With the turn of a page we begin the Sermon on The Mount. Quite possible the longest of the sermons presented in the Gospels, Jesus teaches the basics of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the words of the Jewish rabbi this would be Jesus' midrash, or his take on the Law. The opening of the sermon shows the audience he is coming at things from a little different perspective than they were use to. Jesus outlines how the poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted will have special status in the kingdom of heaven. In Jesus day and in ours that is not the list of people who are thought to be in special connection to the kingdom of God, especially by those who should know better the church. With these words Jesus is making clear the view God has of humanity is different than the view we have of ourselves.
In this chapter of Acts is when we meet Stephen. One of more memorable characters from the Scriptures, Stephen is raised up to be in the ministry of what we call today a Deacon. His role was not to be a teacher of the word or to maintain the order of the church, rather it was to serve those in need. Still we find Stephen could not keep from telling people about the wonders of God, and God used Stephen to show the world the miraculous of God. The end result is the religious people get made and seize Stephen bringing false witness against him. The religious people of the day cannot see what God is doing and they are more concerned with their human construction.
Anyone who has followed God has had those moments of feeling like God is far away from them. Some might say they have never experienced that, I doubt the truth of the claim. All of us from time to time wonder why God feels so far away. There are all kinds of reasons for this feeling, the psalm writer points the the wicked who have no regard for the Lord, yet they seem to prosper. In some shape or form we have all been there at some point. As is often the case with the Psalms, by the conclusion of the song, it is remembered that God is right there and will take of the earth, all creation, better than we could. It is God who knows the plan not us.
The development of the Abraham family line is quite interesting. You first have Ishmael who is technically the first born. You have Isaac the favored son, and other children from various women. That in itself is a whole topic not to be dealt with here. Before his death Abraham sends all the folks away except Isaac. However upon the death of Abraham Isaac and Ishmael stand together to bury their father. Ishmael then goes his way and from him comes what the NIV calls the twelve tribal leaders? Sounds kind of like Israel to me. In fact Isaac would have Esau and Jacob where once again the firstborn is not treated as such. Form Jacob would come the twelve tribes of Israel. Within two generations the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled. Still God was not working in the ways people thought to be common. Normally it would be the firstborn who would become the family leader. The firstborn would have a place of privilege, not in the case of Isaac and Jacob. God seems to work from a different viewpoint.