1 Kings 7:27-51; Acts 7:51-60; Psalms 128:1-4; Proverbs 28:1
NT: ““You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.” When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God… They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And after saying this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:51-55, 58-60 CSB)
When Stephen was asked to defend himself against the false charges leveled at him, he began recounting the history of how God moved through His people, even as His people rejected the ones God chose to work through. Throughout all of the scriptures, a common theme that shows up is Israel’s rejection and rebellion against God’s ways. His point: over all the centuries, nothing had changed, and once again, the Jewish leaders were rejecting the way God was moving and were rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. What boldness Stephen displayed, to stand before an angry mob and strongly defend the gospel. Some might even say that Stephen’s bold defense was foolhardy… that he would have accomplished more and saved his life by sugar-coating the truth. However, Jesus approved of Stephen’s defense… and even stood to His feet in honor of Stephen and the sacrifice he was about to make. While it may seem that Stephen was a life of potential that was cut way to short – from heaven’s perspective Stephen’s life was a seed that produced much fruit for centuries to come. Stephen’s life was blessed and his death was blessed because of his bold faithfulness. The question to ask is, “Am I more like Stephen, or am I more like Stephen’s accusers?” Am I willing to boldly stand for the word, will, and ways of God, or am I one that fights against God’s ways if they threaten my comfort and my agendas?
Psalms: “How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children, like young olive trees around your table. In this very way the man who fears the Lord will be blessed.” (Psalms 128:1-4 CSB)
The psalmist used a few different words for blessed – some of which are translated here as “happy.” How (asher) is everyone who fears the Lord. That word refers to the good that comes when people honor and obey the Lord. The man who fears the Lord will be (barak). That word means blessed, praised, saluted by the Lord. The evidence of the blessing is fruitfulness and sustained life. A man who fears the Lord is a man who honors the Lord’s word, will, and ways and would rather offend man’s sensibilities than to offend and grieve the Lord. Stephen was a man that feared the Lord – yet some might say that he wasn’t blessed… it didn’t go well for him… he was stoned to death. That view comes from looking at Stephen’s life from a temporal and earthly perspective. Stephen, however, was blessed (barak) for the Lord stood and saluted him as he gave his life. The evidence of Stephen’s blessedness was the fruit that came from his martyrdom… a gospel that ended up being spread across the known world.
Proverbs: “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1 CSB)
People who know they are wrong live in constant fear. Though they may appear brazen on the outside, they live in the fear of being found out and exposed. Those who are righteous and true have no fear of being found out and stand with unshakable conviction. Stephen was such a man. He stood in boldness because he stood on the side of righteousness. If we live in the light and keep our lives clean through confession and repentance, we too can stand bold as a lion – even in the face of death.