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Stephen's speech

1The high priest asked Stephen, “Are they telling the truth about you?”

2Stephen answered: Friends, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he had moved to Haran.

3God told him, “Leave your country and your relatives and go to a land that I will show you.”

4Then Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, Abraham came and settled in this land where you now live.

5God didn't give him any part of it, not even a square metre. But God did promise to give it to him and his family for ever, even though Abraham didn't have any children.

6God said that Abraham's descendants would live for a while in a foreign land. There they would be slaves and would be ill-treated four hundred years.

7But he also said, “I will punish the nation that makes them slaves. Then later they will come and worship me in this place.”

8God said to Abraham, “Every son in each family must be circumcised to show that you have kept your agreement with me.” So when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. Later, Isaac circumcised his son Jacob, and Jacob circumcised his twelve sons.

9These men were our ancestors. Joseph was also one of our famous ancestors. His brothers were jealous of him and sold him as a slave to be taken to Egypt. But God was with him

10and rescued him from all his troubles. God made him so wise that the Egyptian king Pharaoh thought highly of him. Pharaoh even made Joseph governor over Egypt and put him in charge of everything he owned.

11Everywhere in Egypt and Canaan the grain crops failed. There was terrible suffering, and our ancestors could not find enough to eat.

12But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there for the first time.

13It was on their second trip that Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learnt about Joseph's family.

14Joseph sent for his father and his relatives. In all, there were seventy-five of them.

15His father went to Egypt and died there, just as our ancestors did.

16Later their bodies were taken back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor.

17Finally, the time came for God to do what he had promised Abraham. By then the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased.

18Another king was ruling Egypt, and he didn't know anything about Joseph.

19He tricked our ancestors and was cruel to them. He even made them leave their babies outside, so they would die.

20During this time Moses was born. He was a very beautiful child, and for three months his parents took care of him in their home.

21Then when they were forced to leave him outside, the king's daughter found him and raised him as her own son.

22Moses was given the best education in Egypt. He was a strong man and a powerful speaker.

23When Moses was forty years old, he wanted to help the Israelites because they were his own people.

24One day he saw an Egyptian ill-treating one of them. So he rescued the man and killed the Egyptian.

25Moses thought the rest of his people would realize that God was going to use him to set them free. But they didn't understand.

26The next day Moses saw two of his own people fighting, and he tried to make them stop. He said, “Men, you are both Israelites. Why are you so cruel to each other?”

27But the man who had started the fight pushed Moses aside and asked, “Who made you our ruler and judge?

28Are you going to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

29When Moses heard this, he ran away to live in the country of Midian. His two sons were born there.

30Forty years later, an angel appeared to Moses from a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.

31Moses was surprised by what he saw. He went closer to get a better look, and the Lord said,

32“I am the God who was worshipped by your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses started shaking all over and didn't dare to look at the bush.

33The Lord said to him, “Take off your sandals. The place where you are standing is holy.

34With my own eyes I have seen the suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now I am sending you back to Egypt.”

35This was the same Moses that the people rejected by saying, “Who made you our leader and judge?” God's angel had spoken to Moses from the bush. And God had even sent the angel to help Moses rescue the people and be their leader.

36In Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the desert, Moses rescued the people by performing miracles and wonders for forty years.

37Moses is the one who told the people of Israel, “God will choose one of your people to be a prophet, just as he chose me.”

38Moses brought our people together in the desert, and the angel spoke to him on Mount Sinai. There he was given these life-giving words to pass on to us.

39But our ancestors refused to obey Moses. They rejected him and wanted to go back to Egypt.

40The people said to Aaron, “Make some gods to lead us! Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don't know what's happened to him now.”

41Then they made an idol in the shape of a calf. They offered sacrifices to the idol and were pleased with what they had done.

42God turned his back on his people and left them. Then they worshipped the stars in the sky, just as it says in the Book of the Prophets, “People of Israel, you didn't offer sacrifices and offerings to me during those forty years in the desert.

43Instead, you carried the tent where the god Molech is worshipped, and you took along the star of your god Rephan. You made those idols and worshipped them. So now I will have you carried off beyond Babylonia.”

44The tent where our ancestors worshipped God was with them in the desert. This was the same tent that God had commanded Moses to make. And it was made like the model that Moses had seen.

45Later it was given to our ancestors, and they took it with them when they went with Joshua. They carried the tent along as they took over the land from those people that God had chased out for them. Our ancestors used this tent until the time of King David.

46He pleased God and asked him if he could build a house of worship for the people of Israel.

47And it was finally King Solomon who built a house for God.

48But the Most High God doesn't live in houses made by humans. It is just as the prophet said, when he spoke for the Lord,

49“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? In what place will I rest?

50I have made everything.”

51You stubborn and hardheaded people! You are always fighting against the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors did.

52Is there one prophet that your ancestors didn't ill-treat? They killed the prophets who told about the coming of the One Who Obeys God. And now you have turned against him and killed him.

53Angels gave you God's Law, but you still don't obey it.

Stephen is stoned to death

54When the council members heard Stephen's speech, they were angry and furious.

55But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked towards heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side.

56Then Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”

57The council members shouted and covered their ears. At once they all attacked Stephen

58and dragged him out of the city. Then they started throwing stones at him. The men who had brought charges against him put their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!”

60He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don't blame them for what they have done.” Then he died.

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