Psalm 148 The Voice (VOICE)
1 Praise the Eternal!
5 Let all things join together in a concert of praise to the name of the Eternal,
7 Everything on earth, join in and praise the Eternal;
9 Mountains and hills,
11 All kings and all nations,
13 Let them all praise the name of the Eternal!
Acts 7:59-8:8 The Voice (VOICE)
59 while they were pelting Stephen with rocks.
Stephen (as rocks fell upon him): Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 Then he knelt in prayer, shouting at the top of his lungs,
Stephen: Lord, do not hold this evil against them!
Those were his final words; then he fell asleep in death.
Stephen’s sermon weaves together the story of the Jews and the life of Jesus. The point of the message is that God pursues His children despite their constant failure. The crucifixion of Jesus is the greatest of all of these failures.
Stephen affirms that through circumcision they have made themselves look like Jews, but their hearts and ears need circumcising as well. Of course, telling the Jewish leaders to get their hearts and ears circumcised elicits a rather violent response. Stephen speaks the truth so that all might hear, including a man named Saul.
8 1-2 Some devout men buried Stephen and mourned his passing with loud cries of grief. But Saul, this young man who seemed to be supervising the whole violent event, was pleased by Stephen’s death. That very day, the whole church in Jerusalem began experiencing severe persecution. All of the followers of Jesus—except for the emissaries[a] themselves—fled to the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 3 Young Saul went on a rampage—hunting the church, house after house, dragging both men and women to prison.
They flee to the very places where Jesus said His disciples would be His witnesses at the beginning of this book. As a result, the persecution spreads the message of Christ rather than hinders it. Commenting about similar events a century later, church father Tertullian will write, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
4 All those who had been scattered by the persecution moved from place to place; and wherever they went, they weren’t afraid or silent. Instead, they spread the message of Jesus.
5 Philip, for example, headed north to the city of Samaria, and he told them the news of the Anointed One. 6 The crowds were united in their desire to understand Philip’s message. They not only listened with their ears, but they witnessed miraculous signs with their eyes. 7 Unclean spirits cried out with loud screams as they were exorcised from people. Paralyzed people and lame people moved and walked in plain view. 8 So the city was swept with joy.