Stephen’s Defense Part 3–Finding Jesus in Moses — What Stephen said: Acts 7:17-43

Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Predella con Leggenda di Santo Stefano by Mariotto di Nardo, 1408

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In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how Stephen shared Jesus with the Sanhedrin during his interrogation. It may be that Stephen took a similar approach to how Jesus shared Jesus with the two on the road to Emmaus. In a way that might appear subtle to you and I, Stephen shared about how Joseph of the Old Testament was a prophetic picture of Jesus. This would be obvious to his listeners, the members of the Sanhedrin, who were well versed in the Old Testament. In our last post we also looked at the amazing parallels between Joseph’s life and the life of Jesus. (If you’re interested you can learn more here: The Way Stephen Shared Jesus (and how similar it is to the way Jesus shared Jesus.) In today’s passage we’ll see another prophetic picture of Jesus’ life in Moses.

Acts 7:17-43

“But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

“This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
    during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
You took up the tent of Moloch
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

Acts 7:17-43

Finding Jesus in Moses

Stephen continues to open the scriptures to the members of the Sanhedrin perhaps in a similar way to how Jesus opened the scriptures to the two on the road to Emmaus. In today’s passage we see Stephen move on from Joseph to Moses. Again the parallels are striking.

“At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight,” Stephen shared.

Jesus is God's son with whom He is well pleased, we read in the Gospels. (Matthew 17:5,Mark 9:7,Luke 9:35,Matthew 3:17)

“And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.”

We saw Pharaoh killing Jewish babies after Moses was born and we saw Herod killing babies after Jesus was born. Moses finds refuge in Pharaoh's house even as Jesus found refuge when his parents took him into Egypt or Pharaoh's house if you will. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter even as Jesus was "adopted" by Joseph, Mary's husband. (Exodus 1:22, Matthew 2:16-18, Exodus 2:1-10, Matthew 1:18-25)

Growing up, Moses was mighty in words and deeds.

Growing up, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature. (Luke 2:52)

Moses “supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.”

Jesus' brothers also did not understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand.

Moses tried to reconcile his brothers, “saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?'” “. . . This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.”

Jesus tried to reconcile his brothers to God. And Jesus was sent by God as prophet, priest, and king, but they rejected him as well.

Speaking of Moses, Stephen said, “This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.”

Though Jesus "had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him." (John 12:37)

Stephen shared about how Moses once said to the Israelites, ““The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (Deuteronomy 18:15)

Stephen is saying to his accusers: Jesus is that prophet. Jesus is the Christ, he is the Son of God.

In Deuteronomy 34:10-12 God tells us: And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Like Moses we see Jesus connected with God The Father face to face -- in truth, Jesus' connection with God is well beyond that of Moses. (John 3:13)

And we see still more parallels:

And there are still more. In fact, there are so many, to be honest, I’m wearing out just listing them all. Stephen ends his “chapter” on Moses by saying, “Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt.” The Sanhedrin understood Stephen was saying, as their fathers did with Moses, they refused to obey Jesus, they thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away from him.

In our next post, we’ll learn what Stephen says about the temple and how that struck a special chord with his accusers, the members of the Sanhedrin.

Image of Stephen before the Sanhedrin: Predella con Leggenda di Santo Stefano by Mariotto di Nardo, 1408 via Wiki Commons

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2 Comments on “Stephen’s Defense Part 3–Finding Jesus in Moses — What Stephen said: Acts 7:17-43

  1. Pingback: Stephen’s Defense Part 4–“What kind of house will you build for me?” says the Lord: Acts 7:44-50 | God Running

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