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The Tenth Temptation of God

21 Dec
Tempting God - 2

from Google Images

Whether or not Stephen was concluding his address to the Sanhedrin is not specifically stated in the text. However, it seems by the time he stated that the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, quoting Isaiah the prophet, Stephen seems to react to something the crowd said or did, because in Acts 7:51 he complains his audience is reacting just as their fathers had in the past.

After this Stephen was much more direct and to the point. No longer was he merely using prophetic nuance to make his case, but he told the high council exactly what was what. He said they were stiff-necked, uncircumcised of heart and ear, always resisting God’s Holy Spirit, **just as** their fathers had done. JUST AS… the fathers were responsible for all the deaths of the prophets sent to Jerusalem, so too, they were responsible for killing the Righteous One, whose coming the prophets foretold. Although they had received the Law through the agency of fire, light, darkness, clouds, and thick darkness, which evidenced God’s Presence, they had not kept the Law of God (vv.51-53).

The response was immediate and unfavorable (v.54). Stephen looked to the heavens and told his abductors he saw Jesus in his Messianic Throne—standing at the right hand of God (vv.55-56), but they would not listen. Covering their ears (v.57), they seized him and took him outside the city gates and stoned him while Stephen called out to Jesus to receive his spirit (v.59) and forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60; cf. Luke 23:34). Thus, the first to shed his blood in the name of Jesus, Stephen emulated his Lord in requesting forgiveness for his persecutors. Not only so, but Jesus’ own prayer fulfilled Moses’ request to God to forgive his brethren (Numbers 14:13-19), when God was ready to kill them and raise up a nation through Moses.

From time to time we live through very significant moments that not only define our lives, but often are significant enough to change the course of the lives of others. Moses’ prayer to God at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 14:13-19) was such a moment. He preserved Israel. Jesus’ crucifixion was such a moment, because he literally exchanged what God would have done with Moses, had he been willing (Numbers 14:11-12), namely that God could have created a greater race through Jesus, but in his death Jesus / God showed us he was not interested in creating a greater race. He loves us and in death committed himself to us and only us.

Stephen’s death was also such a moment. The shedding of blood in Jesus’ name shows that the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9) has been fulfilled. He was killed 3 ½ years after the resurrection of Jesus (Revelation 12:14, 17). What occurred at the death of Stephen was a fulfillment in the life of Moses and the children of Israel after leaving Egypt. They tested the Lord their God ten times (Numbers 14:22). From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the Scriptures record he was tested personally or through his disciples ten times at Jerusalem. The first was in John 2 where he cleansed the Temple for the first time. The rulers asked for a sign (John 2:18). He came to Jerusalem a second time in John 5 and healed a man on the Sabbath and the rulers persecuted him and sought his life. The third time Jesus is shown in Jerusalem is in John 9 where he healed a man born blind, but rather than believe Jesus was the Messiah, the rulers cast the blind man out (John 9:34) implying excommunication (cf. John 9:22). The fourth time the Scriptures put Jesus in Jerusalem was the week of his crucifixion and he cast the marketers out of the Temple three working days in a row, and when the Jewish authorities finally asked by what authority he acted as he did (Matthew 21:23), he replied in a parable. When they perceived he spoke of them, rather than believe, they desired to kill him (Matthew 21:45-46). Later, leaders of the different sects questioned Jesus to test him for the fifth time (Matthew 22:15-18, 23-28, 34-36), but when it was agreed that he answered everyone well (Mark 12:28, 32-34), they still would not believe (Luke 20:40).

The sixth time Jesus was tested was while he hung on the cross. The chief priests mocked him, implying God abandoned him, but when Jesus quoted a hymn to God (Psalm 22) by uttering its first phrase: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, implying the message of the whole Psalm—resurrection, the Jewish leaders pretended that Jesus was calling for Elijah in order to avert attention from the Psalm that depicted Jesus’ sufferings, death and resurrection. The seventh and final time the Jews showed their unbelief in Jesus and tempted God in doing so was after the resurrection, when the guards over the tomb confessed that Jesus had resurrected, and the rulers bribed them to lie (Matthew 28:2-4, 11-15).

The eighth, ninth and tenth times the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem showed they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah and tempted God in doing so was after the healing of the man born lame (Acts 3, 4), after the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and after Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin. The rulers refused to believe the power of God working through Jesus to heal his people (Acts 4), the knowledge of God working through Jesus to judge his people (Acts 5), and the inspiration of God working through Jesus to confront his people with the truth (Acts 7).

These are the ten temptations with which the Jewish authorities tested God through Jesus and Jesus’ disciples. Just as was the case of Moses at Kadesh, God would now not fulfill the promises through the Messiah at this time—at the beginning of the Messianic Age. Israel remained in the wilderness for a full 40 years until all the unbelievers died. The death of Stephen marked the setting up of the abomination that made desolate, namely, the blasphemy that God MUST dwell in the Temple at Jerusalem—otherwise, Stephen merely told the truth everyone believed. The Jewish rulers claimed by killing Stephen that if anyone could destroy the Temple, the name of God would perish from his people—therefore the Temple that Herod built could not be destroyed. This is the argument, and this is why the Jews could not receive their Messiah who dwells in the Temple of his people, walking with them wherever they go. What occurred in Kadesh, after the Israelites returned from viewing the Promised Land and gave a bad report, occurred also in Jerusalem during the session of the high council of the Jews, showing they would not believe and killed Stephen even though all he did was quote the word of God.

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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Kingdom of God

 

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