Now after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king listened to them. They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord; they testified against them, but they would not listen. Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you.” But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge!” 2 Chronicles 24:17-22
We celebrate Stephen on the 26thDecember. He was both a deacon and a martyr, having been stoned to death for his part in accusing the authorities of being stiff-necked and opposing the Holy Spirit. He was one of seven deacons who were responsible for the widows of the early church in Jerusalem. As shown in the reading above though, having rocks hurled by perpetrators was not a rare occurrence during Biblical times and happened for a variety of reasons. A couple of hard blows to the head and death would follow on.
Both the stoning of Zecharaiah in the passage above and the stoning of Stephen were executed by people who thought they were acting in the best interests of the authorities. In particular, in Stephen’s case, the authorities being the Sanhedrin whose interests lay in having a very particular focus on God and how one should interact with Him.
Through the short biography of Stephen in the book of Acts we learn more about deacons and their role in the fledgling church. Being able to allow God to guide and direct and then to allow God to speak through the Scriptures (in Stephen’s case, the Hebrew Bible) as well as prophetically is part of what deacons are required to do.
I wonder if you know of people who could be identified as being a deacon (apart from the two who are carrying this title)? I wonder if you might like to learn more in allowing God to speak through yourself to others?
Father God, I ask for us to made aware of your healing presence and your touch on our lives. I ask for more of you to pour out on our lives so that we each have an abundance of your presence in our lives so that we may experience the joy that you have for each of us, knowing that there isn’t just ‘one’ way to experience God.