Sunday, October 27, 2013
HEROES OF THE FAITH 5
Faith At Jericho Hebrews 11:30 Joshua was the successor of Moses. (Deuteronomy 31:1-3; Joshua 1:1-2) Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites carried out an unusual attack on the walled city of Jericho right after they entered Canaan. (Joshua 6) They marched around it for 6 days. (This may have been the first “prayer walk”.) They carried the ark with them. Seven priests carried seven trumpets, but did not blow them. On the seventh day, they went around seven times, but on the seventh time the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted. When they shouted and blew horns on the 7th day, the walls came tumbling down. They marched and shouted because they believed God and trusted him to conquer the city. The Faith of Rahab Hebrews 11:31 Joshua 2 records the story of Rahab, who hid the 2 Israelites spies from the king of Jericho and professed her faith in God. She said “I know that the LORD has given you the land”. (Joshua 2:8) Because she did this, God spared her and her family. Everyone else in Jericho was killed. Rahab risked death by hiding the spies because she looked forward in faith to a future preservation. After Rahab joined the nation of Israel, she married a man named Salmon, whose father was Nahshon, the leader of Judah in the Exodus. (Matthew 1:5) They had a son named Boaz. They had a great grandson named David the king of Israel. (Matthew 1:6) The Faith of Many Others Hebrews 11:32-39 Verse 32 lists Old Testament judges, King David, and prophets. All of the people listed went through difficult times. They worked, they suffered and some were killed. The writer listed a number of those difficult events. It is likely his Jewish audience could remember all the stories and knew who did what. I’m not going to try to list them all for you. But there is an important point for the original audience and for us. The original audience was experiencing difficulties. Evidently, they had experienced some persecution. Chapter 10 reveals that they experienced hard struggle with sufferings, public reproach and affliction, imprisonment, and loss of property. (Hebrews 10:32-34) In the face of these troubles, some left the faith and others were tempted to. So, the writer of Hebrews says look at all of these Old Testament believers who suffered greatly. They did so because they believed God for an eternal reward. And so should you. This applies to us as well. We have not experienced much persecution in America. But there has been some and more will come. People have been given tickets for having Bible studies in their home. Churches have been denied permits to build. Certainly, we are ridiculed in movies, television shows and books. The Army recently briefed soldiers on hate groups and included the American Family Association with the KKK and other violent groups. These things are more opposition than persecution, but more will likely follow. If you live in a country with active persecution, you may think it is silly even to mention these things. But what do you do in the face of opposition or persecution? Do you shut up? Do you abandon your faith? Or do you endure. Or what if your struggle is personal, not related to persecution. What if you are ill, or poor or unhappy? Do you abandon God or cling to him. Hebrews says we endure and cling to faith in God in all circumstances. This brings us to an interesting statement in verses 39 and 40 of Hebrews 11. All of the people listed in chapter 11 had faith in God. They all suffered for their faith and endured. Verse 39 says they were commended for their faith. “Commend” means to praise or approve. Yet, none of them received the fulfillment of God’s word. They did not see the promise come to completion. (39) Why was that? Why did God do it that way? Verse 40 says it is because God had something better for us. That something better is Christ. And, with Christ, it is the new covenant, the better priesthood and eternal life. This book has told us repeatedly that Christ is better than Moses. He is the better mediator, he is the better sacrifice and he is the better high priest. It has told us that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. The old covenant saints looked forward to Christ in faith and were saved. We look to Christ and are saved. We are saved together by faith and will be made perfect at his coming. Only when Christ came did God’s promise begin to be completely fulfilled. Yet they all died in faith, believing God would do it. The “something better” was and is Christ. Only by faith in Christ does a person receive the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. In Christ, a great nation called the church is built. In Christ, people of all nations are blessed. In Christ eternal life is given, a land in which to live forever in the presence of God. But all believers of all time share this: we will eventually be made perfect. In this life we continue to grow spiritually, to experience greater sanctification, but still struggle. In the end, though, we will not struggle, we will rejoice. The perfect work of the perfect Son of God will make us perfect.