Posts Tagged 'Hebrews 11'

Panic Podcast – Faith and God’s Warnings

Looking at faith in Hebrews 11, we can learn from the examples of the great cloud of witnesses, including the man who built a big boat, Noah.


Panic Podcast – What is Faith?, Part 1

Do you know what faith is? I mean real faith, the kind of faith described in the the Letter to the Hebrews. Over the next few Mondays, we’ll study Hebrews 11 to learn just what real Biblical faith is.


Biblical Faith, Part 6


We tend to think faith is all about us. We possess it, therefore we believe God has given it to benefit us, the one who possesses it. We’re such a self-centered people. In our previous studies of this topic, we discovered that faith isn’t all about us. It does involve us and faith does benefit us. But faith is primarily about God – God working out His will in our lives for the benefit of, first of all, His kingdom, and secondary, for our benefit. And then there’s this:

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20 | NIV84)

Did Isaac have that power? Do we have that power? Do believers have the power to bless others? Specifically, does the present generation have the power to bless the upcoming generation? That’s a good question, and how you answer it will determine the kind of parent you are and what the future of your children will look like. The short answer is “yes,” Christian parents do have the power to bless their children. Unfortunately, many Christian parents think so little of their faith, that they rob their children of this essential blessing. They don’t know it. They’re not bad parents. They’re not bad Christians. But they don’t understand the spiritual power that resides within them.

Let’s take a look at how this works by looking once again at the patriarchs.

The blessings of faith

Faith, it has been said, “gives to its possessor the eyes of the seer, and a quiet confidence in the future of God’s people.” That’s a good way to look at the issue. And it hints at the kind of power faith endows its possessor with: “the eyes of the seer.” The ability to see life beyond the horizon. That’s what faith gives us, and that’s part of the blessing Christian parents may pass on to their children. The son, grandson, and great grandson of Abraham span the generations and centuries by faith, and in their declining years with death approaching, the patriarchs Jacob and Joseph passed on blessings and instructions concerning the Promised Land.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20 | NIV84)

With this verse, the writer of this letter begins to show us what the tradition of the “patriarchal blessings” involves. In the case of Abraham, it was Isaac that received his father’s blessing, not his brother Ishmael. It’s not that there was something wrong with Ishmael, it’s that Isaac was destined to become the son of the Promise. In the following generation, it was Jacob, not his brother Esau, that received his father’s blessing. Again, it wasn’t that Esau was an evil person, it was God’s will that the Promise be passed onto Jacob. And in the generation that followed, it wasn’t Rueben, Jacob’s first-born that received the blessing, it was Joseph who was blessed. And it wasn’t Joseph’s first born who received the blessing, it was Ephraim who received the choice blessing.

What this teaches us about God is vitally important for the modern believer to understand. It is God who is in control, and His sovereign will does not abide by man’s traditions or rules. In other words, regardless of our wants and wishes; regardless of what our society deems to be the norm, God’s will is accomplished as He sees fit.

Yet, God still used those to whom He had given a measure of faith. Each of the patriarchs blessed their children with a prophetic insight, and while each time a single son was blessed with that special blessing related to the Promise, all the children were blessed.

But we notice something else. In addition to passing on God’s blessing to the next generation, something else was passed on:

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:21-22 | NIV84)

Words of worship and instruction were passed on. God’s Word was given to the younger generation by the older one. They didn’t have a Bible – no Old or New Testament to read to them – all they had was the promise given to Abraham. That’s all these patriarchs had, and that’s what they gave to their children. That Word from God was never forgotten; it was so important it was spoken from the deathbed, as it were.

What Joseph taught his family is important. Of all the things Joseph could have talked about; of all his amazing experiences he could have passed on to his family, he chose the Promise, and how his descendants would relate to it. Again, it’s the prophetic insight talking.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Genesis 50:23c-25 | NIV84)

He actually spoke those words to brothers, though his descendants would have heard them too. The thread of the promise binds the patriarchs in faith that transcends time.

It’s the thread of the Word of God that binds your family together, too, and it transcends time. Of all the things we can pass on to our posterity, none is more vitally important than God’s Word. We want so much to pass on a heritage – usually financial – to our children, without realizing how temporal that kind of heritage is. It’s dangerous too because unearned wealth almost always causes problems. The Word of God, though, is what solves problems. It was Peter who said these words in one of his great sermons:

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39 | NIV84)

Indeed it is. The Christian parent receives it and passes it on to their children. Or, at least they’re supposed to. If you are a believing parent, hopefully you have or are passing the Word of God onto your children. But even if you aren’t a parent, you’re still on the hook. Others may be blessed by your faith. That’s right! If you are living a life of faith, then all those whom you rub shoulders with, stand to be blessed simply because of your possession of faith.

Now, that’s some kind of power you have!

The secrets of faith

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Hebrews 11:23 | NIV84)

The theme of faith working within a family unit is carried on in Hebrews 11:23. Moses’ parents exercised incredible faith when they defied “the law of the land” in hiding their infant son. If Abraham is considered to be the spiritual father of all believers, everywhere, then Moses must be be seen as the father of the nation of Israel. It was essential for him to grow into adulthood. Moses’ parents saw a certain “something” in their infant son that told them he must survive in spite of the Pharaoh’s determination of destroy the Israel within the nation of Egypt by killing all baby boys. What Moses’ parents saw in their son is not stated. Josephus, writing in his Antiquities of the Jews, relates that Amram, father of Moses, had a vision from God, in which he was told not to fear or despair because Moses would be Israel’s deliverer. No wonder, then, they took the chance to let their baby son go, floating down the Nile. They, like Abraham before them, were instructed by God to do something crazy.

There’s the prophetic insight again, working with faith for the blessing of the next (and future) generations. The parents exercised faith, and faith combined with prophetic insight, led to Moses surviving, prospering, and eventually delivering his people out of the land of Egypt and into the land of Promise. But the future had happened yet. It hinged on Amram and Jochebed being obedient to God and risking the very life of Moses.

Because Moses had parents that followed the Word of the Lord, we read this:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (Hebrews 11:24-25 | NIV84)

Where did Moses get his character? He was the “son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” but he was raised by his own mother. The man’s character descended from his real parents, not his adopted parents. Over in the New Testament, Stephen, who had access to records we don’t, said this of Moses:

When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. (Acts 7:21-23 | NIV84)

Moses had it all going for him. He might have risen to the highest rank possible within his adopted family, perhaps even ascending to the very throne of Egypt. But he would have none of that. He refused to be identified with the Egyptians, choosing instead to suffer along with his people, the people of God. Hebrews says it was “by faith” that Moses came to this shocking decision. At 40 years of age, Moses deliberately and thoughtfully of his own free will chose to side with the Israelites.

Moses’ faith was manifested in a forthright choice. How is your faith manifested? Is it manifested in eternal pursuits or temporal ones? The pleasures of Egypt would have lasted just a short time. Association with God’s people might bring some hardship, but it would be temporary, with a bright future waiting just over the horizon.

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:26 | NIV84)

This is fascinating verse for three reasons. First, the writer to the Hebrews mentions Christ. Of course, Jesus Christ hadn’t been born when Moses walked the earth, so why mention Him at all in relation to Moses? It has to do with that prophetic insight. In the original Greek, the definite article is there, making it “the Christ.” Moses did what he did for the sake of the Christ, the writer of this letter wrote. Moses never used the name “Messiah,” but clearly his actions were motivated by an awareness that at some point in the future, the Messiah, the Christ, the Final Deliverer, would come. Christ, like faith, transcends time.

Second, we have a stark comparison between spiritual riches (disgrace for the sake of Christ) and earthly treasure (the treasures of Egypt). Spiritual riches are infinitely more valuable than earthly ones, and often come disguised as persecution. Jesus clarifies this for us in Matthew 5:11, 12 –

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 | NIV84)

Moses did what he did – he gave up everything he had in the world and risked his life – because he was pursuing a spiritual objective which would end in his “reward.”

And finally, what about this “reward?” Scripture teaches in the clearest way possible that salvation cannot be earned. Yet we see the word “reward” all over the New Testament. No man can earn salvation, but God rewards man on the basis of divine sovereignty, not merit. Simply put in a way our finite minds can grasp, the believer’s reward has everything to do with his obedience to the Word of God.

We’ve looked at how faith works within the family. Christian parents have a responsibility to bless their children by passing on to them the Word of God. It’s that Word that activates God’s richest blessings in their lives. The power you, as a believing mother or father, have is to bless your children with the Word of God. It’s life-changing. It’s life-preserving. In the case of Moses, it’s life-saving. The faith of his parents translated into a godly character, which in turn caused Moses to become a man of faith; a man who in turn would bless an entire nation because he exercised the kind of faith he learned from his real parents.


Hebrews 11:24—31

Faith Begins in Egypt

The back story of Moses’ life proves what we all know: the early years of a child’s life are sometimes more important than the later years in a child’s life. Moses’ mother had him while he was most mailable. We may be certain that as a devout Jewess, she schooled him in the knowledge of his religion and in the ways of the one true God. No doubt as Moses grew into a young man, he couldn’t help but compare the simple God-fearing ways of his mother’s people to the exciting, glittering yet empty life of the Egyptian court.

Moses, as an adult is an excellent example of the of faith. As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he had been treated like an Egyptian prince. Even while his people were suffering, he was enjoying the good life of going to school in Egypt. Scholars believe that had Moses kept to his Egyptian life, and remained faithful to his Egyptian family, he would have ascended to the throne of Egypt.

But as a man of faith, Moses knew deep inside that God—the God of the Israelites—had other plans.

1. The choice of faith, 11:24—26

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (vs. 24, 25)

Acts 7 gives us some important details:

When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:21, 22)

Stephen obviously knew some Hebrew history because he goes on to say that Moses was 40 years old when when he decided to side with the Israelites. To the observer looking at Moses’ decision to disavow his Egyptian family and to forsake the throne, the young prince must have looked like a fool. But Moses’ faith, not seen for 40 years, came to the surface in the form of a forthright choice. In full knowledge of what he was about to do, Moses made a courageous decision in faith. Here is an important component of true Biblical faith: The outward decision to turn his back on his Egyptian life was the result of a previously made inward decision. Part of Biblical faith is the ability to make up ones mind and to come down on the right side of a choice. Biblical faith is not blind. Biblical faith does not insist that you deny reality, cling to unrealistic dreams, or turn a blind eye to the immediate consequences of your faith-inspired decision. Biblical faith is the ability to make, what often is a difficult and painful choice because it is the right choice.

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (vs. 27)

The pleasures of Egypt would last only a short time, but with no future. Associating with God’s people might bring hardship on Moses, but there would be a future, and this Moses somehow was able to sense. He considered the rewards of faithfully serving God far greater than the momentary and temporary satisfactions which come from position and fame.

Verse 27 is interesting because the writer is very emphatic in writing that Moses made his choice for the sake of THE Christ. Obviously, Moses had no knowledge the Person and work of Christ as we know Jesus from the pages of the New Testament. Elsewhere in this letter to the wavering Hebrews, we read this:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our Lord transcends the centuries. Moses the deliverer was able to see in faith the coming of the ultimate Deliverer and he was willing to surrender the glories of earth for the future glories of God’s kingdom. This is the essence of faith! All the heroes of faith had the uncanny ability to recognize their current state, but make the difficult choice to persevere because “better days lay ahead.”

By faith, then, Moses was able to see his choices clearly in light of eternity. It may have looked to some that the choice was between pleasure and prosperity with that of pain and bondage, but the truth is Moses’ choice was between godliness and sin. It was between serving the one true God or serving himself. It was a choice ultimately between heaven and hell; between immortality and oblivion. And that is the choice set before man today.

2. The endurance of faith, 11:27

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Moses actually left Egypt twice, so which leaving is the writer referring to? The first time Moses fled he did so in fear of his life after he killed an Egyptian. The second time Moses left Egypt was 40 years after that, in the mass exodus of Hebrews from the land of bondage. Given the context, the letter to the Hebrews must be referring to the Exodus. It was by faith that Moses finally and forever turned his back on Egypt after the 10 plagues. Pharaoh refused to bend to God’s will. Compared to Egypt, Israel was a weak nation getting weaker, and yet Moses led that tired nation out of the land of bondage. This made the king angry! Imagine how he must have felt…being backed into the corner by an 80 year old sheepherder, bent on leading a nation of slaves on an exodus to freedom.

Talk about an impossible task, yet by faith Moses was able to do just that because he was with God. The writer makes a valuable point here: Moses was able to persevere, not because he was so committed to the exodus or so loyal to his people, it was because “he saw him who was invisible.” Moses was God’s friend. Moses had a close relationship with God:

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

Biblical faith is exemplified by one like Moses; one who has that kind of relationship with God. That close walk with the One who is invisible is what gave Moses his faith; it’s what sustained him through all those difficult days.

3. The exodus of faith, 11:28—31

Genuine Biblical must always leave Egypt. It can never stay among those who don’t possess it. This is Biblical principle for all people of faith, and it’s even expressed in the New Testament:

Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)

People of faith cannot survive in Egypt; they must eventually leave. Christians are called to “in the world but not of the world.”

The Passover, 11:28

Credit: Vernon Nye, 1948

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The very first step in leaving Egypt was celebrating the Passover. The word “kept” might be better rendered “instituted.” Moses not only started the observance, but he provided for its continuing observance:

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)

What is the significance of the Passover? The Israelites were told to do something that they had never done before that probably made no sense: sprinkle blood on their door posts and stay inside as the angel of death passed by. Who had ever heard of such a thing before? But Moses and his people in simple obedience did just what they were told to do in faith. Their faith was vindicated almost immediately when not a single first-born Israelite died that night while all the first-born of Egypt did. But notice: the people had to be obedient and follow God’s instructions. There could have been no escape from Egypt or from the darkness of death without the sprinkling of blood. However, it wasn’t the shedding of blood that saved the people, it was the application of the blood. Shed blood would have protected nobody. The Israelites were saved only because they sprinkled (applied) the shed blood individually on individual door posts of individual homes. The same thing applies to the shed blood of our Savior; the Lamb of god. It is only effective when by faith it is appropriated by the individual sinner through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Eventually, if the people of God can hang tough and hang on long enough, our faith will be vindicated, too.

Faith demands that sometimes we do things not because they make the most sense, but out of a conviction that God has told us to do them.

The Red Sea, 11:29

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

For those of us who know the story, this verse makes us think. The fact is, the people of Israel had NO faith! When they saw the Pharaoh and the mighty Egyptian military closing in on them, they were angry with Moses and wanted give up and go back to Egypt. It was, in fact, Moses who had the faith. He was the one who walked down to the water’s edge and his was the staff that was plunged into the water.

Here is another aspect of genuine Biblical faith we have seen before: it can save others! The faithless people followed the example of Moses’ faith and they were commended.

We also learn a secondary lesson of the difference between faith and presumption, which does not lie in what is done but rather on whose authority. Israel acted on a divine command: YOU cross over on dry land, God had told them. But the Egyptians who were following Israel, when they tried to do the exact same thing, were drowned. What’s the difference? Both parties did the same thing, but only one did it under God’s command and in His presence. What a powerful lesson for the modern believer! This is why Christians are called to have a personal relationship with Christ. God always deals with the individual.

The walls of Jericho, 11:30

A portion of the excavated fallen walls of Jericho.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

Forty years passes by, and our letter-writer settles on a truly remarkable event in Hebrew history. The story of Jericho’s fall is well-known and the crumbling of those city walls had to be the result of faith; there is no other way to explain it. Now, the author does not indicate whose faith is responsible for this event, although we can deduce it was Joshua’s faith and example and the obedience of all those who did what they were told.

Think about how strange this event must have seen to those living in Jericho. What kind of warriors were these Hebrews? They didn’t have an army. They didn’t have many weapons. They didn’t march on the city, they just marched around the city in formation.

But how can faith bring down walls, anyway? Was it positive thinking? Was it the vibrations of all those feet? Sometimes there is a psychological, subjective side of faith that produces results. But genuine Biblical faith does not rely on thought waves or physical power. Biblical faith achieves its objective mediately, not immediately, by way of two things working hand in glove: human obedience and the power of God. Therefore, when the people obeyed Joshua, who was obeying God, the walls came down. As James 2:26 says:

Faith without works is dead.

However, it must be stressed that the “works” must be ones ordered by God, not by man.

Rahab, convert, 11:31

Rahab and the Scarlet Cord

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Faith knows no barriers! Rahab had nothing going for her: she was a pagan, she was a prostitute, and she was a woman. In Rahab we see faith in the unlikliest of places! She knew nothing about God, but she was familiar with Israel’s recent history. She, like her people, feared the God of Israel because of what happened to the Egyptians. But somehow, through her fear, she could see God’s plan for His people and she seemed to believe Israel’s God. She received no assurance of salvation, no gospel of faith and repentance and no assurance of acceptance. What moved her to express faith? She had heard all about what God had done for His people and her faith was based solely on the works of God.

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:11)

There was never a more simple and basic confession of faith! But it was from her heart and she acted in faith. She welcomed the spies and hid them at great personal risk. But she trusted God that when Jericho fell, she and her family would be spared.

unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. (Joshua 2:18)

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Joshua 6:25)

Rahab did exactly what she was told. In that scarlet cord given to Rahab we see a type of the longer “scarlet cord” of redemption which runs from Genesis to Revelation; the “scarlet cord” which binds believer’s to their Savior.

James cites Rahab’s faith as an example of one being justified by works:

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)

Biblical faith is able to combine the divine and the human to achieve God’s will.  In other words, there is an indispensable component to Biblical faith:  ours.

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