Thursday, May 11, 2017

Word that cuts to the heart

Stephen before the Sanhedrin - Artist unknown
Stephen before the Sanhedrin - Artist Unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 7:35-8:1

TO CHEW ON: "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." Acts 7:54

After taking his listeners (the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin) on a trip through Old Testament history, recalling Israel's long record of rejecting the prophets, Stephen came to the climax of his message:
"'You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers'" Acts 7:51,52.

The reaction was immediate:
"… they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen]" Acts 7:54 AMP.

The same expression, "cut to the heart," is used another time when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter was defiant about their orders to stop speaking of Jesus. He accused them of killing the One who was now exalted as "Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver…"  - Acts 5:31 AMP.  Their reaction was identical:
"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and infuriated and wanted to kill the disciples" - Acts 5:33 AMP.

In both cases the speakers—Peter and Stephen—used Scripture to make their points, retelling its stories, quoting relevant verses, and making unpopular applications. The effect this use of scripture had on members of the Sanhedrin reminds me of another verse that flat out states that the word of God cuts:
" For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart" - Hebrews 4:12 AMP.

As our society drifts ever farther from Judeo-Christian moorings, the message of scripture—the Bible—will become ever more controversial. But because it was authored by the One who created the human heart, who knows the deepest part of human nature, it continues to have the penetrating power to expose, sift, analyze and judge our thoughts and motivations. It still cuts to the heart.

This cutting can bring us to a place of obedience or resistance, as was the case with these Jewish leaders. Perhaps we should prepare ourselves for a time when the widespread reaction to it in our culture will be every bit as dangerous to us as it was to Stephen in Acts.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your Word which exposes me to myself. Help me not to resist it but to let it  cut, expose, sift, analyze, and judge me toward obedience. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

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