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CONTINUATION OF STEPHEN'S DISCOURSE.
ACTS vii. 17—36.
17. But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18. Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. 19. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
20. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: 21. And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words, and in deeds.
Thus silently and unobservedly the counsels of God proceed. Perhaps it was in the mind of Stephen to point this out to his countrymen. For a long series of years their forefathers, the favoured people of God, were evil entreated. "Their lives were made bitter with hard bondage." An attempt was even formed to cut off the whole race.
1 Ex. i. 14.
this very attempt proved the means through which effect was given to the divine purposes. If the command had not been issued, that no male children should be preserved alive, Moses would not have been cast out from his father's house, would have been brought up as a bondman like his father, instead of being nourished as a prince is nourished, and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
Yet Moses, thus designed of God for the deliverance of the nation, was at first rejected by his own brethren.
23. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25. For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26. And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27. But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over
28. Wilt thou kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?
29. Then fled Moses at this saying; and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Moses supposed, that his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them. So it might have been expected, that when the Messiah came, he should be recognised by those
whose Saviour he was to prove.
"The lord of the
vineyard said, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son it may be they will reverence him when they see him." And we consent to the justness of the expectation. But they did not reverence him; they did not recognise him; they did not acknowledge him to be the Son of God: and when he so revealed himself, they treated it as blasphemy, and resolved, "We will not have this man to reign over us." And so the Israelites had dealt with Moses. They thrust him away, saying, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?"3
If, however, God were to abandon men to the consequences of their hardness of heart and perverse will, who would be saved? He did not then abandon the Israelites "whom he foreknew:" whom he had destined to be "high above all nations in praise, and in name, and in honour.” 4
30. And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him [Moses] in the wilderness of Mount Sina, an angel of the Lord, in a flame of fire in a bush.
31. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32. Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
33. Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. 34. I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and 4 Deut. xxvi. 19.
2 Luke xx. 13.
3 Ex. xi. 14.
am come down to deliver them: and now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35. This Moses, whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer, by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
36. He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
It was a remarkable coircidence, that as God made that same Moses whom the people had refused, their ruler and deliverer, so he had also "made that same Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ." And throughout both the former and the latter history, we have a striking proof how much better is God to man, than man to himself. We saw the Israelites averse to the deliverance which God had prepared for them : putting away, as far as depended on themselves, his merciful designs. And is this singular? Does it belong to the Israelites alone; or is it a history, a picture, of man's heart? What is every sin that is committed, but a rejection of God's mercy, like the rejection of Christ Jesus by the Jewish nation? God offers us happiness: but it must be in the way of righteousness: and we are as unwilling to receive on those terms the happiness which he offers, as the Israelites were to be ruled by Moses, or the Jewish people to acknowledge the Messiah. And as the Israelites would never have been redeemed from Egyptian bondage, if the mercy of God had not been too great to leave them to themselves: so
will the history of every soul admitted into the heavenly kingdom, be a record of God's patience and long-suffering. "For thus saith the Lord God: I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."5
CONTINUATION OF STEPHEN'S DISCOURSE.
ACTS vii. 37-53.
37. This is that Moses which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.'
38. This is he that was in the church in the wilderness, with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers; who received the lively oracles2 to give
39. To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt;
40. Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us :
5 Isaiah xlii. 16.
1 Deut. xviii. 15-20.
The oracles or words of the living God, not such as the heathen listened to, from senseless idols.