“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zachariah….He stood before the people and said….Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands?  But they plotted against him and by order of the king they stoned him…….said as he lay dying, ‘May the Lord see this and call you to account'”   2 Chronicles 24:20,21,22

“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth…..all rushed at him dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…..Then he fell on his knees and cried out ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them'”  Acts 7:54, 58, 60

Let me start this post with the comment that I in no way shape or form mean this post to be any comment of judgement on the act of Zachariah.  He was a man of God called to testify to the people of Judah for which he paid with his life.  He was faithful to the end and, as such, should be greatly admired.

Zachariah lived during a time when the people of Israel were split into two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.  Unfortunately for both kingdoms, some of their kings strayed from following the Word of God, unlike what King David had done.  Joash was one of those evil kings.  There was a mighty prophet during the time of Joash named Jehoiada.  While Jehoiada was alive, he was able to lead King Joash to follow in the ways of God.  Together, but mainly at Jehoiada’s leading, the temple was repaired.  Also, all the other temples to Baal and other gods were torn down.  However, when Jehoiada died, King Joash quickly forsook the Lord and started to worship other, local gods.  So the Spirit of God entered into Zachariah, Jehoiada’s son.  God is not one to leave his people leaderless when it comes to the desires of God.  God longs not to punish, but to lead to repentance and a right relationship.  But instead of repenting, King Joash orders Zachariah stoned to death.  As the sentence is being carried out, Zachariah calls upon the Lord to take note of the evil nature of those killing him and wants them to be called to account.

Now jump forward a little over 300 years and you come to the time of Acts.  In Our Heavenly Father’s perfect plan and timing, Jesus Christ has come to earth, lived, preached, healed, died for our sins and has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.  We are told that Stephen is among the first of the believers to be added to the church.  He was a person filled with God’s grace and power in that he preached boldly and did miraculous signs in front of the people.  Stephen was seized by the Jewish leadership out of fear and jealously that Stephen was preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.  Stephen gives an impassioned defense of the Gospel.  But the Jewish leaders thought they had taken care of the problem when they crucified Jesus, so to have some still speaking so passionately and bringing people to Christ was more than they could stand.  They therefore order Stephen stoned.  Yet Stephen does not ask for deliverance, he does not ask for vengeance on those killing him.  No, Stephen asks God to forgive them.

Why the difference in these two absolutely Godly men?  I believe it boils down to two things; first, is  Jesus Christ and second is the Holy Spirit the resides in the heart of believers and testifies concerning Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself, in the Gospel of Matthew declares that many prophets had longed to see what the people of Jesus time were seeing, that is Jesus Christ, and they did not see Him.  You see Zachariah did not have the opportunity, during his time, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Zachariah did not have the Pentecost experience.  Steven did.  So  because of the teaching and example  of Jesus Christ to love your enemies as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with Stephen, he was able to ask God to forgive his executioners.

So what is the lesson for you and I, Dear Sisters and Brothers?  To be born again, we proclaim that we believe in Jesus Christ, that He is the Only Son of God.  We proclaim that He died for our sins and was raised again.  We understand that through the Grace of Our Heavenly Father the Holy Spirit has been given to us to live in our hearts to teach us the real and total truth of Love.  We believe that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thus, having knowledge of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us strive to be like Stephen.  When adversity strikes, when the world comes up against us, when we are reviled and persecuted for our beliefs, let us not lash out in contempt, let us not call out to Our Heavenly Father to damn or condemn.  With and in the example of Jesus Christ and His Love, let us seek to forgive those against us. Let us be a beacon of mercy and light.  We are told that Stephen, even in the midst of his despair looked up and saw the Glory of our Heavenly Father as well as Jesus Christ standing at His Right Hand.  Let us likewise keep our gaze focused on Jesus Christ knowing that as we do so we will receive the strength by the Holy Spirit to become more like Him.  Though understand this, becoming more like Christ is not based on our own righteousness but starts and ends with Christ; who makes all the difference.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the power that we are able to receive through the salvation of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help us to use that power in love and forgiveness to all, especially those who would persecute and act against us.  That in so doing we may prove to be an example that would help to lead the lost to You and Praise Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen