand that these things are to be taken as anthropomorphisms and not as literal terminology. In misunderstanding this, you may become a flat earther. Forget the tinfoil hat, understand the terminology, and consider the greatness of God as it is expressed to you in His precious word.

Lord God, Your word resonates with people all over the world and from every culture and language. As You created man, You have found a way to express Yourself to him in a way that is universally understood. The simplicity of the overall message simply cannot be missed! Jesus. It is all about Your work in and through Jesus. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord who makes You understandable to us. Amen.