Online Bible Commentary
Let Us Not Forget Our Roots
Acts 7:1 Then the high priest said, "Are these things so?" 2 And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.' 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. 5 And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. 6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. 7 'And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.' 8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs. (NKJV)
The time is the early days of the New Testament Church, in A.D. 30 or 31. The disciple Stephen has been brought before the religious leaders that made up the Sanhedrin Council.
Stephen is being falsely accused of blaspheming the temple and the law of Moses (also known as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible) while preaching the gospel in a synagogue. The false witnesses testified that Stephen had said that “Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
The High Priest questions Stephen asking "Are these things so" (v. 1)? Stephen responds with a lengthy sermon which covers fifty-three verses, the first eight of which are cited in this passage.
Stephen begins his explanation to the Jewish religious leaders at the beginning, the beginning of Israel. Stephen summarizes Scripture beginning with Genesis, chapter twelve.
When Abraham was living in Mesopotamia God spoke to him (v. 2). The word “Mesopotamia” means “between the rivers.” It is the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now eastern Iraq. Mesopotamia is a tract of land nearly 700 miles long and from 20 to 250 miles broad. The Garden of Eden was located in this area.
God commanded Abraham to leave his home and “come to a land that I will show you” (v. 3). First God lead Abraham, and his family, to a place they named Haran, where his father died (v. 4a). It was named after Abraham’s youngest brother. This place is now known as Harran in far southeast Turkey, not far from the northern border of Iraq.
From Haran, God lead Abraham to an area that is now known as Israel (v. 4b). But God never gave the Land to Abraham to occupy himself (v. 5a). God “promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him”, of which Abraham had none at that time (v. 5b).
God predicted that Abraham’s “descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years” (v. 6). This was the 430 year exile of the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham, in Egypt. They were treated well the first 30 years but were treated as slaves the last 400 years.
Egypt would be judged by God and would release the Hebrews so that they could come to the Promised Land, Israel, and serve God (v. 7). Stephen cites Genesis 15:13-14 in verse seven.
After speaking these words, God gave Abraham “the covenant of circumcision” (Genesis 17) when Abraham was 99 years old (v. 8a). Abraham was then blessed with a son, Isaac, who fathered Jacob (later named Israel by God), who fathered the twelve patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel (v. 8b), which was the beginning of Israel.
In beginning his sermon in this way Stephen wanted the Jewish religious leaders to remember their roots. It was important that they recall who they came from and who they belonged to.
In the same way, it is important for us to remember our roots. They are an important part of who we are, and who we belong to. Just as Abraham, our ancestors established for us a legacy. Their legacy may have been good for us, or not.
Our roots may be Christian roots. If so, these are the best roots we could possibly have. If not, we have the opportunity to begin the best possible legacy.
If our roots are Christian, they tell us that we are from a Christian family. If we follow these roots we will receive Christ and become a Christian. We will live our lives as Christians should live their lives, according to the teachings of the Bible.
We will know who we are, a child of Christ, and who we belong to, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Let us not forget our roots.