Knowing your story well — Acts 7:1-53
It was the close of the day. The sun had dropped behind the horizon; the first stars were breaking through the darkening sky. A vacationing family was finishing a late supper. As the children were clearing the table their grandparents began to tell their story. Soon the kids were sitting around the kitchen table giving undivided attention to the tales of home life, dating and the always popular first kiss. For nearly an hour the old folks talked. For nearly an hour the young folks listened. For nearly an hour life was shared and lessons learned.
Everyone likes a good story. There’s just something about story-telling that grabs the attention and holds it. Perhaps more than any other form of communication, the story is most welcomed and best remembered. It may be for just that reason that Acts 7 is filled with a detailed saga told by a man who knew his story. The man is Stephen and his story was the story of his people at their highest and lowest points.
Take a moment and read Acts 7:1-53. It is a lengthy passage and at times you may find yourself digging through the details. But keep in mind there may be more to the story than the story and the lesson may be much more than a history lesson of Stephen’s people, the Jews.
In this study we could begin at the beginning of Stephen’s narration and walk through the facts of his account. We could wander back with him the call of Abraham as God speaks long before the patriarch leaves his home for a new place the Lord had prepared for him in Canaan (vv.2-4). We could follow the story on to Egypt hearing of Joseph and a new king that enslaved Stephen’s people before God talked to Moses (vv.5-19). From there we could venture with Moses as God delivers His people from Egyptian slavery and then gave them the “living words” (v.38) and a place in which to worship called the Tabernacle (vv.20-44).
In all these stories Stephen is telling the story of God reaching out to a people He called out to be His own. Stephen went into great detail to show his people what it meant to be God’s people. He revealed both the good and bad as he shared his, story, their story. He spoke of wonderful obedience and unthinkable disobedience - “You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship.” (v.43)
He then went on to accounts of God’s provision and protection by telling of Joshua who God used to give the Promise Land to the ones to whom He promised it. And he helped them remember their greatest king, King David who “enjoyed God’s favor” (vv.45-46) and Solomon who built God a house that though magnificent was not sufficient for “the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’” (vv.48-49)
Stories are great. People love to listen to stories. But on that day, Stephen was not giving his people a history lesson but leading them to the greater lesson, the most needed lesson. He knew his story well. It was a story of God reaching out, God calling out to His people. And sadly he knew his people as well as he knew his story. Despite all that God did for them Stephen reminded them of who they were saying, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (vv.51-53)
Yes, we could look at these aspects of Stephen’s story and learn much about God and the Jews and how not to respond to the Lord. But at the same time, Stephen’s story is not mine; I am not a Jew. Certainly I can apply the principles found in his story. God called them, God called me. God guided, provided and protected them and He has done the same thing for me. They were disobedient and rebellious and who of us cannot relate to that.
But is there something else God would have us learn from this story? What else can we take away from this account of Stephen knowing his story well? Could it be the Lord might be reminding the Christian that he or she must know his or her story well? And, could God be telling us that we need to be ready to share the story? Could the Lord be showing us that we must care enough to share no matter what it may cost us? And could it be that God, through the story of Stephen, is presenting to us what our story is?
The Christian’s story is the same as Stephen’s. Ours is the story of God calling out and reaching out to those He would call His own for God loves the world so much that He gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die for us so that we would have a chance to live with Him.
Ours is the story of God doing all that was needed so people could walk with Him and worship Him. And ours is the story that places before the world that they are accountable to God and their only choices are obedience or disobedience, accepting Christ or rejecting Christ.to live for Jesus or to crucify Jesus.
One more thing can be drawn out of Acts 7. Christians must not only know their story well, we must share our story boldly. It may not always be received but it must always be told.