Acts  ◦   Chapter 7

1The high priest asked him directly, "Are these charges true?"2Stephen answered: "My fellow Israelites and honored leaders, please listen to me! Before our father Abraham left Mesopotamia for Haran, the God of glory appeared to him and said,3'Leave your homeland and family, and go to the place I will show you.'

4"So he left his homeland in the East and settled in Haran. After his father died, God led him to this land where you now live,5but gave none of it to Abraham as his — not even one square foot of ground. But God promised the entire land to him and to his children, even though at that time Abraham had no children.6God said to him, 'Your descendants will live in a foreign country where they will become slaves and be abused for four hundred years.7But I will intervene with the nation they serve as slaves, and after that they will leave that country and serve me in this place.'8Then God gave Abraham the ceremony of circumcision. Abraham had a son, Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day after birth. And later Isaac had his son Jacob, and Jacob was the father of the twelve patriarchs.

9"Because Joseph's brothers — the men who became the patriarchs of our nation — were jealous, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with Joseph10and delivered him from every obstacle. He gave Joseph wisdom and caused the pharaoh to value and trust him; so the pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and in charge of his entire palace.

11"Then the predicted famine hit Egypt and Canaan, causing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food.12So Jacob, after hearing there was grain in Egypt, sent our forefathers on their first trip.13And on their second trip to Egypt, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family.14After this, Joseph invited his father, Jacob, and the rest of the family — seventy-five in all — to come to Egypt.15So Jacob went to Egypt, where he and our forefathers died.16Later, their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid to rest in the tomb that Abraham had purchased from the sons of Hamor at Shechem.

17"When the four hundred years were almost over, and the time approached for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had grown very large.18A new pharaoh, who didn't care about Joseph, took power in Egypt.19He dealt underhandedly with our people, abused our ancestors, and killed their babies.

20"It was at that time that Moses was born, and he was a special child. He was nurtured for three months at home, and21when he was hidden outside the home, Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised him as her own son.22Moses was given the best education available, being taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was a powerful speaker, leader and athlete.

23"At forty years of age, Moses visited his fellow Israelites.24When he saw one of them being abused by an Egyptian, he rescued him and killed the Egyptian.25Moses thought his people would realize that God was using him to free them and happily rally to him, but they did not.26Instead, the very next day, when Moses found two Israelites fighting, he tried to end their dispute by saying, 'What are you doing? You are brothers, why are you trying to hurt each other?'

27"But the one who started the fight pushed Moses back and said, 'Who made you our ruler and judge?28Are you going to kill me like you murdered that Egyptian yesterday?'29Upon hearing this, Moses fled to Midian, where he lived as a foreigner and had two sons.

30"Forty years later, an angel appeared to Moses from the flames of a bush that seemed to be on fire, but didn't burn up, in the desert near Mount Sinai.31Such a sight amazed him, and as he approached to get a closer look, he heard the voice of the Lord say:32'I am the God of your forefathers — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' At that, Moses shook with fear and was too frightened to look.

33"Then the Lord instructed him, 'Remove your shoes, because where you are standing is sacred ground.34I have seen the pain and suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries and have come to set them free. So prepare yourself, for I am going to send you back to Egypt.'

35"Now, this was the same Moses they had already rejected with the words, 'Who made you our ruler and judge?' It was God himself who — through the angel that appeared in the bush — sent him to be their ruler and deliverer.36And he led them out of bondage-with many wonders, signs and miracles in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and during the forty years in the desert.

37"This Moses, the one who led them from Egypt, is the one who told Israel, 'God will send you another spokesperson, who, like me, will be from among your own people.'38This Moses is the one who stood between the angel who spoke on Sinai and the assembly of people in the desert, and brought the words of life from God to our ancestors to pass on to us.

39"But our ancestors rejected what he brought, and refused to listen and do what he taught. Instead, they turned their hearts and affections back to Egypt and the ways of this selfish world.40They demanded of Aaron, 'Make us gods who will lead us. Moses led us out of Egypt and left us here, and we don't know where he has gone!'41That was when they made the idol of a golden calf. They sacrificed to it, and celebrated over what they had created.42So God set them free to their own choice; and they even worshiped the stars in the sky! This is exactly what is written in Scripture: 'Were you loyal to me hen in the desert, children of Israel? Were you bringing your sacrifices and offerings only to me?43No! You praised Molech and adored your god Rephan, the idols of your own hands. So I let you go into exile, to be with your preferred gods in Babylon.'

44"Our ancestors had the dwelling place of God's truth with them in the wilderness. It was built according to the pattern God had shown Moses.45Having built the dwelling place of God's truth, our ancestors, under the leadership of Joshua, brought it with them when they possessed the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until David's time.46David, who found favor with God, asked to build a permanent house for God,47but it was Solomon who built it.

48"However, the Most High God does not live in buildings made by human beings. As God's spokesperson says,49'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is where I rest my feet. What kind of house could you build for me? says the Creator. Where will I go to rest?50Have I not created all these things?'

51"You close-minded, stubborn people with hearts tied to this selfish world, and ears that prefer lies! You are exactly like your ancestors: You constantly reject God's Spirit of Truth and Love!52Was there even one of God's spokespersons your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who spoke about the coming of the Remedy-the Righteous One. And now it is you who have rejected, betrayed, and murdered him;53you have received the blueprint of God's plan to heal and save humanity, given through angels, but you have not followed it."

54Upon hearing this, the crowd became a rioting mob, screaming, cursing, whistling, hissing and booing him.55But Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost, looked toward heaven and saw God in glory and Jesus standing at God's right hand.56Pointing upward, he said, "Look, I see heaven opened and Jesus, the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God."

57Yelling and screaming, they put their fingers in their ears and surged at him.58They dragged him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59While being stoned, Stephen asked the Lord, "Lord Jesus, take my individuality to be with you-receive my spirit."60Then, falling to his knees, he cried out, "Lord, don't count this sin against them!" After saying this, he fell asleep in death.