Stephen is continuing his defense before the Sanhedrin council by retelling the story of Israel’s history. Though Joseph suffered at the hands of his brothers, they also suffered too: “Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit”(Acts 7:11-12). This famine—and the “great affliction” it brought to Jacob and his family—was God’s means of moving them down to Egypt, where he could fulfill his promise to them.
So it is that Joseph “sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all”(Acts 7:14) to Egypt. This is important because God had told Abraham “that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years” and then God would deliver (Acts 7:6-7). Over long periods of time, despite sin and disbelief, God fulfilled his word.
I am struck by Stephen’s emphasis on affliction in God’s unfolding plan. God’s people would be afflicted (Acts 7:6). Joseph had afflictions (Acts 7:10). With the famine came great affliction for Jacob and his family (Acts 7:11). It is a reminder to us that God can work in affliction just as easily as in peace and comfort. Affliction does not mean God has forsaken us. In fact, it often means that God has a reason to act in a new and better way to deliver us.
One thing to think about: How have I seen God work through affliction?
One thing to pray for: Eyes to see God’s unfolding plan (and not just my own discomfort)
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