A look into the book of Acts
Stephen, standing before the high council, is responding to their demand as to whose authority he is operating under. He presents them with the longest discourse in scripture, giving a fairly concise history of Israel.
Unlike the reaction that the Apostle got, where the council determined they were unlearned men, this is never said of Stephen. The things that Stephen said were not challenged until he pointed out that they were the murderers of Jesus Christ, the Just one.
Although I do not remember most of what he said, Dr. Chuck Misler, spoke about this discourse as one that carried the central themes, and some hidden treasures to be gleaned about Israel. An example: Stephen is the one that notes in Acts 7:18 that everything changed for Israel when “another king arose, which knew not Joseph.” Who was this guy? History has now shown us, but for centuries the answer to this question lay hidden in the earth.
Consider that gleaning comes after the normal harvest, and if you have witnessed a harvest then you know that something is always left, whether it falls to the ground, or is simply bypassed.
I got hooked into going to breakfast at the place where the “ex” goes. I used to go hang out there with the older men. Fortunately they are Christians, but we never talked about the goodness of God. Never! That did not stop me from trying, but I always got shot down. One of the brothers there had come out of a Christ based cult that operates in a militaristic fashion. In a sense he escaped. He now attends a church that is slightly more liberal, but still has a hard time with grace.
If I must be here then I will attempt to bring up my Lord, once again.
Don’t look at me like that!
I have come to realize that it is not just me, but anyone who is enthusiastic about something (motorcycles, cars, sports) will talk about it, constantly. I don’t do sports! So, I took my bible and note pad. Bert (I will call him that to protect his secret identity – evil grin.) glared at me.
We talked about a gun that blew up because of Chinese bullets. He showed us a picture of it on his new phone; others talked about life in general. In the last couple of minutes that I was there, the opportunity arose to say something about my Lord so I pointed to my pad, mentioning that I write constantly, and this is one of the latest things I have been looking at, Stephens discourse to the high council.
Quickly pointing out the amazing wealth of information that one can gain from the briefest of stops. (An example for me is, writing six pages on one verse. Not that I set out to do that, but I write what the spirit is showing me.) My old buddy Bert (as Ernie from Sesame Street used to say.) immediately goes into a quiet tirade about people that major on minor things that are not essential to our Christian walk.
- That makes the huge assumption that you know what I am talking about. Seeing as I had not made any point at all before he jumped in, he was operating on pure assumption.
- If what I was talking about was so minor, and no I did not even get that out of my mouth before he dove in. Why then was it important enough for Stephen, under the influence of the Holy Spirit to divulge this information to the High council? And why does the Holy Spirit seem to think that we needed to know this? You cannot deny that it is in here. There is information given in Stephens discourse that we do not readily see anywhere else in scripture.
- I am standing right there in front of him, and yet he made his tirade generic, as though I did not exist, and therefore would not notice how extraordinarily hurtful his comment was, especially directed at another Christian.“Why do people focus on minor things that have little to no impact on our Christian walk?”I tapped on my pad, looked him in the eyes, and said, “are you talking about this scripture I am referring to?”If you have something to say, then say it to my face. I am not a good apologist and everyone around you will probably think that you won your battle by humiliating me, and really, isn’t that the point; you making every else think that your right and dominant. Perhaps then they will worship you too.
I just turned and walked out. Dad was the one that brought me, and he is now getting into his car. Catching up quickly, I reiterated to him why I will probably never go back there again.
A thought just popped into my head, so I am writing it. This example that I just gave is indicative of the Laodicean church. They are lukewarm, lazy, and do not care. I am not a pastor, for if I were then my heart would cry out daily in pleas for them to repent and return to the Living God. And yet, if you read my posts, I believe that this is exactly my heart.
I know this about me, I do not have the patience to beat my head against such walls of apathy.
If my God gets magnified then there is nothing minor!
Now to the passage.
Open your bibles to Acts 7:42. I always wanted to say that.
Acts 7:42 KJV Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
Before I carry on, I have something I need to say. I have been looking at this for several days, pondering its significance, and weighing the negative inputs. In other words I am taking an internal beating in which Satan, if I may say that, is trying to get me to back down.
I don’t know what to call it, depression, insecurity, or the possibility that my ex-girlfriend was right; I am just full of myself. If you knew me, then you would know how much of an internal struggle I go through, and what a lack of confidence I have.
It is the feedback that I get from others, across the globe, that tells me otherwise. I truly believe that I am doing what God has asked me to do. That being said, and gotten off my chest, I plow on.
Still considering Stephens recap of Israel’s history, he describes the scene when Moses comes off the mount to find most of Israel worshiping a golden calf that they created. (A sorry aspect of this scene includes Aaron’s lame excuse of throwing the gold into the fire, and this popped out. Who would have thought. - My judgmental side would have eliminated Aaron along with them.)
Stephen gets rather specific with the identities of these gods, Molech and Rephan.
Molech, though having several spellings is easy enough to find,
Molech - Fire-gods appear to have been common to all the Canaanite, Syrian and Arab tribes, who worshiped the destructive element under an outward symbol, with the most inhuman rites.
|Image via Wikipedia|
According to Jewish tradition, the image of Molech was of brass, hollow within, and was situated without Jerusalem. "His face was (that) of a calf, and his hands stretched forth like a man who opens his hands to receive (something) of his neighbor. And they kindled it with fire, and the priests took the babe and put it into the hands of Molech, and the babe gave up the ghost." (Smith’s bible dictionary)
Leviticus 20:2-3 KJV Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. (3) And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.
Leviticus 20:5-6 KJV Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people. (6) And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
If this is what Moses saw, as he came down off the mountain, then it is surprising to me that Aaron was not consumed with most of Israel that day, or at the least, Moses did not throw the tablets directly at Aaron’s head.
Do you not begin to get a feel for God’s possible reasons for anger if he finds them;
- Acting against explicit instructions,
- Dancing around a cow headed idol called Moloch,
- Roasting their children in this monstrous things arms. All of which is horror, whether God told them not to or not. When you factor in Jesus receiving little children you should get a better feel for the heart and character of God.
Matthew 19:13-14 GNB Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. (14) Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
The word Rephan, which is the other name that the NIV translators used, has caused me some grief.
Just try and find a direct reference to this spelling; you won’t. The KJV spells it Remphan, and that one will score a hit in the Strong’s concordance. This is also a reference to Amos 5:26, but here the god mentioned is Chiun, the star god, which they made.
Two things to note here:
“...God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven;..”
There is nothing polite about the word turned, as used here. The Greek word is strepho, meaning to literally turn around. That would imply a previous face to face relationship, at least on God’s part.
As I looked for a defining association to Rephan I kept noticing this aspect of giving them up to “worship the host of heaven”. That sounds benign enough, and after all, that is where God lives, right. But the inquiring mind should also be thinking about other aspects that have been included in the “host of heaven”.
- We know that there are a host of angels in heaven. The shepherds got a dose of their singing when Jesus was born.
- Originally Lucifer/Satan, along with another third of the “host of heaven” got tossed out.
- And there are the physical objects of heaven, such as stars, planets, and an expanding universe.
As I looked at translations that could help define this host of heaven aspect, it seemed that no one really hit the nail on the head for me, therefore I give you a couple of them.
Acts 7:42 GW "So God turned away from them and let them worship the sun, moon, and stars. This is written in the book of the prophets: 'Did you bring me sacrifices and grain offerings in the desert for 40 years, nation of Israel?
This would certainly be in line with the meanings implied in both the word Remphan and Chiun.
As I continued pondering this passage, the other aspect that jumps at me almost looks like a question. But why would God ask them a question, unless it is one that does not require an answer. When I looked at other translations it appears as a statement, and suddenly it makes not only more sense, but at the same time rocks my assumptions of how Israel lived, during those 40 years of wandering. I give you the adjoining verse to help clarify this.
Acts 7:42-43 CJB So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the stars -- as has been written in the book of the prophets, 'People of Isra'el, it was not to me that you offered slaughtered animals and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness! (43) No, you carried the tent of Molekh and the star of your god Reifan, the idols you made so that you could worship them. Therefore, I will send you into exile beyond Bavel.'
Forty years of acting out a part. This tells me that the majority still had their hearts and heads embedded in Egypt, and the pagan ways they lived there. God rescued them for something better. My Sunday school education did not convey this to any degree. The way Israel performed is beyond my imagination. They carried, and set up their own temple to Molekh, at the same time Aaron was setting up God’s temple. This is something that you do not see until you get to Stephens discourse.
I can hear many of you challenging this concept. Even stating that if it is not clearly stated in scripture then it did not happen, and should not be considered. Consider this. Stephen made these statements before men more skilled in the law and prophets than he, and NONE of them contradicted or disputed with him about these aspects. They did have Stephen murdered because he called them murderers, in reference to Jesus.
“So God turned away from them and gave them over ...” Verse 43 of chapter 7 says, “..Therefore, I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.”
If you have read the saga of Israel’s trek through the wilderness, did you ever see God leaving them, or abandoning them? No, and God does not lie, so you do eventually see them go into captivity.
This has to be another one of those situations where God makes a clear cut statement, but withholds his judgment, because of some act of repentance and contriteness of heart. Read the story, and you will find that the only heart that God gives consideration to is Moses, who pleads with God on behalf Israel.
If you are looking for an example to back this concept up then look no further than Jonah.
Jonah’s entire angst over delivering this prophetic word of destruction, which he most likely was all in favor of, had to do with his understanding that God would show these people mercy, which is exactly what he did, at that time. Don’t kid yourself, God did not let their bad behavior pass. Nineveh was consumed, and only recently have they uncovered traces of that place.
There has to be point or there is no purpose. In reading a book about better writing, they instruct you to know your audience. Do I know you? Only in the spirit. God has been very specific about telling me about you. There are those who have a strong understanding of scripture and gain much encouragement from these words, but there are those who live there whole lives in church, dependent upon someone telling them what they can and cannot do. Does that mean you are incapable of making decisions? No, for some of you run your own businesses, but you do not have a clue as to the heart and character of God.
Many of you are absolutely shaken by the events around you, and know this, they are only going to get worse. In opposition to the unfounded belief that there is no hope for you if should miss the “rapture”. (Trust me on this, you will know when it happens, whether you go or stay.) The Holy Spirit is not taken off this earth, for God is continuing to draw people unto himself, and that is a clear cut act of the Holy Spirit.
Joel chapter 2 tells us:
Joel 2:28-29 KJV And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
This entire chapter, which Peter quoted in the second chapter of Acts, saying, “this prophecy has been fulfilled in your ears”, is about the second coming of Jesus Christ, and is a time of judgment upon the earth, as well as a time of darkness and gloom. A time after the rapture of the church.
Those that come to him now, have the advantage of this age of grace that we are under. That all ends on that day. And anyone wishing to live a life with the Father, after the rapture, will have to pay full price for admission. Jesus paid with his life and blood so that we do not have too. I fully recommend that you take full advantage of that.
God turned his back on Israel, because they turned their backs on him. Will God turn his back on you? Never, for you see, Christ died for us while we were ungodly, and unlovable, paying that horrid price to give us life.
Religion will tell you that you are a sinner. Oh, you sin, of that there is no doubt, but God paid the price for that sin, regardless of when or where. Do your sins affect others? Certainly, are you stupid. You can see the look on their faces as they limp away, but for sin you will not be judged.
Religion will fight me on this. Why? Because religion does not believe that God is capable of doing what he said he would do, and that is not losing you to the world, and it’s ways. At some point you have to decide that God is big enough, and truthful enough to do what he said. He already proved himself when Jesus gave up his life on that cross.
Scripture does tell me that there is a judgment coming, but it is based upon people’s actions and heart. We are so ready to send people to hell. Yes, there is a hell, but it was not made for you, therefore you have the choice not to go there. Hell was made for Satan and the angels that rebelled against God. Those that follow him, are doing exactly what Satan had hoped for, and that was to make that loser their god. As a follower of Satan you are entitled to the same reward that he has coming.
The Great Tribulation time is not going to be anything less than horrific, but those that call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. There will be those that are not killed because of their (possibly new found) faith. And even then, I see a merciful God sorting out those that demonstrated a God like heart when they offered a drink of water, visited someone in prison, fed the poor, and generally acted in some manner other than pure selfishness.
Stephens discourse is meant to show us what not to do, plain and simple. Is it easy? Generally yes. Are there speed bumps along the way? Absolutely, but knowing that God will never leave you or forsake you should give you a little comfort, as you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and re-educate yourself.
I wrote a note to a friend recently and quoted from a powerful source. Allow me to give it to you now.
Ten Bears: These things you say we will have, we already have. Josey Wales: That's true. I ain't promising you nothing extra. I'm just giving you life and you're giving me life. And I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another. Ten Bears: It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life.
(Memorable quotes for The Outlaw Josey Wales)
(Memorable quotes for The Outlaw Josey Wales)
Here is the truth in the above quote. No signed paper can hold the words of life, they only come from God. Fortunately he had those words put on paper so that we can quickly find them, and run back to the life in them. God words are words of iron. Do you realize what that means? Strength unimaginable. These are not mere words, but words paid for by the blood of His son. Paid for to guarantee a life for those who will run to the words of life.
Stephen told that council that God gave Israel lively words. When you pursue the depth of meaning in what Stephen said, you find that it means following those words, words of iron, bring life.
Run to life.