Stephen is defending himself before the Jewish council on charges that he “never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law”(Acts 6:13). The accusation is that Stephen has prophesied the destruction of the temple. So as he recounts Israel’s history, he has an emphatic point to make about the temple. “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua”(Acts 7:44-45). The tabernacle (a tent in which God symbolically lived) was the centerpiece of worship in this era, built as God instructed Moses.
Yet after the settling of the land, David “asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him”(Acts 7:46-47). The desire was to build a structure both more permanent and more appropriate for God to live in. But there was a problem. “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, ‘“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?”’”(Acts 7:48-50). How could a house devised and constructed by humans (with borrowed materials!) ever contain God? Isn’t he the creator of all?
Stephen’s point is that God is bigger than a temple. The tabernacle and the temple have been destroyed before, but God is unfazed by this. Speaking of the destruction of the temple (which Jesus did explicitly) is not blasphemy against God, since he is far greater. For us, the important lesson is that God is not restricted to a place or time designated by man. He is bigger than our church buildings or our human concepts of space and time.
One thing to think about: Are there places and times where I feel closer to God? Why might this be?
One thing to pray for: A sense of awe at the greatness of God
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