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Stephen continues to spin the links in the chain. Now he comes to Moses.

“In just such a time Moses was born, a most beautiful baby. He was hidden at home for three months. When he could be hidden no longer, he was put outside—and immediately rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who mothered him as her own son. Moses was educated in the best schools in Egypt. He was equally impressive as a thinker and an athlete…” Acts 7:20-22 (The Message)

Stephen has been accussed of inventing a new religion, something disconnected from the heritage of the Hebrews. He is taking pains to show his accusers the opposite, that the faith he has been sharing so enthusiastically has its roots and branches in the faith of the Patriachs.

How relevant our faith is to contemporary culture is a big issue in the present day of Christianity. I want to say that how connected to the heritage of Christianity is important too. Being grounded in the past with no relevance to the present is not good but being completely grounded in the present with no recognition of the past is equally harmful. There is a spiritual connectedness within the faith of Christ and to neglect the sense of continuity for the sake of impacting culture isn’t wise. Letting the flow of the plan of God through history connect with our desire to communicate faith today is the way to stay connected.

May we keep our eyes of faith and our hearts for the impact of the good news in people’s lives rooted in the heritage of our faith as well as the present. Amen.

Hindsight is a great leveller.

“When the four hundred years were nearly up, the time God promised Abraham for deliverance, the population of our people in Egypt had become very large. And there was now a king over Egypt who had never heard of Joseph. He exploited our race mercilessly. He went so far as forcing us to abandon our newborn infants, exposing them to the elements to die a cruel death. …” Acts 7:17-19 (The Message) 

Over the four hundred years the Hebrews were in Egypt, during the generations that endured such cruelty, God’s promise to Abraham wasn’t known! The writting of the narrative, as received by the Jewish people as Scripture, happened during Moses’ lifetime. It is likely that this story was maintained as oral tradition but not as common knowledge. So, few people would have had the hope of freedom from slavery and most would have bemoaned their lot wondering where God was in their suffering.

The fact that we have mystery in the plan of God that isn’t seen until the appropriate time is hard but is a good thing. If we simply knew what time and when God would step in, and every detail of the outcome, then that would stop us truly living. Life is about accepting the challenges and experiencing the diversity of good and bad that make-up its tapestry. I know that some people, Christian and non, are quick to blame God for any and every difficulty they face, or grief that besets them. This is not faith though, and faith isn’t faith until it is all you are holding on to. Faith in the goodness of God sometimes has to ride in the face of what is seen and trust inwardly in the mystery of what is not yet known.

So, may we hold to the mystery and have faith in the goodness of God despite a world that sometimes crushes in seeking to contradict our faith, and may we see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Amen.

The imagery of the Bible has as much to say to us as the narrative.

On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money. Acts 7:13-16 (The Message)

It was the second time Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt and asked him for help that Joseph disclosed to them who he was. We know that he made them suffer through imprisoning his sibling who he had made sure they would bring with them that time. This is not the most important image that Stephen is trying to get across though, it is the image of the faithfulness of God in restoring their remains to the tomb of Abraham. Between these events there is four hundred years but Stephen skates over the period of slavery in order to bring the listener to realize that God did what he promised Abraham. After four hundred years of slavery God looked favorably on his people and brought them out of the land of their slavery.

Today we want everything now, four minutes, never mind four hundred years, is too long to wait. What we need to grasp is that the faithfulness of God is to give greatest consideration to the big picture. It isn’t that the small person doesn’t matter, quite the contrary, God cares intimately about each person and every thing he has made. What we need to see is that Almighty God has a plan for the big picture, to which he is equally faithful. While contemporary religion encourages us to focus in on our own needs, the real gospel is about a God who has the best interest of all tribes and nations at heart too.

May we be focused on the big picture of the faithfulness of God and not consumed by the small picture of our own wants and needs. Amen.

Anyone that knows the story of Joseph knows that Pharoah’s good will was hard won!

and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. Acts 7:10-11 (The Message)

It isn’t Stephen’s intention to preach a message about Joseph and, so, he skates over the journey Joseph made to gain Pharoah’s goodwill. It is common knowledge, because of the popularization of the story through the musical ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, that Joseph was mistreated, enslaved, falsely accussed, and imprisoned,  on the journey.

Proverbs 16:7 says, When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.’ and St. Paul writes, ‘ If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ Often doing so will mean that there will be challenge, disquiet, or discomfort on our own part to do so because following God’s path is selfless and sacrificial. Living at peace with people often means stretching the spiritual in our own lives which isn’t about self-fulfliment but about self negation.

May the life of sacrifice and love be the first place I turn to in seeking to live at peace with others. Let me not seek influence unless it is without recourse to my self but only giving glory to Jesus. Amen.

If our commitment to God took such drastic steps, how quick might we be to say we would follow?

“Then he made a covenant with him and signed it in Abraham’s flesh by circumcision. When Abraham had his son Isaac, within eight days he reproduced the sign of circumcision in him. Isaac became father of Jacob, and Jacob father of twelve ‘fathers,’ each faithfully passing on the covenant sign. Acts 7:8 (The Message)

Serious stuff and, I suppose if you had been brought up knowing nothing else and had been circumcised before you knew it, not a big deal. Abraham, however, was a grown man. The sign of covenant made in his flesh would have been raw and painful. This is no deal of conveniance, no easy fix for the future. Through the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham through circumcision he was saying that there is no commitment greater nor agreement graver.

The new covenant, in Jesus’ blood is no less significant or demanding. Belief in Jesus, and the benefits this gives now and in eternity, takes grave commitment to follow. The cost is paid in his sacrifice but the cost of discipleship can not be under emphasized. For many today saying they are Christian is soley about being a decent human being. The cost of discipleship is not something etherial and other worldly, moral and natural, though. It is a willingness to commit flesh and blood to Christ as willingly as he commited flesh and blood for us.

May the value of Christ’s blood be known in our commitment to following his way today and may we find eternal meaning in the cost required of us as we follow him. Amen.

I am not sure how excited you would get with this promise?

“So he left the country of the Chaldees and moved to Haran. After the death of his father, he immigrated to this country where you now live, but God gave him nothing, not so much as a foothold. He did promise to give the country to him and his son later on, even though Abraham had no son at the time. God let him know that his offspring would move to an alien country where they would be enslaved and brutalized for four hundred years. ‘But,’ God said, ‘I will step in and take care of those slaveholders and bring my people out so they can worship me in this place.’

So God promises Abraham that, if he leaves the land of his fore fathers, his descendents will spend four hundred years in slavery to th Egyptians. This is not the kind of promise to inspire enthusiasm in the hearer. God wants you to let go of every bit of security and launch off into a future where there is a certainty of suffering for your descendents! I know this would not go down at all well in the self-centred culture of our society, and much of our religion, today. Abraham, however, was a different cut and, we can see by Stephen’s recitation, he too was willing to give all for God.

Enslavement to the Egyptians was foreboading but not the main part of the promise. The main part of the promise, the part to instill conficence and faith in the purposes of God, was that he would step in and take care of them. In doing this G0d would fulfil his purpose of bringing a worshipping people into the promise of the land and, eventually, into the knowledge of the Saviour. The promise of delivery from being enslaved to the Egyptians foreshadowed a great promise and a greater deliver in Jesus Christ.

Should we fear any suffering to come or should be better trust in the promise of God in Jesus Christ ‘.And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

May the God of hope, who leads us through the sufferings of this world and the hardships of the desert wildness, fill our hearts with the love of God that gives all and expects only the faithfulness of God in return. Amen.

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