And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. — Acts 7:9–10
While attending university, I had worked for a local business for about six months when a new manager was appointed — a man who was younger than me. This manager seemingly was intimidated by the fact that I was a “college boy,” and set out to prove his worth by minimizing mine. He was quick to give me the most difficult assignments and then speak disparagingly when I completed them. There was no question about the fact that I was not his favorite employee! One time he even questioned my integrity concerning the amount of time I had worked in the shop training one of his relatives. Frustrating and hurtful as this situation was to me, there was little I could do to change anything other than pray, work hard, and try to do my best in spite of the negative surroundings. The time came when another job opened up for me that was much more pleasant and with a better working environment. I rejoiced that God had provided and I no longer had to endure the hassles of the old job.
After I graduated, I started a completely different career. I thought very little about the old job until over ten years later when I was asked to become a pastor and needed to find employment in the small town where I was transferred. Providentially, God provided work in the same trade I had worked in during that difficult employment of the past. I realized at once that even in the challenging period when I was being treated unfairly, God had been with me, training and preparing me for a future which only He knew.
In today’s text, Stephen drove home the point to the members of the Sanhedrin that God’s presence was not restricted to the Promised Land. Though Joseph had to endure being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, God delivered him out of all his afflictions. The truth Stephen illustrated that day through the example of Joseph was demonstrated in my employment situation as well. Just as God was with Joseph through his many challenges, God was with me. Just as God had a purpose for Joseph, God had a purpose for me.
I have been reminded many times over the years that God has promised to be with us. God has a plan for our future. It is not only in the blessings and good times that He is with us, but also in the trials and difficult circumstances. Even when it is not evident to us, God is working for our benefit. Challenging situations and individuals will come and go in our lives, but God will be faithful to deliver and put us exactly where He desires, for His purpose and glory, as we faithfully serve Him.
In this portion of Acts 7, Stephen commenced his address to the members of the Sanhedrin, who were to judge the false accusation of blasphemy (see Acts 6:13), by giving a historical summary of God’s calling as illustrated by the lives of Abraham and Joseph.
This Spirit-filled deacon began by outlining the call of Abram into a covenantal relationship with Jehovah including geographical details and quotes from Genesis that were familiar to all who were listening. He continued with the patriarchal genealogy, specifically noting the prophecy of future Egyptian control that began with the sale of Joseph into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. This was Stephen’s first example of Israel’s opposition to the purpose and plan of God, in spite of the mighty works of God which they had seen, thus accusing them through their own history.
He reminded the religious leaders how God providentially used what Joseph’s brothers intended as evil toward Joseph to accomplish good both for him and for all his family, as well as succeeding generations. He summarized how Joseph was promoted, his family delivered from famine, and justice and mercy served.
Stephen then summarized the birth of Moses — a Hebrew child adopted into and educated in Pharaoh’s household, and his calling as a deliverer for Israel. Stephen characterized Moses as being “mighty in words and in deeds” (verse 22). While the Biblical account does not record much of Moses’ young life, Jewish historian Josephus notes his prowess as a military commander and leader, which was evidently a fact known to Jews of Stephen’s day.
Stephen was careful to make clear God’s faithfulness to every generation from the establishment of the Hebrew nation through their deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land. In the Hebrew history recited in today’s text and in the following verses, Stephen went on to make his contention that the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus was a continuation of the Jewish rejection of God’s plan for them as a nation.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The witness in Jerusalem
D. The witness of Stephen
3. The sermon by Stephen
a. His defense concerning God (7:2-16)
(1) God’s relation to Abraham (7:2-8)
(2) God’s relation to Joseph and his brethren (7:9-16)
b. His defense concerning Moses
(1) The need for a deliverer (7:17-19)
(2) The birth of the deliverer (7:20-22)
(3) The rejection of the deliverer (7:23-29)
God was at work in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses as well as the generations in between them. Because of God’s faithfulness and mercy, we can trust that He is also at work in our lives no matter what circumstances we face.