“The high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’ And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, “Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.” Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him. But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. “And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,” said God, “and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.” And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.” (Acts 7:1-8).
After bringing false witnesses to testify against Stephen, the high priest challenged him to answer the charges. Instead, Stephen answered by defending the Person and work of Christ. In his defense, Stephen recounted the work of God in Israel’s history, beginning with Abraham, the truth of which facts every Jew would acknowledge.
Stephen appealed to God’s glory, that is, His goodness. The root of Stephen’s word, translated as glory, is found in Luke’s explanation to Theophilus for writing his Gospel: “It seemed good” (KJV, ESV), or “fitting” (NAS), “to write an orderly account for you” (ESV). So, the God of glory is infinitely good.
God could have appeared to anyone, but in His perfect goodness, He appeared to Abraham. His appearance was based, not on any merit in Abraham, but solely on God’s own purpose. The point is not to belittle Abraham, but to confess God’s goodness and to give cause for gratitude to the people of God.
When God appeared, He called Abraham to leave his familiars “and come into the land that I will show you.” Turns out that Abraham’s father, Terah, had planned to go to Canaan (Israel), but settled in Haran (southern Turkey) (Gen. 11:31), which was precisely where God planned to take Abraham all along.
After Terah died, Abraham followed the Lord into Canaan, but God didn’t allow him to take possession of the land. Instead, He sent him into Egypt and blessed him there. God even gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of His covenant promise to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan.
Over time, though, Abraham’s descendants were enslaved. Four centuries are a long time to wait for God’s promise, but God is eternal and His purposes are perfect. None of the abuses that Israel endured in Egypt could undo God’s promise.
We tend to think that bad things discount God’s promises toward us, but they don’t. God keeps His words to His children. Satan would have us think, every time we’re caught at a long traffic light, that God’s dropped the ball, neglected His promises, and isn’t to be trusted. Yet, God goes right on, working His plan, fulfilling His promises, and keeping His word. Abraham and Sarah, that childless old couple, became the parents of Isaac, the grandparents of Jacob, and the great-grandparents of the twelve boys who would be called the patriarchs of Israel.
Stephen carefully began to weave an oral tapestry of God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to
Abraham. One can almost hear the High Council pause in their accusations and nod: “Well, okay. There’s no argument with Stephen’s presentation so far, but where’s he going with this? Why’s he bringing this up?