Online Bible Commentary
I Have Seen the Oppression of My People
Acts 7:30 And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 saying, 'I am the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 'Then the Lord said to him, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt." ' 35 This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37 "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.' 38 This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, (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 Jewish 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 Acts 7:1-53, of which this passage is part.
Stephen has just made the case that Israel has already rejected two saviors sent by God, Joseph and Moses. His point is that if they were mistaken about the first two they also could be mistaken about the third, Jesus Christ.
Moses was actually rejected twice. He was rejected the first time when he was forty years old, causing him to be exiled for forty years in Midian. In this passage Stephen recalls for the Jewish religious leaders the second rejection.
Moses was eighty years old when “an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai” (v. 30). The fire was burning but not destroying the bush. Moses approached this strange fire and “the voice of the Lord came to him” (v. 31).
When the voice identified Himself as God “Moses trembled and dared not look” (v. 32). God commanded Moses to take off his sandals for he was now standing on “holy ground” (v. 33). God said that He had seen the “oppression” of His people in Egypt and had heard their groaning and now has “come down to deliver them” (v. 34a). He told Moses that He would send him to Egypt to deliver His people (v. 34b).
So Moses, already rejected by his people once, was sent “to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush” (v. 35). By the hand of God, Moses led his people out of slavery to the Promised Land, after they wandered in the desert for forty years (v. 36).
This was the Moses who said “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Dt. 18:15), referring to Jesus Christ (v. 37). This was the same Moses who received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (v. 38). This Moses was “rejected” a second time by the Israelites when, facing the hardships of the desert, they longed to return to the slavery of Egypt (v. 39).
So Stephen recounts that the Israelites rejected Moses, not once but twice. He is building his case for Jesus Christ. He is imploring the religious leaders to not reject another savior sent by God.
Moses was not a perfect man. He had murdered an Egyptian soldier. But God sent Moses back to Egypt because, as He said: “I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt” (Ex. 3:7). God does not sit idly by when His people are being oppressed.
Christians, God’s people, are being oppressed around the world, including in this country. They are being exterminated in record numbers in some parts of the world. God will not stand for this. He will act, soon. As He usually does, He will likely use men, good and bad, to accomplish His will. It is only a matter of time. Glory be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!