When Stephen begins to talk about Moses, it is much the same thing. Only he deals with the story of Moses at greater length because Moses was the one the Sanhedrin was chiefly concerned about. Moses was the one through whom God had given the law, and these leaders had built their whole lives around keeping the law of Moses.
1. Moses was rejected by the Jewish people. One of the first things Stephen says about Moses is that Moses also was rejected by his people. He emphasizes that, when Moses perceived that his heart lay with his people and he wanted to be identified with them rather than with the Egyptians, they rejected him. We know the story, of course. Moses killed an Egyptian, thinking, no doubt, that this might be something like a rallying cry for revolution. He had received a wonderful education. He was uniquely qualified to lead the people. Now he was taking his stand for righteousness against an injustice. Perhaps Moses knew that the time prophesied for the coming of a deliverer had arrived (cf. Gen. 15:13-14). The four hundred years that had been foretold for the time of slavery in Egypt were up. “Now is the time,” he must have thought. “I must be the deliverer. They will follow me.”
But they did not follow him. The people rejected him, and when word of his action got around, he had to flee. He fled to Midian where he spent the next forty years of his life.
2. God appeared to Moses when he was in Midian. This is the same point Stephen made earlier in his recital of Abraham’s story. It was in Midian that, “after forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush near Mount Sinai,” and the Lord spoke to him, saying, “Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground” (vv. 30-31). This “holy place” was not Jerusalem. It was a mountain in Gentile territory. Yet God was there, and because God was there, the ground was holy.
By now we should be getting Stephen’s drift, and we may suspect that the Sanhedrin was beginning to get his point as well. Stephen was saying, “This neat little hold you think you have on God, this little thing that makes God Jewish—and not the God of the Gentiles as well—is a corrupt thing, and it is corrupting you. If you were faithful to your tradition, if you were guided by what your Scriptures tell you, you would know that God is the God of all people and that you, just because you have been given special privileges, have the enormous responsibility of being a witness to them.” This is true for us as well.
3. Moses was rejected again even after the Exodus. Stephen continues Moses’ story, showing that the rejection Moses experienced when he killed the Egyptian was followed by an even more substantial rejection after he had led the people out of Egypt. While he was on the mountain, receiving God’s law—that very law on which the Sanhedrin prided itself and which they were accusing Stephen of breaking—the people were down in the valley breaking it. God had brought them out of Egypt. He had revealed Himself to be the true God. The first of the Ten Commandments said, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). Yet at the very time the law was being given, the people were making idols for themselves, just like the idols of Egypt. They were committing adultery and, no doubt, breaking each of the other laws as well.
In rejecting God, they were also rejecting Moses.