“And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt– we do not know what happened to him.’ ” Acts 7:39-40
Ok, Ok, so we’re making our third trip to the well spring of Old Testament quotes from the inspired sermon of Steven. Just can’t help it, brethren.
This section of New Testament scripture is replete with Old Testament references, many useful to our understanding. The quote from Steven comes from Exodus 32:1 (and Ex. 32:23). In the context prior to our verses above, Steven has been referencing Moses and his actions as the appointed spiritual leader of the newly delivered nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Steven cites the words of the LORD to Moses: ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt, and have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them; (Acts7:34) and notes that through Moses the LORD had come down to deliver. He goes on to allude to Moses being a ruler and deliverer with the help of the angel (Guess who?) and how Moses had performed wonders and signs among the people. He reminded them how Moses had climbed the mountain to be with God to receive the law and after only forty days, the people we’re ready to abandon their leader. Steven then let the Council know that Moses, as he neared the end of his tenure as God’s spokesman, informed the people that all he was doing and the position he was occupying was just a precursor to a prophet God was going to raise up from among them. The Council knew this prophet and the Messiah were one and the same. Didn’t Jesus perform many signs among them? Yup. So many that Jesus had this to say to the unbelieving Jews who kept asking Him if He was the Christ: ‘Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me.” (John 10:25) and to those accusing Him of blasphemy for saying He was the Son of God: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. ” (John 10:37-38) Steven had logically been leading his hearers to the proper conclusion that Jesus was the raised up prophet. This prophet that Moses spoke of, who was understood to be the Messiah, was raised up to the right hand of God as Steven made clear at the close of his message of reason to an unreasonable audience. Steven had proven this Prophet, Jesus, had the authority to alter the customs of Moses by reason of His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. But like their rebellious fathers before them, they too would repudiate Him in their hearts. Why? Well, we know. Jesus didn’t fit their mold of a physical deliverer, so it was back to making a god or gods of their imagination who would go before them once more. They couldn’t see Him and they refused to accept what had become of Him even when Steven told them. God the Father had seen over the millennia of time, the oppression of His people (all mankind, really) by the ruler of this world, Satan. He had heard for thousands of years their groaning, so He came down as Jesus the Son to deliver them. Once the rescue operation was begun through Jesus’ victory over death, the Father raised Him to the position where He could wield the greatest benefits for His people – on Mount Zion in heavenly Jerusalem. Unfortunately, that is a position that no one can see with their physical eyes. Brethren, the reason the Israelites asked Aaron to make gods to go before them was because they “saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain”. (Ex. 32:1a) That was after only forty days and nights! What God has done for us is let us know we needn’t worry about His delay in coming back down for two reasons. 1) He lifted us up and seated us with Him, so by faith we know what has not only happened to Him, but to us as well, since He entered as a forerunner for us into the very presence of God, and 2) He isn’t coming down until the last one has been delivered. We exercise some control over that issue by hastening the coming of the day of God, by taking the gospel message, which includes Christ in Glory, to a lost and dying world. Amen.