"This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt."
Stephen now uses Moses' well known messianic statement, "God will send you a prophet like me" to indicate that Jesus was and is the fulfillment of this prophecy. He also, (once again) points to the rebellious and stubborn nature of the Israelites (identified as their "fathers" or ancestors), "But our fathers refused to obey him."
However, it's not just the "refusal to obey" that's the problem; the real issue is a heart issue -- "their hearts turned back to Egypt." We can relate to this. I have often heard men say, "I don't know why I am attracted to women like that, I always get hurt"; or, "I don't know why I gamble, I lose so much money that I put my family at risk and then I have to work my way out of a financial hole." The examples go on and on.
Why indeed do we exhibit such self-destructive tendencies? Why would the Israelites want to go back to Egypt -- back into captivity? Modern psychology focuses on the understanding of the "why" of our self-destructive nature, as if that alone -- enlightenment -- would solve our problems. For example: "I over-eat because my mother always made me finish eating everything on my plate." If enlightenment was the key, then the solution would be simple, pile less food on the plate -- you could then finish everything without eating too much. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Enlightenment does not equal freedom; and understanding rarely leads to change.
Paul explains this to us in great detail in Romans 7:1-25 -- in summary: the Law Moses brought from Mount Sinai (verse 38 of our passage), had only the power to identify what was sin -- it did not have the power to change our nature or our heart. Such is the case with secular psychology; it only helps to identify the problem. Paul also tells us that the Law is spiritual, yet without Christ we are unspiritual. The Bible tells us that Christ is the key; He is the answer to our heart issues and self destructive tendencies.
"Wait a minute," you say. "I am a Christian, yet I still want to do things I know are wrong!" Paul relates to our plight in Romans 7:24, "What a wretched man am I. Who will rescue me from this body of death?" He gives us the answer in verse 25, "Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord." We who are in Christ no longer have to sin; we are human so we will still have the urge to sin; our joy is we don't have to give in to it any longer.
The key to succeeding in this process we all experience is in the word "reject" from our passage today. When the Israelites rejected Moses their hearts turned toward Egypt. Moses represents Jesus, and Egypt represents the world. So for you and I, the only way that sin takes hold of us and we return or turn to worldly ways -- is when we reject Jesus.
The next time you have the urge to "Return to Egypt," in other words -- do something you know is wrong -- ask Jesus to deliver you from yourself. Not from your heart, because when Jesus died He bought your heart, but from your head and your poor choices. Sin and temptation no longer have the power to control us. Will you accept the power over sin you have in Jesus? What can you do today to experience a renewal of your mind?