Online Bible Commentary
Rejecting God Brings Punishment
Acts 7:40 saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: 'Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch, And the star of your god Remphan, Images which you made to worship; And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.' 44 "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?' (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.
As Moses was leading the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land, the Israelites rejected both Moses and his God. They asked for idols to worship and had no more use for Moses (v. 40). They worshiped and offered sacrifices to a golden calf, an idol that they had built (v. 41).
Because of their rejection of Him, God gave the Israelites over to their own devices (v. 42a). Next Stephen cites the prophet Amos in the Greek Septuagint translation of Amos 5:25-27 (Vv. 42b-43). The Septuagint translation calls for the Israelites to be exiled “beyond Babylon”, while the Hebrew account is “beyond Damascus.” Both are correct as the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, which is beyond Damascus. Even though they professed to offering sacrifices to God, the Israelites also worshiped idols that they created. Their continued rejection of God eventually led to their exile for seventy years in Babylon.
From their forty years in the desert until Solomon built the temple the Israelites worshiped God in a tent, referred to as the tabernacle (Vv. 44-47). They would take it down and move it with them as they travelled about through the desert, setting it back up when they stopped for the day.
Stephen then cites Isaiah 66:1-2a (Vv. 48-50). Since he is being accused of plotting to destroy the temple he makes it clear that God does not live in a temple, but rather in Heaven (Vv. 48-49). After all God created all things, including the temple, and can do with them as He pleases (v. 50).
Through his discourse Stephen has made it clear to the Jewish religious leaders that rejecting God brings punishment. He is making the case that God sent three saviors to the Hebrews; Joseph, Moses, and now Jesus. All three were rejected and Stephen has shown that rejection of the first two resulted in punishment each time. His point is that rejection of Jesus will also result in punishment of the Jewish people.
This principle is not only true for the Jewish people, but is true for all people. The rejection of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will result in punishment for all those who choose that route. Their punishment will be a life without peace and an eternity in Hell. The stakes are high, too high to ignore. Rejecting God brings punishment.