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A stiff-necked people…

 

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35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43 You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

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Reflection

Stephen elaborates on Israel’s rejection of God and his prophet Moses, further exposing the hardened hearts of the Jewish people throughout their history. We begin to see where Stephen is taking this when he says, “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers’ ” (Acts 7:37). The rejection of Moses wasn’t the first time God’s people had despised their savior (see v. 9), and it wouldn’t be the last. The prophet to come that Moses spoke of was the ultimate Prophet, Jesus Christ.

Because the human heart is naturally blind to the things of God, it loves the darkness and hates the light (John 3:19–20). We would never embrace Jesus apart from a miracle to awaken us to the glory of Christ and his kingdom (2 Cor. 4:4, 6; John 3:3). Once again, we must humbly remember that our salvation is a gracious gift from beginning to end.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

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Reflection

In these verses John speaks of true believers as “practicing righteousness” (1 John 3:7) as opposed to “practicing sin” (vv. 4, 8). While we still sin as believers (cf. 1:8–2:1), a genuine believer does not “practice sinning” (i.e., have a life pattern of sinful pursuits without correction or remorse) because he has been “born of God” and therefore has a completely new identity (3:9; cf. Gal. 3:26; 2 Cor. 5:17). Anyone who does “practice sinning” is shown to be still in darkness and at enmity with God, being “of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

The gospel holds out the only hope for those in such a condition. The good news is that Jesus “appeared in order to take away sins” (v. 5). He also “appeared . . . to destroy the works of the devil” (v. 8). As the gospel continues its transforming work in the lives of believers, they will increasingly bear resemblance to their heavenly Father (vv. 2–3; cf. Gen. 1:26). This is God’s very purpose, that we should be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). And the ultimate blessing of being conformed to the image of God’s Child is that we are also regarded as “children of God,” loved by him as much as Jesus is loved by him (1 John 3:1). One day, God’s purposes will be brought to full completion and, seeing him, we shall completely resemble him (v. 2). Such a hope motivates us all the more to “purify” ourselves through the “practice” of righteousness (vv. 3, 7).