28 April 2015Acts 7:44-50
"Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands" (v. 48)
Psalm: Psalm 145:8-21
The story so far … the Apostle Stephen has been doing "great wonders and powers among the people" (Acts 6:8) which has brought him to the attention of the authorities. He is falsely accused of speaking "blasphemous words against Moses and God" and brought before the Council.
In Acts 7 we read of Stephen speech to the Council (including the high priest) in answer to the question "Are these things so?" (Acts 7:1).
Stephen begins speaking about Abraham (Acts 7:2-8) and Joseph (Acts 7:9-17), before moving onto the earlier life of Moses (Acts 7:18-34). From verse 35 the mood changes as Stephen speaks about the people rejecting Moses, querying "who made [him] a ruler and judge". Despite his actions leading them out of Egypt and the event at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20), the Israelites preferred to create a (golden) calf and offer sacrifice to the idol. Consequently, according to Stephen, "God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven" (Acts 7:42). (The hosts of heaven are the evil forces in combat with God (Ephesians 6:10-13).
And then we reach today's passage as Stephen talks about why God is to be worshipped - first in a tent (verse 44) and then in the Temple (verses 46-47). At verse 48 the Apostle turns on his audience saying "the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands", backing it up with a reference from Isaiah 66:1-2. God is transcendent and as creator it demonstrates God's own self-sufficiency - no Temple or building is required.
Try and imagine how the speech has been going down with the Council. They pride themselves on the forefathers of their faith, especially Abraham, Joseph and Moses. Then Stephen reminds them how the people (their ancestors) rejected Moses, along with the consequences. And if to rub salt into the wound, he speaks about the Temple to which the Council would be closely linked and even have responsibility for and tells them that it is not God's dwelling place.
You will need to read tomorrow's passage to discover what happens next. In the meantime ...
- How do you feel about religious building? To what extent are they a help or a hindrance to faith and to worship? Try and think of some examples.
- Stephen says that God "does not dwell in houses made with human hands". Why does God dwell for you? Where do you find and feel close to God?
- This speech forms Stephen's final words (sorry about the spoiler). If you had the last chance to talk about God and your faith, what would you say?