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God's Ways Are Higher Than Ours

Acts 7:11-16
'Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.' (NIVUK)

At Stephen's trial, he made no attempt to defend himself against false witnesses (Acts 6:12-7:53). His accusers were locked into their own little ideas about their own religious power-base. They could not see the truth of Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God saved Jacob (Israel) and his family from starving to death during a catastrophic famine. It was a miracle … and all the more so because of the way in which God did it. He allowed Jacob's eleventh son, Joseph, to be maliciously sold as a slave into Egypt by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37:2-36). Yet, after a time of injustice and suffering, God raised him to a position of power and authority so that he could save many lives in Egypt (Genesis 39:1-41:57); and also provide food for rich people in other countries (Genesis 42:1-50:14). That is a real-life picture of Jesus' life's work too.

So Stephen used incidents from Israel's history to show the religious leaders that they should expect God to work uniquely, and even through unfair suffering. This history lesson was stimulated by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that Jesus should not be rejected any more - even though He was despised and sentenced to death by the same jealous Council of the Sanhedrin who were now cross-questioning Stephen (Mark 15:10). This was their opportunity to repent and believe the gospel, trusting in Jesus (Acts 17:30).

God is still at work. He is still drawing people to Jesus. He uses His Word, and alerts people through their circumstances to seek Him (Isaiah 55:6-7). He places His people alongside seekers to explain to them what He has done through Jesus and urge them to repent. Even through the difficult times in your life, God is letting the people around you see what trust in Jesus looks like; and is providing you with opportunities to speak about Jesus. Often, it is not the shining examples of spiritual success that reaches through to sinful hearts, but the quiet witness of a broken person who is still holding on to Jesus (Psalm 51:15-17 and 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Lord of all suffering. Thank You for being able to take the worst and transform it into the best. Forgive me for failing to believe that You do have a good long-term plan, even though I cannot understand it all. Please help me to use the Bible's examples of faithful and godly people who persisted in faith despite pain and suffering, to refocus my weak heart. Strengthen me to be a potent witness to the grace of Christ in and through my weakness, so that other people can learn to trust Jesus too. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams