"However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:Acts 7:48(NASB)
Just before being stoned to death for his faith in Christ, Stephen.. a beloved disciple of the Lord Jesus, who was full of grace and truth, faith and hope, power and wisdom.. and filled with the Holy Ghost, was falsely accused by various groups of religious legalists of sedition and blasphemy.. and hauled before the Jewish court - the Sanhedrin.
And so it was that starting with Abraham's call.. out of Ur of the Chaldees, that Stephen presented his detailed and inspired defence, by going step by step through the entire history of Israel in order to lay before them God's amazing plan of redemption.. both for Israel and for the rest of the world - through Jesus Christ their Messiah and King.
He spoke of other patriarchs like Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David and described historical events like Israel's redemption from Egypt, their wilderness wanderings and their conquests in the promised land. Step by step, Stephen laid out God's plan of redemption for mankind through Israel.
He reminded them that it had been king David's deep desire to build a house for the Lord, but that the task had been given to Solomon his son.. in order to show these blind religious legalists that God's eternal plan of salvation was far greater than their own limited, little expectation.
And so it was that in order to broaden their myopic perception of God and His redemptive plan for the world, that Stephen explained something that both Solomon and the prophets of old had understood for generations - that the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as scripture says: Was it not My hand which made all these things? for the heaven of heavens is God's throne and the earth is His footstool. What sort of house will you build for Me? or what can You make for My resting place?
But this was not what the blind leaders of Israel wanted to hear, and they charged Stephen of speaking against the Law and of seeking to destroy the Jewish Temple. They did not see that the entire history of the nation of Israel had been in opposition to God as they systematically broke His Laws and went against everything He had said - until they were finally dispersed.
The blind leaders of Israel did not realise that the Law had been given to point them to Christ and Stephen rightly accused them of being stiff-necked people, who were uncircumcised in heart and who resisted the Holy Spirit - for they had killed the Lord of glory and refused to be convicted of sin, righteousness and judgement.
Stephen was slowly unfolding God's redemption plan in order to bring them to repentance for the terrible travesty that had recently been carried out.. the execution of their Messiah King - the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the story had ended at this point it would have been a sad state of affairs.. but following in the footsteps of the Master we hear Stephen's gracious prayer of forgiveness being offered up to His God and Saviour - and falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' and having said this, Stephen fell asleep.
For 2000 years God has stayed his hand of judgement on a Christ-rejecting sinful world.. and God has been answering that prayer of Stephen - as down through the centuries.. Jew and Gentile alike have been offered the free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ and brought into the family of God.
Our God is far to big to be confined into houses made of stone or restricted to the finite imagination of fallen man. Let us seek to broaden our own perception of God and see Him for Who He is - for He is the eternal, infinite, holy God of love, justice and grace - Whose mercy is everlasting and Whose Word stands fast forever and ever - Who set aside His heavenly glory to reside on the earth for a season so that He could freely lay down His own precious life - so that we might live.. by faith in Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing grace and for answering this inspired prayer of Stephen. Thank You for extending Your saving grace down 2000 years of time.. so that I too might believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved - in Whose name I pray, AMEN.