See the glory of God and Jesus, - See earth according to that glory.
Acts 7:51-60 from the daily reading in the One year Bible
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.
Matthew 5:44-45 says: “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Most of us have a hard time with that. It is difficult enough not to retaliate, let alone actually love and bless those who are against us. In today’s text we see this kind of love demonstrated by Stephen. The text says: When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. In the very midst of being stoned to death, in fact with his very last breath, Stephen prayed for and blessed those who were persecuting him. He was like Jesus, who when He was in the midst of the agony of the cross, said: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) Jesus doesn’t ask us to do something He Himself would not do, hasn’t done or does not provide us with the strength to do it.
Where did Stephen get the strength and the peace to bless those who were doing him physical harm? The text gives us the answer. It says: But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen looked into the heavenly realm. He saw the glory of God. There is a change in our perspective when we see things from the perspective of heaven. In Isaiah 6:1-3 it says: In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” When we view the world, from our own earthly perspective, we see the evil and darkness of man. We see things according to the circumstances we experience. But when we, like the Seraphim, like Stephen, see instead from the perspective of heaven, we see that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God. Habakkuk 2:14 says: "For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” We think of the water being the sea, but without the water, the sea would be a vast dry wasteland, like a dessert. Without the glory of God, earth appears as a wasteland. Before God spoke at creation the earth was formless and void. God saw from His heavenly perspective, spoke and it was good. (Genesis 1) The whole earth is filled with, covered by the glory of God.
Still there was and is more to walking in the love of enemies as Stephen did and as we are called to do. Romans 8:34 says: Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. When Stephen looked up into the heavenly realm, he not only saw the glory of God, but he heard Jesus interceding for him. Hebrews 4:14-16 says: Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Again, Jesus asks nothing of us that He Himself has not done or been tempted with. When we look to Him, we see and hear Him interceding for us. It says: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. It is to the throne of grace that we can boldly go for mercy in our time of need. We can go only because of the mercy, the grace and the love of God and Jesus, demonstrated in the cross. At the throne of grace, we are found acceptable, righteous before the Lord, because of the cross, there is no judgment or condemnation. Here’s the thing: There is no judgment or condemnation at the throne of grace. When we are there, we cannot judge or condemn others. If we come before God with judgment or condemnation, then we remove ourselves from the throne of grace. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” If we come before God in judgment of others, then we too will be judged. If we come to the throne of grace, there can be no judgment or condemnation. Romans 8:1 says: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is no condemnation for us at the throne of grace, neither can there be any in us.
Because of the grace we have received, in Christ we will, like Stephen: love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We do not bless their actions or their sins. Like Stephen we say: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” May they instead see Your glory revealed through the love and grace we show them. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for the cross, the demonstration of Your love and the instrument of Your mercy and grace. Thank You that there is no condemnation for me because of Your mercy and grace, because of the cross. May there also be no condemnation in me, but rather may I be a blessing to others, even those who hate, harm or persecute me. As I come to the throne of grace in my time of need, may I bring them there also. May I be a light in the darkness, bringing the glory of heaven to earth, that others too, will glorify You and know the grace and love of the cross. Amen.