Although Stephen is providing a snap shot of Israel’s history, which supports him affirming Moses, he is driving towards proving to them that Israel as a nation turned their back on their God multiple times in each generation from Egypt to the present day. Beloved I cannot repeat sufficiently that there is little difference to Israel then as the Church of God and ourselves today as the Church of God. We repeatedly tend towards our “petty gods” all too often. Before you become shocked and question this statement, consider things like lusting after the world, the flesh and the offerings of the devil. Paul puts it like this to the Church at Galatia:
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
Although this is not an exhaustive list … how often do we fall prey to these little gods? Daily we need to prove we are God’s own and living and believing to be such! Please read:
Ac 7:42 “But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.'”
1) God gave them over to idolatry. This is a legal matter in the eyes of God. Because they were so passionate about leaving God and following idol gods, God legally gave them over … or up … to do what they wanted to do … practice paganism. Often pagan religions include evil sensual activities. God had had enough of them and literally gave them over, up, away to do as they pleased.
Ac 7:43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship.
These so called deities of the shrine of Molech and the star of Rephan were the idol gods worshipped in the desert. Molech was a god of fire. Worshippers would let their living child roll down their outstretched arms into a fiery furnace as a sacrifice to Molech. He was represented by a brass bull. Rephan was a “star god” with some saying he was the god of the Planet Saturn.
2) God questions their sincerity. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?” The book of the prophets is a reference to the “Twelve Minor Prophets”, Hosea to Malachi. The reason Stephen uses the phrase “book of the prophets” is because he uses a direct quote from:
Am 5:25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.
This is quite hard hitting because it means “Did you bring me sacrifice? Yes you did … but only as if you did not. Yes you did, but you did, not only offering to the LORD, you offered to idol gods. Yes you did, but you did not always offer. Yes you did, but not with a perfect and willing heart!” That is, their religion was halfhearted … half baked. So …
(1) God “turned away” and “gave them over”. This is devastating! When God turns his back on people or a person (Israel in this case) He gives them over! We all know how dangerous it is for children to play with fire … and at times the parent gives the child over to play with fire … and they get burnt! This makes one think of:
Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
(2) When God gives people over it is because … they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles … and the net result is the degradation of their bodies one with another … God calls this perversion!
(3) Punishment follows God giving up! “Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.” This refers to the Babylonian exile. Their punishment was … because you want to be idolatrous, because you want to forsake me … I’ll send you away from the Holy City of Jerusalem, away from the Temple and sacrifices so you can’t offer blood sacrifices to have your sins dealt with … no pardon for sin and guilt … and once again you will be foreigners in a distant land where you will have to work hard for your new masters. Nothing has changed!
(a) It is a dreadful thing when God gives up on a rebellious soul! When God does there is no possibility of change or redemption.
(b) The rebel soul will follow idol gods. Because the souls was created to worship, not having God to worship, an alternative object of worship will be secured.
(c) The rebel soul will pursue sinful sensuality. Invariably the object of worship is a religion that supports and accepts sexual practices that the God of the Bible rejects.
(d) The rebel soul will surrender children to the fiery furnace. First in line will be abortion followed by neglecting to raise children in the ways of God and surrendering them to fall prey to Modernism, Secularism and Materialism with the prospect of eternal damnation. We need to see how serious Stephen is in his answer to the high priest as he shows just how rebellious Israel was as a nation.
Father of Glory, come to me Lord and cause me to walk in holiness of life, caring for my spouse and raising my children to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. Amen.