Lawyers, if they are going to be successful, must be able to deliver the close. In today’s courtroom, the prosecutor has the burden of proof, so he or she gets to make a rebuttal after the defense’s close, and then in a jury trial, it’s time for them to deliberate and decide the verdict.
In Stephen’s first century trial there was no jury, only the Sanhedrin. We’ve seen how, after false witnesses lied about his preaching, he took the stand for himself and countered the accusations. In his closing argument I would expect him to remind the leaders of his people that he was their brother and to drive home that he had not spoken against Moses or the Temple. Instead, he picks up on his people’s history of rejecting the “saviors” the Lord raised up for them, and then turns the table on his accusers by exposing their ultimate callousness and evil.
“Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in your hearts and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit. You’re just like your fathers. Which of the prophets didn’t your fathers persecute? They killed the prophets who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you betrayed and murdered him, you, the very ones who received the Law by angels under God’s direction but didn’t keep it.” Acts 7:51-53
After the golden calf incident God, himself, called his people stiff-necked (Exodus 33:3, 5) and at the end of Moses’ life he stressed that this was an ongoing problem (Deuteronomy 9:6, 27). In the 8th century BC Isaiah exposed Israel’s constant rebellion against the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10) , and after the return from the Exile, the Levites, under Nehemiah and Ezra’s direction, led their people in a recitation of their history--- a history lesson that sounded a lot like Stephen’s (Nehemiah 9). Only in Nehemiah and Ezra’s day the people’s hearts and ears didn’t remain hard and deaf. They repented. In tomorrow’s Devo we will see that Stephen faced a far different response to his close.
LORD, soften my own heart and give me sensitive ears to your voice in this text in Acts. Give me courage, like him, to tell the truth and nothing but the truth even when my listeners don’t want to hear. And raise up a host of biblical preachers who will cut through all the fake messages and have the courage to close their sermons like Stephen.
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