Monday, October 28, 2013


I apologize for the new format, where all of the text is printed with no paragraph. I cannot figure out why Blogger is doing this to the post. In draft, it has the paragraphs inserted, but when published it is all one block. I hope you'll bear with me until I figure it out. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Heroes Of The Faith 4

The Faith of Moses Hebrews 11:24-28 Moses lived for 40 years as a prince of the wealthiest, most cultured and advanced society of his day. Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. But he rejected a comfortable life at court with the royal family. He “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. (24) Exodus 2:5-10 tells us that Pharaoh’ daughter found the baby Moses in the river and she took him as a son. He was, in effect, a prince. Instead, he identified himself with God’s people, believing God’s promises. He would have learned of those promises during his early childhood, when his own mother raised him as a nurse for Pharaoh’s daughter. (Exodus 2:9-10). He may also have been exposed to this history as part of his education. Moses chose to suffer with his people, to be mistreated, as one of the people of God. He rejected the life of sin in Egypt. (24) I think this refers to Exodus 2:11. It is the first event of Moses’ adult life. It begins with “when Moses had grown up”. That is the exact language used in Hebrews 11:24. You may remember the story of Moses killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. The story starts out by saying “Moses went out to his people”. The Jewish writers generally interpreted this to mean he identified himself as Hebrew and rejected his Egyptian identity. Certainly, when he killed the Egyptian to protect the Hebrew, he identified himself with the Hebrews. It is rather a picture of salvation for all of us, isn’t it? He left a life of sin to follow God at any cost. It also relates back to the current situation of his audience, described in Hebrews 10. They lost property, Moses abandoned his riches. They suffered reproach, Moses was disdained by Pharaoh, his family and his court. But Moses endured in faith, he did not abandon his faith in the face of suffering. He suffered to obey God. God asked Moses to do many scary things, such as confront the Pharaoh, part the sea and lead a nation out into the desert to the Promised Land. He suffered attacks from the Egyptians and nations he encountered along the way. He suffered rebellion from his people, jealousy from his brother and sister, heat, cold, dirt, fatigue, hunger and pain to obey God. In this sense he shared the reproach of Christ. (26) Christ suffered for his people in obedience to God. Moses did the same. And he suffered because it was better than great wealth on earth. He did all that by faith. He believed God. He trusted God to fulfill his promise. He “was looking ahead to his reward”. (26) He could have had his best life now, living in indulgence in Egypt, but he chose eternal life with God. His faith was as “seeing him who is invisible”. (27) Certainly Moses had the experience of seeing the angel of the Lord in the burning bush. You can read about that in Exodus 3. And he had many experiences of communication with God. But God was invisible to him as to us. Heaven was invisible to him as to us. But his faith made them as real as seeing. Verse 27 says “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king”. It is difficult to know which departure from Egypt the writer means. It seems in context to refer to Moses fleeing Egypt after he filled the Egyptian. However, the text in Exodus 2 plainly states that Moses was afraid. If Hebrews 11:27 refers to that departure, it would have to mean Moses overcame his fear by faith. If verse 27 refers to Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, it fits the description of Moses not having fear because of his great faith. The problem here is that it would be out of chronological order, since the Passover is mentioned in the next verses, but occurred before the departure. So, I think it is similar to the statement about his parents not fearing the king. They knew they could die for their actions, but they chose to obey God, to fear God, rather than the king. Verse 29 adds one last fact about Moses. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorposts of every Israelite home so that the Lord, the destroyer, would not kill the first born children of Israel as he did those of the Egyptians. This was the last of the 10 plagues that made Pharaoh finally agree to let Israel leave Egypt. This is the event recorded in Exodus 12. He “passed over” the houses with blood on the door frames. Moses’ faith was demonstrated by doing what God said before the event happened. Moses is a very important example in this passage, along with that of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Moses was the law giver. The law was often called “the law of Moses” even though it was the law of God revealed to Moses. Since he was associated with the law, it is important to the writer’s Jewish audience to see that he lived by faith, not law or ritual. Faith at the Red Sea Hebrews 11:29 God gave Moses the power to part the sea. Then, by faith, the Israelites walked across the dry river bed with all their belongings, their children, and their animals. At any time the wall of water could collapse on them and kill them. But they had faith in God to keep his word and deliver them. (see Exodus 14)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Heroes 3 - Heroes of Faith

Abraham’s Faith Regarding Isaac Hebrews 11:17-19 Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV) By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. Let’s work our way through this event. Then we will look at the explanation of it in Hebrews. God promised Abraham many descendants. Genesis 15:4-5 says “The the word of the LORD came to him (Abraham): this man (the servant Eliezer) will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said ‘look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can county them. Then he said to him, “so shall your offspring be’.” Abraham went a long time with no descendants. Then, God miraculously gave him a son, Isaac, who was the partial fulfillment of the promise. “But God said to him, “ is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Genesis 21:12) God made it clear that his promise of many descendants would be fulfilled through Isaac. Then, God instructed Abraham to go sacrifice his son. This event is recorded in Genesis 22. Let’s look at that account: 22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” 15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” As much as Abraham loved Isaac, he loved God more. He obeyed God’s command. “Offered up” is the translation of the word “προσενηνοχεν — prosenēnochen”. It is the perfect active indicative of “προσπερω — prospherō” the verb so often used in this Epistle. The act was already consummated so far as Abraham was concerned when it was interrupted. So, it was not that Abraham expected God to stop him at the last second. He expected to sacrifice Isaac. But he also believed God. Notice he told his servants ““Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham fully intended to sacrifice his son on an altar, yet he fully intended to return with his son. How can that be? The writer of Hebrews explained it this way: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (19) Abraham believed God. He believed God would fulfill his word (or promise) with regard to Isaac, so he believed he could obey God and still receive the fulfillment of the promise even though the two seemed contradictory. He could do that because he had faith. He believed and he trusted God. He expected to kill Isaac and he expected God to bring him back to life to fulfill his promise. He had extraordinary faith. As far as we can ascertain, God had not revealed the concept of resurrection at this point in time. But Abraham believed God could and would do it. Romans 4:20-21 says “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Isaac’s Faith Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future”. Isaac inherited the promises God gave to Abraham. He did not live to see them fulfilled. But he blessed Jacob with the inheritance of the promises because he believed God would fulfill them. (Genesis 27) Jacob’s Faith Hebrews 11:21 Likewise, Jacob died without seeing the promised fulfilled. He died in Egypt. But, as he was about to die, he blessed Josephs sons. (Genesis 47-48) He even asked them not to bury him in Egypt, but to carry his body back to to Canaan because he believed God had given that land to his family. (Genesis 47:29-30) When Joseph swore to do so, Jacob leaned on his staff and worshipped. He believed God, he trusted God and he worshipped God. Joseph’s Faith Hebrews 11:22 Joseph was the same. He believed God would take Israel from Egypt back to Canaan. He instructed his family to take his bones with them. He said “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.” (Genesis 50:24) Even though he died in a strange land, he did not waver in faith that God would keep his promise. His faith was remarkable, because he only lived in the promised land as a young person. He spent most of his life in Egypt. He died about 200 years after God made the covenant with Abraham and it was still unfulfilled. Yet he had faith. Matthew Henry said “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, yet it is especially so when we come to die. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor him, by patience, hope and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of his ways.” Each of these men passed on the promises to his children by faith. Isaac and Jacob received them by faith and passed them on by faith. The Faith of Moses’ Parents Hebrews 11:23 In Exodus 1, we see that the king of Egypt ordered all the male babies of the Israelites killed at birth. He did not want their population to grow But Moses’ mother (Jochebed) hid him for three months, then, when she could hide him no longer, put him in a basket and set him afloat in the Nile river, trusting God to save him. By preserving Moses’ life, his parents disobeyed the edict of the king and put themselves at risk of death. But, Moses’ parents did not fear the king or his edict, they trusted God. They chose God’s will over their personal safety. The Faith of Moses Hebrews 11:24-28 Moses lived for 40 years as a prince of the wealthiest, most cultured and advanced society of his day. Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. But he rejected a comfortable life at court with the royal family. He “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. (24) Instead, he identified himself with God’s people, believing God’s promises. He suffered disgrace (26) and great danger to obey God. God asked Moses to do many scary things, such as confront the Pharaoh, part the sea and lead a nation out into the desert to the Promised Land. He did all that by faith. He believed God. He trusted God to fulfill his promise. He “was looking ahead to his reward”. (26) This is a very important example in this passage, along with that of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Moses was the law giver. The law was often called “the law of Moses” even though it was the law of God revealed to Moses. Since he was associated with the law, it is important to the writer’s Jewish audience to see that he lived by faith, not law or ritual.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Reason for their Faith - Hebrews 11

Verse 11 gives us a little trouble. Part of it is Biblical history. Part of it is sentence structure. First, let’s look at Biblical history. Sarah (Abraham’s wife) did not believe when she heard the Lord say she would have a son. In fact, she laughed at Gods promise of a son. Turn to Genesis 18 and read verses 1 through 15. She did not believe the Lord because she was too old to have a child. In other words, she believed the physical evidence. She did not have faith in God to override physical nature. That is what a miracle is. It is not natural; it is supernatural. The Lord pointed this out to he by saying “is anything hard for the LORD?”. Now turn to Genesis 21:6-7. Sarah indeed has a child, Isaac. She gave credit to God. She rejoiced. But there is no clear statement that indicates she believed before she got pregnant. So, it is hard to interpret this verse as meaning Sarah had faith. Now let’s look at the text in different versions. First, let’s look at the English Standard Version (ESV). This is the version from which I normally teach. In Hebrews 11:11, it reads: “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even she she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” We can see that the ESV gives credit for faith to Sarah. She considered God faithful. So, either the writer of Hebrews interpreted Sarah’s words at Isaac’s birth to mean she believed or he knew something about Sarah we do not. Now let us look at the New American Standard Bible, a very literal translation. It reads “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” Again, we see Sarah giving credit for considering God faithful, in other words, believing God or having faith. Lastly, look at the New International Version (NIV) and see that it turns the verse completely around to focus on Abraham. It reads “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled led to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” So, the NIV gives credit to Abraham for the faith involved in this incident. The context may also help us. Since Abraham was considered the father of the Hebrews, he is a most important figure to them. The writer of Hebrews gives more attention to him in this chapter than any other person. The writer emphasized to his Jewish audience that Abraham lived by faith, not law. Paul did the same thing in Galatians. If, then, you interpret this verse to refer to Abraham rather than Sarah, this chapter gives three instances of the faith of Abraham: his leaving his home to go to Canaan, his believing God for Isaac and the sacrifice of Isaac. (11:17). Because of faith, and God’s faithfulness, Abraham not only had a son, but had innumerable descendants. This is a reference to God’s covenant with Abraham. This is recorded in Genesis 15. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants. God delivered on that promise, starting with one son born to parents too old to conceive. 11:13-16 The Interlude: Theological Explanation of Their Faith In these verses, the writer takes a break from recounting the heroes of the faith, to make a theological summary. It seems like an odd place to do this. In our day, we would give the whole list of examples, then make the conclusion. but Jewish writers often put their main point in the exact middle of a discourse. It is called “chiasm”. So, what is the point? The writer says these all died in faith, not receiving the things promised. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not see God’s promise fulfilled. In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham, but told him his descendants would go into slavery in another land for 400 years. God was not ready to drive out the Amorites because their iniquity was not yet complete. Isaac lived his whole live in tents, also. He never built a city. He did not run out the Canaanites around him. Jacob also lived in tents, then went to Egypt and died there. None of those people saw the promise fulfilled, yet the believed God and were willing to live as strangers and exiles on earth. ((13) They were one of many peoples living in Canaan and were not natives there. Abraham told the Hittites “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you”. (Genesis 23:4) Jacob sojourned in Egypt, he lived there but not as one of them. He was a stranger. But they believed that God would fulfill his promise. On his death bed, Jacob told Joseph “Behold I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.” (Genesis 48:21) Then, when Joseph died, he said “I am about to die, But God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24) He even made them promise to take his bones when they left. So, first of all, these people believed God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan on earth. But, that is not all. They believed the “eschatological” promise. They looked beyond the earthly to the heavenly. And they not only looked, they saw! Verse 13 says about the promises, “having seen them and greeted them from afar”. “Afar” means from a distance. But here, the distance was not in length, but in time. They saw God’s promises being fulfilled in Christ in eternity. They saw that in faith. They, in fact, acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (13) These men of faith knew that Canaan was not the final goal. They knew that earth was not the most important thing. They knew that life in the kingdom of God, the presence of God, in eternity was the important thing. The New Testament writers applied this same terminology to the church. Peter wrote “Beloved, I urge you, as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) We are to see ourselves as physically present in our earthly country, but belonging to the heavenly country. Paul wrote that Christians were fellow citizens with the saints. (Ephesians 2:19) I’m afraid this concept has been lost in much of the American church. Many church members are more absorbed with politics and patriotism than with Christ’s kingdom. I will never forget visiting a church that gave a five minute standing ovation for two young men who were going to fight in Iraq for the army. Later, the pastor announced that a missionary couple was in attendance who served in another country. There was only a brief smattering of applause, then it was on to the next thing. All of these faithful men in Hebrews 11 looked beyond their land on earth to a better country, a better place. And that place is heaven. They desired heaven. They believed in God and in heaven. Because of their faith, God was pleased with them. He was not ashamed to be called their God. He prepared a city, or place for them in heaven. (16) Peter wrote about our eternal dwelling, too. He wrote that we have an inheritance kept in heaven for us. (1 Peter 1:3-4) He wrote “...we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:13) That point is important, because the writer shows that these Old Testament heroes endured by faith through difficulties to receive their reward in heaven. He has continually made the point that these Jewish believers should not shrink back, but endure in the faith to the end. These examples are to encourage them in doing so. In 10:39, he said “we are not of those who shrink back and were destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”