Stephen was one of the seven original “deacons” appointed in the New Testament. (Acts 6:5) When he was falsely accused of blasphemy and brought before the Sanhedrin, the response of Stephen went right to the heart of the problem of the Jews. Stephen pointed out that they never get it right the first time.
In his statement before the Sanhedrin, Stephen pointed out that the Lord told Abraham to leave his country and go to the land the Lord would show him. (Acts 7:3) Abraham instead went to Haran. After the death of his father, the Lord again told Abraham to go to the “Promised Land.” (Acts 7:4)
The saga of Joseph was reiterated by Stephen. Joseph was possibly the greatest of the children of Jacob. God allowed Joseph to be sent to Egypt as a slave, in order to save his family when the future famine came to Egypt and Canaan. When the brothers of Joseph went to Egypt to get food, they did not recognize him the first time, until he revealed himself to them the second time they visited Egypt. (Acts 7:13)
When Moses, the great leader of the Children of Israel, tried to separate two fighting Hebrews, they said, “Who made you ruler over us?” (Acts 7:27) Apparently Moses got ahead of the Lord’s timing, but Stephen then points out that Moses was the leader who brought them out of Egypt, on his second attempt at leadership. (Acts 7:35-36)
Stephen did not mention how the Lord told King Saul to totally annihilate the Amalekites and even their livestock. Saul was disobedient and allowed King Agag to live. He also took the best of the livestock for himself. (First Samuel 15:8-9) The failure of Saul later plagued the Jews living in the Persian Empire. The story is found in the Book of Esther. Haman, a descendant of Agag, through a lie obtained permission to kill all Jews. Esther revealed the plot to the king and the tables were turned. The Jews were allowed to kill their enemies, the Agagites. The second time they completed what Saul had failed to do many years before. To confirm the link with the previous command to Saul, twice the Book of Esther emphasizes that the Jews took no spoil, just as Saul had been instructed by the Lord. The second time they got it right.
The Jews at that time revered the Temple, and it is understandable, for it was a magnificent building. But Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin that our God does not live in a house made by men. (Acts 7:48) They didn’t get it right the first time, but at His Second Coming the Jews will finally recognize and acknowledge the One they should have revered.
Finally, Stephen told them that they had murdered the Righteous One, the Messiah. (Acts 7:52) He was probably going to tell them that they would get a second opportunity to correct that mistake, because Jesus was coming again, but the Sanhedrin, in their arrogance, stopped Stephen. They would not listen. The Prophet Zechariah tells us that when Jesus returns, all of Israel will mourn because of the murder of Jesus done so many years before. (Zechariah 12:10-14)
The conclusion of the story of Stephen is one of my favorite pictures in the Bible. Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, was standing to welcome Stephen to Glory. (Acts 7:55) What an act of honor for the first martyr of the Church. And may the Lord be honored forever!