Speaking the Truth-Part III
What does it mean to trust in God’s power?
Do you find it easy to trust in God’s power?
I would like to begin this morning with the reading of the passage we have been looking at in Acts, since we are picking up in the middle of a sermon that is being delivered by Stephen in defence of the claim that he has been blaspheming the Law of Moses and God. I want to begin reading in and we will go to .
1 The high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ 4 “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. 5 “But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him. 6 “But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. 7 “ ‘And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.’ 8 “And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 9 “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, 10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. 11 “Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. 12 “But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. 13 “On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. 14 “Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. 15 “And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. 16 “From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. 17 “But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until there arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. 19 “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. 20 “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. 21 “And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. 22 “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. 23 “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. 24 “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. 25 “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 “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?’ 27 “But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? 28 ‘You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ 29 “At this remark, Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. 31 “When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. 33 “But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. 34 ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’ 35 “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. 36 “This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’ 38 “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. 39 “Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40 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.’ 41 “At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 “But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? 43 ‘You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’
We looked at the first 16 verses last week and as we study them we saw Stephen provide the Truths of Trusting in God's Promise. Stephen sketches out the history of Israel and begins the sketch with Abraham the father of the nation of Israel. We looked at the truths of Calling, Confidence, Conflict and Comfort. This morning we are picking up in verse 17 and as we do we will continue to examine the truths of trusting in God and this morning we are moving into trusting in God's Power.
The Truth of Trusting in God's Power
The Truth of Trusting in God's Power
Verses 17 and 18 acts as somewhat of a transition statement. We read in 17 and 18, "But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH." In this transition Stephen runs through how God has kept His promise and verse 17 says the 'as the time of the promise was approaching'. This is a segue between what God has promised and now God acting on bringing this promise to pass. God makes promises and it is not always something we see. We have symbols and signs of His coming, for example the Israelites have the sign of circumcision. Stephen started with Abraham to make the point God keeps His promises. Simply put trusting in God's power is trusting in God's control in and through the promise He has made. Even when it doesn't seem as though it will ever come to fruition, God doesn't go back on His word. In the time since Joseph's death until the time of Moses birth the nation of Israel grew while in Egypt and all of this was a part of God's grand design and that means God was and is in control of the history of the nation of Isreal. First, we can trust in His Promise and the reason we can trust in God's Promise is because of God's Control.
Stephen now turns from trusting in the promise of God to trusting in God’s power. Did God fulfill His promise to Abraham right away? How long did it take according to Stephen? Does this mean God is not in control?
God is always in control of all things. He is Sovereign which simply means He is above all and nothing escapes His notice and nothing surprises Him. God is divinely sovereign.
John Feinberg writes this about the God's Sovereignty,
"This notion of divine sovereignty means, of course, that God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone. Whatever happens stems from his decision and control. God's sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his own purpose and wishes."
John S. Feinberg
God is in ultimate control. As Stephen is arguing his defence he is pointing out God is in control even of His own promise that he made to Abraham. In the promise he made to Abraham God told him that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land and those who held them captive would be judged and punished by God for holding them captive.
I find it very interesting how Stephen is arguing and defending the truth and in his defence he is continually pointing to the people not being in the land. He repeatedly mentions how God called Abraham and Abraham didn't take possession of the land. Then Joseph was sold to Egypt and Moses was even a sojourner from Egypt in Midian. Even when the people are not in their land God is still sovereign, he is still in control of the events that are going on. God is just as sovereign in calling Abraham, as He was in calling Joseph and Moses and even in His calling of Stephen. God being in ultimate control means He doesn't need to be relegated to only one piece of land but God is the God of the universe. He is much bigger and then the Jewish leaders are giving God credit for. Remember Stephen is a Hellenistic Jew and he is on trial for the truth of God's law and God's temple. He seems to relate well to the sojourning of the fathers of Israel and it is evident in his sermon. Never the less, God can use these people who are of the same bloodline but not born in the land.
Notice in Stephen's defence he provides a snap shot of the history of the nation of Israel in Egypt. Time had passed and a new Egyptian Dynasty had come into power and as Stephen puts it here, 'Who knew nothing about Joseph.' Then Stephen provides for us the culmination of the atrocities this Egyptian Dynasty plagued on the Israelites. He simple states in verse 19, "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." This Egyptian King took the Israelite who had lived freely in the land of Goshen a province of Egypt and as they lived there for four hundred years as God told Abraham they would, they multiplied immensely. They became a nation. They were so grand in size the king was actually afraid they would rebel and over take the Egyptians. So he put them into forced labor and when they continued to multiply he decided to come up with a plan of killing all the male babies born to the Israelites. This was for the purpose of population control. Well as it turns out God being sovereign even in all of this worked for His power and good. Because verse 20 we find a man named Moses is born. Look at what Stephen says of Moses in verse 20, "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." He was a beautiful child, and he was hidden from the king. God brought Moses into the world for a reason and a purpose in it was to fulfill God's promise and to go forth in God's power to deliver God's chosen people out of bondage. God by His own sovereign control protected Moses. Anyone who has ever had children knows it is not easy to hide a child. What is their primary means of communication, crying. So to hide him for three months must not have been easy but God made sure Moses was protected.
Stephen now turns to the life of Moses, can you see some ways God was in control even through the events of Moses’ life? (verses 19-23)
Are there times in your life when it feels as though God is not in control?
Does this drive you closer to God or farther from God?
Now without the details of how this went on to be Stephen bring us to the point of telling the religious leaders in verse 21 'And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son.' It became to much for them to continue hiding Moses, so his mother set him in a basket in the Nile and in God's control, Pharaoh's daughter, that is the daughter of the king of Egypt, the one who ordered the death of the new born Israelite babies because he was afraid they would rebel against him and his people. She is the one who found him and ironically she brought him into her home and raised him as her own. He in essence by adoption became the grandson of Pharaoh. Not only did he become the grandson of Pharaoh but he also was educated in the Egyptian schools. Look at verse 22 Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.' The Egyptians had vast learning. Their engineering was superior to anything and anyone of their time. Just look at the pyramids and the sphinx, marvels of engineering and construction, which today no one can figure out how they built them. They were advanced in medicine as well, they even knew how to emblem bodies. We have proof of this in the mummification of those found in the pyramids.
It was widely known of their wisdom and knowledge even Scripture mentions this,
30 Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
So Moses was educated by them which was not an accident, it was for God's purpose. This would all be important when Moses is Chosen by God to go to Egypt and set the people free. He will be able to communicate with them and also he would know their customs and even know their beliefs so when God said to Moses there would be a plague of darkness Moses would understand this was to show the God of Israel is more powerful then the Egyptian's sun god Ra. These plagues didn't surprise Moses because Moses by God's ultimate control was educated in these things. All of this was for God's purpose and all of this was to build Moses up to be God's chosen instrument of deliverance of God's people. Truth about God's sovereign control is so important to understand. Knowing God is in control of all things helps us to rely on Him when things are going well and when things are not going well. Trusting in God's control also helps us to look at the world and realize that all the evil in the world will one day be done away with and that those who are perpetuating this evil will one day be judged. Don't ever think there is no injustice in this world because God has provided us a Judge and Justifier in His Son Christ Jesus. Even as Stephen is speaking to these religious leaders Stephen believes this wholeheartedly that is why he is recounting this about Moses. He knows from the example of Israel in Egypt and God's control over all these events points to God fulfilling His own promise. It doesn't go the way think it goes because God is the orchestrator of events not us. Stephen stands before this council in the same way Moses was protected and delivered from death as an infant, under God's Sovereignty.
Also in God's sovereignty Moses not only knew the ways of the Egyptians he also knew his own heritage. Verse 23, "But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel." Moses was not just raised as an Egyptian. God made a point to be sure Moses would not forget his own heritage. As Pharaoh's daughter finds the infant, Moses' older sister Miriam watches. Pharaoh's daughter knows she can't raise a baby, so Miriam tells here she can find her an Israelite woman who can nurse Moses. The nursing of Moses would have taken roughly 3 to 4 years and Moses more then likely would keep a relationship with his mother and brother and sister. In this time Moses would learn his heritage just as he is learning how to read and write.So he is taught about the Egyptian gods in one place and taught about the One true God in another place. Then in verse 23 he wants to visit his kinsman. I love how it reads here 'it entered his mind' giving this idea of a foreign implant of an idea. God was driving him to visit his people. This was God's sovereign control. What happens next with Moses demonstrates what happens with man when they try to do things on their own.
Do you ever find yourself doing things on your own and not waiting on God?
Even when God is in control we find that when men do things on their own, they are clumsy.
Even though God was ultimately in control of the events of Moses’ life, how was Moses clumsy?
Do you ever find yourself doing things in hopes of moving God’s timetable along a little quicker?
We find the example of man's clumsiness in verses 24-29, Stephen continues to provide the history of Israel through Moses and he turns now to what happened when Moses visits his kinsmen. Verse 24, "And when he was one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by sticking down the Egyptian. 25 And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but did not understand." Moses obviously believed in God. He also believed he had been chosen by God to deliver God's people from oppression. Stephen says that point blank right here.
The author of Hebrews tells us this about Moses' faith,
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
Stephen is pointing to this same faith in Moses. He is pointing to Moses being taught as he was growing up that God had promised Abraham he would deliver them from the hand of their enemies. Moses took it upon himself to be the deliverer. That problem was the people rejected him as a deliverer. He was seen as an Egyptian noblemen and if they knew he was an Israelite they would have seen this as treasonous. So they turn to Moses and ask him 'who made you a ruler and judge over us?' This caused Moses to think he has sinned against God, because he thought he was called by God for this specific task. He moved in his own time not in God's time. Still God was in control of these events because Moses moves out of Egypt and while in another foreign land is were God calls him.
Also another interesting detail about this is Moses' actions, he was intending to deliver his own people from the oppression of the Egyptian. This is of course a foreshadow to what will happen. Moses will become the one God uses to deliver the nation from the oppression of Egypt but it won't be from one Egyptian but from the whole nation. The reaction of the people who Moses helped is also a foreshadow to how the entire nation of Israel will react to Moses and God when they come to deliver them from bondage. Moses is asked who made you a ruler and judge over us, which points to his eventual call to be ruler and judge over them by God.
Moses was clumsy but even more so the clumsiness of man causes man to reject what God is doing because man can't look passed their own desires and the way they think things should go. Man creates in their own mind who God is and what God will do. They even put in place their own way of how God will deliver them. Think about it, if you ask someone how to get to heaven you will get a variety of answers. Well I'm not perfect but I am basically good so God will let me in. I might have told a fib here and there but I am not a murderer so God will let me in. As long as I do X,Y,Z God won't reject me. There are even so called Christians who believe they can live whatever way they chose and at the end of the day ask for forgiveness of their sins and that is fine.