Thursday, 12 May 2022
He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. Acts 7:36
The previous verse referred to Moses, who was rejected by his own brothers, being the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. Still referring to Moses, Stephen next says, “He brought them out.”
This refers to the leadership of Moses, bringing the nation out of the bondage of Egypt. From there, the NKJV incorrectly (following the blunder of the KJV) includes the word “after.” This is not in the Greek, and it needs to be ignored. Including the word “after” as they have done leaves the words impossible to reconcile with the sequence of events. Moses “brought them out, having shown wonders and signs.”
The words translated as “wonders and signs” have already been seen in Acts, such as in Acts 2:22. The wonders refer to an event that occurs that is beyond what is normal. Calling forth frogs, lice, locusts, and hail (and so forth) are wonders. Moses said these things would come, and then they came, just as prophesied.
A sign is something that anticipates something else. Moses was given three signs to present in order to validate that the Lord had commissioned him. These were the rod that turned into a snake, the hand that turned leprous, and the turning of water into blood. The sign may be a wonder, but it has a greater purpose by pointing to something else, validating what it points to. Stephen notes that these wonders and signs were accomplished in three specific locations. The first is “in the land of Egypt.”
These were documented in Exodus 5-12, culminating in the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt and the passing over of the firstborn of Israel. Stephen next says, “and in the Red Sea.”
This was not only the parting of the Red Sea, but of the presence of the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud, His protecting of them as they passed through the sea, and of His destruction of the Egyptians in the sea. Everything about the event was wondrous.
As a side note, this is the first of two times the Red Sea is mentioned in the New Testament, here and in Hebrews 11:29. The name Red Sea is derived not from the Hebrew, but from the Greek. The Hebrew calls it yam suph, or “Sea of ending,” coming from the verb suph, meaning to come to an end, or cease. This would refer to the sea from the perspective of the land of Israel, where its southern edge ends at the sea.
The origin of the Greek name, Erythra Thalassē, is unknown. Some think it might be because of red seaweed found there, while some because of the coast having a reddish appearance, and some find it etymologically connected to Edom (the Edom Sea) because the border of Edom ends at the sea. Edom means red, and so this is not an unlikely possibility. No matter where the name comes from, it is evident that the Greek name, from the Greek translation of Scripture, is where Stephen’s word is derived from.
Finally, Stephen finishes with, “and in the wilderness forty years.” Obviously, passing through the Red Sea was at the time of bringing Israel out of Egypt, not before. And the time in the wilderness was after being brought out and through the sea, not before. As such, the use of the word “after,” as added in by the NKJV, confuses the timing of the events described in this verse.
As for the wonders and signs in the wilderness, they are recorded from Exodus 13 and continue through the book of Numbers. The name Etham, found in Exodus 13:20, means “Their Sign.” It was given based on the surrounding events.
From there, Israel had bitter waters made sweet, manna from heaven throughout the entire time they wandered, water from the rock, quail in abundance, the giving of the law, the punishment of offenders in unique and interesting ways, the snake on the pole, and on and on and on. The wonders and signs were there with Israel as God maintained them as a people. The Lord never failed them during their entire time of wandering.
Life application: It is not uncommon to hear people muse as to why some say we do not have signs and wonders today. The answer is right in the Bible. Paul says that we live by faith, not by sight. If we had sight, we wouldn’t need faith. But think about it. Did the signs and wonders change anyone? For the most part, no.
Pharaoh saw them and continuously hardened his heart. Israel saw them and failed to believe the Lord and refused to trust Him. Jesus performed them among the people, and they crucified Him. The apostles demonstrated signs, wonders, and healings, and they were persecuted and rejected. To this day, they are still rejected.
And to say that a wonder does not exist in the world today is not completely true. Israel exists, despite all that it has gone through. This is exactly what the Lord said would be the case. And more, Israel the people are back in the land of Israel, exactly as the Lord – as testified to in His word – said would occur. And yet, the vast majority of the church rejects that this has anything to do with the workings of God. To them, it is an aberration that is to be rejected as such.
As you can see, things such as signs, wonders, and healings may be interesting, but without faith, they have no real meaning to the person who sees them. So, which is greater? What is it that God is looking for in you? He is looking for faith. If you want to experience a true wonder in your own home, try picking up your Bible and reading it.
God has authored it through chosen men. It took centuries to complete, and it details the history of the world and the process of redemption. It tells us of Jesus, the God/Man who has come to reconcile us to God. It tells of how we should live at this time, and it tells of the glories that lie ahead for those who simply believe the gospel. If you want a true wonder, right in your own home, try picking up the Bible and reading it.
Precious and glorious is Your word, O God. Thank You for the wonder that is there for us to search out and experience. We don’t need to watch more movies to be entertained, and we don’t need to see signs and wonders to be awed. Rather, we can find all the joy, excitement, emotion, and marvel we can imagine right in Your wonderful word. Thank you for this gift. Thank You for the Bible. Amen.