OT Quotes in Acts
By Gene Hutchcraft
“And God spake on this wise, ‘That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge,’ said God: ‘and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.’” (Acts 7:6-7)
“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” (Genesis 15:13-14)
Our focus text, quoted from Genesis are words that possibly every Hebrew knew from the time they could understand words of the Scripture. They point back to Israel’s etymology as a people in the earth. The people of God’s purpose and promise. God had not yet changed Abram and Sari’s names and Ishmael was not yet when God spoke these words which are the of our primary text. “And he said unto him, ‘Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.” (Genesis 15:9-12) This was part of the context of God’s revelation to Abraham that night.
Then came the words to which bro. Stephen refers as he presents his case and God truth to the council that day. “And he said unto Abram, ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.’ (Genesis 15:13-14)
God directs Abram out of his tent to look at the night sky which became an illustration to cast Abram’s thinking beyond time, space, and human capacity or even imagination. A cornerstone text of gospel exposition is then recorded in what one might call the preamble of our primary text. “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6) That sentence is quoted in NT Scripture three times directly… Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23. And alluded to again in Romans 4:9 & 22. The apostle Paul builds his doctrinal reasoning upon this Kingdom reality of God’s regard and reward for faith. Recall that this section of the record in Genesis begins with these words of assuring promise to this earthly pilgrim of faith, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
Despite this the event was likely menacing experience for Abram. He made the commanded offerings and then had to protect them from the birds of the air, recall they also ate the seed of path in Jesus’ parable. After this predatory attack “… when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.” (Genesis 15:12) Then God revealed these foreboding or threatening things of the future, the future of his unborn children, initially promised sometime earlier. How much time passed from Ur to this event is not recorded though they had been to and returned from Egypt, fought the battle of the kings, and met Melchizedek, priest of God. So, they had Hagar but Sari had not yet given her to Abram for wife.
Now bro. Stephen, whose face was as an angel’s, uses this text and promise to push forward the thoughts of his message by the Spirit that day in the city of Jerusalem. This scripture is one that the listeners would no doubt think of with deep reverence and national pride. The Lord God and father Abram had a private consultation under the night sky. God ordained and offering to Him and granted a dark vision of things concerning the future. It was one where God watched over Abram’s descendants to bring about a great deliverance and obtaining the land where they now dwelt. This was not just a walk down memory lane to manipulate their emotions for a religious appeal. This was God’s revelation of how He made Israel a nation, His nation, a peculiar people, separated from the nations unto Him for a task of God’s choosing, God’s creation, God’s fulfillment, and God’s execution from the foundation of the world. From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things as to this work for His name’s sake.
The brother is moving toward making a point concerning God’s promise that the men of the council will not be able to miss. We know that they will not agree. But they will hear the point clearly drawn from the text our brother cites which they cannot deny. However, they would draw other conclusions from these words which they honored or esteemed to the highest degree. So, brother Stephen drives these thoughts forward by the words his audience respected to a conclusion they would hear, yet not with faith!
THESE THINGS WERE OF GOD, NOT ABRAM
GOD CALLED ABRAM TO HIS AGENDA, PLAN, PROGRAM Such things never entered the heart of Abram who was a pagan until God’s call to this land in which they abode. That call was upon which Abram acted in obedience to or of faith. Faith always moves the believer to action as a command to the mind and heart. Scripture affirms throughout that action is bound up in genuine faith. It is not platitudes, pronouncements, imaginations, or wishful thinking.
Biblical faith enters the human heart and mind from without. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”(Philippians 1:29) Even so God spoke, commanding Abram to move hundreds of miles through unknown territory and he did over a period of years, 25 to be exact. God’s initial contact and revelation to Abram, the promise, involved generations and nations for which Abram could not account by his own powers. His body was not productive of such things at his now 75 years. Yet, God spoke of things that were not yet as though they were. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
This is also how the gospel speaks to believers undergird with centuries of godly testimony as to the dependability of God’s promises and ability. God revealed limited aspects of His purpose and will in the lives of the saints through the ages. They could not do these things; that is affecting kingdoms, thrones, and events in and between nations, i.e. Egypt and Canaan. God did those things to show His immutable purpose and word concerning those whom He favored. He spoke and acted with power to achieve or fulfill His purpose by His will. And He enrolled these believers and even those who believed not in that working of His will in the earth. The former profited while the latter lost.
SUCH OPENED THE DOOR OF GOD’S WILL IN THIS MAN Pivotal events that would later be used for the exposition of the gospel of Christ. Isaac’s birth after years of impotency and a wife with a dead womb. Yet, the Spirit apprises us of Abram’s stance toward these promises of God. “As it is written, ‘I have made thee a father of many nations,’ before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, ‘So shall thy seed be.’ And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:17-22)
So, God gave Abram power to produce Ishmael through Hagar, again to support the exposition of the gospel. “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”(Galatians 4:22-31) These words give understanding of God’s provision for those of faith and His working in them by that faith. It remains true of us who continue to believe the gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Also, in Paul’s letter to Rome and the Hebrews he expounds the nature of these things through Abraham, Israel, the law, the priesthood, the Tabernacle, the sacrifices, etc. These all begin and continued with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And they find their fulfillment in the gospel of Christ and believers in Him.
MEN ARE NOT ABLE OF THEMSELVES TO BARE THE SCOPE OF SUCH KNOWLEDGE Job, Abram, Moses, David, Daniel were temporally overcome by such revelations of God’s ‘determinate counsel and foreknowledge’ fulfilled in Jesus. God’s revelation to these and others did not involve human interests of riches, real estate, kingdoms, thrones or earthly dominions. Jacob returned to dangerous Canaan and Esau by God’s direction. Moses’ acted at God’s behest or commandment to return to dangerous Egypt. David’s aspirations of the throne came from God after his anointing by the prophet Samuel. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.” (1 Samuel 16:13)
God fulfilled those things promised the fathers through the generations. Those of faith in His promises which He worked in them experienced things beyond their imagination. Things which it took them years to comprehend and see fulfilled even in part. Even so, the fulness of God’s purpose involves glory for His name through a people purchased of His Son’s blood from the cursed earth and conformed to His image by the power of godly wisdom and truth through faith. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14) “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) These people Jesus will present to the Father by the working of His might in them to escape the corruption that is in the world by lust. These godly ones desire His purpose, His agenda, His interests, His approval of them He provides though their faith, just as He did in the fathers of the past.
GOD DIRECTED THESE EVENTS TO THEIR FULFILLMENT
HE DOES NOT INCORPORATE HUMAN CHOICES, DECISIONS We are not that wise, that strong, or that good in such things which are eternal and pertain to God. How could men begin to engage such things? Where would one start to approach God? It may appear on the surface that God does such things, but that is only because men are not able to see the wheel in the middle of the wheel or how God turns the heart of powerful men as a watercourse, i.e. Moses’ Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, or Augustus Caesar and a myriad of others. Thus he works out His purpose and brings all things to fulfillment at the appointed time, place, and people chosen beforehand.
So, Scripture reveals these things through those also chosen to deliver this revelation, holy men who spoke as the Spirit moved them to say, ‘this is that’ so that no man could boast before God. Judas is a prime example of this. Paul is as well. Their choices played a part as they yielded to God’s agenda. Judas betrayed and went to his own place, chosen and spoken of by the Lord Jesus. Then Paul also said of his ministry, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” (Galatians 1:15-17) You see God also brings about a person’s choice, which for believers they gladly conform to God’s working in and through them for His glory which they share by His generous kindness.
Also, people are easily swayed by things such as fear, greed, or limited by our time, health or other factors out of our control. Scripture records how God watched over Abram and Sari in Egypt and Canaan protecting her from powerful men who wanted her for themselves. The Lord God put His fear in them and they moved with trembling hast. Men may plan but it is God who acts in fulfillment of His agenda despite their appetites. He puts them in slippery places where they reveal their plans. God sends and angel to devastate a nation or an army in one night. He can remove reason from the mind of an earthly potentate such as Nebuchadnezzar. He can install another at his will, i.e Cyrus, who the prophet Isaiah named a century before his birth and who was not in line for the throne and did not take it by force. Yet, the enthroned Cyrus issued the decree for the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Then some years later God sent Nehemiah as governor to rebuild its wall in 53 days.
GOD’S CHOICES SUPERCEDE ANY OTHERS TO HIS END To reach the appointed outcome which He determines and controls. Recall the late life observations of Solomon which are not so profound to those in Christ. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) And he concludes the section of this document with these words. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14) Generations later Daniel recognized this reality as a young man in a pagan country and court. “And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” (Daniel 2:21-22) James reminds us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) So, these thoughts are totally reasonable from a faith and kingdom perspective. We are glad to entrust ourselves to God’s choices and realize that the redemption of our soul rests on those choices and our conforming to them!
Human philosophies of randomness or chance are not even statistically probable, much less reasonable or logical. These do not register as dust on the scale of God’s ‘determinate counsel.’ God declares this of Himself. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10) “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? (Isaiah 14:24-27)
Evena men do not trust chance in business, science, manufacturing, sports or even their personal lives. They press their plans by aptitude, appetite, and invention of purpose to fulfill their intents and interests. They shape their works and interests for their good. Yet, God works His to ‘the fulness of time’ which He also brings to pass with the people and circumstances. He can do so by asserting His hand (Egypt, Canaan, Assyrial, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.)Or He works by His providence in what appears to men as the natural course of human events, such as politics, economics, or some form of social action. However, it is God Who works and wills His good pleasure for His name while purifying… ‘for himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds’ as is He.
ALL HIS WORKS ARE FINISHED FROM THE FOUNDATION
FOR THOSE IN OPPOSITION WILL TRY TO INTERVENE Spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places; as with Job or Joshua the High Priest, and ultimately Jesus. Satan personally attempted in in each case. Demons likely thought they were having a field day in first century Palestine of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, the Decapolis; even in the Synagogues. Then Jesus of Nazareth appeared that Sabbath, or on the shore of Galilee, or at the base of the mountain when the father brought his son to the disciples who could not cast it out.
THOSE WHO DISAGREE WOULD DETOUR IT TO THEIR DESIRED END Pharaohs (4), 5 kings at the Battle of Sodom, Lot’s wife or daughters, Abimelech (2), Laban, Esau just to name a few who would have turned the course of things if they could have. But God stayed their hand, changed their minds, removed them, or scared their non-sense out of them. In the case of Edom God moved the trade route and left their great city to ruin for a lack of business. He can send a famine, flood, whirlwind, or any kind of environmental condition that changes the situation for lack of customers. He has withered the wombs of households, turned the counsel of wise men to nothing, and changed a curse into a blessing. The Almighty routs armies by hoof-beats in the night, turns allies to enemies on the battlefield, makes impregnable walls fall down, or guides a smooth stone to its target between the eyes of a big man who talked too much. “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” (Proverbs 21:30) “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:9-10)
Also, God can and did send poisonous serpents into Israel’s camp, opened the ground to swallow rebels, or sent a plague to kill 14,700 in a matter of hours, and in another plague for three days resulting in the death of 70,000. He can and did send a preacher from the wilderness to agitate and expose a religious institution that was dead set against God’s will and ways. An institution He established but the shepherd’s of Israel highjacked during their 1500 year of history. God had His way despite opposition on every level. Even from among His people who think they are serving Him by what they do. He just raised their accused blasphemer from the dead, right on His schedule, by the power of His indestructible life!
SUCH IS THE NATURE OF GOD’S ENTERPRISE – for us to come out at His call! “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
JUSTIFICATION From all that impedes which is His own law which highlights our sin, makes it ‘utterly sinful.’ Such knowledge in the tender heart will send to them God on bended knee pleading for mercy, cleansing, and cover that they might approach Him and abide in the shadow of His presence where it ever good thing. This God provides in the covenant made with Abraham of which we are reading and hearing of the foundation stones laid by the only One Who could lay them.
Faith of the nature of father Abram’s justifies because it comes from and proceeds to the Justifier Who is God Most High. He brings us out of the course of this world, out from under the law of sin and death with its just penalty. This is so because His Chosen took that penalty at the cross. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26)
SANCTIFICATION From all that corrupts men. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:2-7) That was our past it no longer is for we now have power by faith to come to God through His dear Son. “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Ephesians 3:11-12)
GLORIFICATION From all things temporal for God intends a people who desire and are ready by His wisdom and power to abide in His presence and go out no more. It is heaven’s agenda to produce such a people by the working of His might in them to crucify the flesh daily and live for righteousness as the walk in the truth and light of His presence. We have fellowship with the Father and Son by the glory of the Son which He brings to us and us to even as we abide here below in the cursed realm. This is the staggering salvation even angels long to look into. And those who inherit the salvation are the objects of their present ministries.
FRUIT OF THIS IN THE BELIEVING HEART – to serve Him in an appointed place!
LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS, FAITH, MEEKNESS, TEMPERANCE… the working of the Holy Spirit in the believing and compliant heart which inclines to the Lord God as did the Psalmist’s heart. Many in the world also want such things but they seek to produce it themselves, which is impossible. Also, they only want to serve themselves and other men. They have no interest in serving God Most High. They, at best, see Him only and a divine errand boy Who seeks to provide for human appetites that we might actualize ourselves, our ‘supposed’ highest potential. We have ample record of human potential. The battlefields and graveyards overflow from human potential. Multitudes suffer this hour because of human potential for we know what.
The godly heart seeks to honor, please, and rightly respond to God’s working agenda in His people. They treasure the same things He treasures and have sold out all else to obtain and retain possession of those things.
THEN ALSO THE POWER TO DILIGENTLY ADD TO OUR FAITH Virtue, Knowledge, Temperance, Patience, Godliness, Brotherly Kindness, Charity… these are the activities in which faith engages to make God’s calling and election sure while obtaining an abundant entrance into God’s eternal kingdom. For the Savior gives life abundantly, by heaven’s assessment, not human values. This life is in His dear Son not a stand alone unit for men to possess and use for human appetites.
CONCLUSION … Let us then brethren, as the saints past, especially father Abraham, lay aside every weight and run with patience the race set before us.