Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 9 2013 - Acts 7:1-29 – On trial for your life

Stephen is on trial for his life. Witnesses have given a garbled and distorted version of what he has been teaching the people: he said that Jesus would destroy the Temple and overthrow the customs which they have received from Moses. “Is this what you have been saying?” asks the High Priest.

How would you have responded? Stephen’s response is to tell a story. He tells the story of Israel, beginning with Abraham. It’s a story of God’s intervention in human history. God called Abraham to leave his land and people, promising him a better land and a more numerous people. God’s hand was on the life of Joseph so that he became second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and was able to save the Israelites from famine. God raised up Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, leading them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. God always takes the initiative; he takes people by surprise as he comes in grace to promise, to act and to save.

There is also, however, a counter-plot running through this same Old Testament story. The Israelites themselves have all too often been slow to respond to what God is doing and ready to reject the very ones whom God is raising up to save them. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, yet it was through Joseph in Egypt that the children of Israel were saved from extinction. Moses was rejected by his fellow Israelites when he first sought to save them from oppression in Egypt. Yet it was this rejection that drove him out into the desert where God met him and called him to lead them out of slavery.

Stephen wants his hearers to see the big picture. In Jesus, God is fulfilling his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God has intervened again in human history, now in the person of Jesus Christ, to deliver his people from slavery and lead them into their promised inheritance. But, Steven tells his hearers, they have acted like their forefathers in rejecting the one whom God has raised up as their Saviour – they have disowned the work of God.

When asked for the reason for the hope that is in you, what story do you tell? Do you tell God’s big story beginning with Adam and Abraham, centring in Jesus and leading to blessing upon all nations and the transformation of all creation? Do you tell this story because it is your story – and the story of the world in which both you and your hearers must live? This is the story that shapes the world.

And this is the story through which we understand ourselves and answer the big questions in life; “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose of life?” The world is full of competing stories, but none other is like this one. This story encompasses the whole of creation and stretches from eternity to eternity. It provides us with hope, purpose and direction, for the end of the story has already broken into the middle of history with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – the conclusion is beyond doubt.

Father God, thank you that, through all the twists and turns of human history – despite human opposition and through human opposition – you have been working out your purpose to save a people for yourself. Thank you for Jesus, the heart of your saving story. Thank you that in him you became part of our story and through him we have become part of your story. Keep us from rebellion against you and your purposes; help us to live and tell the story no matter whether it is received with joy or rejected and opposed.

Peter Misselbrook