Intro: It has been said that history repeats itself, because humans rarely learn from the mistakes of the past. For example, God declared Israel’s idolatry—her unfaithful national practices and false worship—would lead the people into exile if they did not turn back to him. Because they continued in idolatry, God’s people lived in slavery to Egypt for 400 years before their exodus. But even following their deliverance, during the 40 years in the wilderness, the people were quick to forget how idolatry cost them their freedom.
So, while Moses is being given the commandments on Mount Sinai, the people are at the base of the mountain worshiping the pagen god Molech [meaning to rule; a golden calf/bull idol served by child sacrifice] and the pagen god Rephan [meaning to sink down; the wandering star or god of Rome/sickel]. Generation after generation, they fall into idolatry. Israel spends roughly 70 years in Babylonian captivity, before God liberates them. Lastly, the nation suffers with Roman oppression, because Israel does not understand God’s plan and purpose to rid them of sin— having any god but him.
To lead us into the passage for today, the disciple, Stephen, has become a victim of lies, because he is proclaiming salvation in Jesus. Stephen is accused of blasphemy [disrespecting the Most High God] and inciting a riot among the people, so the Jewish leaders [Sanhedrin] arrest him and impose false charges against him. Instead of going to his own defense, Stephen responds to how the Torah points to Jesus the Christ as the answer for Israel’s history of idolatry/sin and God’s judgment.
When you look at our culture and national practices, as well as measure it with biblical history, is the god Molech [ruler for child sacrifice] or the god Rephan [sink down or be cut down] still being worshiped? Are we still bowing to idolatry—unfaithful national practices and false worship? If so, we haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past either.
Acts 7:35-43 NLT
35 [Stephen speaking of Moses] “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. 36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.
37 “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.’ 38 Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. 42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written,
‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
No, you carried your pagan gods— the shrine of Molech, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made to worship them. So I will send you into exile as far away as Babylon.’
Prayer: Father, thank you for the reminders your Word brings for your children so we can learn from the past. Wake us up! May your sons and daughters invite you to empower us to overcome every idolatrous temptation that would, in any way, dishonor you in Jesus’ name. Amen.