Jesus continues his midrash, interpretation of the Jewish law. In each case the establish standard is recognized, then raised to a new level. Previously Jesus commented that he did not come to abolish the law, rather to fulfill it. Apparently fulfilling it meant going a lot deeper than simply doing and not doing the right things. Jesus moves from actions to the motivations connected with those actions. Our thoughts are brought into the equation. Further the ways in which we deal with things is more drastic. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. I am grateful for a non-literal reading here, yet the point remains get rid of the sin in your life and be ruthless about it.
Stephen continues his defense before the council. At first the story they expect to hear is continued, and then Stephen turns the tables. From a legal defense standpoint Stephen made a tragic mistake, he confronted his accusers about their murder of Jesus. As might be guessed this was not a popular thing with the high council. Before the chapter ends we find Stephen getting stoned to death with this guy named Saul watching and approving. Stephen held his ground and made his stand. There were many ways he could have avoided death, yet he knew he must make his stand. Interestingly right until the end Stephen is seeking God's forgiveness for those who are killing him, the words uses are similar to ones Jesus uttered at the cross, forgive them they do not know what they are doing. What a witness of faithfulness in the midst of persecution.
I suppose Stephen could have written this Psalm, if not write it I am sure it was in his mind and heart at some point in the above described trial. It can seem like all the godly people are gone and all we see is death and destruction. Oppression, poverty, hunger and deadly disease seem to prevail, yet God speaks in the midst of it all and says I will protect. I have no doubt happens in a supernatural way, I also have no doubt this happens when we, the people of God, take up the mission of God in the world as taught by Jesus Christ.
Genesis 29 and 30
As I read these pages I am convinced I am reading something written for soap opera television. Jacob falls in love and is deceived. Then he has two wives which becomes four. Before it is all said and done he has four wives and twelve children. Still living in his mother's homeland tending his uncles flocks, Jacob prospers. There is a confrontation brewing between his father-in-law, Laban, and Jacob over the work agreements Laban had not fully honored. While all this is going on God is at work putting together the family that would be the base of the twelve tribes of Israel. Looking at it this is one messed up family. Dysfunction seems to be everywhere. There are half brothers and step children, all totaled a very confusing family system. Still God is at work. Even when we think our lives are messed up, and they might be, we are not unusable by God.