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

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In the lasts few post from the book of Acts we’ve been examining Stephen’s defense against his accusers in the court of the Sanhedrin. First Stephen cites Joseph as a prophetic picture of Jesus, then he does the same with Moses. He highlights similarities between Moses and Jesus and after pointing out these similarities he reminds the Sanhedrin, Moses said, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.” The implication being Jesus is the one God raised up for them, Jesus is that prophet like Moses. (see previous posts The Way Stephen Shared Jesus (and how similar it is to the way Jesus shared Jesus): Acts 7:1-16 and Finding Jesus in Moses — What Stephen said: Acts 7:17-43)

Today we’ll look at how Stephen points to something near to the hearts of the members of the Sanhedrin, the temple. And we’ll learn how the same point Stephen makes to the members of the Sanhedrin applies to you and to me.

Acts 7:44-50

“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. 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, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

“‘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?
Did not my hand make all these things?’

Acts 7:44-50

In today’s passage we see Stephen first acknowledging some facts about the temple. He grants that Moses was given the pattern for the tabernacle. Then he recognizes God responded to David’s request to build a temple by allowing his son Solomon to build it.

But he moves on from there and says, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands . . .”

Heaven is my throne, and the whole earth is my footstool, God says. “What kind of house will you build for me?”

The Temple Elevated Above the God of the Temple

A few verses before today’s passage, when Stephen was speaking about Moses he reminded the Sanhedrin about the historical propensity of the Jewish people to worship idols. He brought up the time when the Israelites created and worshipped the golden calf. I just today learned that in ancient times this incident was the one episode in Israel’s history “of which the rabbis were most ashamed.” And the reason Stephen brought it up was to point out the Sanhedrin’s own proclivity for idolatry. Because at that time the temple was a symbol of the unity of the Jewish people, and the Sanhedrin and the religious leadership had made their religion about the temple. Their love for God was overwhelmed by their love for the temple and the keeping of the temple. They made their religion about the temple instead of the two most important commandments according to Jesus, loving God and loving people. (Acts 7:39-43) (Keener) (Matthew 22:36-40)

The Father is Seeking People Like This…

This is a great reminder for me and for you to live in a way that overwhelms people with the love of Jesus. To live the way Jesus wants us to live: my opinions, my work, my hobbies, my politics all must be overwhelmed by my love for God and my love for the people around me — including the people I read about online. Am I praying for those people I disagree with? Am I loving the people God puts in front of me well? Am I loving my neighbor well? Am I loving God well?

Is all this love overwhelming everything else in my life? That’s the question.

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet,” the woman at the well said to Jesus. She continued, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

And Jesus answered, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

“The Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands,” Stephen told the Sanhedrin that day. And he made it clear to them their worship of the temple was greater than their worship of the One who the temple was made for.

“True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” Jesus said.

“The Father is seeking such people to worship him,” Jesus said.

And Stephen is saying, you, the members of the Sanhedrin, are not such people.

What kind of house will you build for Me?

“What kind of house will you build for Me?” God asks. This is the question God asks of you and of me. And this is the answer:

Our Father wants you and our Father wants me to live a life in which Jesus’ love is overwhelming everything else.

That’s the kind of house where God wants to live.

That’s the kind of house God wants me, you, us to build for Him.

Dear reader, will you pray this prayer with me?

“Father, have mercy on me because I’m a sinner. I’m like a little child down here trying to find my way: have mercy on me. Please, according to Your great love and grace and mercy make me into one of those who worship You in spirit and truth. Lead me out of my propensity to make my life about my opinions, or my work, or my hobbies, or my politics. Take my hand and pull me up out of that miry clay. Make me a person whose life is about loving You with everything I have and loving people well in Your sight.

“In Jesus’ name I ask these things of You.

“Amen.”

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