In Acts 7:30, Stephen resumed describing the calling of Moses the deliverer. At age 80, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him at Mt. Sinai. As Moses drew near to see the bush that seemed to be burning but was not consumed, the Lord spoke to him, identifying Himself as the same covenantal God of the patriarchs. In terror, Moses did not dare to look at the Angel, for he was in the presence of the Almighty. The Lord then instructed Moses to remove his sandals because His very presence made the ground holy (even though they were outside of Canaan). The Lord assured Moses that He had come down to rescue His people and that Moses would be His instrument of deliverance.
Stephen then went on to heavily emphasize THIS Moses … the same Moses who had been rejected 40 years earlier is the deliverer who led the Israelites out of Egypt, performing great miracles in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness. This same Moses had prophesied to the people of a coming prophet who would be like Moses (but greater!). Of course, Stephen was identifying Jesus as this Greater Moses. And it was this Moses who the Angel of the Lord spoke with at Mt. Sinai again, giving the words of life (God’s law) to Moses … the words of God by which the people were to live in the Promised Land.
But Moses was rejected again, thrust aside by the idolatrous Israelites. In their hearts, they desired the slavery of Egypt over the unknowns of the wilderness, and they demanded that Aaron would fashion a manmade god whose presence they could see. Together, they fashioned a golden calf and rejoiced at what their hands had accomplished. But such wicked abominable idolatry was met with swift judgment by God as He turned them over to perverted, pagan worship of the celestial bodies, divinely given over to worship the power behind the idols, the host of heaven. Stephen substantiates this statement by citing an amended form of Amos 5:25-27 to demonstrate that from Egypt to Babylon (and beyond), the Israelites demonstrated a continual pattern of long-standing idolatry. This is what led to exile.
And all the while they possessed these idolatrous hearts in the wilderness, God had kindly given them a tabernacle of testimony, a figure of His enduring presence. This provided the structure for true worship and is what should have captured their hearts. Successive generations of Israelites also carried the tabernacle into the Promised Land, and this portable (“inferior”) presence of God lasted all the way up to the days of King David! David, another deliverer upon whom God’s favor had rested, desired to provide an “improved” dwelling for the worship of the God of Jacob. But God had rejected David’s building desire, leaving this effort to be completed by his son Solomon.
But even though King Solomon had built a magnificent temple to God, God’s presence was NOT confined to such a place: it could not be! After all, as Stephen cited Isaiah 66:1-2, the transcendent presence of the infinite God does not exclusively reside in such places, nor is it conceivable that mortals could build a suitable house for the Immortal. For if God has any home on earth, it is with His people. Through solemn covenant with them, wherever God’s people are, there too is He also! But the Sanhedrin members had made the Jerusalem temple into a god of their own, another “golden calf.” And it is through these actions and disposition whereby they think they can manage or command God that they too have followed their forebears in a long line of idolaters!
Thus, these men had missed the continuing words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2b Stephen has laid down a striking offensive response to these Sanhedrin leaders. Their rejection of Jesus is the same as the generation that cast Moses aside. Will they now respond in repentance and faith?
You can listen to this teaching on Acts 7:30-50 by clicking on the following link: Stephen’s “Offensive” Defense (Part 3)