This reading comes from NASB version. “They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."
The high priest tried to confirm whether Stephen mocked the holy place and the Law. Then the response of Stephen contained the stories of the fathers. He told about Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon who built a house for Him. It would be not clear why he started to speak the stories of the fathers at the beginning, but later it would be clear. Two things I want to share with you today are from today’s passage.
First, God is omnipresence.
At that time, people seemed to believe that the holy place provided a dwelling place for God. Solomon built the temple for 7 years with 180 thousand people. The temple in Jerusalem was huge and beautiful, which seemed to be enough place for God. And people started to think that God lives in the temple in Jerusalem only. Since God was there, the Temple in Jerusalem became a holy place to people. This thought made people believe that God was inside the temple, but not outside the building of the temple.
This is also true for today. Some people believe that God is in the Sanctuary of the church only. The building of the church becomes the holy place where God lives. People also want to believe that God would not be the outside of the building of the church. Is this true? Does God live in the Sanctuary of the church building? No. God is everywhere. God is omnipresent. Yes, the King Solomon also recognized this. We can find this from his prayer after he built a magnificent temple.
"But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. (1 King 8:27, 28)”
The king Solomon recognized that the temple was not enough for God the Creator. However, He asked to God to use the building of the temple as the place for the prayers and worship to God. Stephen also emphasized this at the end of his speech.
“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: As the prophet says, "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?' (Acts 7:48-50).
Yes. It does not make sense that God dwells only in the temple in Jerusalem because God is omnipresent. God is everywhere. God is inside and also outside the building of the temple. However, people forget this. People believe that God lives in the temple, but not outside. That might be the reason why the life of people would be different when they were inside the temple or outside the temple. They did everything what they wanted outside the temple because God might dwell in the temple.
This is true for the modern church. The inside of the building is holy because God is here, however, the outside of the church building is not because God would not be there. Is this true? No. We should remember that the Most High does not live in houses made by men. He is the Creator. The sanctuary of the church building is just a special place for worship and prayers. This means that our behaviors inside and outside of the church should be the same. We can’t hide. God is omnipresent: we should remember this.
Then, why did Stephen mention Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses first although they didn’t build the houses for God? What is the common thing of these people?
They lived with God. They worshiped God at the places they lived. They had a relationship with God. God dwelled in their minds, which means that they themselves become the temple of God. This was the true of the disciples of Jesus. They were the temple of God because they lived with Jesus, the Son of God. Can we live like the disciples of Jesus? Can we live like the fathers of the Israel? Can we live the same inside and also outside of the church? God wants us to be his temple. God wants to live with us.
Second, Stephen emphasized that God did everything.
We can find some sort of pattern in Stephen’s speech, which is “God did something”. Abraham didn’t try to find God, but God appeared to Abraham. And also God promised; God spoke; God rescued; God fulfilled.
Stephen emphasized that God was the main agent of everything. So we can learn that the people mentioned here were found by God.
God should be the center of our whole life. Stephen wanted to focus on God, but not the building made by men. We should recognize that God did everything for us and the center of our life. However, the region leaders forget this. They treated the temple as the holy place, but they forget the Holy God who created everything.
Let’s take look of the people who Stephen mentioned.
Abraham was the salesman who sold the idols. He had no child to inherit his possessions, which means that He was a hopeless person. At that time, God appeared to him and promised the descendant. God gave him a hope. Abraham believed in God. Abraham lived with God. God fulfilled his promise. God blessed him fully. Abraham became the father of the Israel.
Jacob was a trickster. He deceived his father and his brother, and also his uncle. He worked for his profits. However, he became hopeless when he tried to come back home. He was scared his brother who might kill him. God appeared to him. God promised and gave a new name to him. His name became “Israel’. His personal name became the name of the country. What a blessing was! What did Jacob do? Jacob believed in God. Jacob lived with God. God glorified Jacob.
Joseph was a selfish man. His father, Jacob loved him so much. So his brothers were jealous of him. Later they sold him to Egypt as a slave. Let’s think about this. His life was completely changed. He was the son of the rich man, now he became the slaver in other country. He would be hopeless. His future was gloomy. Everything was not his intension nor his wish. However, Joseph was not disappointed for every situation he encountered because God was with him. God trained him as a leader of Egypt. Later, God glorified him. What did he do? He believed in God. He lived with God in every situation.
Do you have no hope? Do you have worry about your future?
I hope that you can see that life of people was changed when they believed in God; when they lived in God. God promised to them; God fulfilled the promises.
God will glorify us like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.
God is the light. God is hope. God is our Lord. Our God of glory will raise you up high to the sky because God lives with you. God bless you all.
Let’s pray together.