Thoughts and Reflection
Today we read about Stephen who gives a speech before his martyrdom. He says that just as the Israelites turned away from God throughout their history, now they are turning away from Jesus.
Paul in Romans says that the people of Israel have not been abandoned. We as Christians have Jewish roots and we should pray for our brothers and sisters. Anti-Semitism has no place in Christianity.
About This Project
For the year 2022, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to read the whole Bible following the Bible in the Year plan presented by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It is a big and bold undertaking. You can follow along by subscribing. Feel free to look at previous day’s post and comment. It’s something we can all learn from together!
1 The high priest asked, ‘Is this true?’
2 He replied, ‘My brothers, my fathers, listen to what I have to say. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham, while he was in Mesopotamia before settling in Haran,
3 and said to him, “Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for this country which I shall show you.”
4 So he left Chaldaea and settled in Haran; and after his father died God made him leave that place and come to this land where you are living today.
5 God did not give him any property in this land or even a foothold, yet he promised to give it to him and after him to his descendants, childless though he was.
6 The actual words God used when he spoke to him are that his descendants would be exiles in a land not their own, where they would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
7 “But I will bring judgement on the nation that enslaves them,” God said, “and after this they will leave, and worship me in this place.”
8 Then he made the covenant of circumcision with him: and so when his son Isaac was born Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day; similarly Isaac circumcised Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs.
9 ‘The patriarchs were jealous of Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But God was with him,
10 and rescued him from all his miseries by making him so wise that he won the favour of Pharaoh king of Egypt, who made him governor of Egypt and put him in charge of his household.
11 Then a famine set in that caused much suffering throughout Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find nothing to eat.
12 When Jacob heard that there were supplies in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on a first visit;
13 and on the second Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Pharaoh came to know his origin.
14 Joseph then sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, a total of seventy-five people.
15 Jacob went down into Egypt and after he and our ancestors had died there,
16 their bodies were brought back to Shechem and buried in the tomb that Abraham had bought for money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.
17 ‘As the time drew near for God to fulfil the promise he had solemnly made to Abraham, our nation in Egypt became very powerful and numerous,
18 there came to power in Egypt a new king who had never heard of Joseph.
19 He took precautions and wore down our race, forcing our ancestors to expose their babies rather than letting them live.
20 It was at this time that Moses was born, a fine child before God. He was looked after for three months in his father’s house,
21 and after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up like a son.
22 So Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a man with power both in his speech and in his actions.
23 ‘At the age of forty he decided to visit his kinsmen, the Israelites.
24 When he saw one of them being ill-treated he went to his defence and rescued the man by killing the Egyptian.
25 He thought his brothers would realise that through him God would liberate them, but they did not.
26 The next day, when he came across some of them fighting, he tried to reconcile them, and said, “Friends, you are brothers; why are you hurting each other?”
27 But the man who was attacking his kinsman pushed him aside, saying, “And who appointed you to be prince over us and judge?
28 Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?”
29 Moses fled when he heard this and he went to dwell in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.
30 ‘When forty years were fulfilled, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to him in a flame blazing from a bush that was on fire.
31 Moses was amazed by what he saw. As he went nearer to look at it, the voice of the Lord was heard,
32 “I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Moses trembled and was afraid to look.
33 The Lord said to him, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.
34 I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt, I have heard them crying for help, and I have come down to rescue them. So come here; I am sending you into Egypt.”
35 ‘It was the same Moses that they had disowned when they said, “Who appointed you to be our leader and judge?” whom God sent to be both leader and redeemer through the angel who had appeared to him in the bush.
36 It was this man who led them out, after performing miracles and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the desert for forty years.
37 It was this Moses who told the sons of Israel, “From among your own brothers God will raise up a prophet like me.”
38 When they held the assembly in the desert it was he who was with our ancestors and the angel who had spoken to him on Mount Sinai; it was he who was entrusted with words of life to hand on to us.
39 This is the man that our ancestors refused to listen to; they pushed him aside, went back to Egypt in their thoughts,
40 and said to Aaron, “Make us a god to go at our head; for that Moses, the man who brought us here from Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
41 It was then that they made the statue of a calf and offered sacrifice to the idol. They were perfectly happy with something they had made for themselves.
42 God turned away from them and abandoned them to the worship of the army of heaven, as scripture says in the book of the prophets: Did you bring me sacrifices and oblations those forty years in the desert, House of Israel?
43 No, you carried the tent of Moloch on your shoulders and the star of the god Rephan, the idols you made for yourselves to adore, and so now I am about to drive you into captivity beyond Babylon.
44 ‘While they were in the desert our ancestors possessed the Tent of Testimony that had been constructed according to the instructions God gave Moses, telling him to work to the design he had been shown.
45 It was handed down from one ancestor of ours to another until Joshua brought it into the country that had belonged to the nations which were driven out by God before us. Here it stayed until the time of David.
46 He won God’s favour and asked permission to find a dwelling for the House of Jacob,
47 though it was Solomon who actually built a house for God.
48 Even so the Most High does not live in a house that human hands have built: for as the prophet says:
49 With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, says the Lord, what place for me to rest,
50 when all these things were made by me?
51 ‘You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.
52 Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Upright One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers.
53 In spite of being given the Law through angels, you have not kept it.’
54 They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.
56 ‘Look! I can see heaven thrown open,’ he said, ‘and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.’
57 All the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they made a concerted rush at him,
58 thrust him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul.
59 As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’
60 Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And with these words he fell asleep.
1 What I am saying is this: is it possible that God abandoned his people? Out of the question! I too am an Israelite, descended from Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God never abandoned his own people to whom, ages ago, he had given recognition. Do you not remember what scripture says about Elijah and how he made a complaint to God against Israel:
3 Lord, they have put your prophets to the sword, torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they want to kill me?
4 And what was the prophetic answer given? I have spared for myself seven thousand men that have not bent the knee to Baal.
5 In the same way, then, in our own time, there is a remnant, set aside by grace.
6 And since it is by grace, it cannot now be by good actions, or grace would not be grace at all!
7 What follows? Israel failed to find what it was seeking; only those who were chosen found it and the rest had their minds hardened;
8 just as it says in scripture: God has infused them with a spirit of lethargy; until today they have not eyes to see or ears to hear.
9 David too says: May their own table prove a trap for them, a pitfall and a snare; let that be their retribution.
10 May their eyes grow so dim they cannot see, and their backs be bent for ever.
11 What I am saying is this: Was this stumbling to lead to their final downfall? Out of the question! On the contrary, their failure has brought salvation for the gentiles, in order to stir them to envy.
12 And if their fall has proved a great gain to the world, and their loss has proved a great gain to the gentiles — how much greater a gain will come when all is restored to them!
13 Let me say then to you gentiles that, as far as I am an apostle to the gentiles, I take pride in this work of service;
14 and I want it to be the means of rousing to envy the people who are my own blood-relations and so of saving some of them.
15 Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their re-acceptance will mean? Nothing less than lifefrom the dead!
16 When the first-fruits are made holy, so is the whole batch; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree;
18 then it is not for you to consider yourself superior to the other branches; and if you start feeling proud, think: it is not you that sustain the root, but the root that sustains you.
19 You will say, ‘Branches were broken off on purpose for me to be grafted in.’ True;
20 they through their unbelief were broken off, and you are established through your faith. So it is not pride that you should have, but fear:
21 if God did not spare the natural branches, he might not spare you either.
22 Remember God’s severity as well as his goodness: his severity to those who fell, and his goodness to you as long as you persevere in it; if not, you too will be cut off.
23 And they, if they do not persevere in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for it is within the power of God to graft them back again.
24 After all, if you, cut off from what was by nature a wild olive, could then be grafted unnaturally on to a cultivated olive, how much easier will it be for them, the branches that naturally belong there, to be grafted on to the olive tree which is their own.
25 I want you to be quite certain, brothers, of this mystery, to save you from congratulating yourselves on your own good sense: part of Israel had its mind hardened, but only until the gentiles have wholly come in;
26 and this is how all Israel will be saved. As scripture says: From Zion will come the Redeemer, he will remove godlessness from Jacob.
27 And this will be my covenant with them, when I take their sins away.
28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies, but for your sake; but as regards those who are God’s choice, they are still well loved for the sake of their ancestors.
29 There is no change of mind on God’s part about the gifts he has made or of his choice.
30 Just as you were in the past disobedient to God but now you have been shown mercy, through their disobedience;
31 so in the same way they are disobedient now, so that through the mercy shown to you they too will receive mercy.
32 God has imprisoned all human beings in their own disobedience only to show mercy to them all.
33 How rich and deep are the wisdom and the knowledge of God! We cannot reach to the root of his decisions or his ways.
34 Who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his adviser?
35 Who has given anything to him, so that his presents come only as a debt returned?
36 Everything there is comes from him and is caused by him and exists for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
1 I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.
2 Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and mature.
3 And through the grace that I have been given, I say this to every one of you: never pride yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately, recognising that God has given to each one his measure of faith.
4 Just as each of us has various parts in one body, and the parts do not all have the same function:
5 in the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another.
6 Then since the gifts that we have differ according to the grace that was given to each of us: if it is a gift of prophecy, we should prophesy as much as our faith tells us;
7 if it is a gift of practical service, let us devote ourselves to serving; if it is teaching, to teaching;
8 if it is encouraging, to encouraging. When you give, you should give generously from the heart; if you are put in charge, you must be conscientious; if you do works of mercy, let it be because you enjoy doing them.
9 Let love be without any pretence. Avoid what is evil; stick to what is good.
10 In brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important than yourself.
11 In the service of the Lord, work not halfheartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit.
12 Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly;
13 share with any of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable.
14 Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them.
15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow.
16 Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom.
17 Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect.
18 As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone.
19 Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution. As scripture says: Vengeance is mine — I will pay them back, the Lord promises.
20 And more: If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink. By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head.
21 Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.
13 Take the man’s clothes! He has gone surety for a stranger. Take a pledge from him, for persons unknown.
14 Whoever at dawn loudly blesses his neighbour — it will be reckoned to him as a curse.