Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 18
ACTS CHAPTERS 6,7 & 8
It thrills us to receive letters telling us we are teaching on a level that almost anyone can comprehend. We always try to teach on a common man level. I believe that is the way The Lord wants us teach. We trust as you study with us, The Lord will bless you and hearts will be opened. We especially appeal to those who have never been saved, that you might understand that the Gospel is so simple (I Corinthians 15:1-4), and yet so complex that I’ll never understand it all (nor will any other human being). In Acts Chapter 6, Stephen’s brought before the religious leaders of Israel. I have stressed, contrary to tradition, that the early Chapters of Acts are still to the Nation of Israel – no mention of Gentiles. The language is Jewish, everything is there in Jerusalem.
“And all that sat in the council (this religious leadership), looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
They could see there was something beyond the natural here. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit, as is mentioned several times in Chapter 6 and 7. Now as you come into Chapter 7, the Jews had many accusations they had put forth against Stephen.
“THEN Said the high priest, `Are these things so?'”
“And he (Stephen) said, `Men, brethren, and fathers (again, analyze those three words, there is not room for a Gentile here. Stephen was referring to the Nation of Israel), hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran (before he moved from Ur),'”
Stephen is saying, by inspiration, that God actually appeared to Abraham in a form that he could see with his eye. Back in Genesis 12:1 it says, “NOW the LORD had said unto Abram,…” It doesn’t clarify it like it does here. We now see that God not only spoke to Abram, but He appeared to him in a human form which we call a “Theophany.” Chapter 7 is a beautiful review of Israel’s history. Beginning with Abraham, Stephen keeps building and building, as we have tried to do coming through the Old Testament; how that God was constantly unfolding and revealing, and preparing the Nation of Israel for the coming of their King, Messiah, and Redeemer. Stephen starts with Abraham and shows how he came out of the land of the Chaldeans in verse 4.
“Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Charran (Haran): and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.” Now verse 6:
“And God spake on this wise, `That his seed (his offspring, the coming generations) should sojourn in a strange land (Egypt): and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years (this is all back in Genesis 15), And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.'”
Let’s go to Genesis Chapter 26 and 46 so we will know what Stephen is talking about. All of these things are fundamental to our understanding of even the New Testament. That’s why I spent as much time in Genesis as I did when we first started this Through the Bible study. If folks don’t understand Genesis, they will never understand the Gospel of Grace. In Genesis 26:1 God has made this Covenant agreement with Abraham, and now He is conferring it to Isaac, the true son of promise.
“AND there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar (down on the border between Canaan and Egypt) And the LORD appeared unto him (Isaac), and said, `Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of (the Promised Land. Everything connected with Canaan was based on the Promise of God): Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy father (the Abrahamic Covenant); And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries (or tribes living in Canaan), and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice,…'”
In Chapter 46, Joseph is in Egypt. He has all kinds of food and grain stored up during this famine that was covering that region of the world. Jacob has been invited together with the sons and the rest of the family to come to Egypt, and take part in all the food that had been supplied. Here, The Lord is talking to Jacob:
“And God spake unto Israel (Jacob) in the visions of the night, and said, `Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, `Here am I.’ And he said, `I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt for I will there make of thee a great nation:'”
God had told Abraham and Isaac to stay in the land of promise and He would bless them. But now in a future generation, it’s time for the Nation of Israel to explode with population. God had told Abraham that would occur in Egypt. Now God comes back to Jacob and tells him to not fear going down into Egypt. Here is what I want folks to understand. This statement tells us where the Nation of Israel began to bloom. It was in Egypt. You see that in the last part of verse 3. Up until now the Nation of Israel is composed only of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob comes back with the twelve sons and their children, but that’s still not much of a nation is it? When they end up in Egypt, in those years of slavery (beginning when they go in under Jacob with about 75 people), they will come out under Moses with several million people. So note that Israel became a Nation of People down in Egypt. Back to Acts Chapter 7:
“And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place (that’s Canaan). And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.”
I’m taking this verse by verse as we can learn some things from the Old Testament to prove some things in the New Testament.
“Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance (you know the story). But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt he sent out our fathers first. Ten of the sons. In verse 13 is a statement you need to underline. “And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.”
Let’s Go back to Genesis once again. You all know the account of how Joseph, when he was wearing that coat of many colors, would share his dreams with his older brothers and how it would infuriate them, that they would have to bow down to him. And then he had another dream that made it even worse. A dream where he saw eleven stars, with the sun and moon. And they also bowed to Joseph. Now it’s coming to fruition. I don’t put any stock in dreams today. I had someone ask me the other night if I knew anything connected with believing what dreams say. I said none whatsoever. If it were true, I’d be in a mental institution – I think we all would. Don’t tie anything to dreams. But back here in the Old Testament economy, God did speak through dreams – no doubt about it.
“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, `Why do ye look one upon another?’ And he said, `Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.'” And again you know the story. They come before Joseph in verse 8:
“And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.”
Just as soon as those ten men stepped into his presence, Joseph immediately knew who they were. But did they know him? No! Now what’s the analogy? Christ at His first coming. The Lord knew Israel from their very beginning. He presented Himself to them in language that was clear as day. But did they recognize Him? No! And this is exactly what Stephen is driving home. Now let’s read the second event in Chapter 45. The brothers have come back the second time to refill their sacks with grain.
“THEN Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, `Cause every man to go out from me (the Egyptians).’ And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself know unto his brethren (see that? Look at the results). And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, `I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?’ And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, `Come near to me, I pray you.’ And they came near. And he said, `I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.'” Down to verse 15:
“Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.”
You have an emotional reunion here. And I mean it was emotional. When after all these years they are finally brought back together. What’s the analogy? Before we go back to the Book of Acts let’s stop at the Book of Zechariah. At His first advent, Israel didn’t recognize Jesus as their Messiah, but He knew them. And that analogy draws all the way through Acts Chapter 7. And they said, “Away with Him, we will not have Him rule over us.” So He went back to glory, sat down at the Father’s right hand. But He’s coming again to the Nation of Israel, whether they believe it or not. He’s coming again! There will be that same emotional reunion when Israel recognizes their Messiah. I was reading in the Jerusalem Post that the ex-mayor, who is now in his eighties, said the first thing he was going to ask The Messiah when He comes is, “Have you been to Jerusalem before?” And that’s their hang up; they can’t recognize that He has been here before. They know He’s coming, but they can’t see it as a second event. Well, here in the Book of Zechariah we see the emotional turn of events when He will return.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced (a reference of the Crucifixion), and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem,… And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;”
I don’t think this is a mourning of grief, but a tearful mourning of reunion that they have their Messiah. Another is in Chapter 13:
“And one (the house of Israel) shall say unto him, `What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he shall answer, `Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends,'” This is Old Testament.
Back to Acts Chapter 7. Stephen is stressing the fact that at Christ’s first Advent they didn’t know Who He was. So far as Israel is concerned, it’s a good thing they didn’t. Because had they performed the rejection that they did, knowing Who He was, then God would have had to destroy the nation. There wouldn’t have been any excuse. But even as Christ hung on the Cross, one of those seven statements that He made on the Cross was, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And as Stephen is stoned, he, too, will say the same thing. Forgive them because of their ignorance. I always tell my class people, that everything rests on the Old Testament economy. Back in Israel’s history if someone was killed by accident, that person that killed could flee to a city of refuge. If he had done the deed through ignorance then he could tell his situation to the city fathers. If the city fathers maintained he was innocent of doing anything intentional, then he was set free to return home. He was not guilty if he did what he did through total ignorance. That’s the backdrop for Israel’s response to their Messiah. Had they have known Who He was, and then demanded His Crucifixion, they would have been put to death like a common murderer. But they escaped that because they did not know what they did. Keep that in mind. A verse I usually associate with that thought is found in I Corinthians Chapter 2:
I Corinthians 2:7,8
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory (Paul is speaking of his own ministry): Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it (Who He was), they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” They just didn’t know, so The Lord could rightfully say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And it is the same way when they kill Stephen. Stephen will say the same thing. Now back to Acts 7:13:
“And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem (in Israel), and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
Now this is interesting because this is the very same burial site that is a holy site in Israel today for the Moslems as well as the Jews. And it’s the very same burial cave where a Jewish doctor a few months back killed all of the Moslems in their time of prayer. It’s the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Rebecca and others. Abraham bought it from the Canaanites and Jacob had to pay for it again, but nevertheless, this is the same burial place that is still held in reverence by the Jews and the Moslems. Now verse 17:
“But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.