Stephen recounts Israel's history (Abraham's call)1-2"Are these charges true?" the high priest asked Stephen, who replied: "Brothers and fathers, hear what I have to say! The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham while he lived in Mesopotamia before leaving for Haran.3God told him, 'Leave your country and your people and I will show you the land to which you are to go.'4"So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and went to live in Haran, where he stayed until his father's death. Then God led him to the land where you now live.5But God did not give him any inheritance here, not even a tiny piece of land. However, He did promise him that he and his descendants would possess the whole land, even though, at the time, Abraham was childless.6This is what God promised him, 'Your descendants will live as strangers in a foreign land where they will be mistreated and live as slaves for four hundred years.7But I will punish the nation that enslaves them.' Then God added that after those four hundred years they would leave that country and come to worship Him in this place.8"It was to Abraham that God gave circumcision to be a sign of the covenant between them. As his father, Abraham had Isaac circumcised eight days after he was born. In due course Isaac became the father of Jacob, who was the father of the twelve patriarchs of our nation.9-11"But because they were jealous of Joseph, his brothers sold him and he became a slave in Egypt. However, God was with him and delivered him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom that enabled him to gain the favour of Pharaoh, Egypt's king, who made him governor of the whole of Egypt and placed him over the affairs of the palace.11"When the whole of Egypt and Canaan was struck by a famine that brought great suffering, our ancestors were facing starvation.12So on hearing there was grain in Egypt, Jacob sent his sons, our forefathers, on their first visit there.13Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers on their return visit and Pharaoh was made aware of Joseph's family and their plight.14-15So Joseph then sent for his father Jacob and all seventy-five members of his family came to live in Egypt, where in time they all died.16Their bodies were duly brought back to Shechem and buried, along with Abraham, in the tomb he had bought from Hamor's sons.17"The number of our people in Egypt had grown considerably by the time God fulfilled the promise He gave to Abraham.18By then there was a new Pharaoh ruling Egypt, who knew nothing about Joseph.19He dealt harshly with our people and oppressed them by forcing them to abandon their newborn babies so that they would die.God delivers Israel out of captivity20-21It was during this period that Moses was born; but he was no ordinary child. He was cared for in his own home for the first three months, but when his parents had to conceal him he was found by Pharaoh's daughter who brought him up as her own son.22So Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and grew to become powerful in speech and action.23"When forty years old, Moses decided to visit his natural relatives.24He witnessed a Hebrew being mistreated by an Egyptian and went to his rescue, but ended up killing the Egyptian.25Moses expected that his own people would realise that God had sent him to be their saviour; but they didn't!26When Moses saw two Israelites fighting on the next day, he again intervened wanting to bring reconciliation. 'Men, you are brothers,' he said, 'Why fight each other?'27"But the one mistreating the other pushed Moses aside saying, 'Who made you our ruler and judge?28Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?'29On hearing this Moses fled to Midian, where he lived as a foreigner and where two sons were born to him.30"When he had been there for forty years, an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush while he was in the desert near Mount Sinai.31-32This was an amazing sight and when he approached, he heard the Lord speak to him from the bush saying, 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses shook with fear and had to look away from the bush.33"Then the Lord told him, 'Take off your sandals; you are standing on holy ground.34I have seen the way My people in Egypt are being afflicted. I have heard their cries to be delivered from their oppression and I have now come to rescue them. So go now, for I am sending you back to Egypt.'35"So, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush, God sent back as their ruler and deliverer the same Moses whom the Israelites had rejected with the words, 'Who made you our ruler and judge?'36It was Moses who led them out of Egypt after performing miraculous signs at the Red Sea and during the forty years they wandered around in the wilderness.37"Moses himself told the Israelites, 'God will send you another Prophet like me, Someone from among your own people.'38It was while Moses was leading the people in the wilderness that the angel spoke to him on Mount Sinai. He could receive God's living words on behalf of the people, words that are passed on to us today.Israelites worship the golden calf39"But our forefathers refused to obey what God said through Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt.40They told Aaron to make them an idol that they could follow as their god. 'As for Moses,' they said, 'we don't know what has become of him!'41"This was the occasion when they made an idol in the form of a calf. They offered sacrifices to it and treated with honour something they had made with their own hands.42So God turned away from them and left them to worship the heavenly planets like pagans. No wonder the prophet wrote, 'O house of Israel, did you bring Me sacrifices and offerings in the desert for forty years?43No, you venerated the shrine of Molech and Rephan's star. For this I will send you into exile in Babylon.'God's temple44"Our forefathers carried the tabernacle with them in the wilderness, made to the instructions God gave Moses.45Our fathers brought this tabernacle with them when, under Joshua, they took the land from the nations they had to drive out. It remained here until David's time.46Because he enjoyed favour with God, he wanted to provide a permanent temple as God's dwelling place among them.47But it was his son, Solomon, who actually built the temple.48-49"However, the Most High God does not live in houses built with human hands. As the prophet writes, 'The Lord says, 'Heaven is My throne and earth My footstool. So what kind of house can you build for Me? How can you determine where I dwell?50Am I not the Creator of all things everywhere?'Israel resists the Holy Spirit51"You leaders are so stubborn! Your hearts are hardened and your ears deaf to the truth. You are exactly like your forefathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit!52Your fathers persecuted all the prophets; they even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. Now you have betrayed and murdered the One of whom they spoke.53Yes, you who are so proud that you received the law through angels, have disobeyed His words."The stoning of Stephen54The leaders were furious when they heard what Stephen said and shouted abuse at him.55But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and as he looked up to heaven he saw God's glory, with Jesus standing at God's right hand in the place of honour.56He said: "Look, I see heaven open and Jesus, the Son of Man, standing at God's right hand."57The Jewish leaders covered their ears when they heard this and rushed at Stephen, yelling abuse at him.58They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The officials took their coats off and laid them at the feet of a young man called Saul.59As they stoned him, Stephen prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."60He fell on his knees and shouted: "Lord do not condemn them for this sin." When he had said this he died peacefully.
Scripture quoted by permission. The passage above is taken from THE TRUTH VERSION. Copyright © 2009 by Colin Urquhart. All rights reserved worldwide. (The Truth New Testament)