Several American universities have adopted an annual tradition of choosing a seasoned professor to give a hypothetical “last lecture.” The purpose is to have the professor speak in answer to the question: “What wisdom would you impart to your audience if you had only one final lecture to give?”
Stephen may not have known that this was his last speech, but his words stand as a model of a wise “last sermon.” What wisdom did he impart? First, Stephen recounted biblical history, emphasizing the theme of God’s faithfulness despite uncertainty and adversity. Abraham was called to follow God despite the uncertainty about land and descendants. As Stephen observed, God fulfilled His promises by giving Abraham both land and a multitude of descendants in the Israelites. Likewise, Joseph faced great adversity from his brothers, but God used that to provide for His people during a famine.
Enslaved to the Egyptians, the Israelites experienced God’s faithfulness too. God called Moses and proclaimed, “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free” (v. 34). Life’s difficulties may tempt us to think God is absent, when in fact He is right there all along. Moses never realized he was walking on holy ground until God revealed Himself!
Stephen’s sermon also carried a wise warning: God’s people often yield to unfaithfulness. The Israelites grumbled in the wilderness, worshiped a golden calf at Sinai, and later in the Promised Land they worshiped foreign gods. This unfaithfulness culminated in their rejection of Christ, God’s promised “Righteous One” (v. 52). Uncertainty and adversity may tempt us to turn away from God, but today we are reminded to remain true to the One who is always faithful, despite the circumstances.