Rejection and Our Constant Need

Acts 7:1-53
As today’s reading is a little longer, I have included a link to the text so that you can easily access it online. Please don’t skip this part. The idea of this blog is to get your head into the Word every day!

Have you ever had one of those conversations where you thought of really great stuff to say after you walked away? Or maybe you’re one of those people for whom words come quickly and easily, falling from your lips like leaves from a tree. Only later you replay the conversation and wish you could “unspeak” those words, but now it’s too late. We all land in both of those categories from time to time wishing we had said something or wishing we could unsay something. Either way, it’s no fun. Today we find Stephen given the opportunity to speak to those who want to end him or at the very least shut him up. But I doubt if he regrets a single words, even though it ends badly for him.

In just a few short paragraphs Stephen clearly outlines the Old Testament narrative for a group of guys who already knew it very well. He speaks of the patriarchs upon whose testimony Stephen’s accusers stand. He tells of Abraham who first received the promise from God that He was building a mighty nation from Abraham’s seed. God promises Abraham that his people would someday dwell in power on land that Abraham didn’t even own. Stephen recounts the story of Joseph who was rejected by his own brothers and then of Moses who led the people from captivity in Egypt. Moses too is rejected by his people but still faithfully serves God and carries out the mission that God sets before him. This theme of rejection by God’s people culminates in the final few verses for today.

51“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,
53you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now it’s personal. Stephen isn’t talking about Abraham, Joseph, or Moses; men who were long since dead. No, now he’s talking about the people in his audience. They too are "rejecters" just like their ancestors. But they aren’t rejecting mere men. They are rejecting the Holy Spirit Himself. His words are clear and the challenge is plain. What will they do with that challenge? (We’ll get into that tomorrow. It’s not pretty.) Stephen’s boldness must be admired. The theme of rejection runs strong throughout his message and the crowd should have seen it coming but their arrogance probably doesn’t allow that. By the time he speaks those last few sentences they are firmly in the palm of his hand and the conviction hits them in the mouth.

These words need to hit us as well. Each morning we rise with a prayer on our lips that ask God to help us stop resisting the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther called it “daily crucifying the old Adam.” Each of us is capable of rejecting God and we do so whenever we choose sin. But that same God brought forgiveness for that sin through Jesus Christ and He will help in our time of need; our constant need.