“And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him,’ “Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.” Acts 7:3
In our ongoing study of Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament, we’re going to look again this week at Steven’s defense before the Council (San Hedrin) and build upon last week’s installment.
Last week’s installment dealt with the true temple or house of God, the Christian individually and the church collectively. Remember, the charges leveled against Steven that got him dragged before the Council were that he was teaching Jesus was going to destroy the temple and alter the law of Moses (Acts 6:13, 14). Steven proved that it wasn’t Yahweh’s intention to dwell in a man-made house, and additional New Testament passages proved the house the LORD was interested in was the spiritual house, the church. Reference our web site (www.newcreation.us) if you missed that installment. On to this week. Steven began his message recounting the history of Israel with the command God gave Abraham to leave his country and his people and to come into the land the LORD would show him. The quote is from Genesis 12:1. Steven closed his last sermon with this proclamation: “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56 NAS) Keep that last statement of Steven in mind as we press on. Let’s get back to the land the LORD was going to show Abraham. Was the ultimate intent of Yahweh the physical land of Canaan? We know from further illumination by the inspired writer of the letter to the Hebrews that the land Abraham (and others) desired was a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). The goal was not the physical land but to lead Abraham by faith to see the heavenly land. The writer of Hebrews affirms Abraham was looking by faith “for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” The writer also affirms Abraham and the faithful “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance and having confessed they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13) Steven, through the Holy Spirit, was trying to move his audience from the physical realm into the realm of faith, the spiritual realm. In Acts 7:7 Steven refers to another Old Testament passage. “And whatever nation to which they shall be in bondage I Myself will judge,” said God, “and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.” Here’s the Old Testament passage to which he refers from Genesis 15:13 and 14:”And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions.’ ” The LORD reconfirmed this promise through Moses: “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12) OK, by now you may be saying, “What’s your point?” That Steven’s message had a point-and his inspired utterances were ultimately pointing to things in the heavenly realm. Just as Moses led the people out of bondage to worship Him at Mount Sinai, so God’s intention through the Christ, the raised up prophet Moses pointed to, was to bring His people to the true mountain of God, the heavenly one. Jesus appeared in the flesh in order to take away sins (1 John 3:5). Through his resurrection and ascension to the throne, He proved God had sent Him to bring God’s people out of the world and into the heavenly land where they would serve and worship Him by faith. This is the land the LORD has always wanted to show you! In heaven is where His true Temple (House) and His people reside. Steven’s goal was to point the people to the “promised” land. Anyone who is “land-locked” in their thinking, like the Council and many Jews of Steven’s day, will miss this critical point. They will not, like Abraham and the Old Testament faithful, see these (by faith) promises, welcome them, and confess that they are indeed exiles and strangers upon this earth! Amen.