39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” Acts 7:39-53
Stephen concluded his sermon with a strong rebuke. Having read the first 39 verses, you would never guess where Stephen was going with the message. Even though there were probably many onlookers, Stephen directed his attacks against the Jewish leaders. He accused them of murder, resisting the Holy Spirit, and willful disobedience.
The leaders now had a few choices: 1) accept what Stephen said and repent of their ways, 2) insult Stephen, 3) step back and consider what Stephen was saying.
Well, we all know that answers 1 and 3 were not going to happen. This may have been their last chance to turn to God. God, being merciful and compassionate, was giving the religious leaders at least one more chance to consider their actions. Did they have others later? Well, we know that one of them took Stephen up on that last chance, and the next few months we’ll be discussing that leader. But the rest of the Jewish leaders?
We never know what “phase” of salvation people are in. If a person appears vile on the outside, we still do not know what the Holy Spirit is doing in that person’s life. We cannot know the heart.
Consider this: if God lays it on your heart to pray for a person over a long period of time, God’s probably not finished with that person. Be careful about giving up on someone too soon.