Lesson 28: "By Faith Abraham. . .Isaac. . .Jacob. . .Joseph. . .Moses. . .[Others]: (Hebrews 11:8ff)
Hebrews chapter 11 continued
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson #28. Welcome again! In our last lesson we read the entirety of ch. 11 and then spent the bulk of our time on Noah. Let's begin this lesson in v.8...i.e. the faith of Abraham. Again, something was revealed to Abraham. This is one aspect of faith, we have observed. Faith cometh by hearing, and by hearing the word of God. Faith does not come through some mental brainstorm. Now Abraham and Noah received direct revelations, i.e. God dealt with them directly, whereas today we have a written revelation, known as the Bible; but, the same principle applies with respect to faith. Abraham was told to get out of his country (Gen. 12:1). The bottom line is, of course, Abraham obeyed God also. Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 15:7). This was someplace in the Euphrates valley, I suppose the place known today as Iraq. One of the things that you must see (here) to understand the great faith of Abraham is that Abraham was a rich man, a very, very rich man.. .he was what we would call a desert sheik having great herds of cattle and many families working for him as servants and under his control. A tribal leader, let's say. On one occasion he raised an army of 318 men from the servants born in his own house (Gen. 14:14). That gives you some idea of this man's wealth. It seems God instructed him to get out of his country and promised him an inheritance. However, for most of his life, at least, this promise was very vague to Abraham. Nevertheless, Abraham was very meticulous and very careful to obey God in every detail ...those details that he did understand. Abraham could have built a great city as most of his peers were doing at that time...a great castle for himself and enjoyed great pleasures. However, as a result of God's revelation to Abraham, this man dwelt in tents made of goatskins with his wife Sarah and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. These were heirs of the promise also (as mentioned here in v.9). The amazing thing is that Abraham was about 75 years old when he received this instruction and this promise from God (Gen. ch. 12). And then, Abraham lived to the ripe old age of 175 years (Gen. 25:7), thus, for about 100 years (one whole century), he wandered around in the desert living in tents as a result of God's instruction. So, just like Noah, who had worked on that boat over 100 years, this man, Abraham, was time tested also. Now, there's a great lesson here for us. With respect to Abraham's faith, this 100 year wandering may be a greater testimony to Abraham's faith than his willingness to offer up Isaac (as is discussed down in v.17 and which is a reference back to Gen. ch. 22). I trust you know this story. Thus, Abraham's faith is a great example to us and it (again) carries with it all the aspects of faith as set forth by our author in his definition of faith (back in Heb. 11:1). Abraham looked for (and hoped for) "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." That's v.10 and that is a reference to heaven, i.e. a place of eternal bliss as is taught in the Bible..."there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Do you remember Heb. 4:9?). You see this is all woven into this "heir of the promise(s)" as discussed here. Heaven is a real place...Abraham understood this. It must be part of our faith also. That's the point.
Now, if you will follow the story of Abraham as recorded in the O.T. and Isaac (mentioned here in v.20) and Jacob (here in v.21) and if you examine their life closely; you will find that they were not exactly perfect people either. They had their faults. They fell short many times as we inadvertently do. They brought upon themselves many heartaches by their own sins...as is still happening, you will observe. Thus, to have faith does not mean one is perfect. It means they have conviction and they are putting God first in their life. However, these were men of great faith ...great examples of faith to us. Their example helps us to understand the true meaning of faith; that's why Our writer reiterated these things for our benefit. Jesus said to the brethren at Smyrna, "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). You see, this thing of "faith" and "faithfulness" is a quality we must have to be saved. Without this quality it is impossible to please God (v.6). He that cometh to God must believe, i.e. he must have this quality (v.6). He must believe that God and Jesus are there and that they reward those who diligently seek after God, i.e. seek after God according to God's rules. This thing of faith is not some five minute exercise in mental calisthenics and back to business as usual. It must be part of our lifestyle.. .yea, it must be our lifestyle. We must put something into it...that's what it means to do it diligently...right?
Much more could be said about each of these examples of faith, much more is written concerning these examples of faith. But, let's move on to Joseph (v.22). More space is devoted to Joseph in the O.T. than to any other character with the possible exception of Abraham. To speak of Joseph, is to speak of Abraham in a sense. Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham; although, Abraham died more than 50 years before Joseph was born. Joseph was highly mistreated by his eleven brothers, you will remember...sold into Egypt as a slave; but, arose to the rank of assistant Pharaoh, i.e. he became the second in command in Egypt. The story of how he forgave his brothers is one of the most touching stories in the O.T., the most simple minded of people enjoy the story of Joseph that covers the last 10 or 15 chapters of the book of Genesis. Joseph died in Egypt. His death is recorded in the last chapter of Genesis and next to the last verse in that book records that Joseph realized God would surely visit them eventually, i.e. there is life after death. The verse here in Heb. 11:22 is a reference back to that occasion and serves to demonstrate Joseph's faith in God unto the very end of his life. Another aspect of faith, required of God, we find recorded (in Rev. 2:10).
Then we come to the faith of Moses (in v.23). Moses, a descendant of Abraham, was born several generations after the time of Abraham and after the time Joseph died and after their descendants had been enslaved and had spent centuries in Egyptian slavery (as was prophesied and foretold to Abraham and is recorded back in Gen. ch. 15). Moses was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and grew up as an Egyptian. Moses had the opportunity to be a great military general or some other Egyptian governmental big wheel. But, Moses was taught about God in a sly sort of way by his mother, whose name was Jochebed. "Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter" as is recorded (here in v.24). Moses "esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (that's v.26). That's simply another way of saying Moses put God first in his life. He did not compromise his faith in God for a career in Egypt or anything else. As had happened to Abraham, it brought much difficulty into Moses' life; but, Moses did "not fear the wrath of the king" (v.27). Moses "endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (end of v.27). I want you to look close at that statement. "Him who is invisible!" Why did our writer say it that way? Faith involves "the evidence of things not seen" (v.1). Before God ever appeared to Moses, Moses had faith in God. Did you notice up in v.26, Moses "had respect unto the recompense of the reward." In this statement we find verification of another aspect of faith. Do you remember 10:35? "Cast not away therefore your confidence [i.e. you faith], which hath great recompense of reward." Then (here in 11:1), part of our writer's definition, FAITH has "substance of things hoped for." Then the principle is restated down in v.6 to say, "he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder." Remember that? You see, Moses' life demonstrates THAT "respect unto the recompense of the reward" aspect of faith. All these men are great examples of faith; but, also woven into this, you must see that the writer demonstrates several aspects of his definition of faith. "By faith" Moses forsook Egypt (v.27). I'm sure many other examples and aspects of Moses1 faith could be employed (here). However, our writer chose to use only two more, .(#1) Moses1 faith during God's institution of the passover and the last plague sent upon Egypt (as recorded Ex. ch. 11 & ch. 12) and (#2) the crossing of the Red Sea by dry land (v.29).
V.30 says, "by faith the walls of Jericho fell down," another great example that took place after the death of Moses and after Joshua took command. In v.31 our writer presents another example in the harlot Rahab that helped the spies (as recorded at the beginning of Joshua ch. 2). If you'll go back and read that story, you will discover in this gentile lady, the faith aspect for which our writer included this example. However, learn to keep all this in context. Don't scatter it and strew all over the place. Take the time to learn the story in context. Only then, will you see the faith aspect and the faith quality that our writer wants us to see.
The reason for my emphasizing this at this point is that: on one occasion a member of the church for which I was preaching (a Bible teacher) got on a big kick about Rahab the harlot mention here (Heb. 11:31). He had it all figured out, this was the mother of Boaz, the grandfather of Jesse, whose son was king David. Boaz was the husband of Ruth the Moabitess (for which the book of Ruth is named in the O.T.). This would make Ruth's mother-in-law (by her second marriage) this woman, Rahab...according to that line of thinking. The name of Boaz's mother is given in Matt. 1:5 as Rachab...R-A-C-H-A-B. When I tried to explain to this man this was obviously a different woman, he wouldn't have it any other way. When you consider the timing, i.e. the time frame in which these persons lived, it obviously has to be two different women. If you think Sarah was an old lady when Isaac was born, just try to make Rahab, the harlot of Jericho the mother of Boaz. By comparison, Sarah at the age of ninety (according to Gen. 17:17) would have been a very young lady, when Isaac was born. But, the thing that blows my mind (here) is that Milligan in his commentary, agrees with this man, that I've just told you about. Milligan based his conclusion upon the fact that some modern Jews say this. Let me read it to you. He says (quote), "For though many of the Jews erroneously interpret the word rendered harlot so as to make it signify 'a seller of food' or an innkeeper" they all concede that she became the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz (Matt. 1:5), both of whom stand in the direct line of our Lord's ancestry." (Ouch and unquote!). Then, Milligan gets into the spelling differences as used in Matthew and as compared to the Septuagint version (etc.). I can understand why the spelling might be different; but, we won't get into that. The reason I mention this here is simply to show how screwed up things can get when one attaches to a name without giving any consideration to the textual time frame. The first Rahab (of Jos. ch. 2) was an adult woman near the middle of the 1400's BC and the other one (Ruth's mother-in-law) must have lived in the 1100's BC, or near 300 years apart. Now, what do you do about a case like that? I don't do anything. You see, here is another aspect of faith. Your faith must be built on the very best information you have and the best information you can get. Will misunderstanding some historical point cause one to be lost? It doesn't change the gospel... the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. You don't have to understand every rinkey-dinky historical jot and tittle of every O.T. character to be saved... that's not a technical requirement to receive remission of sins. However, true faith involves total honesty. When someone holds on to a historical point simply because they want to, and not because it is true; they are not being totally honest. This does tell you something about the person. But, Paul covered the way we must personally handle such things back in Romans (14:1).
Well, let's move on (to v.32). Our writer has already in these first 31 verses demonstrated the aspects of faith that he set out to demonstrate. However, he could have multiplied examples after example from the O.T. all day long. In other words he has just touched the hem of the garment, so-to-speak. So, he says (v.32), "what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets..." Or to say it another way, there's a thousand more examples in the O.T. if you want to take the time to look them up. Now, v.33 down through v.38 is a quickie review of some of these examples in the O.T. that quickly came to our writer's mind; but, he didn't have time to go into detail. When he says, "stopped the mouth of lions" (end of v.33), you immediately think of Daniel. Right? Daniel stands as another great example of faith (of course) although he's NOT mentioned here by name. If you want to do a little test of your O.T. knowledge, try identifying some of the other references in this list. But, for right now, go back to v.33 and don't miss the words, "Who through faith..." done so-and-so. All the things mentioned here are examples of faith, that's our writer's thesis in this chapter.
Then, look at the last sentence in this chapter (beginning in v.39). He says, all of these "obtained a good report through faith." These are the elders (mentioned back in v.2). To say these "all...obtained a good report through faith" is another way of saying they are to be commended for their faith. To study their life, is to study the aspects of faith as defined and as outlined in principle by our writer. And, as some of the commentators point out, it would appear that every example in this chapter is in historical or chronological sequence for whatever benefit that might be. Finally, as we close this lesson and as we come to the close of this chapter, the 11th chapter, the last verse (v.40) sort-of puts a cap on the technical aspect of faith or our drill on faith by definition, if you will. In this verse, our writer dumps together and stirs together the historical and spiritual past with those presently involved in spiritual things and thus reminds the reader how we fit into this picture of faith. "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Those O.T. characters are a great example to us; but, don't think for a moment that all of God's faithful lived in the past. We have a historical advantage over those O.T. people, yes. However, our writer is saying, you are just as important, spiritually speaking, as those people ever were. However, because of this historical advantage, God expects more of us...our faith should come easier. In God's sight it all fits together like the construction of a building, God's building (Eph. 2:21). With this thought, our writer moves back into the exhortation and encouragement mode (in ch. 12). We'll pick up here in lesson |29. Until then, have a good day.