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Hebrews 11c

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Hebrews 11:20… By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.

Commentary

On the day that Abraham took Isaac upon the mountain to slay him, per God’s command (Gen. 22:1-2), there is no doubt that he learned about God’s promise to bless Abraham and his offspring. Isaac represented mankind on that altar of sacrifice, and when the man of faith, his father Abraham, demonstrated his strong faith, God provided a substitute for Isaac and spared his life by providing a ram instead of his son Isaac. That is the picture of Jesus Christ dying on mankind’s behalf. And Isaac lived it firsthand. He knew his life was over, and he probably had the same fears as anyone else would have had. Then God spared him, and that day Isaac learned about the God of heaven first hand. Up to that point Abraham had likely told Isaac all about the promise of the land, the seed, and the blessing (Gen. 12:1-3, 7). But on that day Isaac lived it, saw it, and believed it. It is likely that on that day Isaac’s faith was solidified.

Now one might expect Isaac to have lived a life full of faith, but strangely this was not so – at least not from the very brief account given of his life in Genesis 25:19-27:46. Although Isaac lived longer than any of the patriarchs the story of his life in the Bible is shorter than Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, or Moses. God did pass the promises onto Isaac (Gen. 26:3-4), and although these promises should have given him a sense of security and hope, Isaac seems to have lived in fear most of his life. When the Philistines of Gerar (near Gaza) questioned him about his wife Rebekah, he lied about her saying she was his sister. He was afraid they would kill him if she were his wife so that they could steal her from him (Gen. 26). When King Abimelech was informed of who Rebekah really was he showed more fear of God than Isaac did!

Even after Isaac became wealthy while living in Gerar he seems to have spent his life questioning God up to that point and grumbling about his lot. When things finally went his way he said, “At last the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Gen. 26:22), but he did indeed begin to multiply. When he finally moved back into the land he came to Beersheba in the south, and then God repeated the covenant promises to him (Gen. 26:24-25).

Isaac’s life seems unfaithful at times, but at other times he was indeed faithful. His wife was barren, but she later gave birth to twins – Jacob and Esau. Esau was Isaac’s favorite son even though God made it clear it was Jacob who would be blessed and loved by God. Rebekah had to intervene through deception to get Jacob to receive Isaac’s blessing, but her deception was faithless. God worked through it anyway, but the whole story puts Isaac in a bad light.

The point of Isaac’s life, however, is his faith. The author of Hebrews, without condoning Isaac’s shortcomings, points to the faith he had in blessing his sons while looking to the future. One thing is for sure, and that is that Isaac believed in God’s covenant blessings. This is revealed in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob – even though he thought he was blessing Esau (Gen. 27:27-29). Isaac believed God and looked to the future for God’s fulfillment of what He promised. The Greek text of Heb. 11:20 literally says, “By faith, even concerning things to come, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.” In blessing them, Isaac literally “spoke well of them; he praised them.”

Food for Thought

The blessing was an act of faith because it concerned a time beyond their lives. When a person looks beyond their own life and into the future, they act on faith. Simply teaching our children about Christ and leaving them an inheritance – both spiritual and financial – is an act of faith because it plans for their eternal future. A person has strong faith when they know they’re saved – when they have the “assurance of things hoped for” – a certainty about God’s plan.

Hebrews 11:21… By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

Commentary

The next man of faith in Hebrews 11 is Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. God established His eternal covenant with Abraham and later with Isaac. Then He established the same covenant with Jacob (Gen. 28:13-17) whom He later named Israel (Gen. 32:24-32).

The account of Jacob’s life has far more detail than that of Isaac. From the day he is born his life reveals a colorful character. He seems to have been an expert at deception and manipulation. He cunningly took his brother’s birthright, then he later deceived his aging father in a successful attempt to receive the blessing of the firstborn. His mother Rebekah may have taught him everything he knew, for she too appears very cunning (Gen. 27:5ff.). Jacob traveled away from home in order to avoid his brother’s conspiracy against his life, and he found himself employed by a man (Laban) who seems to have had all of Jacob’s negative qualities and more. It was this man for whom Jacob worked for 20 years, and also this man who became his father-in-law. Jacob married his two daughters, Leah and Rachel, and worked as one of his hired hands.

At times Jacob acted wisely, and at times he was downright spineless, as in the case of his daughter who was raped by Shechem (cf. Gen. 34). He had two wives and two concubines by which he had twelve sons – the tribes of Israel – and one daughter named Dinah. While reading the account of his life “faith” is not likely the first thing that comes to one’s mind about this man, but then again, no one’s life, if put under a microscope, would ever reveal a man of faith 100% of the time based simply upon his actions. People are sinful, and God works through those sins in order to bring about His eternal promises. Jacob was indeed a faithful man, and this is evident from what he believed about the future and how he blessed his sons concerning the future.

Jacob told Joseph just before he died while they were in Egypt: “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers” (Gen. 48:21). There they were in Egypt, outside of the Promised Land, but Jacob still believed God’s promise of possessing the land. So the land which Jacob never possessed, he passed on to his 12 sons in faith, knowing that God would be true to his word. He had the “assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things unseen” in giving these blessings (Genesis 47:29-31; 48:8-20). Jacob, though weak physically, was strong in his faith, and his faith was expressed in the content of his blessing: “Let them grow into a multitude… a multitude of nations” (Gen. 48:16, 19).

Verse 21 says that Jacob died “leaning on the top of his staff.” But Genesis 47:31 says that he “bowed himself on the head of the bed.” The apparent contradiction is reconciled by the Hebrew word for “bed” and “staff” which are exactly alike in their Hebrew consonants. Of course Hebrew has no vowels in its original text; those were added sometime around AD 700. So “bed” and “staff” look identical without vowels. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT written in 250 BC) renders the passage in Genesis as “staff,” but later Jewish scribes placed vowel pointings that rendered it as “bed.” “Top of the staff” appears original, and the rendering of “bed” in Gen. 47:31 would be a vowel pointing error added by later scribes.

Food for Thought

            Jacob believed in the future of his people because God revealed it. Not much has changed since Jacob except that so much more about the future has been revealed since Jacob’s day. In fact, the future has been revealed to strengthen the faith of God’s people (cf. 1 Thes. 4:18). He’s promised to return, and our faith is expressed in our eager expectation of Christ’s return.

Hebrews 11:22… By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

Commentary

            Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. His story in the Bible is one of the most beloved stories, and there is nothing in the account of Joseph’s life that puts him in a bad light. As the son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel, he was indeed Jacob’s favorite son, and his brothers knew it. When Jacob showed his favoritism toward Joseph by giving him a multi-colored robe his brothers hated him. To make matters worse, Joseph had two dreams whereby he saw his brothers bowing down to him. When he made this known to his brothers they were furious. So when Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers while out in the fields, they took advantage of the opportunity to seize him by force. Though they spoke of killing him, they wound up selling him into slavery to a group of Ishmaelites who later sold him to the Egyptians. Of course they covered over their crime by telling Jacob that wild animals killed him.

            Joseph’s story of faith basically begins with him in Egypt. Clearly God led him through the darkest days of tribulation in order to bring him to the point where his faith would be fully mature. Joseph, because God’s presence was so strong in his life, found himself second in command over all of Egypt. Only the Pharaoh was higher in authority than he. He managed the food supply in Egypt because he had foreseen the drought that the land was enduring. People came from all over to buy food from Joseph – including his brothers who were living in Canaan with Jacob. When they arrived to purchase food they didn’t even recognize their brother Joseph, but over the course of time he finally revealed himself to them. Joseph forgave his brothers telling them that what they meant for evil God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). Eventually Joseph moved all of his brothers and his aging father Jacob into Egypt to escape the famine in the land.

            As Joseph was dying he told his brothers: “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob… God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” Clearly Joseph knew the Abrahamic covenant and believed God’s promises. He believed them so firmly that he commanded that his bones be taken up from Egypt after he died when the Israelites would one day return to the land. This of course is exactly what Moses did in Ex. 13:19 when he took the bones of Joseph with him as he led Israel out of Egyptian captivity hundreds of years later. Joshua later buried Joseph’s bones in the Promised Land (Josh. 24:32) after they finally settled in the land – once the promise of inheriting the land was complete.

            Joseph simply did not consider his eminent position in Egypt as his final goal or the land of Egypt as his final resting place. Canaan was his home because God promised it to him and his people. He had everything in Egypt, but like his great grandfather Abraham he was looking beyond the temporary into eternity. He believed in the resurrection of the body all the way till his death when his faith was as strong as ever. He could have resented God and called Him a liar for not fulfilling His promises, but he didn’t because he believed in his future bodily resurrection.

Food for Thought

While living in Egypt and enjoying all that his position offered him Joseph was far more focused on his eternal dwelling place. His faith was as strong in death as it was in life. His belief in God gave him understanding about the future. Some seek to understand before they believe, but Christians believe so that we may understand. Having faith in God and in His unseen promises opens the door to a life-long journey of understanding who God is. It begins with faith.

Hebrews 11:23-26… By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

Commentary

            After Joseph died the Israelites continued to live in the region of Goshen near Egypt. They increased in numbers for two hundred years until a king arose that did not know Joseph. He subjected the Israelites to slave labor, and when he saw how quickly they multiplied he gave an edict that called for the death of all Hebrew babies. They were to be disposed of in the Nile!

            Amram and Jochebed were the parents of a child named Moses. Like most parents, they thought their child was beautiful, so they decided to ignore the king’s edict. Jochebed placed her three month old son in a basket and floated it down the Nile while her daughter Miriam followed it until the daughter of Pharaoh found the child and raised it as her own. Miriam informed the young woman that she could have the mother of the child nurse him until he was weaned, and this is what happened. So here was the future deliverer of Israel, safe and sound in his mother’s arms, and protected by Pharaoh’s daughter herself. It all started with the faith of Moses’ parents who put their own lives at risk in order to obey God by faith. Their faith disregarded death.

            Moses grew up in all the riches of Egypt and with all the education a prince should have. He likely spoke a handful of languages and could decipher hieroglyphics. And while being raised and weaned by his mother he may have also learned Hebrew. It is clear that he knew he was an Israelite at some point in his early years, but in contrast to his people Moses lived a life of luxury. They were slaves while he was royalty. But this is where Moses’ faith comes into view. He gave it all up to become a slave! He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and forfeited the riches and comforts of being royalty. By faith he gave up everything in order to gain eternity. And because earthly treasures are meaningless, one could very well say that Moses gave up nothing (worldly treasures and comforts) to gain everything.

            Moses chose the ill-treatment the rest of his people received while slaves in Egypt. He was probably just like Abraham who was so sick of the riches and paganism of Ur that when God called him he obeyed immediately. Moses also probably just grew sicker and sicker at the gross indulgences of Egypt – the “passing pleasures of sin” – and was perfectly willing to be lumped in with his people who were the people of God’s promises.

            What was Moses thinking? Verse 26 says that Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt.” This means that Moses, living 1500 years before Jesus Christ, actually suffered for Him. Any suffering done for one’s faith in God’s promises prior to Christ’s incarnation is still suffering for Christ because it’s an identification with Christ’s people. David suffered as much for Christ as did Paul the Apostle. One thousand years before Christ David wrote: “The reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). Paul also said, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:19). Jesus the Messiah has always been identified with his people (compare Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1).

Food for Thought

            Look to the future! Look past the present, shun the riches of the world, and identify with Jesus Christ and His people. Study, pray, and fellowship with believers always looking forward.

Hebrews 11:27-29… By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

Commentary

            Moses had no fear. His fearless character is seen in many ways, but according to 11:27 it was mostly seen in his demeanor toward the pharaoh. He wasn’t afraid of him! He was the leader of God’s people, and even though Pharaoh was infuriated at him, and not wanting Israel to go without bloodshed, Moses focused not on that but on God’s mercy as he led Israel out of Egypt. He saw the God who is “unseen” just like the patriarchs before him, and this propelled him in his faith. Fear is a powerful tool of Satan, and many a believer has been crippled by fear, unable to push forward. Not Moses! He turned his back on Egypt and all its treasures, and even after he incurred the wrath of the king and of his own people (Ex. 6:9; 14:11-12) he was still fearless.

            Moses’ faith was also characterized by his obedience in keeping the Passover – a feast he could not have fully understood when it was instituted just prior to the exodus from Egypt. God told Moses to inform Israel that they must sprinkle blood on the doorposts of their homes in order to avoid the final plague (death of the firstborn) God was sending on Egypt (Ex. 11-12). There was no real power in the blood of the lamb which was painted on the doorposts; the power was in the act of faith the Israelites showed by actually obeying God’s command. It took faith to perform that ritual, but Moses and his people did. They could not have fully understood that this act was symbolic of Christ’s future sacrifice on the cross which would save those who trusted in him for salvation. But even in the midst of his ignorance, Moses showed faith by obeying. And when the death angel flew over the people of Israel that night he “passed over” those who had demonstrated faith by painting blood on their doorposts. As a result, their firstborn child lived.

            In v. 29 Moses’ faith was also demonstrated in his boldness. Having led the people of Israel out of Egypt following the ten plagues which demonstrated the power of God to His people, the people actually grew weak in their faith when they came to the Red Sea and observed pharaoh’s army coming toward them. While they complained, Moses boldly proclaimed, “Do not fear! Stand and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today… the Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (Ex. 14:13-14). God worked through Moses’ boldness and then parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through onto safety. But it also took faith for them to walk through the parted waters. What a frightening sight it must have been to see a wall of water piled up on either side! And they had no guarantee that God wasn’t going to let the waters drop down on them, but they proceeded by faith. God’s word proved faithful, and those who believed Him passed through without harm or injury. The Egyptians, however, did not fare so well. Their hardened hearts, which only trusted in themselves, led them to their deaths.

Food for Thought

            Sometimes life’s problems bring us to a dead end in our walk with Christ – just like Israel when they came to the Red Sea. We see no deliverance, only despair. It is at that point that we must be bold like Moses and believe in the face of fear that God will deliver us. And when life’s problems seem like walls of water around us we just have to move forward and take another step. On the other side is relief if we will only believe. God loves to show His faithfulness, and we love to tell others about it. God loves to take us to the brink of despair to test our faith.

More Notes:

·         The word for “dying” in v. 22 is “to complete; to finish; to accomplish.” It is different from the word translated “dying” in relation to Jacob in v. 21.

 

To bless: “to speak well of; to praise.”

1.      Isaac: learned from his father, from God, blessed his kids in for the future (in prep for).

a.       Had nothing he could give his sons except the word of God. Nothing else!

2.      Jacob: learned from his father, from God, blessed grandsons, worshipped with what little strength he had while looking to the future (and prepping them for it too)

a.       Had nothing but God’s word to pass onto his kids.

b.      The word of God caused him to worship even at the very end

3.      Joseph: learned from his father, from God, and encourages his brothers (spoke well of them by reminding them of their blessing, Gen. 50:24)

a.       Knew that what people meant for evil, God meant for good (that’s faith!)

                                                              i.      Favored and hated

                                                            ii.      Spoke prophecies which were despised

                                                          iii.      Sold into slavery

                                                          iv.      God was with him everywhere blessing all that he did

                                                            v.      Moved him into a position whereby he would bless the world

b.      Life principle: faith builds upon itself.

4.      Moses: learned from his parents, from God, and delivered God’s people

a.       Parents showed no fear. This was passed down to Moses later

b.      No fear in faith, for Moses did not fear Pharaoh

c.       No fear of death, for life’s circumstances are designed to mold us for it.

d.      Observed Passover by faith (does what makes no sense)

e.       Passed through the waters (in the midst of a storm they took a step)

f.       Endures ill-treatment (teens, kids, adults)

g.      Common element in faith: looking to the future!

h.      Life principle: Any suffering done for one’s faith in God’s promises prior to Christ’s incarnation is still suffering for Christ because it’s an identification with Christ’s people. David suffered as much for Christ as did Paul the Apostle. One thousand years before Christ David wrote: “The reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). Paul also said, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:19). Jesus the Messiah has always been identified with his people (compare Matt. 2:15 & Hos. 11:1).

Hebrews 11:20… By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

·         Notice the progression of faith: Isaac blessed his sons in reference to the future. Jacob also blessed his son Joseph but did so as he was dying while worshipping. His physical strength was so poor that he had to prop himself up on his staff, yet spiritually he was strong because of faith. Joseph, while he was dying, saw into the distant future by faith and knew full well that his people would depart from Egypt. Then the hope he gave to the future generation was that his bones would be buried in that place. The faith of each man seems to have grown in successive generations… Life principle: faith builds upon itself. Each instance in our life that God puts us through makes us stronger for the next trial.

·         Isaac had nothing he could give to his sons except the word of God. Nothing!

·         Jacob worshipped because of his gratitude at the end of his life.

·         Joseph knew that all his heartaches were God working for the good of him and his people.

Hebrews 11:23-26… By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

·         The parents of Moses were like any other parent. They thought their child was beautiful! The point is that they were willing to suffer death for keeping their child. This would have spoken volumes to the Hebrews who feared death and persecution… Life principle: there is nothing to fear in death if you are a Christian. No fear means there is faith built upon years of struggle and hope in Christ.

·         Moses proves that the luxuries of life are nothing compared to a life of faith which may include no luxuries at all but only slavery and persecution. The passing pleasures of sin can be seen in enjoying one’s wealth selfishly, participating in sexual activity outside of marriage, experimenting with drugs, etc. All of these are “passing pleasures of sin.” Life principle: Any suffering done for one’s faith in God’s promises prior to Christ’s incarnation is still suffering for Christ because it’s an identification with Christ’s people. David suffered as much for Christ as did Paul the Apostle. One thousand years before Christ David wrote: “The reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). Paul also said, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:19). Jesus the Messiah has always been identified with his people (compare Matt. 2:15 & Hos. 11:1).

·         For teens: can you refuse to be lumped in with the crowd and decide to endure the ill-treatment of doing the right thing? If so, you might be a Christian!

·         For kids: Can you simply obey your parents and have faith that they know what they’re talking about? Can you enjoy the ill-treatment of telling the truth for the passing moment of being free after telling a lie?

·         Moses, like all those of faith, looked forward to the future. Faith has a common element throughout its history and that is looking to the future. But we must know the future as God has given it to us. It’s in the Bible like everything else God wants us to know!

Hebrews 11:27-29… By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

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