THE GOD OF COVENANT LOYALTY PREPARES HIS CHOSEN DELIVERER TO DEMONSTRATE REDEMPTIVE POWER IN WORDS AND DEEDS DESPITE INITIAL REJECTION
The Providence of God is an amazing thing for us to study. God’s Providence involves His loving care over His people as He sovereignly fulfills His good purposes – including protection, provision and prospering in accordance with God’s ultimate glory. We find that God does not act as we would expect. His ways are far different than our plans and expectations. His timetable is far different than what we would prefer. He allows for the most precarious and desperate situations and yet comes through every time. The opposition and schemes of Satan can never thwart God’s providential working.
Stephen’s OT history lesson before the Sanhedrin has already covered the outworking of the Providence of God in highlighting the faith of Abraham and the wisdom of Joseph. Now he moves on to the account of Moses where he spends much more time – probably because the false charges against Stephen accused him of failure to respect both the ministry of Moses and the law which he mediated.
Acts 6 presented Stephen as a profile of a Spirit-filled servant of Jesus Christ. Now the review of Israel’s history in Acts 7 picks up on those same characteristics of the working of the Holy Spirit. We are going to be reminded of the power of Moses in words and deeds. I think for many of us the concept of being filled by the Holy Spirit has always been somewhat mystical – I mean what does this term really mean in our everyday life? This historical survey has helped to make that more concrete for me. Faith, wisdom and power are spiritual attributes that have relevance to how I live throughout the week.
The life of Moses is divided here into 3 very distinct 40 year periods.
1. Potential for leadership developed in Egypt – Moses comes to realize his very special Calling – He is the ultimate Somebody – tremendous potential
2. Postponement in the desert – allowing for intensified preparation – He is humbled in God’s post grad program of loneliness and obscurity – wrestling with the reality that apart from God’s working he is a Nobody – learning to wait upon God
3. Power in Redemptive Deliverance – but still incorporating another 40 year delay of wandering in the wilderness before entry into the promised land – functioning as a powerful Servant of God – as with Joseph, we see Moses as a type of the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ – who experiences rejection as well but demonstrates supreme power in words and deeds
We will look at the first two of these periods this week and then the third period next week.
5 LESSONS FROM GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION OF MOSES:
I. (:17-19) PROMISE THREATENED — GOD’S PROMISE OF A GREAT NATION INHERITING THE LAND THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION
A. (:17) God’s Promise Advancing – but in Egypt
“But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt,”
God’s people in bondage in Egypt for 400 years, but the time had come for God to deliver His people and have them possess the promised land; they have grown from a small group of 75 to a mass of over 2 million people – on any scale that qualifies as increasing and multiplying
Remember that God’s promise included both a people for Abraham and a promised land – bringing blessing to the whole world.
Again, we pointed out last week the emphasis on God providentially working in Egypt – away from the temple site in Jerusalem that was so highly idolized by the Sanhedrin – God cannot be restricted to some local nationalistic geography.
God has always had a very precise timetable for His redemptive purposes – far different from the spurious timetable of Harold Camping, a Christian commentator for Family Radio Worldwide who apparently has come up with yet another projected date for the second coming of Christ –
“Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21, 2011 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment,”
Don’t believe it!
But pay attention to God when He says the time of the promise is approaching ….
Gal. 4:4 “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Rom. 5:6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
B. (:18) God’s Program Challenged by New Tyrant
“until there arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph.”
Nobody around anymore to champion their cause and defend them
Promises of protection by men can be empty; like the peace treaties of today that aren’t worth the paper they are written on
But God’s memory is perfect – keeps all of His promises
C. (:19) God’s People Threatened with Extinction
“It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive.”
Ex. 1:13-14 speaks of the mistreatment of the Jews; very severe abuse and oppression; they were crying out to their God for a long time for relief; look at how the Jews have been mistreated down through history and yet still they exist as a nation — Remarkable
This enmity between the world and the people of God has its roots all the way back in the Garden of Eden where God promised “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15)
Many attempts down through history where Satan tries to exterminate the line through which the promised Messiah would come; that is why when you get to the crucial genealogies of Matthew and Luke that it is so impressive when you think through all the sovereign providential arrangements required to bring about the birth of the Messiah
Cf. King Herod who arose at time of Christ and tried to exterminate the Jewish race by killing the infant males Matt. 2:13-23 — Mary and Joseph warned to flee and take the Christ child down into Egypt, of all places
II. (:20-22a) PROTECTION PROVIDED — GOD’S CHOSEN DELIVERER PROVIDENTIALLY PROTECTED AND NURTURED
A. (:20) Protection at Birth
“And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home.”
Josephus: “strikingly handsome”
What a difficult period of time for the Hebrew Moms; how much dared they press the envelope; remember the support of the midwives who found ways to get around the command of Pharaoh – these Hebrew women give birth before we can even get there …
Moses was nursed at home for the first three months but then the danger of discovery was just too great and he was set adrift along the reeds of the Nile in his own little ark with his sister observing from nearby … what a providential deliverance God arranged!
Heb. 11:23 “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
Strong spiritual lineage
Basket made out of papyrus – perhaps from an Egyptian belief that the plant is a protection from crocodiles; talk about being exposed
B. (:21) Protection During Childhood Development
“And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son.
Lenski: Both verbs are middle: “she took him up for herself,” i.e., appropriated him, and “nourished him up for herself for her own son,” i.e., adopted him. . . Moses became a member of Pharaoh’s own family.
Remember that the mother of Moses was now paid to come in and nurse the infant Moses in the house of Pharaoh; able to impart to him the crucial Jewish catechism and establish him in the faith
What a position of privilege for the leadership preparation of Moses
What a contrast between how Moses was treated by this Egyptian royal family – taken in as one of their own – vs. how he was initially rejected by his own people
C. (:22a) Privilege of Superior Education
“And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians,”
Bock: Recounting a major figure’s birth, upbringing, and education is a frequent way to describe the person’s childhood (Acts 22:3).
Not just some dumb guy with a shepherd’s staff; very sophisticated education; good preparation for writing the Pentateuch; distinguished himself in every way; took advantage of his opportunities; was extremely responsible and diligent in his studies
Presented as a positive thing here – yet not as something you can rely on apart from faith in the wisdom of God
Bruce: Stephen expresses himself with more moderation than other Hellenistic Jews, who represent Moses as the father of all science and culture and as the founder of Egyptian civilization. [inventor of alphabetic writing; proficient in arithmetic, geometry, poetry, music, philosophy, astrology, and all branches of learning. Josephus describes him as unique in wisdom, stature and beauty]
III. (:22b) POWER DEMONSTRATED — GOD’S CHOSEN DELIVERER FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT AS EVIDENCED BY DIVINE POWER IN WORDS AND DEEDS
“and he was a man of power in words and deeds.”
strong, mighty, able, powerful
“God is able to do . . .”
Bock: (dunatos in Acts 2:22-24 [of Jesus]; 7:22; 11:17 [Peter’s inability to resist God]; 18:24 [Apollos, mighty in Scripture]; 20:16 [able to get to Jerusalem]; 25:4-5 [men of authority]; also Luke 24:19.)
So Moses providentially was well equipped and trained to be a leader.
Luke 24:19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,
2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Deut. 18:18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
Heart of our passage for today – stresses the most important characteristic of this Moses; this power will be played out before Pharaoh and his court when God sends the various plagues that lead to the deliverance of His people
Some people are all show – they talk a big game – remember the apostle Paul was accused of being mighty in words when he was absent but weak when he was present; he responded by claiming that he would be mighty in their presence as well in terms of exercising church discipline – they better get their act together
IV. (:23-28) PEOPLE BLINDED — GOD’S CHOSEN DELIVERER REJECTED BY HIS OWN PEOPLE — TWO INCIDENTS REVOLVING AROUND MOSES’ AWARENESS OF HIS UNIQUE DIVINE CALLING VS THE BLINDNESS OF GOD’S PEOPLE
A. (:23-24) Incident #1 – Intervening to Protect Hebrew from Oppressive Egyptian
“But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.”
Is Moses acting here without a call or direction from God?? (Lenski) –
The emphasis is not on Moses doing anything out of place, but on his own people rejecting his righteous efforts.
Many sermons go a different direction here – stressing that Moses was acting on his own in his murderous, rash behavior; lesson in self-will vs waiting upon God’s timing and direction for the fulfillment of your calling – here, Stephen is careful not to say anything negative about Moses – his point is that the Jewish people were wrong to fail to discern the leader that God had provided for them – next vs – verse 25 is the key
MacArthur: God put in his heart a desire to help his people, calling him, in effect, to be their deliverer. In fact, the word “visit” implies one who is looking kindly upon someone else with an intent to help them.
“Visit” = to intervene on behalf of someone – part of the promise given by Joseph to the Jews – to free us from our slavery
B. (:25) Blindness Towards God’s Program
“And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.”
You blind fools – Christ is infinitely greater than Moses – Hebrews 3:5-6 – contrast between Moses functioning as a servant but Christ as a Son over the house of God
God must open our eyes so that we might see the Savior – Matt. 11:25-26
Moses assumed that they would get it … but they did not …
Blindness in part has happened to the nation of Israel – Rom. 11:8-10, 25 – partial hardening or blindness
Reflected in the attitude of the Sanhedrin towards Jesus and now towards Stephen
Bock: The Jews of Moses’s time, however, lacked understanding about a divine call to Moses. Here is the beginning of a charge from Luke that the fathers missed their deliverer (7:52) and failed to understand what God was doing in saving. (This idea will be repeated with a double use of the same verb at the end of Acts [28:26-27], when Paul cites Isa. 6:9.) This second example of rejection of God’s messenger expands on the earlier action against Joseph. There they judged wrongly and God delivered. Here they do not even respond to a deliverance. These remarks anticipate 7:33-38 and form a typology to Jesus (also Heb. 11:24-26). Many Jews failed to recognize Jesus as Savior as well.
C. (:26-28) Incident #2 – Intervening to Encourage Peace among Jewish Brethren
“And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ “
Question of Source of Authority will be definitively answered by God
Luke 19:14 “We do not want this man to reign over us”
People do not want Christ to rule over them; they prefer autonomy – man was already living in slavery to Egyptians – did not recognize his own bondage and need for deliverance
Christ is Judge of all the earth
Bock: The more important background is Luke’s association of peace with Jesus (Luke 1:79; 2:14, 29; Acts 10:36).
Guzik: Stephen’s message is plain: “You have rejected Jesus, who was like Moses yet greater than him, and you deny that Jesus has any right to be a ruler and a judge over you.”
V. (:29) PREPARATION INTENSIFIED — GOD’S CHOSEN DELIVERER EXILED TO FORTY YEARS OF TESTING AND FURTHER PREPARATION
A. Fugitive — Savior Calling Replaced Temporarily by Self Preservation
“And at this remark Moses fled,”
reminds one of David’s life of fleeing from those pursuing him – even from Absalom his own son
B. Forgotten Failure — Humbling Exile as Alien in Foreign Land
“and became an alien in the land of Midian,”
Our existence on earth is described as a pilgrimage anyway, rather than as a place where we put down roots and take security; but how much more vulnerable when we are chased out of our home country and away from all relatives to live in obscurity and isolation
Humble job tending the flocks – a far cry from the privileged position he had enjoyed in the royal courts of Egypt
You can learn a lot by just toiling away faithfully in obscurit
Bruce: There he in turn, like his patriarchal ancestors, became “a sojourner in a foreign land” (Ex. 2:22) – a fact which he acknowledged when he called his first-born son Gershom (“a sojourner there”). But Moses’ exile was part of the divine plan; it was there in north-west Arabia, “in the wilderness of Mount Sinai,” that the angel of God appeared to him in the burning bush, and the voice of God addressed him.
C. Father — Family is Training Ground for Leadership
“where he became the father of two sons.”
Different focus – on leadership in the home, rather than leadership of the nation for now
Look at the names of his two sons
Lenski: Moses needed not only the forty years of Egyptian schooling but forty more of desert schooling in order to make him the man God wanted.
The Sanhedrin needed this historical reminder of the life of the prophet they respected supremely – Moses who proved to be powerful in words and deeds
The Sanhedrin needed to be put in their place; to be shown that they are no different than the Jewish people of old who were blinded to God’s program and to the identity of God’s providentially provided deliverer … Their response to Jesus Christ today is “Who are you to judge us and rule over us??”
Hopefully we have embraced our own sinfulness and lost condition apart from God’s Redeemer; as we gather before the Lord’s table it is in grateful submission to our Savior – the one we acknowledge as the Judge of all the earth – who has judged our sin by taking it upon himself and dying for us on the cross; and the resurrected one to whom we have submitted as our Lord and Ruler; the one who came after Moses and fulfilled the typology – proving to continue to function today in His church as supremely powerful in words and deeds
Hebrews points out how superior the ministry of Jesus is to that of Moses:
Acts 13:38 has that same emphasis “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”