“Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” – Acts 7:44-53
I have sat in silence on at least one memorable occasion – the moment of quiet realization of my utter and desperate need for the grace of God, else I had no hope. The specifics of the occasion include this simple fact: I was asked a simple question three times. The same question each time – sort of like when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times (cf. John 21:15-19). The third time I was asked, I had no answer. Previously I had sought to bluff my way out of it. That third time, however, I sat exposed. Vulnerable. Open to judgment. Deficient. In need of God’s grace.
Thankfully it came in the form of a word of forgiveness and a dramatic discovery: I didn’t need to know the answer in order to be loved and accepted. I just needed to be. Vulnerable. Inadequate on my own. Open to judgment. In need of God’s grace. That actually made me accessible to others.
When we claim to have all the answers we leave little room for the grace of God to be valued, applied, or given. So it is now that Stephen has delivered his excursus on the history of Israel, the ways in which the Jewish leaders’ forefathers had broken God’s covenant, forsaken him, and sinned. The Jewish leaders are now exposed. Vulnerable. Open to judgment. Deficient. In need of God’s grace.
The only way to receive God’s grace is through humble repentance and faith. Repenting of our willfulness, erring minds and wayward hearts, we find God’s grace at hand. Forgiving. Restoring. Receiving. Redeeming. Saving.
Tomorrow we will explore the sad result of the lack of silence, humility, and repentance. They will act decisively. They will do their evil. Two other times I can recall that a word of direct confrontation and name-calling on the part of Jesus brings a deep awareness of sin. Jesus calls Peter “Satan” (Matthew 16:ou23). On another occasion Jesus says, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (Matthew 7:11).
Perhaps the next time someone throws an insult at you, calls you a bad name, or insinuates some evil against you, you might stop and be silent. Seek the grace of God, and his justification through faith, the forgiveness of sins by Jesus’ sacrifice, and the restoration of hope by his resurrection from the dead. Umbrage seldom serves us well. Silence, humility, and repentance will serve us eternally well.