Then the high priest asked Stephen, "Are these accusations true?"
This was Stephen's reply: "Brothers and honorable fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he moved to Haran. a3
God told him, 'Leave your native land and your relatives, and come to the land that I will show you.' b4
So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live.
But God gave him no inheritance here, not even one square foot of land. God did promise, however, that eventually the whole country would belong to Abraham and his descendants -- though he had no children yet.
But God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign country where they would be mistreated as slaves for four hundred years.
'But I will punish the nation that enslaves them,' God told him, 'and in the end they will come out and worship me in this place.' c8
God also gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision at that time. And so Isaac, Abraham's son, was circumcised when he was eight days old. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob was the father of the twelve patriarchs of the Jewish nation.
"These sons of Jacob were very jealous of their brother Joseph, and they sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him
and delivered him from his anguish. And God gave him favor before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God also gave Joseph unusual wisdom, so that Pharaoh appointed him governor over all of Egypt and put him in charge of all the affairs of the palace.
"But a famine came upon Egypt and Canaan. There was great misery for our ancestors, as they ran out of food.
Jacob heard that there was still grain in Egypt, so he sent his sons d to buy some.
The second time they went, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and they were introduced to Pharaoh.
Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and all his relatives to come to Egypt, seventy-five persons in all.
So Jacob went to Egypt. He died there, as did all his sons.
All of them were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
"As the time drew near when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased.
But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph.
This king plotted against our people and forced parents to abandon their newborn babies so they would die.
"At that time Moses was born -- a beautiful child in God's eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months.
When at last they had to abandon him, Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised him as her own son.
Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he became mighty in both speech and action.
"One day when he was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel.
During this visit, he saw an Egyptian mistreating a man of Israel. So Moses came to his defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian.
Moses assumed his brothers would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn't.
"The next day he visited them again and saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to be a peacemaker. 'Men,' he said, 'you are brothers. Why are you hurting each other?'
"But the man in the wrong pushed Moses aside and told him to mind his own business. 'Who made you a ruler and judge over us?' he asked.
'Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?'
When Moses heard that, he fled the country and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian, where his two sons were born.
"Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush.
Moses saw it and wondered what it was. As he went to see, the voice of the Lord called out to him,
'I am the God of your ancestors -- the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' Moses shook with terror and dared not look.
"And the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.
You can be sure that I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries. So I have come to rescue them. Now go, for I will send you to Egypt.' e35
And so God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected by demanding, 'Who made you a ruler and judge over us?' Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, Moses was sent to be their ruler and savior.
And by means of many miraculous signs and wonders, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and back and forth through the wilderness for forty years.
"Moses himself told the people of Israel, 'God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people.' f38
Moses was with the assembly of God's people in the wilderness. He was the mediator between the people of Israel and the angel who gave him life-giving words on Mount Sinai to pass on to us.
"But our ancestors rejected Moses and wanted to return to Egypt.
They told Aaron, 'Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don't know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.'
So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and rejoiced in this thing they had made.
Then God turned away from them and gave them up to serve the sun, moon, and stars as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written, 'Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
No, your real interest was in your pagan gods -- the shrine of Molech, the star god Rephan, and the images you made to worship them. So I will send you into captivity far away in Babylon.' g44
"Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle h with them through the wilderness. It was constructed in exact accordance with the plan shown to Moses by God.
Years later, when Joshua led the battles against the Gentile nations that God drove out of this land, the Tabernacle was taken with them into their new territory. And it was used there until the time of King David.
"David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob. i47
But it was Solomon who actually built it.
However, the Most High doesn't live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you ever build me a temple as good as that?' asks the Lord. 'Could you build a dwelling place for me?
Didn't I make everything in heaven and earth?' j51
"You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you!
Name one prophet your ancestors didn't persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One -- the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered.
You deliberately disobeyed God's law, though you received it from the hands of angels. k "
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation, and they shook their fists in rage. l55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand.
And he told them, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!"
Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him.
They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. m59
And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
And he fell to his knees, shouting, "Lord, don't charge them with this sin!" And with that, he died.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)