In Isaiah 1:1 there are 4 kings of Judah listed. Based on a very strong and logical argument using scripture, the Prophet Isaiah more than likely lived during the rule of 5 kings, with the last one being the very brutal and evil king, King Manasseh.
It was under Manasseh’s rule when lots and lots of blood was spilled, especially the blood of the innocent including Isaiah’s. Isaiah was perhaps killed by way of being sawn in two. This and other ways are what one could expect when answering the call to be God’s Prophet. Acts 7:51-53 says:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
The young man who spoke those words of truth was filled with God’s grace and power. He was in the presence of a corrupt chief priest and other unbelieving Jews. The man who didn’t play it “safe” was Stephen.
Yes, the same Stephen who was eventually stoned to death soon after he spoke those words of truth was, unfortunately and sadly, totally disregarded by those in attendance. Stephen’s dissertation of Jewish history cut right into their unbelieving hearts.
Acts 7 happens to be one of my favorite parts of the Bible. Stephen, a Messianic Jew, summarized Jewish history with such perfection. Please read verses 2-51. If you are ever led by the Holy Spirit to witness to someone who comes from a Jewish background, those verses are definitely ones to be familiar with.
At the end of Stephen’s history lesson, he really laid it all out in those verses we just went over. I would have to believe the last thing on Stephen’s mind was playing it “safe.”
In a recent column by Dennis Prager, he stated the following:
“You are not on earth to be safe. You are on earth to lead a full life. I don’t want my epitaph to be, “He led a safe life.” It’s like another epitaph I don’t want: “He experienced as little pain as possible.”
Needless to say, Stephen led a full life, not a “safe” one.
Those of us who read the scriptures are well aware that those in attendance with the high priest were so enraged they were even grinding their teeth. That rage turned into having this believer in the Messiah stoned to death for the blasphemy of speaking in public that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Not a very “safe” thing to do.
The part that is so meaningful for me is not the history lesson Stephen gave, nor is it his boldness and courage which he showed. As great and encouraging as those things were and are, the most meaningful is how God showed up right on time just before this man full of faith and the Holy Spirit was stoned to death. Look at what Stephen spoke in Acts 7:56.
“And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”
Stephen wasn’t focused on playing it “safe.” He wasn’t in fear about the physical act of being stoned. But he was laser focused on the spiritual things from above.
We can certainly be encouraged by his example when the things of this world invade our lives, whether it be health, finances, or whatever else, including the coming persecution for believing in Jesus as our Messiah, just as Stephen was. To the world then, to believe in Jesus as Messiah was utter nonsense. That is still the case today.
So, here we are in America, the land of the free and home of the brave some 2 thousand years later where too many of our leaders are telling us to stay locked down until it is “safe” to go to a restaurant. They tell us to stay home until its “safe” to stick our heads out. Church is out of the question because it isn’t “safe” to be surrounded and close to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We’ll only be “safe” if we stay locked down. It’s only “safe” if we remain in quarantine.
If we listen to their plan of being “safe,” we are allowing our freedoms to be taken away one piece at time that others before us sacrificed their lives for. The reality is our freedoms began slipping away some time ago. I know…that hard truth is a painful thing to hear.
These forced-upon-us “plans to be safe” not only go against the Judeo-Christian principles this country was founded on, it goes against common sense. However, and much more important than that, it shows a lack of faith towards the Almighty God who has us in the palm of His hand.
We need to be like Stephen. His trust and hope in the Lord is an encouragement for all of us who know the Lord. We are to look up as Stephen did.
We know by faith we have a God who, at the right moment, the perfect moment in His timing, knows exactly what to do on our behalf, which always turns out to be what’s best for us. And He does it each and every time without fail! Amen?
We who are faithful, no matter if that faith is as small as a mustard seed or as big as a mountain, we are perfectly safe in the Lord’s hands.
He and only He is in control, not some virus, not some governor, or senator or mayor or whoever. No to all of that. It is only the Almighty God who is in full and complete control. Only He is sovereign.
We must keep looking up as our brother Stephen did, no matter what. Our being “safe” doesn’t come from the things of this world.
Brothers and sisters, our safety, our peace and our comfort is dwelling within each and every one of us who has called upon the name of the Lord. Of course, He is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised us who dwells within every believer.
Stephen acted in faith. He knew God would take care of everything. He trusted God fully and completely. And look what happened to him. He went on to be in the presence of the Lord. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
So, let’s keep looking up as our redemption draws near!
Stay safe in Him and with Him and be blessed.
Mark Susswein: firstname.lastname@example.org