“I see heaven open!”
Scripture reading for May 14th: Acts 7
One of the new ‘deacons’ was Stephen, a man “full of God’s grace and power.” (Acts 6:8) Stephen served the widows but also used the anointing he received to do great wonders and miraculous signs! This caused controversy among the Jews and Stephen began to fall under persecution and false accusations. Finally, they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin on false charges of blasphemy against Moses and God. (Acts 6:11-14)
As Stephen stood before this hostile group of Jewish leaders, they noticed that “his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) They asked him if the charges against him were true and as he opened his mouth to speak, he presented an anointed teaching about God’s grace to the Israelites to lead them and speak to them through the Patriarchs and Moses. He told how the Israelites had rejected Moses the first time questioning his authority! They also rejected him again when they refused to obey him at Mt. Sinai. Stephen told how God had judged them for their idolatry and eventually sent them to Babylon. (Acts 7:39-43)
Stephen’s final point from his explanation concerned those present to accuse him falsely: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? The even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him–. . .” (Acts 7:51-52) This speaking of truth made the crowd furious and they gnashed their teeth at him. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. . .” (Acts 7:55) As they rushed him and began to stone him, Stephen gave his spirit to the Lord and prayed for their forgiveness!