Daily Devotion for May 24, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
The wages of the wicked to sin.
Stephen Is Seized
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God."
And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law,for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us."
And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Notes on the Scripture
Stephen is soon to become the first martyr in Christianity. Not much is known about him. He was probably the Greek Jew named in yesterday's lesson, who was appointed (possibly as the leader) to the group who would oversee administration of the Jerusalem church. He was noted to be a man filled with the Holy Spirit and likely stood out in his faith and zeal — which would explain why he was singled out.
The groups who line up against him are all foreigners, people who, like Stephen himself, had returned to Jerusalem after the first diaspora. Cyrenia was an important city in Libya and Alexandria was, of course, in Asia. Cilicia and "Asia" were the area around Turkey and Greece (although some apostles would later travel east deeper into Asia proper, at least as far as India). The Freedmen were a group of former slaves.
So one might guess that Stephen, being a foreigner himself and speaking excellent Greek, would have spent time converting these groups. It would explain why they were the ones bringing charges against him.
The expression "face like an angel" does not mean he was unusually handsome. Rather, he was so filled with the Holy Spirit that his face shone with inspiration. His defense, which makes up the entirety of Acts 7, shows a skill at oratory that most scholars consider to show more skill than his natural talent.