Thursday, July 12, 2018
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO Acts ~ Chapters 7 & 8
The high priest asked, ‘These charges are true, are they not?’
But Stephen answered, “Men, brothers and fathers, listen! When our father Abraham was in Mesopotamia, before he had moved to Haran, the God of glory already appeared to him. And he said to him, ‘Leave this, your native land and your kinsfolk, and go to a land that I shall show you.’ Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans and went to Haran to live. And after his father had died, he was led to this land where you now dwell. Yet Elohei did not give him any ownership in the land – no, not even a foot of ground. But Elohei promised that the Land should be his, and that it should belong to his children and children’s children after him, even though as yet he has no child. This is what Elohei said, ‘Your posterity will be strangers in a strange land where they will live four hundred years, will be made slaves and cruelly treated. But,’ said Elohei, ‘I will pass judgement on the nation that holds tem in bondage, after which they will be freed and will worship Me in this place’.
Elohei also gave him the covenant of circumcision, and so when he had a son, Isaac, he circumcised him on the 8th day. And so Isaac did as the father of Jacob, and Jacob to his 12 sons, the Patriarchs.
These brothers, because of envy against Joseph, sold him to the Egyptians. But Elohei was with him. He rescued him from all his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him governor over all Egypt and even over the king’s whole household. Then a famine came upon all the land of Egypt, and Canaan also, with terrible hardships, so that our fathers could not find food. But Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, so he sent our fathers there on their first errand. On the second visit, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s origin was made known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent word to his father Jacob and invited him and all his relatives – numbering 75 souls. And Jacob moved down to Egypt and died there, as did also our fathers. They were brought back to Shechem, and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
When the time of the promise Elohei had given Abraham drew near to fulfillment, the people had increased and were getting more and more numerous in Egypt. Then there came a power in Egypt a king who knew nothing about Joseph. He was treacherous toward our people and oppressed our fathers. He forced them to expose their infants so that they would die. At that time, Moshe was born; and he was beautiful in Elohei’s sight. For 3 months he was nursed in his father’s house. When he was found in the reeds, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And so Moshe was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he became a great man, both in words and deeds. When he had reached the age of 40 the idea came to him to visit his people, the sons of Israel. He saw one of them had been wronged, and defended the oppressed man by killing the Egyptian. He supposed that his people would understand that Elohei would give them freedom by his help, but they did not understand.
On the following day he came upon some of them quarreling, and he urged them to keep the peace. He said to them, ‘Sirs, you are brothers. Why do you injure each other?’ Then the one who was beating his neighbor pushed him aside and said, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge? Do you wish to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At that retort, Moshe fled to Midian, where he lived as an exile and where 2 sons were born to him. 40 years came and went; then an angel appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. On seeing this sight Moshe was full of wonder. He had come up closer to examine it, when he heard the voice of Adonai speaking to him, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob”. At this, Moshe began to tremble, and he did not dare to look further. Then Adonai said to him, “Unfasten your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground. I have long seen the oppression of My People in Egypt, and I have heard their groans. Now I have come down to take them out. Come now, I will send you to Egypt”. This Moshe they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge?’ This same man Elohei made a ruler and liberator by the hand of Adonai who appeared to him in the bush. Yes, this man led them out, after working miracles and signs both in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea, as well as in the desert for 40 years. This is the Moshe who said to the sons of Israel, “Adonai will raise up from among your brothers a prophet just as He appointed me”. This is the man who was with the congregation in the wilderness and was the go-between between Adonai Who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and our fathers. He also received the living Word of Elohei to be handed down to us.
But our fathers would not listen to him. On the contrary, they ignored him, while their hearts hungered for Egypt. To Aaron they said, ‘Make us gods to go before us. As for this Moshe who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we have no idea as to what happened to him’. In those days they made a golden calf, and to this idol they offered sacrifices, and then were in great glee over their own handiwork. Consequently Elohei abandoned them and let them worship the sun, moon and stars. This is referred to in the Book of the prophets, as follows, “Oh House of Israel, was it to Me that you offered slain beasts and other sacrifices those 40 years in the wilderness? No. You set up the tabernacle to moloch, and worshipped the star of your god remphan, and you made images so as to worship them. But I will carry you away beyond Babylon” (Amos 5:25-27).
Our fathers had a tent of witness in the wilderness. It was made according to the model Moshe had seen, and as ordered by Elohei Who had spoken to him. Our fathers who in turn inherited it under Joshua took it with them when they dispossessed the tribes that Elohei drove out before them. They used it until the time of David. He found favor with Elohei wanted to build a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. Solomon, however, was the one who built the Temple for him. Still, the Most High does not dwell in temples made by hands. The prophet has said as much: “Heaven is my home, and the earth is my footstool. What house will you build for Me?” says Adonai. Or, “What is the place of MY rest? Did not My hands make all these things?” (Isaiah 66:1 & 2).
Oh you stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears! It is you who always resist The Ruach. Your fathers did it, and so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? Did they not also kill those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One? And now you yourselves have become His betrayers and murderers. You received the law by the help of angels, yet you have not kept it.”
As they listened to Stephen, they became infuriated and gnashed their teeth at him. But he was filled with The Ruach and, gazing up into Heaven, he saw the glory of Elohei and Yeshua standing at the right hand of Elohim. And he said, “Ah, I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of Elohim!” At this, they shouted with all their might, held their ears and all together rushed upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning Stephen, he was praying, “Adonai Yeshua,” he said, “receive my spirit!” And finally, kneeling down, he prayed with a loud voice, “Adonai, do not count this sin against them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep (died).”
Saul approved of the stoning of Stephen. And that very day a great persecution began against the Church in Jerusalem, the members of which, with the exception of the Apostles, were being driven into various parts of Judea and Samaria. Pious men buried Stephen and they sorrowed much over him. Saul, meanwhile, was prosecuting the Church. He went from house to house, dragging men and women out and committing them to prison. But those who had taken flight preached the Word as they went from place to place.
Philip went down to a town in Samaria and preached Christ to them there. The people there all paid attention to what Philip said, both when they listened to him and when they saw the miracles he did. There were many who had unclean spirits, and these left them, crying out with a loud voice, and many suffering from paralysis and lameness were healed. There was great joy in that town.
A man by the name of Simon had previously practiced magic in that place. He had amazed the people of Samaria, both by his magic arts and his claim to be a man of note. Everyone, therefore, from the least to the greatest, hung upon his words and they said, ‘This man is the great power of God’. And they thought a great deal of him because he had for so long thrilled them with his skill at magic. But when Philip came, telling the Good News of the Kingdom of Elohei and the Name of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, they believed and were baptized, both me and women. Even Simon believed and was baptized, after which he stayed by Philip faithfully, being especially interested in the remarkable signs and miracles he was continually performing.
When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of Elohei, they sent to them Simon Peter and John, who, when they came down there, prayed for them that they might also receive The Ruach, for He had not as yet come upon any of them. They had been baptized only in the Name of Adonai Yeshua. So they laid hands on them, and they received The Ruach.
When Simon saw that The Ruach was given through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands, he offered them money. He said, ‘Let me also have this power to give The Ruach to anyone on whom I lay my hands’. “May your money perish with you”, Simon Peter said to him, “for thinking that Elohei’s gift can be bought with it! You have no part, no share in these things, for your heart is not right in Elohim’s sight. You must repent of this sin of yours, and ask Elohim to forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are poisoned with envy and are a slave to wrong-doing”. ‘Pray for me’, said Simon, ‘that nothing you have said may come upon me’. Then Simon Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, after having given earnest personal testimony and spoken the Word of Adonai, besides preaching the Gospel in many of the other Samarian villages.
An angel spoke to Philip, saying, “Rise up and go south. Take the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. It runs through wasteland”. He rose and went. On the road was another man, an Ethiopian eunuch, He was a man of authority under Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, and the head of her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship. Now he was going back home and, sitting in his carriage, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Ruach said to Philip, “Go near that carriage, and keep close to it”. Philip hurried up to come near and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch said, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ He then invited Philip to come up and sit by his side.
And this was the Scripture passage that he was reading, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb that is dumb before its shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was humiliated and deprived of the justice due Him. Who will tell the story to His generation? For His life on this earth was taken away” (Isaiah 53:7 & 8). Philip then spoke to the eunuch. He first raised the question, “Of Whom is the prophet speaking – about himself or someone else?” After this beginning, Philip continued, starting with this Scripture passage, to preach the Gospel of Yeshua to him. As they continued down the way they came to a pool of water, at which the eunuch asked, ‘See, here is water! What is to hinder me from being baptized?’ Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he said, ‘I do believe that Yeshua Ha’Maschiach is the Son of God.’ He then gave orders that the carriage be stopped. They went down to the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and Philip baptized him.
When they came out of the water, The Ruach of Adonai carried Philip away. The eunuch saw no more of him, but went on his way rejoicing. As for Philip, he appeared at Azotus and then went on through all the villages as afar as Caesarea, preaching the Gospel at every place.