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Hebrews - Part 13 - Faith Hall of Fame

Study of Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:35
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Good morning, everyone! You don't have to look far in our society to find places where outstanding individuals in sports or entertainment are immortalized. There is a Pro football hall of fame in Canton, OH. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is dedicated to the history of ice hockey. It holds exhibits about players, teams, NHL records, memorabilia and NHL trophies including the Stanley Cup. The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,690 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, CA. If you are searching for a Country Music Hall of Fame, you can at least three choices. You can find one here in British Columbia in Merritt. Go south of the border (whenever it opens) and you will another Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Carthage, TX. And of course, Nashville, TN would never be Nashville without its Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. And if you are looking for the Hall of Fame of the heroes of the faith, we can turn to the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11. This morning I will give the second of two messages on Hebrews chapter 11 covering verses 17 through 40. We will pick up the story of Abraham in verse 17. 11:17-19 17 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."[a] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. The theme of testing emerges here as the writer returns to the example of Abraham. We can learn from that supreme test in which the patriarch was called on to sacrifice his son. God's ability to raise men even from the dead would not have been too readily accepted even by Abraham, but he had come to the view that this would be the only way that God could maintain his integrity if the offering of Isaac was to proceed. To argue like this speaks much for the maturity of Abraham's faith, for it would have been more natural to question God's guidance in the offering of Isaac. But Abraham seems to have had no doubts about this. Though this seemed to contradict the divine promise, Abraham was able to rise above the trial and trust in the resurrecting power of God. So also, we believers must look beyond the experiences of life, in which God's promises do not seem to be fulfilled. What is particularly striking is that with the exception of the resurrections mentioned at the end of this chapter healing is not mentioned. When a loved one is ill, we will pray for healing. Sometimes the healing comes but other times a terminally ill loved one dies. Although we have exercised faith in God, we reason, like Abraham, that God is able to raise the dead. And there will be a resurrection at some future date, and they will live again. 11:20-22 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. The patriarchs mentioned here likewise looked to the future in faith. Isaac, trusting God to fulfill His promises to Abraham and his descendants, pronounced blessings on his own two sons, Jacob, and Esau, regarding their future. So did Jacob in regard to Joseph's sons, which was for him an act of faith in his old age. In these verses we see a pattern of these patriarchs maintaining their faith to the very end of their life, persevering in faith in the future that God had foretold. Joseph too, nearing death, expressed confidence that God would in the future deliver the Israelites from Egypt. The faith attributed to Joseph was of a different kind, for in giving directions concerning his burial he had faith to believe that his descendants would one day leave Egypt for the promised land. He had cherished the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and signified his own confidence (Gen. 50:24ff.). This was an act of considerable faith which proved to be fully justified. The exodus of the Israelites became one of the most significant events in the whole history of Israel. The word 'exodus' is not frequent in the New Testament, for it occurs elsewhere only in Luke 9:31 referring to the death of Christ and in 2 Peter 1:15 to the death of Peter. The dominant idea is of a triumphant deliverance In similar fashion all believers should, in genuine faith, have confidence in the future of God's people. In our several weeks of national services using Zoom I could not but help notice the age of the participants in the online services. These are senior members of our denomination who have seen many trials and challenges to their faith over the course of a lifetime. Kudos to all of them. My hope and prayer are that we too will strive to be faithful and to maintain our worship right to the end of our life like these faithful servants of God. 11:23 23 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. It is not surprising that the faith of Moses is given more extensive treatment than that of Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph. The Exodus held a prominent place for every devout Jew in demonstrating God's action on behalf of his people, and Moses was consequently held in the highest esteem. Our writer sees two aspects of his faith: personal and national. The first evidence of faith was exercised by Moses' parents on his behalf. The hiding of the child for three months is described in Exodus 2, where we read that Moses was placed on the Nile River in a wicker basket daubed with bitumen and pitch. In view of Pharaoh's edict which condemned the male Hebrew children to death, this faith was courageous. Moses' parents trusted God to deliver their child from death. With this transition to the life of Moses, the writer begins to focus on the way faith confronts opposition and hostility, a subject familiar to his readers. It was by faith that Moses was hidden by his parents and his life was thus preserved. The phrase because they saw he was no ordinary child might be better read, "because they saw he was a beautiful child." There was clearly something striking about the appearance of Moses to create such an impression on his parents and on Pharaoh's daughter. Delighted by the precious gift of a son which God had given them, Moses' parents evidently believed God had something better for this lovely baby than death. Not fearing Pharaoh's edict, they kept him alive, and God rewarded their faith by their son's illustrious career. 11:24-26 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 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 Here we see a classic presentation of the way faith chooses between the attractive but temporary pleasures of sin and the prospect of disgrace for the sake of Christ. The writer showed Moses to be a real hero of faith who had an intelligent regard for the ultimate hopes of the nation of Israel. The readers also were to accept "disgrace" and reject "the pleasures of sin," and they would do so if they, like Moses, anticipated their reward. 24. When he had grown up points to a new development in Moses' story, for now he is in a position to exercise faith on his own behalf and he does this by refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. What the writer carefully notes is the quality of faith which could make a decision of this kind. Faith in this case presupposes a firm conviction in Moses of God's call to a most difficult task. In verse 25 we see the contrast between the alternatives facing Moses vividly set out-ill-treatment or the fleeting pleasures of sin. Moses had much to lose that was attractive in his position in Egypt, although the pleasures are specifically attributed to sin. Faith and sinful pleasure do not belong together. The word for ill-treatment occurs only here in the New Testament and serves to link the sufferers closely together. There was a solidarity between Moses and the people of God when he had once thrown in his lot with them, a solidarity in suffering. The most that sin can provide is temporary pleasure. People can indulge in alcohol abuse, drug use or sexual promiscuity but these are satisfying for only a short time. But the ill-treatment meted out to the people of God has no such temporary character. Those who identify with God's people at once become the targets of God's enemies. In verse 26 the writer next comments on the reason why Moses made the choice he did. He expresses it in another contrast-the superiority of abuse for Christ over the treasures of Egypt. This appears to be ludicrous in our materialistic age. But part of the greatness of Moses was that he recognized that there were more valuable things in life than material treasures. It is surprising that the abuse is said to be suffered for the Christ, for this seems like a reading back of Christian conditions into the time of Moses. It is not, however, entirely inappropriate for a writer who has many times in this epistle invested the Old Testament allusions with Christian significance and he does the same here. He implies that all the sufferings of God's people whether centuries in the past or in the 21st century are in some way linked with sufferings on behalf of the Messiah, the perfect representative of God. All that Moses suffered was in the cause of God's plan of salvation for his people This culminated in the abuse, which was heaped on Christ himself, of which the writer is acutely conscious throughout this epistle. The words because he was looking ahead to his reward mean that Moses focused his gaze on a nobler target. The word "reward' occurs elsewhere in 10:35 and 11:6. In none of the occurrences is the reward defined. In the context of Moses' life, it must be interpreted as spiritual treasures which he knew would be his, since he was not permitted to enter the promised land. Spiritual rewards, unlike material advantages, have an enduring quality which infinitely enhances their value. Our faith will be rewarded, but if we expect that only in this life will we see the reward, we will be disappointed. Of course, there are blessings for obedience now but like Moses we will not enter the promised land in this lifetime but in the next. 11:27-28 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. At the time of the Exodus, Moses was undeterred by fear of the king's anger. By keeping the Passover, which included the sprinkling of blood, the nation avoided God's judgment. In the same way, the readers should not be afraid of human wrath and should maintain their separateness from the surrounding world. They should persist in the worship experience made possible by the blood of the New Covenant. If they would do so, they would not fall under divine retribution (cf. 10:19-31). 27. The historical consequences of Moses' choice are now given briefly-he left Egypt and subsequently kept the Passover and led the consequent exodus of Israel from Egypt. The nine plagues that preceded the death of the firstborn are ignored because the writer of Hebrews is focusing on faith. Faith is seen to override the king's anger, a remarkable achievement when it is remembered that Pharaoh had despotic powers. Since anger of that kind can be tyrannical, it takes a brave man to defy it, but faith can supply the courage to do so. The statement not fearing the king's anger appears to contradict the statement in Exodus (2:14f). which states that Moses was afraid and fled from Pharaoh. The explanation may be that Moses feared that God's purposes would be thwarted if he did not escape, but this is to be distinguished from personal fear. A spiritual explanation is given for Moses' courage: he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. The eye of faith can see what is invisible to the eyes of others. Moses, in all the wanderings in the wilderness, was conscious of God's presence in a remarkable way. The writer traces the secret of his endurance to a source beyond himself, which his opponents never even knew existed. In Colossians (1:15) Paul speaks of God as invisible, although he recognizes that Christ has made the invisible God visible. There is undoubtedly a paradox in the seeing of the unseeable, but this is of the very essence of faith (cf. 11:1). 28. The Passover occupied a place of considerable significance for the Jewish mind and came to have an even greater meaning for Christians because it was so intricately linked with the passion of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7.) It took faith to keep the first Passover. After all, how could sprinkling blood on your door frame prevent a death angel killing your first born? But Moses and his fellow Israelites acted in faithful obedience and their first-born children were spared. And sometimes we must act in a way that seems illogical but in faith we act and are rewarded for our faith with a positive outcome. 11:29-31. 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. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 29. The thought now moves away from individual faith to national faith, although the people's faith was still inspired by the faith of Moses. Clearly the movement of the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt was a co-operative effort. At no time was faith needed more urgently than when the Israelites faced the formidable obstacle of the Red Sea which barred their advance with the Egyptians hot on their rear. The way they crossed as if on dry land, while the Egyptians were drowned, became a national saga of God's deliverance. The author considers it to have come about by faith. It is well to remember that corporate faith of this kind is but the sum total of the faith of everyone. Such faith must, however, be set against the development of unbelief during the subsequent wilderness wanderings. On this the writer has already commented in chapters 3 and 4, and here he contents himself with the more positive aspects of faith. 30. The next dramatic event which comes to the writer's mind is the conquest of Jericho, not only because of the miraculous manner in which it was accomplished, but also because it set a seal upon the coming conquest of Canaan. Can you imagine a conversation between two men in Jericho on the third day? "Hey, Jeb, what are you doing today? Why I think I will go out to the top of the outside wall and watch some entertainment." "Entertainment?", asks his friend Ben. "Yeah, this is a real hoot. That crazy bunch of Israelites have been parading around our city for the last couple of days blowing their trumpets made of rams' horns!" Some of the Israelites probably wondered about the direction given to them but they followed their orders and on the seventh day, just like God had promised, the city wall collapsed, the Israelite army conquered the city and laid the ground work for the conquest of the rest of Canaan. 31. The position of the woman Rahab, who gave protection to the spies in Jericho (Josh. 2:1ff.), caught the imagination of our writer, who, in spite of the fact that she was a pagan and a harlot, mentions her among the heroes of faith. The fact that faith could be exercised by such a person was evidence of its universal character. Another New Testament writer, James (2:25), was also impressed by Rahab's act. The distinction between Rahab and the other inhabitants of Jericho is marked by the description of them as those who were disobedient. This implies that the people of Jericho, having heard of the exploits of God on behalf of his people, should have acknowledged these acts instead of resisting God's people. Certainly, Rahab must have been prompted by such reports of God's dealings to lead her to give friendly welcome to the spies. She does not regard them as enemies, but as agents of God, and this perception is attributed to her faith. 11:32-34 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 32. The entry of the Israelites into the promised land was only the beginning of many exploits of faith that followed in the history of God's people. The writer realizes that it is out of the question to speak of further individual acts of faith, and he therefore contents himself with giving a kind of inventory of different exploits. He first gives a list of names which are assumed to be so well known that there is no need to mention their doings. The rhetorical question And what more shall I say? almost suggests that he does not consider there is much point in mentioning more examples. Those already given are sufficiently impressive. Also, lack of space prevents him from continuing with the same detail. 33-34. In these verses nine statements are made describing the achievements of faith. These are arranged in three groups of three. In each group there is a common feature to link them together. The first group marks attainments-the conquering of kingdoms, the establishment of justice, the inheriting of spiritual promises. This was true to a marked degree in the time of David, but all three attainments can be illustrated from various times in Israel's history. The second triplet is concerned with specific kinds of endurance and deliverance. They shut the mouths of lions, a clear allusion to Daniel's exploits (Dan. 6) and perhaps also to those of Samson (Judg. 14:6) and David (1 Sam. 17:34f.). The reference in the next statement-they quenched the fury of flames-is presumably a reference to the ordeal of the three Hebrews in Daniel 3. Again, what God was instrumental in doing is attributed to the faith of the men who were miraculously delivered. The third hazard from which deliverance came is described as the edge of the sword, which sums up a wide range of violent action. The phrase is a familiar one in the Old Testament. The third triplet turns to mention more positive achievements. They won strength out of weakness. This at first sounds paradoxical but some instances can be recalled, as for example the case of Hezekiah (Isa. 38), or perhaps more vividly the tragic case of Samson. His last desperate act was viewed as an act of faith. A New Testament example may be seen in the revelation to the apostle Paul that his strength matures in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Paradoxically, the next feature is that they became mighty in war. The idea of strength here is an extension of the idea of strength gained from weakness, but in the specific area of battle. Again, this feature is vividly illustrated from David's time. An extension of this is seen in the statement that they put foreign armies to flight. Clearly in looking back on Israel's history, the writer of this epistle sees its military exploits as an integral part of its faith in God. To him all the heroes of the past illustrate in some way dependence upon God, and this is interpreted in terms of faith. 11:35-38. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[c] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. In a swift transition of thought, the writer moved from faith's obvious triumphs to what seemed to be its defeats. But these defeats were only apparent, not real. Those who were tortured and refused to be released did so because they knew their sufferings would lead to a richer and better resurrection experience. So, the readers might also endure suffering staunchly and expect reward in the future world. Indeed, all manner of physical suffering (vv. 36-37, 38b cite about a dozen kinds of persecution) has been endured by people of faith, as well as ostracism from their homes and countries, treatment that the readers might also have to endure. But in a lovely touch, the writer commented that the world was not worthy of those whom it banished. 11:39-40. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. In a concluding summary the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized their ultimate hopes. This fact shows that God had planned something better for them and us. It is indeed better for us that the future hopes they strove toward be delayed, since only thus could believers enjoy the present experience of becoming companions of the Messiah who leads them to glory. As a result, the perfecting (cf. 10:14; 12:23) of the Old Testament worthies-that is, the realization of their hopes-awaits that of all believers.1 The fulfillment for the heroes of the faith, as for us, is in Christ who is "the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25). All persons of faith who had gone before focused their faith on God and his promises. The fulfillment of God's promises to them has now come in Jesus Christ, and their redemption is now complete in him. Conclusion So, after two messages we have come to the end of unpacking one of the most inspiring chapters in the New Testament. But what can I encourage you to hang on to after the memory of these messages has faded? All of us have experienced and will experience challenges to our faith in the midst of our trials. You may have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or, tragically, a child. You may have experienced job loss either before or during this pandemic that is ravaging the world. Others have been afflicted with injuries or chronic disease. Other believers are trying to cope with aging parents suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. You are probably thinking of other difficult situations that I have not mentioned. Regardless of what you and I face, our faith is in an all-powerful God who is intimately familiar with our life and has lived in human form on this earth. We may find deliverance in this life and frankly we may not. Ultimately our faith will be rewarded as we enter a promised land that is not physical but spiritual and eternal. We, too, as we live out our faith are fellow travellers with the men and women of faith who have gone before us. May God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit continue to guide and strengthen you as you count on God for the faith to face this life. *** finish in prayer *** Word count: 4274 Time: 30 minutes 1 Hodges, Z. C. (1985). Hebrews. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 808-809). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ Sermon Hebrews 11:17-400Page 1 of 1 Keith M. Roberts0New Life Christian Fellowship0July 12, 2020
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