Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.


Scriptures are taken from the various versions as noted in the text of this book. Scriptures quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, 1990, 1995, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers. Scriptures quotations marked (NLT) are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.


DEDICATION To my wife, Sun, --who believes in me. friend and my most honest critic. You are my biggest fan, my closest

To my children, Timothy, Candace and Destin, who have taught me more about patience and persistence than I could ever have known without you. Thanks. To my mother and grandmother whose prayers have protected me and lifted me up when I was down.


Foreword Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen 110 Fourteen 119 Fifteen 129 Sixteen 139 Verse(s) 1-3 4 5-6 7 8 - 10 11 - 12 13 - 16 17 - 19 20 21 22 23 24 - 26 27 28 29 Title What Faith Is, and What Faith Sees Abel: Sacrificial Faith Enoch: God Pleasing Faith Noah: Moving by Faith Abraham: Faith to Follow Where God Leads Sara: Faith That Delivers Abraham: Faith Finding a Better Country Abraham: When Faith Is Tested Isaac: Faith Blessing the Future Jacob: Faith in the Face of Death Joseph: Faith Planning for the Future Moses’ Parents: Faith Finds a Way Moses: Faith Chooses the Right Way Moses: Faith Forsakes the Wrong Way Moses: Passover Faith Moses: Faith Between the Devil and the Deep Sea vi vii viii-ix Pages 1-9 10-22 23-30 31-38 39-47 48-57 58-64 65-73 74-79 80-87 88-94 95-101 102111120130-


Seventeen 149 Eighteen 160 Nineteen 171 Twenty 182 Twenty-one 192 Twenty-two 201 Twenty-three 210 Twenty-four 220 Twenty-five 234 Twenty-six 246

30 31 32a - 34 32b - 34 32c - 34 32d - 34 32e - 34 32f - 34 32g - 34 35a

Israel: Faith That Sees Walls Fall Rahab: Deliverance Faith Gideon: Faith to Believe the Lord's Report Barak: Faith to Follow Samson: Faith on the Rebound Jephthah: Faith the Overcomes Our Past David: Faith to Fight a Giant Samuel: Faith to Hear and Fear God The Prophets: Faith to Prevail Women: Faith to Receive Dead Back to Life And Others: Faith to Endure Us: Faith and Something Better


Twenty-seven 35b - 38 259 Twenty-eight 267 39 - 40


God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, who is God manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). God’s revelation is, therefore, near even “the word of faith, which we preach” (Romans 10:8). Through humble faith in Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” we are saved (Hebrews 10:39). But that is only the beginning. The redeemed must go on living by faith. The word “faith” appears in the Epistle of Hebrews more than in any other New Testament book—twenty-four times in chapter 11 alone, underscoring that faith is crucial to the lives of God’s people. In his book on Hebrews 11, Walking Through the Hall of Faith, Pastor Mark Hardgrove shows the dynamic power of faith at work in the lives of Old Testament believers and the relevance of their experiences to believers today. His exposition of this great chapter is thoughtful and practical and is intended to serve the needs of pastors, Sunday school teachers and leaders of small group Bible studies. True to his calling Mark Hardgrove writes from a pastoral perspective, dealing with issues that the church faces and that test the faith of believers. Pastors who use this book will find it to be a good resource for sermon preparation. Teachers of the Bible in the local church and their students will find it a handy guide to the study of Hebrews 11 and will be challenged and encouraged in their faith. French L. Arrington, Ph.D. Author and former Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at the Church of God Theological Seminary


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to express my sincere gratitude to the following people for the influence and inspiration they have given me in the writing of this book. Sun, my faithful wife, thank you for your encouragement and for giving me the time and space to write. Timothy, Candace and Destin, my children, thank you for loving me. Christine, my mother, thank you for helping me to believe in myself and instilling in me a healthy self-esteem.



I was only a sixth grader from a rural West Virginia grade school, but walking down the hall of the Doddridge County High School gymnasium I was in awe as I looked at the pictures and read the names and feats of our county’s greatest athletes. One was an all-state football player, another was an all-state track star, yet another was an all-state basketball player. This was our equivalent of a hall of fame, and I purposed in my heart to someday earn the right to have my picture placed alongside the others. My goal was to be the first athlete to get my picture in the hall of fame twice. I also planned to be voted "most athletic" of my senior class and to earn the “Alvin Bell Award for Outstanding Senior Athlete.” This was the motivating power which these sports heroes (some now dead) had on me. As it turned out I did not get my picture up twice but I did get it up once as the state runner-up in wrestling; I also achieved the other two of my lofty goals. Had I not been challenged and inspired by the athletes who had gone before me I might never have even set these goals nor had the persistence to press on and possess them.


The Writer of the book of Hebrews understood the motivating power of the heroes of faith. In an effort to inspire some wavering Jewish Christians to continue to walk by faith and not to go back to Judaism, the Writer lifts up some lofty names and examples from the Hall of Faith. One by one the "good report" of the elders stands as a vivid illustration of the importance and power of faith. Come walk with me through this awesome collection of names and feats of faith. Let's study each name and the act of faith which brought about such notoriety. As you study each one let him or her motivate you to achieve greatness in your own faith. As the Writer says at the end of the tour, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us" (Heb. 12:1, NLT). The reader will notice that throughout this work I have included places for the reader to pause and reflect upon the text and the commentary. One of the debates of hermeneutics is whether we interpret the text, or text interprets us. My goal is for you, the reader, to pause and to reflect upon what the example of each hero of faith says to and/or about you in your journey. The Psalms do this through the frequent use of the word, selah. Some scholars believe selah means “to consider.” It is not enough to read Scripture we must consider the implications for our lives. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and inspired to become a great man or woman of faith. I have grown in my faith through this process and I believe you will too.

I will refer to the author of the Book of Hebrews as, “the Writer," throughout this work. Many believe the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews (and it may have been), however, the text never identifies the Writer, therefore, I do not feel it is incumbent upon me to try to do so either.


CHAPTER ONE Verses 1-3 What Faith Is and What Faith Sees Heb 11:1-3 (KJV) 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2. For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Heb 11:1-3 (NLT) 1. {Great Examples of Faith--} What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. 2. God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith. 3. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. INTRODUCTION The word faith occurs only twice, and the word believe only nineteen times, in the King James Version of the Old Testament, yet the Writer of Hebrews will demonstrate in chapter 11 that all great men and women of the old covenant were men and women of faith. He has already made the argument in the preceding chapters that it was not the blood of bulls and goats but the precious blood of Jesus Christ that should take away sins (10:4). Furthermore, the Writer goes to great lengths to demonstrate that salvation is not accomplished by what we do but by what Jesus has done for us. The benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus are made effective when we are able to receive His work by faith. He writes in chapter 10:


22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised) (KJV). Having established that salvation is by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Writer proceeds both to define faith and to give examples of faith in the lives of the "elders" of the old covenant. He starts with the definition and then, beginning with creation, works forward through history bringing his readers to the doorstep of the new covenant. He has much to say about this new covenant and will end this chapter referring to it as "some better thing." The word covenant occurs thirteen times in the book of Hebrews. The Writer refers to the "first covenant" (made with Israel), to a "better covenant," a "new covenant," and an "everlasting covenant" (made with all believers in Christ). He boldly compares and contrasts the two covenants throughout the Epistle. The first covenant, he writes, was based on works of obedience to the Law of Moses (3:2-5), mediated by angels (2:2), and written on tablets of stone (9:4). The "new covenant," the "better covenant," is mediated by God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (2:3) and is not written in stone but upon the hearts of believers (8:10). It is a covenant based on faith in Jesus Christ and all that He came to do (and continues to do) for us and in us: Heb 8:6 . . . he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises (KJV). Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second (KJV). Heb 8:8 . . . I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (KJV).


Heb 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord (KJV). Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people (KJV). Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old (KJV). Heb 9:1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary (KJV). Heb 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant (KJV). Heb 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them (KJV). Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (KJV) Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (KJV). Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant (KJV).
REFLECT: What is a modern definition of faith? What is the objective of faith, that is, what are we trying to gain through faith? How would you rate your faith: strong, average, or weak? Why do you give your faith this rating? What is the greatest evidence of your faith in your life?


WHAT FAITH IS Having established that the new (or better) covenant is a covenant based on faith in Christ, the Writer begins at chapter 11 verse 1 with a definition of faith. This is such a wonderful definition that nothing needs to be added except to take into consideration the context. When quoted with no regard to what precedes or follows, this definition has been used to justify many misguided doctrinal positions and unbalanced approaches to the subject of faith. Furthermore, this definition makes no claim to be an exhaustive definition. It does not, for example, address faith as a body of belief, such as “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The King James Version translates this verse, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The New Living Translation states it as follows, "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see." The location of the definition, coming after an intense defense of the new covenant, demonstrates that faith is the necessary element for receiving the benefits of the cross. Some of these benefits remain in the future, they are "hoped for." The return of Christ for example, is called the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13). Moreover, the evidence of some of the things he has previously stated with regard to salvation is not yet seen. The Writer tells us that Christ, as both sacrifice and High Priest, has gone before the Father to present Himself as the sacrifice on our behalf (Heb. 7:18-8:6). There He abides forever as our eternal Mediator. We cannot see these things with natural eyes, but the very faith by which we believe becomes our evidence that these things are true.


The fact that I am able to believe something that is foolish to the natural man is a witness of the Holy Spirit with my spirit that God’s Word and promises are true. I am able to believe and know what cannot be known by mere empirical proofs. In addition, the Spirit of God bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Faith, then, reaches into the future and brings hope alive in the present. As believers we live today in a way which reflects our hope in an eternal future with Christ. We have the hope of His appearing and so we live in purity today (1 Jn. 3:3). We face death victoriously today because we believe that death is already a defeated foe and will eventually be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). When the Writer speaks of "the substance of things hoped for" the context indicates that he is not referring, primarily, to materialistic things. The word hope is consistently used in the New Testament to refer to a future in Christ, in the resurrection, and in the full effect of redemptive power in our bodies and on the earth (Rom. 8:16-26). Only by stripping the definition of Hebrews 11:1 from its context can it be used to justify the idea that the focus of faith is to acquire health, wealth, position, or power. Prospering does not come because our faith is so strong; our blessings come from the strong hand of the Lord in Whom our faith rests. The strength of faith does not reside in the one who has faith, but strength resides with the One in Whom we believe. There are some who have great faith in false gods and the result is powerlessness. Yet if we have faith no larger than a grain of mustard seed, and put that faith in the true God, mountains can be moved (Matt. 17:20).
REFLECT: How does your faith in Christ affect your life on a daily basis? Would your life be substantially different today if you did not have faith in Christ? How do you define “hope”?


WHAT FAITH SEES In verse 2 the Writer proceeds to illustrate his definition of faith through the examples of "people in days of old" (NLT). He says, "For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good report." Or, as the New Living Translation states, "God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith." These great men and women did not receive God's approval because of their deeds, but they were able to do what they did because they trusted Him and moved in faith. The Writer then takes that which we see (creation) and demonstrates that we can only understand origins (which we do not see) by faith. This is a reference to the Genesis account of God's creation of the physical universe with nothing more than the power of His Word. As the Writer notes, we cannot know this through experience. We were not there when creation took place, but we put our faith in the revelation of God and we understand that the entire universe was created by the power of God. Things that we now see and touch were created ex nihilo, "out of nothing." With the power of His will and Word, God took nothing and made everything. Even now we realize that the power of God is so great and so complete that He can do that which cannot be explained or understood by the natural mind. We call them miracles and they can only be comprehended by faith.
REFLECT: Do you remember people from your youth whose faith has inspired you? What was it about them that makes them memorable? How can their examples give guidance to the church today? Does your church allow time for testimonies? If so, is there one testimony which you remember as particularly inspiring? Why?


FAITH FOR TODAY We supposedly live in a modern and enlightened world which rejects biblical notions of miracles and faith. (Yet, paradoxically, people are reading horoscopes and calling psychic hotlines in record numbers.) The age of enlightenment insists that if it cannot be proven through scientific processes and if it cannot be repeated or proven wrong, then it cannot be believed. Belief, in the modern sense, has very little to do with faith as understood in the world of the New Testament writers. The world today says, "Show us, and then we will believe." Yet, the Apostle Paul tells us that if we physically possess something, then we no longer hope for it (Rom. 8:24). Similarly, when faith ends in sight, it is no longer faith, it is promise fulfilled. The modern explanation for creation is called "evolution." The supposedly enlightened insist that evolution is an irrefutable fact. In reality, those who reject the biblical explanation for creation have taken the speculations of a nineteenth century theologian named Charles Darwin and leaped into the arms of a materialistic god which has eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear and a mouth but cannot speak. Many have rejected the God of Scripture in favor of an impersonal "First Cause" and evolution is their faith. Yet, by definition evolution does not qualify either as a hypothesis or a theory and certainly not as fact. Evolution cannot be proven through repeatable experiments, it is not falsifiable, and it cannot be observed. One noted scientist admitted that evolution is, at best, a metaphysical study. Aristotle noted there are studies of the physical universe, things that we can manipulate, and then there are things that go beyond the physical, these are meta, or “beyond,” physical. In essence, the study of evolution is a study of the metaphysical, a study of things which supercede the natural and are, therefore, supernatural. This isn’t science, it is a religious system with a god called First Cause, a christ (really a psuedo-christ) named Darwin, and a bible entitled The Origin of Species.


Evolution is faith in creation out of nothing, without a creator. That takes a lot of faith—misguided faith, and a faith without hope, but faith nonetheless. At least the Christian is prepared to believe in the existence of a Creator, a personal, living and eternal Creator, who has condescended to make Himself known to us, the creatures. We believe that behind the watch there must be a watchmaker even if we've never seen him. Likewise, we believe that behind creation there must be a Creator even if we have not seen Him. His work speaks for itself and it tells us there is a God. Furthermore, we have the record of His visit, His words, His works, His life, death, resurrection and ascension. The irony of our times is that the irrational is paraded as the only sane and intelligent model for understanding our existence, while the truth that will set men free is rejected as ignorant and uninformed. Those who reject faith in God appear to dominate our educational systems and the modern media. They have climbed into the seats of the Congress and the bureaucratic agencies that desire to dominate our lives. And yet, the church marches on, lives are being transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we see the hand of God at work in our world. Men who are now dead and gone predicted the demise of the Christian church. The eulogy of the Church has been read in every century since the ascension of Christ, and yet here we are. Steeples dot our countryside, Bibles line our shelves, people are still praying, praising, and worshipping a God Whom the intellectual elite says does not exist. Well if it’s a case of Darwin versus God, the one still standing is the winner. Darwin is dead, case closed.


REFLECT: Is there an inherent conflict between science and faith? Have you ever had your faith challenged in a classroom? How do you answer those who argue that evolution is a fact? Do you get defensive and/or intimidated? If you have children, how do you prepare them to respond to the evolutionist’s challenge to the biblical model of creation?

SUMMARY Faith does not turn back, does not back down, and does not take a back seat to deception. The musings and rhetorical jargon of self-proclaimed intellectuals should never intimidate a believer or cause us to forsake our faith. If we stand tall with both feet firmly planted in the revelation of God through His Word we will, in time, be vindicated. Until that day comes, however, we stand liberated while the unbelieving world remains bound by superstition, tradition and pseudo-intellectualism. They are blind to the truth, while those who walk in faith are walking with eyes wide open seeing what cannot be seen, possessing what cannot be possessed and knowing what cannot be known—except by faith. Central to the Writer’s definition and examples of faith is the understanding that faith is not about what we can get out of God, but what we already have in a new and better covenant through Jesus Christ. He will end this chapter by telling us that the list of names and examples of faith should motivate us to press ahead toward the goal of faith. After all, he concludes, God has provided something better for us—who are partakers of a new and everlasting covenant—than even these great men and women of faith possessed in the former covenant.


CHAPTER TWO Verse 4 Abel: Sacrificial Faith Heb 11:4 (KJV) 4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Heb 11:4 (NLT) 4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. God accepted Abel's offering to show that he was a righteous man. And although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us because of his faith. INTRODUCTION After speaking of creation itself the Writer of Hebrews proceeds to the sacrifice given by Abel. Prior to the giving of the Law to Moses, sacrifices were given and accepted when they were given as an act of faith. He calls Abel's sacrifice "more excellent” than Cain’s but what was it about Abel's sacrifice that made it more acceptable? Let's go back to Genesis chapter 4 and take a closer look: 1 2 3 4 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,



but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." 8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" 10 And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 "So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth" (Gen. 4:1-12, NKJ). Adam and Eve engaged in normal sexual relations and in doing so were participating in the plan of God that they should "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). When Scripture states that a man "knew" a woman it is usually a euphemism meaning they had sexual relations. As a result of their union Adam and Eve had their first child, a son whom they named Cain. Recognizing the hand of God at work in the conception and birth of her child, Eve said, "I have acquired a man from the Lord." It is interesting that Cain's name means "acquire," while Abel's name means "breath, nothing, or vapor." We understand why Eve named her firstborn Cain, but why would she name her second child "vapor"? There is, even in the naming of the child, a hint of the brevity of the life of Abel. Perhaps it was the name and comparatively short life of Abel that moved James to write, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14, KJV).


One day the two brothers came to offer sacrifices to the Lord. We are never told who instructed them to offer their sacrifices or what the nature of the sacrificial system of the time was. One might assume that Adam and Eve remembered the death of the animals whose innocent lives were taken so that their nakedness might be covered. From this early example the doctrine of atonement was established, but as to the nature of the sacrifices brought by the sons of Adam we have no background. Both came with offerings, but only one was accepted.
REFLECT: Names in the Bible are given with specific meaning. Often they seemed to foreshadow the outcome of their lives. Do you know what your name means? Do you think your name accurately reflects your life to this point, or would you say there is no relationship?

THE SACRIFICES OF THE SONS Each of the brothers came with sacrifices representative of their occupations. Cain was a gardener, like his father before him, while Abel was a shepherd. Both occupations are honorable in Scripture. "In the process of time" (perhaps meaning "at the time of harvest"), Cain brought some of the produce of the field and Abel brought "the firstborn of his flock and their fat." We are told further that "the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering." Based on other examples from Scripture where God accepted a sacrifice, it may be that fire consumed Abel's sacrifice and not the sacrifice of Cain. Regardless of the means by which God's approval was expressed, this turn of events causes one to wonder, Why did God respect one sacrifice and not the other?


There have been several possibilities put forth in response to this question. One of the more popular explanations is that Abel's was a blood sacrifice, and Cain's was not. However, there is nothing in the text to indicate that this was a sin offering, and we know from the Law that grain and even drink offerings were accepted by God. The Writer tells us that Abel's sacrifice was "more excellent," or "more acceptable." Looking a little more closely at the text from Genesis there is a hint in the wording as to why one was acceptable and the other was not. Notice that Cain "brought an offering of the fruit of the ground." The New International Version states, “Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil . . .” In the giving of grain offerings and tithes of the harvest, the sacrifice was to be the "firstfruits" that is, the initial fruit of the harvest, as well as the best, given as an indication of what could be expected to follow. (See, Ex. 23:16-19; 34:22-26; Lev. 2:14; 23:10-17; Num. 18:12-26). Abel, on the other hand, "brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat." Abel brought choice specimens, the best of the flock. There seems to be a distinction in their attitudes as they brought their sacrifices. Cain's sacrifice appears to be carried out like a duty to get over with, while Abel came bringing the best and offering it to the Lord by faith. (These two men reflect the two ways people come to worship.) Sacrifices given at harvest time were really acts of faith. When the firstborn or the firstfruits were given, they were given in anticipation of what would follow. Before all the fields had been harvested, or before all the flocks or cattle had matured, the best was carefully chosen and given. This was done because God deserves our best and because it was believed that in offering the best, God would bless the giver of the gifts with an entire field of grain every bit as good and as plentiful as that which was offered.


Similarly, when the best of the flock was given, the shepherd believed the rest of the flock would be healthy and fertile. In fact, the Writer tells us why Abel's sacrifice was more excellent; it was because Abel offered "by faith." You can give your best when you believe that God will bless the rest. But when your faith wavers and you're not sure that God will bless the rest, then you are tempted to hold back the best for yourself.
REFLECT: What is your occupation? How can you give the firstfruits from your labors? How do you know that God has accepted your sacrifice? Have you ever given in tithes and offering when you didn’t know where you would get the money to pay a bill? Did you pay the bill?

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US Even as new covenant believers we talk about making sacrifices to and/or for God. The sin sacrifice was given once and for all by Christ Jesus, this is a point that the Writer goes to great lengths to prove. However, we are still to give ourselves—our talents, our tithes and our time—to God as an act of worship. We can only give two ways, we can give "by faith," or we can be modern day Cain’s, bringing what is easy or convenient. When we give our best by faith we are making a covenant with God, and His promise is that the rest will be blessed. When we hold back, or when we give to God that which cost us nothing we are, in effect, saying that we do not trust God with the very resources He has placed in our care. When we hold back on God we are invoking the inverse of the covenant. There are two sides to most covenants, just like there are with modern day contracts. When we


take out a loan with a bank we are making a covenant with them to pay them back, plus interest. But we are also making a covenant with them that in the event that we do not make our payments we give them the legal right to claim anything we may have purchased with the money they loaned us. When God made a covenant with Israel it had two sides: 26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (Deut. 11:26-28, KJV) When we give "by faith," when we give our best, and when we give from the "firstfruits," we are entering into the aspect of God's covenant which insures that the rest will be blessed. When we give less than the best then that which remains is never enough, we become like the people of Haggai's day. God said: 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes (Hag. 1:6, KJV).

In those situations where we do not come to worship God because we think we do not have enough time, then we invoke the other side of the covenant and we allow our time to be cursed. The same is true of our talents (our gifts and skills) or our treasures. God puts before us "blessing and cursing," but we choose whether we walk in faith and obedience, or doubt and disobedience. The first brings blessings, the latter initiates curses. It may seem foolish that any would choose the curse, and yet selfishness and selfcenteredness will always push God's way and God's will to the side while we pursue our own lusts.


The same situation was true for the people to whom Malachi spoke. God said: 8 9 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation (Mal. 3:8-9, KJV).

God gives the remedy for this situation, He said: 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.( Mal. 3:10-11, KJV)
REFLECT: Have you ever experienced the inverse of the covenant because you were disobedient? Did God chastise you for your disobedience? How did you move back into His blessings? What did you learn?

NEW COVENANT (TESTAMENT) EXAMPLES There are some who will argue that everything I've said is from the old covenant and therefore does not apply to the Church in any form. We respond to this argument from three angles: First, we notice that it is a New Testament Writer who brought up the example of Abel. In fact, Jesus Himself speaks of "righteous Abel" (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51). Second, while it is true that we no longer offer burnt offerings, we are still called upon to offer sacrifices, and like many things in the new covenant, the result is not to give less, but to give more. In the Old Testament we gave some of what we had, but in the New we give everything we are and offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). Finally, the principle of giving the best first, expecting the rest to be blessed, is found in the New Testament:


28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt 6:28-33, KJV). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil 4:14-19, KJV). To the church at Corinth Paul wrote: 6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 12 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Cor 9:6-8, KJV). What is the principle being illustrated in these verses? When we give we can and should expect to receive. The reason the sinner continues in his pernicious ways is because he does not expect a harvest of the things he has sown. Living and giving with


the expectation that we will receive "in kind" that which we have sown will affect how we live and what we give. For example, when we give friendship, we can expect to gain friends. When we give kindness, we can expect to find kindness. On the other hand, when we give anger, we can expect to find anger. When we give little time to our family we may find, as aged mothers and fathers, that our family will have little time for us. This is the law of reciprocity that couldn't be stated any clearer than Jesus stated it: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38, KJV). Some have said we don't give to get, and this is true on one level; it is true to the extent that we worship God and give to Him because we love Him and He is worthy. But it is also true that when we give our best, and when it is given as an act of faith, we can do so because we trust God to sustain us and to prosper us (make our journey good) with what remains. Abel's example of faith, as it relates to salvation, is that our life is to be lived in faith. We give the firstfruits without fear or reservation because we believe that all which remains blessed by God. Despite what our circumstances looked like when we brought our best to God, there will be enough (and then some) to meet our needs. Those who withhold from God, are really withholding from themselves. They are closing the windows of heaven above their own homes and lives. Likewise, a church that withholds from God, a church that does not reach beyond its walls to touch others, shuts up the windows of heaven for revival and increased financial resources to do ministry.


God is a wise investor. We read in the parable of the talents that a man who was going on a journey left some money with his servants to invest for him (Matt. 25:15-28). It was not by accident that he gave the least amount of money to the one who did the least with it. When they came to report on what they had done with what they had, the man with one talent admitted that he had not done anything with it. The master said, "Take from him what he has and give it to the one who did the most with what he had" (my paraphrase, Matt. 25:28). God will invest in people and churches which are working to advance the Kingdom. We may not see the "substance" of the entire harvest, but we give in faith, and by giving of the firstfruits we are giving as though the blessing on the remainder is an established fact. We give our sacrifices in faith and our sacrifice of time, talent and/or treasures are given as evidence of what we believe God is going to do in us and for us. The truth is, every time we have the opportunity to give of ourselves it is a test of faith. Whether it is money, or using our talents to serve others, or giving from our material possessions, our faith is on the line. When we have heard from God and the directive is clear, then the only thing standing between us and the blessings of God is the decision we make. Moreover, the decisions we make will be the product of the faith we exercise. We can come and give some of the produce, something we picked up at the last minute, something left over and of no real value, or we can give of the firstlings of the flock, we can choose carefully to give the best that we can. For one widow, her best was a few pennies but her best brought the praise of Jesus (Mark 12:41-44). For another it may be much more, but every time the offering plate passes our pew, our faith is on the line.


I do not teach or believe that every Christian who gives liberally in this life will become rich here and now. But part of faith is the evidence of things hoped for. Hope is for future blessings and is particularly connected to eschatological promises. Let's face it, the bulk of our blessings are those treasures we have laid up in heaven. However, not all the blessings are eschatological. I firmly believe that ". . . godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim 4:8, KJV). I believe I can guarantee that any believer who puts God's economic principles into practice in his or her life will experience greater financial freedom and will be liberated to give to ministries which are meeting needs and glorifying God. As a result, those men and women who can exercise sacrificial faith, will walk in the realm of blessings.
REFLECT: We are often told that we should give without expecting to receive. In my studies I have been challenged to give with expectation. What should we expect if we you give God second best? Do you expect Him to bless you when you are obedient in your giving? Do you understand the law of reciprocity? How does it affect the way you give?

SUMMARY I can hear someone saying, "Now wait a minute, Pastor Mark, Abel exercised his faith and he ended up getting killed by his own brother." This is true, but as I have already said, the bulk of the blessings are those which are laid up in heaven:


19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also ( Matt 6:19-21, KJV). It is not just a euphemism to say that a Christian who has died has "gone on to his reward." This is the truth. The truth is that Abel's death in the faith lifted him from the pastures and planted his feet in Paradise. Faith does not exempt us from the storms and struggles of life, but faith brings us through them victorious. Sometimes that victory is experienced in a promotion on the job, sometimes that victory is being liberated from a job that was robbing us of our time with our family and church. And still other times, that victory is laying our head down on a chopping block in Rome and lifting it up in the presence of God, the Righteous Judge, to receive a crown (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The last thing the Writer tells us of the faith of Abel is that "by it (by his faith) he being dead yet speaketh." The story of Abel’s faithfulness is still speaking to us thousands of years later. There is something very powerful about that. When we learn to have sacrificial faith, the things we do, the sacrifices we make, the ministry that we accomplish will be speaking and touching and ministering long after we have made our exit to glory. If I depart this world by way of death, I want to be known as one of those "blessed 'ole saints." You know what I'm talking about, one of those men (or women) whose life touched the next generation in meaningful and powerful ways. In contrast to Abel, Cain lived, but he lived a life of torment. His name means "acquire," and perhaps he sought to acquire for himself by robbing from God. As a result he lived on the run and the ground into which he would plant seed is now twice cursed.


Note the irony, if he had acted righteously and been faithful in giving the firstfruits, the rest of the harvest would have been blessed. Instead, Cain allowed sin to defeat him. In the new covenant God treats all of us like His own dear children. He will allow us to make our mistakes and the results of those lessons can harden our heart and lead us down the road of disobedience, or we can learn from the chastising hand of a loving Father. We can look at our lives today and ask the question, "Have I been giving God second best and do I see the evidence of cursed ground in my life?" If we see cursing where there should be blessings then we need to come again to the altar and this time bring the firstfruits, come with sacrificial faith believing that when we give our best, we can trust God to bless the rest and reverse the curse which we have brought upon ourselves.


CHAPTER THREE Verses 5-6 Enoch: Faith Pleasing God Heb 11:5-6 (KJV) 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb 11:5-6 (NLT) 5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying-- "suddenly he disappeared because God took him." But before he was taken up, he was approved as pleasing to God. 6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. INTRODUCTION It is interesting that a man about whom we know so little would be listed in the "Hall of Faith." Every reference to Enoch found in Scripture can be listed briefly below: 18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: 19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. 21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. (Gen. 5:1824, KJV)


1 2 3 4

Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (1 Chron. 1:1-4, NKJ)

37 Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, (Luke 3:37, KJV) 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Heb 11:5, KJV)

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 1:14, KJV) ENOCH THE MAN What do we know about Enoch and why would he be listed in Hebrews 11? It should be noted that there are two men in Scripture who bear the name Enoch. The first one mentioned was the first son of Cain. Cain later founded a city and named the city after his firstborn (Gen. 4:17-18). The second man named Enoch was born from the line of Seth. According to the genealogy from 1 Chronicles 1:1-3, Enoch was the seventh generation from Adam: "Adam, Sheth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch (Enoch)." The name "Enoch" means "consecrated" and it is said of him that he "walked with God." It is said of Abraham that he "walked before God" (Gen. 17:1), but only of Enoch and Noah that they walked "with" God (Gen. 5:24; 6:9). The only other thing we know about Enoch from the Old Testament record is that he was the father of Methuselah (who lived to be the oldest human) and was the father of unnamed daughters. We know that Enoch was 365 years old when "God took him" (Gen. 5:23), or "translated" him "that he should not see death" (Heb. 11:5).


In the New Testament Jude tells us that Enoch was a prophet who prophesied that Jesus would return "with ten thousand of His saints" (Jude 1:14). Since we have no record of Enoch prophesying it appears that Jude has another source with regard to Enoch's life and ministry. Many scholars think that Jude is quoting a reference from a writing known as "The Book of Enoch." While the books of Enoch (1 and 2 Enoch) are not recognized as canonical, it may be that they accurately preserve some of the apocalyptic prophecies of Enoch. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that when Enoch was 365 years old he "departed, and went to God: whence it is that they have not written down his death." In other words, Josephus notes that there is nothing recorded concerning the death of Enoch. Whereas it is written of one man after the other that they lived and died, the litany of death is punctuated by the notation that one man was simply taken by God. The only other man to escape the hand of death was Elijah (2 Kg. 2:11). The Writer tells us that Enoch's faith stands as an example. It was by his faith that Enoch walked with God (Gen.) and pleased God (Heb.); and because he pleased God he was delivered from death. Enoch was "translated that he should not see death" (Heb. 11: 5). The word "translated" is from the Greek, metatithemi (met-at-ith'-ay-mee) which Strong's defines as, "to transfer, i.e. (literally) transport, (by implication) exchange" It is interesting that the Apostle Paul used a word from same root—methistemi (meth-is'-tay-mee) "to transfer, i.e. carry away"—in Colossians 1:13. He writes, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (KJV).


It is through the same faith by which Enoch pleased God that we too can please God and walk with God. Likewise, Christians of all generations have lived with the hope that we, like Enoch, might live to see the return of Christ and not see death but be "changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
REFLECT: Why do you think God chose to translate Enoch that he should not see death? Would you like to see Jesus come back before you experience death? Why? Are you ready for Christ to return at this very moment? If not, why not?

REAL FAITH BEGINS WITH GOD The comment that Enoch "pleased God" moves the Writer to go on to tell his readers that pleasing God is the object of faith. Walking with God can only truly be accomplish to the extent that we please God, and we can only please God when we come to Him by faith. Pleasing God Verse 6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please God." This tells us two things about faith: First, it tells us that faith begins with God and second, without faith we cannot please God. Enoch pleased God and God promoted him into another realm. What is the objective of faith? Is it pleasing self? Is it wishing and wanting and grabbing and getting? James said: 2 You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong-- you want only what will give you pleasure" (Jas. 4:2-3, NLT).



Real faith does not begin with me, it begins with God. Real faith does not begin with what I want, but with what God wants for me. He said, "my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is. 55:8). Real faith begins with a desire to please God, and without faith we cannot please Him. We may be great singers, or build a massive church, or write wonderful Christian books, but without faith it is impossible to please God.
REFLECT: What does it take to please God? How do you know that God is pleased with your life? Are you pleasing God now? Is there something specific which you know is not pleasing God in your life? If so, are you ready to get rid of it? Why or why not?

Real Faith Leads To God Real faith will lead us to God just as it led Enoch into the presence of God. I do not believe because I see, but because I believe I shall see. Job knew this kind of faith, he said, "Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job19:26). If our faith leads only to a church building, then it's not real faith. If our faith leads only to a man or a woman behind a pulpit, then it's not real faith. If our faith leads only to a dogma or a theological position, then it's not real faith. Real faith leads to God because real faith believes that there is a God to go to. I'm glad my faith sees the God that no man can see and live. My faith hears the God who thunders with His voice and sends the skeptics running for cover. And my faith feels the God whose very presence causes the mountains to quake at His Glory. I'm glad that when I'm lonely, my faith finds Him as close as the whisper of His name. I'm glad


that when I falter, my faith finds a forgiving Father who looks at me through the cross of His Son. I'm glad that my faith can believe in a God who is an ever-present help in a time of trouble, a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the storm, a shield in the battle, and a hand to hold on to.
REFLECT: Faith is both a journey and a destination. If you continue in the direction your faith is taking you, where do you hope to be one year from now? Will that bring you closer to God?

Real Faith Finds the I AM Real faith isn't lost in the past, or fixated on the future, real faith finds a God who "is." Faith is "the evidence of things hoped for," and while "hope" deals with the future, "evidence" is what you carry with you into the courtroom of daily Christian living. When Moses asked the Lord whom he should say was sending him to confront Pharaoh, God said, "Tell Pharaoh, I AM, is sending you" (Ex. 3:14). God is the eternally present one, He always is. He's not a washed up God, He's not just a God of the "good-'ole-days," or days to come. He is God back then, He is God tomorrow, and He is God right now. He is eternal and He is immutable. Seven times Jesus told us that He is the "I AM." He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Real faith finds a God who is real and who really is. Jesus is alive and at the right hand of the Father and real faith finds Him there day or night, sun or rain, weeping or rejoicing, when abounding or when abased, real faith finds that God is! THE REAL REWARD OF FAITH


There is a story of two sisters. Both wanted to get married but they had very different in their goals. One girl wanted a man to love forever, a man with whom she could have and raise a family. The other sister wanted only to find a wealthy man who could lavish wealth upon her. They both found what they were looking for, but at the end of their lives only one woman died rich in family and love. The other only died wealthy and lonely. There are a lot of people talking about faith and about finding God but their motives are often as different as these two sisters. Some come seeking God in the name of faith looking for rewards. Others come in faith seeking God and find that He is their reward. David knew that God is the reward, he said that God is "more to be desired . . . than gold, yea than much fine gold!" (Ps. 19:10). There are many who seek the material things of life as the reward of their faith. Paul tells us that the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). "Now faith is the . . . evidence of things not seen." The real reward of faith is not in houses or cars, positions or wealth, clothes or jewels. The real reward of faith is seeking and finding God. It is only the reward of finding God which reaps the added benefit of knowing that He will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. The Writer tells us that "He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." The reward of diligently seeking God is finding Him and then walking with Him. Real faith is about believing in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Real faith is about one day hearing Him say, "Well done thy good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21). Real faith creates a future in the presence of God and we live every day with this picture


burned upon our hearts. Real faith is evident in the life we live, a life that is leading us to a city we have not seen. The way we talk, the way we walk, the desires of our heart and the works of our hands are all focused upon, and leading to, a God who rewards us in a time and place where faith will end in sight.
REFLECT: What would you like to have written on your headstone as an epithet? Does this reflect they way you live now, or the way you would like to live? What is the single greatest reward that you have gained from a life of faith? If this is all you were to get in this life, would it be enough?

SUMMARY What about it, do you have real faith? Does your heart burn to be nearer to God today than you were yesterday? Real faith keeps you focused on your goal, keeps you marching forward and does not look back. Real faith looks beyond this present veil of flesh, sees a throne and hears an angel's choir. Real faith leads you through every day with one desire, to hear Him say, "Well done!" What is the real reward of faith? It's not the healing but in finding the Healer. It's not the supply but in finding the Supplier. It's not religion but in a relationship with God Himself.


CHAPTER FOUR Verse 7 Noah: Moving by Faith Heb 11:7 (KJV) 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb 11:7 (NLT) 7 It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about something that had never happened before. By his faith he condemned the rest of the world and was made right in God's sight. INTRODUCTION Part of the definition of faith given in verse 1 is that faith is "the evidence of things not seen." Noah stands as a sterling example of this very aspect of faith. His genealogy is recorded in chapter 5 where he is listed as the fourth generation from Enoch. The story of his faith is recorded in Genesis chapters 6 through 9. THE EXAMPLE OF NOAH FOR CHRITIANS TODAY By the days of Noah the downward spiral of sin had reached new depths of degradation and disgrace. The desperate situation of the earth is addressed in Genesis 6 verses 5 through 7: 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.


6 7

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them (KJV).

Jesus tells us that this is the same desperate situation the world will be in before the earth is purged again during a time of "great tribulation" such as the world has never seen before, nor shall see again (Matt. 24:21). In fact, Jesus tells us: 26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26-27, KJV). Therefore Noah's example is important to understand because the same type of faith which rescued him and his family from the flood will be the same type of faith which will preserve the Christian from the impending judgment of God upon the contemporary world. Look at the description of the world during Noah's day. In Genesis it says, "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Then, in chapter 6 the situation is described further: 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth (Gen. 6:11-13, KJV). If this doesn't describe the present age then nothing does. In almost every secular movie, television show, song or theater production sex, drugs, and violence are the themes. Corruption is rampant in world government, courts, and industry. Violence is carried out in epic proportions in places around the world as one ethnic group tries to


destroy another. We see the bodies piled like cord wood in mass graves and we do nothing. In government the themes of the day are protection for the abortion industry and gay rights. Legislators fight to allow women to deliver all but the head of the baby, pierce the back of the baby's head with a scalpel, use a vacuum extractor to suck out the brains and throw the body into a garbage can and call it “a woman's right.” We have a president who had a chance to end this heinous practice, but he refused. We live in a day when the perversion of homosexuality is being presented as a normal expression of human sexuality and anyone who disagrees is branded as radical right wing fanatics. Increasingly, conservative Christians are being described as intolerant murderers of gays and abortion providers. The church is being vilified while the evil of the day is literally paraded as normal and desirable. God help us. Judgment is on the horizon and only real faith will allow us to realize the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:5). Noah is our example, let's look closer. THE HISTORY OF NOAH’S FAITH We are told that in Noah's day things had gotten so bad that God was sorry He had created humanity. God decided that He would destroy every living thing that walked upon the face of the earth. Once again the entire earth was affected because of the sin of humanity (see Gen. 3:14-19). Being Just, however, God decided to save Noah and his family because he "was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God" (Gen. 6:9, NIV). So God planned to destroy the world and at the same time preserve Noah and


his family. Fortunately for the animal kingdom they were saved as well because they were given to humanity as a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 8). God's plan was to cause it to rain upon the earth in such a deluge that after forty days and nights of rain the entire earth would be covered with water. Everything upon the earth would die. What about Noah? God instructed him to build an ark, or a ship. God gave specific details about how the ship was to be built, the materials to be used and who would be boarding the ship. God also told Noah when to load the ship and exactly what to take (Gen. 6:13-7:16). When we put ourselves in Noah's place we better understand the magnitude of his faith. To begin, according to Scripture it had never yet rained on the earth. At this time the earth received its moisture from a heavy dew which fell every night (Gen. 1:6-8; 2:5, 10-14; 5:5). What God told Noah was going to happen, had never happened before. It was almost incomprehensible to the people of that day. Still, Noah moved ahead in faith responding with obedience. He proceeded to build the ship. One can only imagine the ridicule and public derision he received as the ship was being built. From the time of God's first word to Noah (Gen. 6:13), until the ship was completed and God spoke again (7:1), is believed to have been over one hundred years (compare Gen. 5:32; 6:8, 13; 7:1-6). For all those years Noah kept building the ship and preaching righteousness (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:6; Luke 17:26, 27). No doubt he was scorned and mocked but this mammoth building project continued.
REFLECT: Imagine hearing God speak to you telling you of a coming catastrophic world event. Would you call CNN and try to warn the world or would you wait and see? Noah preached righteousness but the world refused to listen. Then imagine that God told you


to spend all your money, time and resources to build a ship which would save you from the coming catastrophe. Would you do it? Let's say that you do what God tells you to do, you preach to everyone around you warning them of the coming judgment, you spend all your money and time building the structure, then, year after year passes and you still haven't heard from God again. All around you things appear to carry on just like they always have. Do you think you would begin to doubt God—or yourself? If Noah ever doubted it is not mentioned, instead, we are told that Noah had faith. He just kept pressing ahead believing that whatever God promises, He will also perform.

PREACHING AND PREPARING Do you see the parallel for our day? The Church has been preaching for the return of Christ for two thousand years. We've been preparing and laying up treasures in heaven while the world mocks us saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet. 3:4, KJV). Fragile faith will fail in the interim, but faith that is "the evidence of things not seen" continues to move in obedience and prepare for the promise. We cannot flag or fail, we must not stop or look back, but our faith must keep us obeying God in the face of ridicule. And all the while we preach, we declare the righteousness of God and a message of hope for them who will believe. God has promised us that He is coming back (John 14:3). He has given us His word that we have not been appointed to wrath but unto salvation (1 Thess. 5:9). We are


going to be "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17, KJV). This all sounds like foolishness to the world; it sounds like pie in the sky wishful thinking, and yet, it is the only hope for humanity. For the world of Noah's day the only hope for planet earth was the faith of one man, Noah. His faith not only saved him, but also his family and all land animal life. Ultimately, the faith of Noah saved us. After all, we wouldn't be here if Noah hadn't had faith. We ought to consider how powerfully our faith can impact others. If we believe that Jesus is coming back and our faith in the promises of God motivates us to obey the Great Commission, then how many lives can we touch? What about our children and our grandchildren for generations to follow? Noah and seven others got in the ark (eight souls), and God closed the door (Gen. 7:16). After the door was closed those who had heard a crazy old man preaching for over one hundred years suddenly began to wish they had listened. Clouds began to billow, lightening flashed and thunder rolled, and then, water started falling from the sky. One wonders at what point those outside the ark began to believe the words preached by the old man with a ship in his back yard. Whenever it was, it was too late. God closed the door and even if Noah and his family had wanted to open the door, it was not their decision to make. The people had refused to believe and lived in rebellion against God until now . . . judgment! But by faith Noah believed what he could not see and held fast the warning and the promise of God.


One wonders how long after the church has been "caught up" and removed from this rebellious world. . . how long will it take those who have heard the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to realize we were telling the truth? Right up until the rain began to fall the world was eating and drinking and giving in marriage as though nothing was going to happen—but it did. Jesus said this is how it will be when He returns. The world goes rolling blindly along, living as though God has forgotten His promises, living as though the church steeples which dot country and city streets have no more value than a ship in the desert. But one day the river of God's judgment will begin to run through the streets of this world and many who have never darkened the doors of the church will be begging for someone to open up and preach another sermon.
REFLECT: Have you ever felt like Noah? Do you tell others that Jesus is coming back, only to have them poke fun at you? How do you handle it? If you had been Noah, would you have tried to open the door when the rain started falling and the people started panicking?

SUMMARY The lesson we learn from the faith of Noah is that when God speaks, we ought to listen, believe, and obey. Furthermore, Noah's faith teaches us that real faith endures. It may be years between the promise and fulfillment, but God is not slack concerning His promises, if He promises He will follow through. Remember the words of the Apostle Peter on this subject:


9 10 11 12 13 14

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Pet 3:9-14, KJV).

Just as Noah kept building the ark between his first visitation from God and the next conversation, the church exists in the interim. Like Noah we keep building up the kingdom of the Lord. Day by day, decade by decade, millenium by millenium the church keeps building on the kingdom. And just as surely as the rain fell in Noah’s day, judgement will rain someday. The hope of every Christian when those days come is to be sheltered in the ark of faith and lofted upon the wings of God’s love.


CHAPTER FIVE Verses 8-10 Abraham: Faith to Follow Where God Leads Heb 11:8-10 (KJV) 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Heb 11:8-10 (NLT) 8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith— for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. 10 Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. INTRODUCTION Without doubt, Abraham is the central human figure of Jewish nationality, even as Moses is the central human figure of Jewish religion. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Abraham in the life of the Jewish people. Both Paul and James address the importance of Abraham and demonstrate from two different (though not contradictory) perspectives that his example is important for Christians as well. In his letter to the Galatians Paul declared that Abraham, by virtue of the faith he exercised, is the spiritual forefather of the church but not of non-believers—including non-believing Jews (Gal. 3:6-4:31). Even Jesus referred to Abraham in several places.

With regard to faith and his place in the plan and promise of God, Jesus declared, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56, KJV). The faith of Abraham is well attested by the Apostle Paul: 1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Rom 4:1-3, NIV).


16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all (Rom. 4:16, NIV). 6 7 8 9 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Gal 3:6-9, NIV).

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham is mentioned more, and given more attention than any of the other men or women of faith. His name appears ten times in the book of Hebrews and twice in chapter 11. This is important because the first audience of the book of Hebrews is believed to have been Jewish Christians who were contemplating going back into Judaism. By pointing to Abraham's faith (as Paul also does) the Writer pulled the rug out from under their arguments. The Writer is saying, in effect, "If Abraham were here today, he too would be a Christian."


Look at the text again, verse 8 tells us that "By faith Abraham . . .obeyed." Verses 9 and 10 tell us, "By faith Abraham . . . sojourned . . . looked for a city." Let's look first at Abraham's call and the faith required to obey God, and then at the faith of Abraham as he continued in faith, though he never saw the complete materialization of the promises of God in his lifetime.
REFLECT: Have you considered Paul’s comment that as believers we are heirs of the promises made to Abraham? What does that mean to us in practical terms?

THE CALL When we go back and look again at the call of God upon the life of Abraham (then Abram) it is startling (Heb. 11:8; Gen. 12:1-5). The account follows on the heels of the story of the Tower of Babel. We learn from that text where the division of nations originated and how God chose one man and his wife, out of all the nations of the earth, to begin a plan of reconciliation. This plan reached its apex in Jesus Christ, whom Paul tells us is ultimately "the seed" (the offspring of Abraham) through Whom the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gal. 3:16). When the Lord first spoke to Abram, there was nothing—that we know about him —which suggests that he was any more deserving of the call and promises of God than any other man of the day was. It was by God's sovereign will that Abram was chosen. As far as we know, Abram was Chaldean at the time of his call. But God's call was for Abram to separate himself from his place of origin and move by faith to a place that God would show him. Look back to Genesis chapter 12 verses 1 through 5 and examine the call:


1 2 3 4 5

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came (KJV).

What is significant about the response of Abram? No Questions, Only Obedience Abram packed up and moved out. Our delays may leave us standing outside the ark when the rain starts falling, or it may cause us to lose those promises that are predicated upon an immediate response of faith. Sometimes we don't have time to reflect upon all the theological implications of the commands of Christ. Jesus told the man whose hand was crippled, "Stretch forth thy hand" (Luke 6:10, KJV). The man did that which reason would dictate could not be done, and by responding in faith, without trying to debate the point with Jesus, the man was healed. The command might be, "Take up your bed and walk," or it might be, "Lazarus come forth," but there are those times and places in our walk with God when what is needed is a simple and immediate expression of faith and obedience.
REFLECT: Does Jesus still do this today? Does He ever speak to your heart and tell you to pick up the phone and call someone? What is your response? When God tells you to say or do something which you’ve never done before, are you able move immediately in faith, or do you have to wait and see?


There are times when we need to "try the spirits and see whether they be of God" (1 John 4:1), but this is referring to what someone else may be telling us, not to what we hear God speaking to our own heart. Jesus said we will know His voice when we are truly His sheep. If we have trouble discerning between His voice and our own, then maybe we need to get a little closer to Him and spend a little more time in conversation with the Shepherd of our soul. Listen to God, you may hear Him calling you to immediate action. The faith of Abraham is able to obey without delay. Willing to Leave the Familiar Behind Real faith is just as excited about what God has before us as it is about what is behind. Remember the definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for . . . ." Hope implies a future event. “Abraham,” the Writer tells us, "went out." Stepping out in faith, as the poet said, is "stepping out on nothing and finding something there." Abraham, a seventy-five year old man, went out. Some want to soften the significance of Abraham's life changing move by pointing out that being 75-years-old back then was more like being 25 in our day. It is true that they lived longer, but human nature being what it is, leaving behind 75 years of familiar, of kinsmen, of land and starting over takes great faith.
REFLECT: Are we as willing as Abraham to make these changes in our life? Are we willing to try new methods of evangelism, or accept culturally diverse Christian practices? Or do we complain, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Abraham didn't make excuses, he made haste and he moved on.


Obeying Without All the Answers God did not initially tell Abraham where he was going. Still, Abraham was willing to pack up and start moving by faith, "not knowing wither he went." If Abraham had been like some of us, he would have said, "God, I'll start moving when you tell me exactly where I'm going! But until then, I'm staying right where I'm at." I'm not suggesting that we should change churches on a whim. I've seen people wonder from one church to the next and never put down roots. They never get involved in ministry, or if they do, they start something and then bail out in the middle of it. Faith isn't a matter of being willfully ignorant, or doing foolish things and then claiming to be moving in faith. Faith is having a definite word from God, and then moving in the direction He points. Abraham didn't have all the details, but he did have a definite word from God. Again, remember that a major dimension of faith is "trust." God said, "Go," so Abraham started getting up and moving on. Faith obeyed and faith trusted.
REFLECT: Do we need to have all the answers before we start moving with God? Have you ever felt like God was calling you to a ministry, but you couldn't understand or reason out how He was going to get all the pieces to fall into place? What did you do?

THE SOJOURN It didn't take Abraham 40 or more years to reach Canaan. It was a journey of over 400 miles, so it took quite a while, but the journey to Canaan is not the subject of the word "sojourn" in the book of Hebrews (Heb. 11:19-10; Gen. 12:5). The Writer is telling


us that once reaching the region which would ultimately become the Land of Promise for future generations, it was still only a promise while Abraham lived there. Abraham never owned any land in Canaan except for a burial plot which he purchased for Sarah (Gen. 23)—He too was later buried there. He never built any cities, never drove out any other tribes, and never even built a house. He and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob lived in tents while they were in Canaan. They were nomads in the region, traveling through the pastureland with great flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. This was the land God had promised them but they would never own it. Sometimes new ministries, and even local churches, go through similar transitions. A man or woman obeys God and becomes a spiritual pioneer. They start with nothing and by the time they fade from prominence it may still appear that they haven't done much. But then the next generation picks up the baton and runs with it. The ministry, which started so inconspicuously, may ultimately find its most fruitful years in the hands of future generations. I think of our own denomination, the Church of God (Cleveland, TN); Richard Spurling, Senior, began the movement but died shortly afterward. His son took it further, and today the Church of God is a worldwide leader in the Pentecostal movement. The pioneers of today must be willing to let the next generation own and change the future as they follow God's will for ministry. So what was Abraham doing in Canaan? Why did he need to leave Ur and go wandering around a land he would never own? He was securing the promise for the next generation. Look at Genesis chapter 13, verses 14 through 18:


14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. 18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD (KJV). Abraham wasn't just wandering aimlessly through Canaan. Abraham had a vision of a city, as he walked through the land he saw through eyes of faith a country inhabited by his offspring. He walked the length and breadth of the land and everywhere he placed the soles of his feet he could hear God say, "I'm giving it to you." Even more than land and cities upon the earth, Abraham's obedience was motivated by the fact that he believed in an eternal city. Perhaps he, like the Apostle John, had received a vision of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Rev. 3:12). Although Abraham knew he would never own the land or dwell in cities upon the earth, he believed in more than his eyes could see. The New Living Translation of Hebrews 11:10 captures this truth: "Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God."
REFLECT: Are you primarily motivated to put your faith in God because of what you believe you can gain in this life, or in the life to come? If you had been Abraham do you think you might have questioned God as to why you did not own land in the Land of Promise? Are you prepared to turn over the promises God has made you, or your church, to the next generation? Are you passing on the vision? How?


SUMMARY Our faith is motivated by far more than we will ever have or see upon this earth. Our faith is "the substance of things hoped for." Obedience is not carried out simply because we think we are going to get a treat at the end of it. We are not dogs jumping for the amusement of God. We are part of a grand and glorious plan for the eternal state of humanity. We are in partnership with God and our vision must look beyond the material temporal things to view the eternal spiritual rewards of faith. As noted earlier, Jesus said that Abraham saw the days of Jesus. It was a "faith thing," it was more than land and houses and inheritances. Abraham saw a day when people of all nations would worship God and Abraham was glad.


CHAPTER SIX Verses 11-12 Sarah: Faith That Delivers Heb 11:11-12 (KJV) 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. Heb 11:11-12 (NLT) 11 It was by faith that Sarah together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren. Abraham believed that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man, Abraham, who was too old to have any children-- a nation with so many people that, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. INTRODUCTION If Abraham is the national father of Israel, Sarah is the national mother. Sarah's only child, Isaac, was the father of Jacob, who was later named "Israel" by the Lord. Abraham, on the other hand, had several children, but only one child of promise. Abraham fathered a child with Hagar, Ishmael, who is claimed by Arabs as their national father. After Sarah's death Abraham remarried and had several other children (Gen. 25:18), but Sarah is central to the promises of God. Her one and only child is the child of promise.


Sarah's faith should not be overlooked in all this. Two angels and the Lord appeared to Abraham (apparently a Theophany) and the Lord told Abraham that He, the Lord, had not forgotten the promise given some twenty-five years earlier. Sarah overheard someone talking to Abraham, telling him that he (about one hundred years old) and Sarah (about ninety) would have a child together. When Abraham first heard this (Gen. 17) he laughed. We are told that he literally fell on the ground laughing. Then, later when the Lord spoke to Abraham outside their tent, Sarah also broke out in laughter: 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh (Gen. 18:9-15, KJV).

Who could blame her? It seems impossible, but that is precisely the point. With man it is impossible. Just as it is impossible for a woman who has never known a man to conceive and bear a child. Sarah's laugh gave occasion for the Lord's rhetorical question, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The answer implied in the question itself is that "nothing is too hard for the Lord."
REFLECT: Has God ever given you a promise that appeared to run contrary to everything you were experiencing? How did you respond? Did the promise come to pass? If not, why not?


SOMETIMES FAITH STARTS WEAK AND GROWS STRONG Sarah’s laughter didn't look like faith but doubt. She focused first on the impossibility of the situation. Isn't that human tendency? God says we can but everything around us is telling us that we can't. We tend to let the impact of our circumstances have the first word. That's okay as long as we give God the last word and as long as the last word is the word that clings to our heart. The Writer said, "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength. . ." It is almost certain that the strength referred to here is primarily a reference to physical strength and vitality to conceive and give birth to a child. But it seems that a strengthening of her faith was needed as well. When we are faced with challenges to our faith we don't always have an immediate and unswerving explosion of confidence. Often we are like the father of the demon possessed boy who told Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Matt. 9:24). Put yourself in this man's shoes for a moment. He had brought his son to the disciples of Jesus and after praying and commanding the demons to come out, the child was still possessed. That doesn't do a lot to build your faith. In fact, he may have come to the disciples with more faith than he had later when Jesus came onto the scene and said, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23, KJV).
REFLECT: If you've gone to the altar for prayer in the past and yet you were not healed, can you still believe for healing or does your faith grow weaker with each prayer? What can you do to increase your faith?

Jesus’ own disciples, men who had seen Jesus do wonderful works, majestic miracles and awesome signs, ask Jesus "increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). Jesus did not


berate his disciples for their honest request, but He did tell them that a small amount of faith can accomplish powerful things. He said, "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you" (Luke 17:6, KJV). It is not how much faith we have but what we do with what we've got, and more importantly, Who our faith is in. When we keep our faith in God He can help our faith to grow. Even when Jesus told people, "be it unto thee according to thy faith," His focus was not so much on how much faith they had but what they believed and Whom they believed in. I've seen people who have great faith in false doctrines; their great faith will not save them. Then I’ve also seen people who had weak faith, faith that faltered and struggled from time to time, but faith in the Word of God and faith in Jesus Christ. Their weak faith can grow, it can get stronger, but strong faith in wrong teaching is hard to change. That's why it is easier to reach an out-and-out sinner than it is to convert a Muslim or a Jehovah's Witness.
REFLECT: Which is more important in getting a prayer answered, your faith, or God’s power? Have you ever felt that your faith was insufficient to accept and receive a promise that you believed God had given you?

BELIEVE, CONCEIVE, RECEIVE Sarah was confronted by her doubt. The Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed. Sarah heard it and said, "I didn't laugh." Of course she was trying to cover up her doubts and fears. She was afraid to admit that she had laughed. But God knew she had indeed laughed. If we have doubts and fears the best thing to do is to be honest with God. He already knows. Sarah had doubts, and she was afraid to admit it but somewhere between


her laughter the first cry of her new born baby boy, Sarah began to believe. From there she received strength to conceive and eventually to receive the promise. The growth of faith may occur in small and unimpressive steps and it may be a long time in coming. It was ten years from Sarah's laughter to the baby's first cry. Let your faith grow on what you know until you can stand on what you believe and walk on what you cannot see. The Apostle Paul said, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (1 Cor. 5:7, KJV).
REFLECT: Do you view faith as something you either have or do not have, or as something that everyone has to varying degrees? Can you have faith, and yet entertain doubts at the same time? Have you ever seen God answer a prayer of yours even though you felt that your faith was insufficient?

FAITH HOLDING ON TO THE PROMISE The Writer tells us that Sarah "judged (counted, considered) him (God) faithful who had promised." The problem for many people today is that they have "microwave faith." The microwave can cook a thirty-minute meal in three minutes, thereby adding to the rapid pace of modern life. We can get more stuff done quicker but instead of having more time to relax we have added more things to our "To Do" list. We are told by some that when we snap the whip God has to jump. If we ask God, and if we use the right formula, and repeat the right words, and have great faith, we can put God on a leash and tell Him where to go, when to go, and what to do. It just ain't so! We must have patience. Faith may be tried by the passing of years. Noah understood this, Abraham understood this and Sarah came to understand this. Still, we


argue, “What else did they have to do back then but wait! We need it as soon as possible!” So we pray, "Lord, give me patience, and do it now." James used the illustration of the farmer (Jas. 5:7). The farmer plants the seed and then believes that he will have a harvest. Still, he has to have patience; he has to wait on the early and the latter rain. He can't see what is going on beneath the ground, yet he believes that the seed he has planted will eventually break through the ground and he will have a harvest. Our faith may be like a mustard seed, but when God gives us the promise we need to plant our faith in Him, we need to wait with patience and we need to trust God's timing. Worrying and fretting will not speed up the process. Thrusting our fists into the air and blaming God will not cause it to pass any sooner. All we can do is ask in faith and then leave it in the hands of God. Leaving it in the hands of God, however, does not mean that we forget it. In fact, we may continue to ask, and to seek and to knock. It is because we know that God is faithful to do whatever He has promised that we continue to come back to Him. If we didn't believe we'd ask once, if it didn't happen we'd say, "Well, I guess God can't do anything so I'll just quit asking." But Jesus said we can ask, seek and knock with persistence because we know God hears and answers (Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9). Those long seasons of waiting may try our faith, but James tells us that this is part of our spiritual growth plan: 3 4 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (Jas. 1:3-4, KJV). Sarah became a great woman of faith, but it didn't happen overnight. She had ten years of training. She saw the hand of God at work in her and Abraham's lives. She saw


God judge Sodom and Gomorra and yet deliver Lot and his daughters. She saw God deliver her and Abraham out of the hand of the King Abimelech. She came to know God better and believe that God is true to His promise. Faith then conceived a child in her nineties. Finally, she gave birth and received in full the promise of God. She named him Isaac, which means "laughter." What was once laughter in doubt had become laughter of joy and fulfillment. Such is the growth of faith. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh (1 Cor. 12:7-10). We know that this was a "messenger from Satan," but it seems that, like Job, this demon attacked Paul in his flesh. The phrase, "thorn in the flesh," is not just an idiomatic phrase. This phrase describes the nature of the demonic attack. He was being attacked in his flesh; which is from the Greek word sarx, meaning the physical body of an individual. Was Paul a great man of faith? Sure he was, but part of his spiritual training program was learning that the grace of God is sufficient to sustain in situations which he did not enjoy, did not want, and prayed repeatedly would be removed. Training can be trying but the objective of training is preparing us for greater triumphs. Spiritual muscles grow stronger on the training ground of life. Sitting on the front porch rocker watching life pass us by robs us of the victories which await those who have heard the call of God, accepted the challenge of God, and have begun to fulfill the commission of God. By faith both Abraham and Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son—not just any son, the son of promise. Every passing day between the promise given, and the promise living, was a reminder that the clock was ticking. Every day that passed could have and should have weakened their faith, instead their faith grew stronger until they obtained a good report, Isaac is born. Laughter filled the empty tent of the once barren woman. Joy was born they knew the promise was fulfilled.


REFLECT: Have you ever had to wait and extended period of time to see faith fulfilled? Have you ever gone through a sickness or illness and in the process discovered deeper truths of God’s love than you knew before the illness? Have you been able to share these insights with others that may be going through a similar circumstance?

SUMMARY It was promised of Jesus, like Isaac, that He would come in a miraculous fashion. The promise was given to Israel through the Prophet Isaiah: 6 7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6-7, KJV).

Almost eight hundred years would pass before this promise was fulfilled in a manger in Bethlehem. Some people had given up hope, but two elderly people were waiting. Luke tells us that Simeon and Anna, people of "great age" (Luke 2:36, NKJV), had been looking and waiting for the "Consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). They lived to see the promise. Over two thousand years ago another promise was given. We were promised that Jesus is coming back. If the Apostle Paul were alive he'd tell us, "Believe!": 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:16-17, KJV). If James, the brother of Jesus were here he'd tell us, "Keep believing!":


7 8

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (Jas. 5:7-8, KJV).

If the Apostle Peter were here, he'd say, "Believe in the promise!" 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Pet 3:9-10, KJV). If Jesus were here today (and He is) He would say: 19 In your patience possess ye your souls. 20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:19-28, KJV). Have faith in God and let your faith give birth to answered prayers. Let your faith believe, conceive, and receive. Let your faith grow within you until at last, though it


come by travail as of a woman in labor, your tears are turned to laughter and the your home is filled with the daily reminder that God is faithful.


CHAPTER SEVEN Verses 13-16 Abraham: Faith Finding a Better Country Heb 11:13-16 (KJV) 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Heb 11:13-16 (NLT) 13 All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God. They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 And obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had meant the country they came from, they would have found a way to go back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them. INTRODUCTION Too often the concept of faith is focused on what we can get out of God here and now. In fact, if a person doesn't receive an immediate response then his or her faith is often questioned. But wait a minute! The Writer, in his discussion of faith and the examples of great men and women of faith, pauses in verse 13 to tell us that all the


people he has just mentioned—Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob--"died without receiving what God had promised them." If this is true (and it is) how then do we measure their faith? If they didn't get what they were believing for, then how do we know they had faith? The answer to this is very simply that they were faithful. They all looked beyond an immediate response from God and claimed promises with eternal significance. Their faith in better things beyond the moment enabled them to live faithfully unto God. They weren't prefect, many of them had their failures or moments of doubt (Noah's drunkenness, Abraham's deception and fear before a foreign king, Sarah's plan to help God give Abraham a son through her handmaiden, Jacob's deception) but each of them pressed, by faith, beyond their failures and faithfully pursued the promises of God. BELIEVING WITHOUT RECEIVING How were these elders able to maintain their faith? What does it mean to be "faithful"? The text tells us: They saw the "substance of things hoped for" and their faith in the promises of God was the "evidence of things not seen." They Were Persuaded The verse continues, ". . . having seen them (the promises) afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them . . ." (v. 13). The word "persuaded" is from the Greek word peitho, which means, "to convince." They were convinced that what God had promised would come to pass and because they were convinced, they "embraced" or "welcomed" them. The picture is that their faith in God was so strong that they wrapped their arms around His promises and never let go.


Their Positive Confession ". . . and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. . ." (v. 13). Their confession almost sounded negative. They did not confess that they already owned Canaan. They did not live in denial of reality but they lived looking beyond the present realities claiming instead, eternal eventualities. The Apostle Paul exhorts us all to posses this kind of faith. He said, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18, KJV). They admitted that they were "aliens and strangers on the earth" (NIV). They weren't claiming anything profound and yet the implications of what they confessed had profound results. The Writer observes that "people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call their own." Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob "sojourned" while in Canaan. While they were in the land of promise to which the Lord had led them, they confessed that they were foreigners and nomads. Obviously people who say things like that are not claiming that where they are living now is their final home. Instead they are just passing through. Peter indicates that this is the very state of mind which should exist in the Christian. This world is not our final home. Peter addressed his first letter (1 Pet. 1:1) to "the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia" and so on. Then in verse 11 of his second letter he again addressed them as strangers, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (KJV). The Apostle Paul tells us that ". . . we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior" (Phil. 3:20, NLT). Like the examples of faith in Hebrews 11, the consummation of our faith is not in


what we receive here, but that we plant our feet on streets of gold and walk through a city whose builder and maker is God. This kind of faith keeps us from clinging to the moment or living in the past.
REFLECT: How do you measure your own level of faith? Is it by what we receive from God, does that indicate how much faith we have? Is our faith determined by how we feel on any given day? Is our faith measured by how good we are? How should we measure faith?

NOTHING TO GO BACK TO If these men and women of faith had considered their former dwelling, the place where they came from (Ur, in Abraham's case), to be their home, then they could have simply gone back. But when they left, the break with their former life was complete and final. Their faith was quite different from that of the Israelites who came out of Egypt. They weren't really from Egypt and yet they kept talking about going back. When Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob talked about being foreigners and nomads it was not because were absent from the land of their origin, it was because they were on the their way to their destiny. "They were longing for a better country--a heavenly one" (v. 16, NIV). They weren't looking back they were looking forward.
REFLECT: Have you ever found yourself in a tight spot and started looking back? Are you ever haunted by the "should'a, would'a, could'as” of life? Doesn't faith continue to look ahead, isn't faith the "evidence of things hoped for"? If you pray for healing for someone and believe God to heal him or her and he or she dies, does that mean that you or they simply did not have enough faith? Is it true that our ultimate healing is still


something "hoped for"? Aren't we still waiting for the day when this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruptible shall put on incorruption (1 Cor. 15:53, 54)?

GOD IS NOT ASHAMED "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (v. 16b, NIV). By saying, "God is not ashamed" the Writer is saying God is proud to be called their God. Their obedience and trust in God, their faithfulness and commitment to God gave God reason to boast on them here in His Word. Knowing their faith and their daring determination God has already prepared a city for them. Jesus Gave His Church the Promise 2 3 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3, KJV).

We can make God proud by being faithful. We should be full of faith in His promises and in the hope that our ultimate destination is in His presence where we will hear Him say, "Well done thy good and faithful servant." When we do this the wealth and fame of this world will not distract us. Paul criticized those who think, "gain is godliness." Paul's advice to Timothy is that he withdraw from people who hold such views (1 Tim. 6:5). Paul's conclusion is, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (v. 7, KJV). So our hope and the end of faith is not in this life but the life to come.
REFLECT: Is it possible to measure faith? If so, how would you do it? Do you think that perhaps the only accurate way to measure faith is by the level of “faithfulness” despite the circumstances a person faces? Have you ever seen a person pray and get


healed from an illness, and after being healed, go back into sin? How would you compare their faith to someone that has had a chronic illness and yet has never wavered his or her faithfulness to God?

SUMMARY It does take faith to receive blessings from God in this life. Furthermore, it is true that God has promised many things which pertain unto this life. Healing is a promise and it does take faith to receive. Provision for life, “and that more abundantly,” does require faith in God, but it is a faith which is motivated first and foremost by seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Only when our eyes are on a better country, on a greater city, and on a prepared mansion do we press ahead faithfully despite the disappointments of life. It is only by the type of faith which these men and women exhibit that we too shall overcome. We each have a part in a grand plan of God. He is building His Church from living stones like you and me. Our vision must look beyond ourselves as a stone and get a view of the great and glorious habitation that God is building using people who are faithful. Jesus told John: 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (Rev. 3:12, KJV). Later in his vision John saw that New Jerusalem: 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.


3 4

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:2-4, KJV).

This is our goal and it can only be achieved by faith and faithfulness to God. Even if we should gain houses and land, if we should live in perfect health and have long lives but miss out on our place in the New Jerusalem, then we have missed it all. Jesus asked the question, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36, KJV)


CHAPTER EIGHT Verses 17-19 Abraham: When Faith Is Tested Heb 11:17-19 (KJV) 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb 11:17-19 (NLT) 17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God's promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 though God had promised him, "Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted." 19 Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. INTRODUCTION One of the most striking and heart rending examples of faith being tested is that of Abraham being commanded by God to offer Isaac, the child of promise, as a burnt offering unto the Lord. It is both tragic and inspiring. Even as we read the text thousands of years after the event, we find ourselves empathizing with Abraham as he moves methodically in obedience. Not many parents could envision themselves following Abraham's lead. Not many fathers could have made that trip. But then again, not many fathers in Scripture are


called "the friend of God" (Jas. 2:23). The kind of obedience shown by Abraham is the product of his fellowship with God, and his fellowship with God springs forth from an intensely powerful faith in God; faith that could recognize the voice of God even if what He said was contrary to reason; faith that would trust God, even if such trust might cost great personal loss. Abraham's faith was tested and Abraham passed the test. Let us go back to Genesis chapter 22 and read the account first hand: 1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.


13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. 15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice (Gen. 22:1-18, KJV). FAITH WILL BE TESTED One thing we can be sure of is that our faith will be tested. In Genesis 22:1 the King James Version says God "did tempt" Abraham; however, the Hebrew word nacah, is from a primitive root which means, more accurately, "to test, or to prove." Almost every other translation states that God "tested" Abraham. (One noteworthy exception being the American Standard Version which says God "proved" Abraham.) Why would God "test" our faith? James said in his Epistle: 2 3 4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (Jas. 1:2-4, NIV). Similarly, the Apostle Peter said: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Pet 4:12-13, NIV).


The outcome of the testing of our faith, when we have remained faithful, is that our faith grows stronger and we mature as believers. The paradox is that the trial is painful, and yet we are called upon to "rejoice." Our rejoicing is not for what we may be experiencing but we rejoice because we know that the outcome will be stronger faith and a closer walk with God. Recognize The Voice Of God Based on the description given in Genesis, we see that the testing of our faith begins by hearing and recognizing the voice of God. God said, "Abraham," and immediately Abraham recognized God's voice, replying, "Here I am." Too often what people call tests are really the result of listening to the wrong voice. When we follow our own voice, or the many voices of the world which call us to pursue things that are not of God, then we may indeed find ourselves in painful circumstances. The pain we experience may be the chastising hand of the Lord, or the painful outcome of wrong choices. This is not the same thing that Abraham experienced; his was truly a test. Follow The Plan Of God After recognizing God's voice, Abraham heard and obeyed God's plan: "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:2). It is not enough to hear God, the positive outcome of testing will not be realized until we are willing to obey God regardless of the pain or suffering it may cost us. In fact, the Writer chides his readers for being on the brink of turning away from the faith


when their testing had been relatively light up to this point. He says, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin" (Heb 12:4, NKJ). Trust the Promises Of God Abraham knew that Isaac was the child of promise. Abraham had another son, Ishamael, with Hagar the handmaiden of Sarah. Though Ishmael was the eldest son he was not the child of promise. God promised that a child would be born through Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac was that child. God promised that through this son, through Isaac the promise would be fulfilled. So, regardless of what else God may have required, nothing would change the fact that Isaac was the son through whom Abraham's descendants would be counted.
REFLECT: Has God ever asked you to do something that didn't seem to make sense at the time? Did you obey? If you did, were you able to look back later and see what God was doing? Was your faith stronger as a result? Will God ever ask us to do anything that is clearly a contradiction of His Word?

FAITH TO TRIUMPH OVER THE TRIALS Abraham stands as an example of a man whose faith withstood the ultimate test. In our text the Writer tells us that "Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead" (NLT). When you read from Genesis the account of the journey and the moment at which Abraham was prepared to offer the life of his son, the dramatic presentation is heart stopping. The movement of events goes from a relatively rapid pace to a crawl. From


the first time the Lord called Abraham's name, until the third day when they reached the mountain, three days passed. Then from verse 5 of Genesis 22, where Abraham left his servants behind and pressed on to the place where he would build an altar, until the moment Isaac and Abraham reached the altar, time continues to slow down. Details are lifted up which allow us to graphically visualize what is happening: 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:9,10. KJV). There are words and descriptions in the text that remind us of the crucifixion of Jesus. First is the reference to Isaac as "thine only son. . . whom thou lovest." This reminiscent of John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Second, we see Isaac riding a donkey toward the mountain. In a similar fashion we remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey while the people waved palm branches and cried out, "Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11:9, KJV). Third, there is the note that it was three days from the time of God's call until they reached the place where Isaac would be offered. Jesus reversed this in that He did die and from the time of His death until He came back to life was three days. Last, Abraham prepared the wood but Isaac carried the wood to the place of the altar. Again, this reminds us of Jesus carrying the cross through the Via Dolorosa. Ultimately another man, Simon of Cyrene, would carry the cross to the top of Calvary, but the sight of Jesus with the wood cross on His back and Isaac with the bundle of wood on his back bear striking parallels.


As it turned out, Abraham would not have to give his son. At the last moment, perhaps even as his hand and knife were on the way toward heart of Isaac, an angel spoke and stopped Abraham. Again, it is important to be able to recognize the Word of the Lord. It may come at the last moment and leave no room for error.
REFLECT: Have you ever heard from the Lord at the last moment? Have you ever missed the Word of the Lord and made a mistake? Is it easier or harder for you to hear and recognize the voice of the Lord when you are going through a trial?

FAITH REWAREDED When Abraham was willing to give to God that which was most precious to him, then God, in effect, gave it back. God said, "Now I see that you have not withheld your son, your only son from me so I will bless you. I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea." This is the law of reciprocity at work. Isaac was the only seed of promise which Abraham had. When he gave this seed (his son) to God, God gave it back "pressed down, shaken together and running over" (Luke 6:38). If Abraham had refused, if he had tried to hold on to the one seed (Isaac), then he would have lost the harvest (millions of offspring). Notice another promise that God made to Abraham, He said, "thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies" (Gen. 22:17). This promise given to Abraham is the promise given to the spiritual offspring of Abraham, the Church. Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).


REFLECT: It is interesting that when Isaac asked about the sacrifice Abraham responded with words of faith, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering." What did Abraham have in mind? The Writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham expected God to raise Isaac up from the dead. What would cause Abraham to believe this?

God had indeed provided a ram for this occasion. There is a Jewish tradition that God had placed this ram here at the time of creation and had preserved it here for this very day. That may not be true, but what is true is that there was "a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), and this is none other than Jesus Christ. After offering the ram to the Lord Abraham called the name of that place "Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." Jehovah-jireh means, "the Lord who provides." When we maintain our faith in God during the testing` and trials of life we find that the He will provide. When tragic circumstances come, God provides the grace to stand. As God told the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient" (2 Cor. 12:9). When we are sick, His stripes—the wounds of the whip upon the back of Jesus—provide our healing (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). When we have material and financial needs, He knows that we have need of these things and He provides (Matt. 6:32, 33). Regardless of what we may be facing we have this promise from God: 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor 10:13, NIV).


SUMMARY If the object of faith is to gain the heavenly reward, then nothing less should sidetrack us. If hearing Him say, "Well done thy good and faithful servant, enter in . . ." is our desire, then what sacrifice upon earth would be too great? Jesus asked, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul" (Matt. 16:26, KJV).
REFLECT: What is the greatest thing you have had to sacrifice since becoming a Christian? How did you know that God wanted you to make this sacrifice? If you had to arrange, in order of important, four or five of the most important things of your life (from the most important down) what would that list look like?


CHAPTER NINE Verse 20 Isaac: Faith Blessing the Future Heb 11:20 (KJV) 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. Heb 11:20 (NIV) 20 It was by faith that Isaac blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau. He had confidence in what God was going to do in the future. INTRODUCTION There isn't much written about Isaac; however, it appears from the comments of the Writer that Isaac had learned from his father Abraham how to trust God. No doubt that day on the mountain taught him a lesson about the Jehovah-jireh. That's not the kind of lesson you easily forget. Lying upon an altar, seeing his father the faith in God, had to be both terrifying and inspiring. No doubt Isaac was forever grateful for the ram caught in the thicket. Isaac and Rebekah had two sons of their own. The twin sons, Jacob and Esau, wrestled in the womb. When Rebekah inquired of the Lord why there was such activity the Lord told her: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23, NIV).


Esau was born first, but with Jacob holding on to his heel. Esau was rugged from birth, he was a man's man, an outdoorsman born to run and hunt. Jacob was a homeboy; he was his mother's favorite just as Esau was his father's favorite. As the elder son, Esau was to receive the birthright, or a double portion of the inheritance of his father. Many of us grew up hearing the story of how Esau lost his birthright and how Rebekah and Jacob connived to trick Isaac into giving Esau's blessing to Jacob. We remember how Jacob went to his uncle Laban's home, got two wives, and returned to face his brother. Then, in the wilderness alone and vexed in his spirit, Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. He held on until he received a blessing. In the process his name was changed from Jacob, which means "deceiver," to Israel, which means "a prince with God." THE DECEPTION Getting back to Isaac blessing Jacob, the Writer states, "by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." When we go back and look at the context of that blessing it begs the question, How could it be that Isaac was exercising faith when he was fooled into giving the wrong blessings to the wrong son? Remember that Esau had already surrendered his birthright for the pottage of lentils. He was not tricked into doing this, he simply failed to place enough value on the double portion inheritance. Esau was more concerned with meeting the immediate hunger than in considering the long-term effects of a rash decision. But Esau was robbed of the blessing that should have been his when Isaac blessed Jacob.


A blessing from a dying father meant a lot. In fact, the Writer lists three such blessings together in verses 20 through 22. He talks of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph blessing their sons from their deathbeds. Such blessings were not taken lightly. It was believed that when a godly parent made such blessings his words were prophetic. The blessing, then, was viewed not just as a dying parent’s wish for his children but as the voice of God declaring the future of the children. Furthermore, it was believe that once these words went out they could not be taken back, they could not be “unsaid.”
REFLECT: Have you (or someone you know) ever been by the bed of a dying parent and had them tell you their desire was for you and your life? How did it affect you? Have you ever told your children what your prayer for their future is? Do you plan to?

Rebekah and Jacob agreed to deceive Isaac. Isaac asked Esau to go out and kill a deer for some venison. Rebekah heard the request and quickly prepared a dish of goat meat. She told Jacob to put on his brother's clothes and then, since Esau was a hairy man and Jacob was fair skinned, she wrapped Jacobs’s hands and neck with goatskins. There is some powerful symbolism going on here. Jesus is our spiritual elder brother and yet He became a curse for us and we are blessed in Him. It is only when we are clothed in Christ that we can approach the Father and receive a blessing. THE BLESSING Her ploy worked. Jacob gave the meat to his father and asked for a blessing. Isaac seems to have been suspicious at first, but after eating the meal, questioning Jacob several times and feeling the hair on Jacob's hands and neck he was convinced and


proceeded to bless the younger son. He declared that this was in fact a blessing from the Lord: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee" (Gen. 27:28, 29). This was just as the Lord had told Rebekah, "the elder shall serve the younger." Perhaps Isaac knew of the Lord's promise but because of favoritism had refused to receive the Lord's word. Maybe Isaac had tried to change the inevitable, but in the end God's word prevailed. The blessing of God which Isaac had planned to give Esau, became the blessing of Jacob. As Isaac finished the blessing, Esau returned and both he and Isaac discovered the deception. Esau cried and begged his father for a blessing anyhow. But Isaac insisted that the blessing that God had provided now belonged to Jacob. It seems that Isaac recognized that even though the conditions by which the blessing had been given were deceitful, God's sovereign hand was at work. Jacob was blessed and it would not be reversed. Still, Esua insisted, "Don't you have at least one blessing for me?" Isaac could only speak what the Lord placed upon his lips. The blessing Esau received again echoed the word of the Lord given to Rebekah: 39 Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck" (Gen. 27:39, 40).


Obviously Esau was not very happy with the way things had turned out. In fact, he hated Jacob because of it and determined to kill his brother. But when Rebekah found out she sent Jacob to her brother Laban in Haran to find a wife and to retreat until Esau's anger was assuaged. Rebekah convinced Isaac to let Jacob go to Haran under the pretext of finding a wife. Before leaving for his uncle's home Jacob was again blessed by Isaac: 1 2 3 4 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham (Gen. 28, KJV).

THE SECOND BLESSING Here we see the faith of Isaac. He told Jacob that he would be a stranger in the land, but that it was given to his grandfather and was therefore land promised to his offspring. The promise given to Abraham was a birthright in and of itself. It was a promise recieved in faith by Isaac and was passed on to Jacob. In blessing Jacob, Isaac was blessing the future of his son. He declared fruitfulness, that is, a large family. He declared prosperity and a multiplication of blessings. Jacob would go out as one man, but would come back a man blessed in offspring (his twelve sons became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel) and increased in goods.
REFLECT: More important than the inheritance of his father's promise, Jacob received a word from God that could only be claimed by faith. One man on the run for his life from his own brother might have lived with a sense of foreboding and despair, but Jacob


was indeed blessed in many ways while with his uncle Laban. What does this story tell you about the sovereignty of God? Do you have a sense of what God's sovereign will for your life may be? Do you exercise the faith necessary to position yourself in a place where God can bless you as he desires?

SUMMARY Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau “by faith.” The blessing on Esau wasn’t as joyous as that which Jacob received but it was still ‘by faith” because Isaac was speaking and believing those things which the Lord placed upon his heart. We often view faith only in terms of positive and pleasant things, but couldn’t faith also involve believing God even when the promises are negative? Some might question whether or not there are negative promises in the Bible. One has only to look at the curse upon humanity and upon the earth as a result of sin. God told them what would happen as a result of their disobedience. What God foretold was His Word, or His promise, that they would reap the harvest of sorrow that they had sown in seeds of sin.


CHAPTER TEN Verse 21 Jacob: Faith Finding Hope in the Face of Death Heb 11:21 (KJV) 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. Heb 11:21 (NLT) 21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. INTRODUCTION In the face of death there is often a crisis of faith. For some death does not diminish faith but brings faith closer to the promise and therefore stronger. For others, what they have claimed to believe is tried in the fire at the prospect of death and some find that what they were living their life by was nothing more than "hay, wood and stubble" which burns quickly. I was a young pastor in Junction City, Kansas when, after only a few months into my appointment to the River of Life Church of God, one of the elderly men of the congregation was diagnosed as having bone cancer. It had spread throughout his body and doctors gave him only weeks to live. Our church prayed, I visited, anointed with oil, and prayed the prayer of faith, but six weeks later he was dead. His wife asked me to speak at the funeral. As I wrestled with the issue of faith, healing, death, and dying I was


remembered of the words of the Apostle Paul: "We don't grieve like other people grieve at the death of a loved one" (my paraphrase, 1 Thess. 4:13). Paul went on to explain why, "For if we believe . . ." (v. 14). That's it! If we really believe, if our faith is founded upon the truth that Jesus rose from the dead, then we can believe that He will also raise us! That means life goes on after death. I stood before the grieving friends and family gathered there that day and I asked the question: "Did God fail this brother? Did God disappoint him by allowing him to die even though we and he were praying for him to be healed?" My answer, in light of my own revelation of faith in the face of death was: Friends, if we were standing where our brother in Christ is standing today, we would not hear him say, 'Lord you disappointed me.' Instead, we would hear him say, 'Lord, it's more than I ever dreamed or imagined!' Death was not the end of this believer's life, but the next chapter that begins with the words, 'Absent from the body, and present with Christ. THE TIME OF DEATH Let's look at Jacob's faith in the face of death. Turning back to Genesis chapter 47: 29 And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: 30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. 31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head (Gen. 47:29-31, KJV). It was the time that Israel (Jacob) would die, so he called in his son Joseph to give some instructions. Notice the faith Jacob expressed in the face of death, "I will lie with my fathers, and you will carry my body out of Egypt and bury me in the family graveyard" (my paraphrase). Jacob had no intentions of being buried in Egypt. The only land his father, Isaac, or grandfather, Abraham, ever owned was a burial cave, but at least

it was in the land of promise. It was only a cave, but it was a promissory note on the remainder. I have attended funeral after funeral where the family wasn't sure whether or not their loved one made a commitment to Christ before their death. Often the family hopes this has happened, that their father or mother, sister or brother was "Born Again," but the agony of not knowing can be avoided. If you have committed your life to Jesus Christ, let your family know, don't leave them to grieve like others who have no hope. Let them know that your faith has reached beyond the veil of death and has claimed the promise of eternal life. Jacob's faith was still holding firmly to the land of promise.
REFLECT: What about you? If you were to pass away, would your family know whether or not you have made a commitment to Christ? How would they know?

BLESSING THE NEXT GENERATION Genesis 48 tells us that later, as death drew near, Jacob called for his sons and for Joseph's two sons, to bless them. Jacob and Joseph both believed, as Isaac knew, that this blessing was prophetic, that the words of these blessings represented the Word of God for these lives. 1 2 3 4 5 {Jacob Blesses Manasseh and Ephraim--} One day not long after this, word came to Joseph that his father was failing rapidly. So Joseph went to visit him, and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. When Jacob heard that Joseph had arrived, he gathered his strength and sat up in bed to greet him. Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. He said to me, 'I will make you a multitude of nations, and I will give this land of Canaan to you and your descendants as an everlasting possession.' Now I am adopting as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will inherit from me just as Reuben and Simeon will.


But the children born to you in the future will be your own. The land they inherit will be within the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh ( Gen. 48:1-6, NLT).

One of the shortcomings of the "hyper-faith" movement is that they still die. After all the naming and claiming death still visits and takes the greatest of their leaders and members from their ranks. In the face of reality they cannot claim that death will not come so some believe they will die healthy. Like Moses or Caleb, they believe they can die without strength or mind abated in any fashion. Here we have a great man of faith and yet we read that his health was "failing rapidly" (NLT). With one last great effort he gathered up what strength remained in his frail body and proceeded to bless his sons. Jacob remembered the promise which the Lord had given him in the land of Luz. Failing health and immanent death could not steal the promise from his heart. He repeated the promise for posterity. He called in Ephraim and Manasseh and told Joseph that his two sons (Jacob's grandsons) will be adopted by him and therefore become heirs as though they were his very sons. Then Jacob spoke of things which were not, as though they were: "They will inherit from me just as Reuben and Simeon will. But the children born to you in the future will be your own. The land they inherit will be within the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh" (vv. 5, 6). What was there to inherit? Jacob, like his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham before him, never owned any land, just a tomb. Jacob passed the promise on with a faith that burned the Word of the Lord onto the heart of a nation. Four hundred years later several million Jews left Egypt and headed for that land of promise.
REFLECT: How can you bless your children and grandchildren? Is there something more important than land or money which you can leave them? While our heirs cannot

actually "inherit" our faith, is it possible to pass it on? If so what concrete steps can we take to pass the promise to the next generation?

JACOB BLESSES EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH Jacob noted that Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt before he had arrived. This would tend to indicate that these two sons were born and named before Joseph had reestablished contact with his family. Note the names Joseph gave his two first born sons. He named the first Manasseh, "For God hath made me forget all my toil" (Gen. 41:51). The Hebrew word for toil ('amal) is variously translated, "sorrow, pain, worry, travail and trouble." In naming his first son Manasseh, which means "forget," Joseph was declaring the healing hand of God upon His heart. His second son he named, Ephraim, "For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen. 41:52). Joseph had maintained his faith through some situations which would have crushed lessor men. His faith and trust in God took him from the pit to the palace. It wasn't a straight shot (he had to go through the trials at Potiphar's house and then the prison) but eventually Joseph sat in the seat before which his own brothers would bow, just as God had promised in a series of dreams.
REFLECT: What is the most difficult trial that God has brought you through? Could you see the hand of God at work while you were in the trial, or was it only later, as you looked back that you could see where God's hand had guided and protected you?

We read further, in Genesis chapter 48, that Jacob placed his right hand, the hand of honor, upon the younger, Ephraim. Joseph saw this and tried to move his father's hand, but to no avail.


There is something of a twist of irony here. Isaac had given Jacob the elder Esau's blessing. Isaac did not know that Jacob had used deception to gain the elder brother’s blessing. But Jacob knew what he was doing as he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh in reverse. Joseph assumed Jacob was making a mistake so he tried to switch Jacob's hands. But Jacob said, "I know what I'm doing, my son. Manasseh, too, will become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. His descendants will become a multitude of nations!" (Gen. 48:19, NLT). God has a way of using the foolish things to confound the wise, of taking weak things and overthrowing the strong, and of giving the younger authority over the elder. Consider, for example, Moses over Aaron, Jacob over Isaac, Joseph over his brothers (though Benjamin was the youngest), Ephraim over Manasseh and David over all his brothers. Why does God do this? So that no flesh may glory in His presence (see 1 Cor. 1:27-29). Faith is not a false assumption of the greatness of man, it is an honest estimation of the awesomeness of God. Faith is believing that God can use us as yielded vessels to accomplish His purposes. Contrary to what some assert, God may even use poor people (by materialistic standards) to do things that the wealthy will not do.
REFLECT: Can God use you do great things for Him? If He can, then is He? If not, why not? Can you think of a least one thing in your church that needs to be done but isn’t getting done? Have you thought about volunteering to fill the need?

JACOB BLESSED THE REST Jacob proceeded to bless the rest of his sons. He began by declaring again that Joseph would return to the land of his ancestors. (We read that four hundred years later


the bones of Joseph are transported by Moses and Israel back to Canaan.) Then Jacob pronounced an "extra portion" (NLT) upon Joseph. Jacob died and Joseph saw to it that his father's remains were taken back to the cave where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah, Jacob's first wife, were buried. He fulfilled the wishes of his father and later, he too would command his children concerning his remains. SUMMARY The Writer tells us, further, that after blessing his sons and grandsons, Jacob leaned upon his staff, and with death already seizing his body, he used his fleeting breath to worship God. That's some pretty powerful faith! With the "death rattle" in his lungs, with the last enemy coming for him, Jacob used his final moments to worship. Jacob had gone from being a "deceiver" to becoming a great man of faith. God had changed his name to Israel, which means, "a prince with God." Once faith is germinated, takes root and begins to bear fruit, there is no limit to what God can do. He can make leaders out of deceivers. He can pickup broken lives, put them back together, and pour into them treasures from heaven. The greatest among us are nothing more than "earthen vessels," but the treasure of the gospel, which God pours into us, can change the world.
REFLECT: Do you think that you have the kind of faith that it will take to face death triumphantly? The Apostle Paul did! He proclaims for us all in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.


55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (KJV).


CHAPTER ELEVEN Verse 22 Joseph: Faith Planning for the Future Heb 11:22 (KJV) 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. Heb 11:22 (NLT) 22 And it was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, confidently spoke of God's bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was so sure of it that he commanded them to carry his bones with them when they left! INTRODUCTION This reference to Joseph is the third of three references to a Patriarch’s faith exemplified during the later stages of life, even in the face of death. Verse 20 tells of Isaac, in his old age with eyes and health failing, blessing Jacob and Esau. Verse 21 refers to Jacob in his fleeting moments blessing his sons and then worshipping God even as death was stealing his final breath. And now Joseph’s faith is lifted up and again it is in the late moments of life, “when he was about to die.” As we observed in the previous chapter, faith is often proven in the final moments of life. For some, their faith proves futile because they have been trusting in the wrong things. Men who make humanity their god are bound to be disappointed in the face of death. But a faith placed in God finds its most meaningful moment at the very time the


final breath is exhaled and the spirit of man is released to find its rest in the presence of God. Job knew this very faith when he triumphantly declared: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me (Job 19:26-2, KJV). Though death looked immanent, Job knew the final breath was not the final chapter. He looked forward to a resurrection and a beholding of the face of God. The Apostle Paul knew a similar faith when he announced: 6 7 8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8, KJV).

When we place our trust in Christ we can plan and even prepare for a future beyond this life. We can be laying up treasures in heaven now that we will receive when our rewards are given (Matt. 6:19-21; 16:27; Luke 6:35; 1 Cor. 3:14). The Writer lifts up Joseph’s faith because Joseph believed what his eyes would never see in the flesh. He believed that Israel would leave Egypt. He believed that they would inherit the Promised Land. And he believed that his bones would be returned to the land that God had promised his great-grandfather, Abraham. JOSEPH’S LIFE Joseph’s entire life was an example of faith. He stands as one of the most sterling examples of character and compassion in the entire Bible. Most of the people in Scripture, even the heroes, are presented with their failures—Abraham’s lies, Isaac’s lie,


Jacob’s deceitfulness, David’s adultery, Elisha’s depression, Peter’s denial, and so on. But if Joseph ever experienced a moral failure it is not recorded. In many ways Joseph’s life is a shadow, or a type, of the life and ministry of Jesus. Consider the following comparisons and/or contrasts: JOSEPH 1. Was betrayed by his brothers. 2. Was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned 3. Was imprisoned with two of Pharaoh’s servants 4. One of the servants remembered Joseph when he was released from prison. 5. Was promoted to a throne second only to that of Pharaoh. 6. Becomes the salvation of his family. 7. Joseph’s body was taken out of Egypt and returned to the land of his father. JESUS 1. Was betrayed by a friend, Judas. 2. Was falsely accused and wrongly crucified. 3. Was crucified between two thieves. 4. One of the thieves recognized Jesus as the Son of God and asked Jesus to remember him. 5. Has been highly exalted and given a name above every other name. 6. Is the Savior of the world. 7. Jesus was resurrected and is at the Father’s right hand.

There are many more comparisons and contrasts that could be made, suffice it to say that the life and character of Joseph prefigure that of Jesus. True faith in Jesus Christ is manifest, not merely by words or memorization of creeds, but by a transformation. It will result in the believer being “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). True faith doesn’t just change our mind, it will change our ways.

JOSEPH’S WORDS OF FAITH Looking back to Genesis again, we read first hand of Joseph’s request:

24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. 26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (Gen. 50:24-26). Notice once again, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that Joseph never owned any land in the Land of Promise, but he owned the Promise. Faith is the title deed on the property. Joseph’s words are filled with faith. Pay close attention to his dying words to his people: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” There is not a hint of doubt in the words, “will surely.” In fact, these two words could just as easily be translated, “without a doubt God will bring you out of this land.” Egypt was a good place to be at that time. It had food while the other places had famine. Joseph was second in command and Pharaoh showed the children of Israel favor. But Joseph had never lost faith in the promise. God had promised the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a land of their own.
REFLECT: Are you ever tempted to settle for less than the Word of God has promised you? Can you give a specific example? Did you wait on the Lord or did you settle for second best? What did you learn?

JOSEPH’S REQUEST Joseph repeated his confidence that the Lord would visit Israel in Egypt and lead them out. He did this when he told them that he wanted them to take his bones back to the Promised Land when they came out of Egypt.

Shortly thereafter Joseph died and his body was embalmed after the manner of the great Egyptian leaders and his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt. His body would lay in Egypt for almost four hundred years while the Israelites waited for God to fulfill the promise. No doubt many thought God had forgotten them. Joseph’s life was ending as he spoke to his brethren and yet he was looking toward the future. Faith never ends with what we see; faith reaches into the future and brings future blessings into the present as though already exist. That is to say, joy and peace can be experienced today because we believe the promise of God for the blessed hope of the future.
REFLECT: Have you ever been tempted to think that God has forgotten a promise that He’s made? How does that affect your faith? What do you do to “increase” your faith?

FAITH FINALLY DELIVERS If we fast-forward through Scripture to a time about 400 years after Joseph’s death, we see millions of Jews leaving Egypt, and as they leave they carry the embalmed body of Joseph: 19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you (Exod. 13:19). Almost 400 years had passed but the Jews had not forgotten the request of Joseph or the promise of God. By leaving this challenge and the promise of God with his children and brethren, Joseph was blessing the future. He had given them something to hold on to for hundreds of years.


Almost two thousand years ago Jesus promised us that He is coming back. He promised us that our bodies will not be left here on this earth, but that He would come back and get us so that where He is, there we will be also (John 14:3). Some have given up on that promise. In fact, there are even those who will mock and scorn us when we claim to believe in the promise. Peter saw this in his own day. Only thirty or forty years after the ascension of Jesus, Peter wrote: 3 4 First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: "Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created (2 Pet 3:3-4, NLT).

10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment (2 Pet 3:10, NLT). Like the children of Israel in Egypt, we are waiting for the Lord to come and deliver us from a world of sin, from the effects of the curse, and even from death. Like Israel we have the words of the One who rescued us as a promise from God. But unlike Israel, we do not have a body to carry around. Our reminder is not a coffin with a mummy but an empty tomb! Unlike other religious leaders whose tombs become occasions for veneration and objectification, Christians have a promise which can only be claimed and held by faith. We believe and because of our faith in the promises of Jesus, He becomes the “blessed hope” for which we look (Titus 2:13).


REFLECT: Have you ever been asked about the return of Jesus Christ? How do you answer? How do we pass-on the promise to the next generation? Who planted the seed of hope in your heart?

SUMMARY The faith of Joseph resulted in the deliverance of his family from the forces of the famine. His faith brought him up out of a pit, delivered him from the hand of Potiphar’s wife, opened the doors of a prison, and placed him on the throne next to Pharaoh. Satan meant evil for Joseph’s life, but God can work through the faith of His servants to accomplish His purposes. Not only did Joseph’s faith save his family, his faith also caused the ten generations which followed him to believe that God was coming to bring them out of Egypt and take them back to the Promised Land. Joseph never owned any land in Canaan, but his faith was the evidence of things not seen.


CHAPTER TWELVE Verse 23 Moses’ Parents: Fearless Faith Finds a Way Heb 11:23 (KJV) 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. Heb 11:23 (NLT) 23 It was by faith that Moses' parents hid him for three months. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid of what the king might do. INTRODUCTION What is the most radical thing you've ever done by faith? When I was called into ministry I believed God was directing my family and me to leave the Air Force and move from Caribou, Maine to Cleveland, Tennessee to attend the Church of God seminary. I had moved quickly up the enlisted ranks and the re-enlistment officer was at a loss as to why I would want to leave a promising military career to go into a career field as uncertain as ministry. Still, my wife, my son and I packed up our belongings and moved over a thousand miles south to city where we had no job, no family and no friends. It was very difficult at first, but four years later I graduated with Master of Divinity degree and God has never failed me. The people whose faith is being applauded in verse 23 are not mentioned by name by the Writer—they are the parents of Moses.


Let's look at the text from Exodus chapter 1 verse 22 through chapter 2 verse 10: 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: "Throw all the newborn Israelite boys into the Nile River. But you may spare the baby girls." 2:1 {The Birth of Moses--} During this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw what a beautiful baby he was and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a little basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River. 4 The baby's sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him. 5 Soon after this, one of Pharaoh's daughters came down to bathe in the river, and her servant girls walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the little basket among the reeds, she told one of her servant girls to get it for her. 6 As the princess opened it, she found the baby boy. His helpless cries touched her heart. "He must be one of the Hebrew children," she said. 7 Then the baby's sister approached the princess. "Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" she asked. 8 "Yes, do!" the princess replied. So the girl rushed home and called the baby's mother. 9 "Take this child home and nurse him for me," the princess told her. "I will pay you for your help." So the baby's mother took her baby home and nursed him. 10 Later, when he was older, the child's mother brought him back to the princess, who adopted him as her son. The princess named him Moses, for she said, "I drew him out of the water" (NLT). THE NAMES OF FAITH The story is familiar to Christians and Jews alike and yet aside from the comments of the writer of Hebrews one seldom reflects upon the faith of the parents of Moses in this drama. They are introduced in Exodus simply as, "a man and woman from the tribe of Levi," who got married (2:1). Their names are recorded in Exodus 6:18-20 as Amram and Jochebed. Amram means “people exalted“ and Jochebed means, “Yahweh is glory.”


REFLECT: Who is the greatest man or woman of faith that you have known personally? Is it a great television preacher or the pastor of "super" church? Or have there been family members or local church members whose faith in God has served to inspire you? What was it about their faith that makes them so memorable? Do you see these characteristics in your own faith?

THE DASTERDLY DECREE After settling in the land of Goshen, in the borders of Egypt, the Israelites multiplied just as God had promised. Unfortunately there arose a Pharaoh in Egypt who did not know Joseph and who felt no obligation to show favor to the Children of Israel. In time these immigrants become slaves in the Egyptian Empire. Almost 400 years passed from the time of Jacob's arrival in Egypt until Moses’ birth. This Pharaoh felt threatened by the growing population of Jews within his borders so he made a decree that the Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the babies of the Jewish women should kill the baby boys as they were born. They refused and when Pharaoh inquired as to the reason the two women told him that the Hebrew women were strong and were delivering their own babies before the midwives got there. The households of these two women were blessed of God for their loyalty to their own people and because they feared God more than man, even if that man was Pharaoh. Because his first plan had failed, Pharaoh decreed that the baby boys should be killed by throwing them into the Nile River. This too is a prototype of the birth of Christ. When Jesus was born Herod the Great had heard that the Messiah had been born and ordered that all the baby boys in Bethlehem, which were one-year-old and younger, were to be killed. Like Moses, who was taken out of danger and into the protective custody of the hierarchy of Egypt, Jesus' parents were warned by an angel to go down into Egypt

until the danger had passed. After Herod the Great died, Jesus and his family return to Nazareth. Matthew's Gospel gives us this record in chapter 2, and states that the event of going into, and coming out of, Egypt was fulfilling prophecy concerning Messiah: 2 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son (Matt 2:15, KJV).

THE DARING DECISION Moses' parents loved their baby boy. He is described as "a proper child" in the King James Version, "an unusual child" in the New Living Translation. In Exodus the New Living Translation says that Moses was a "beautiful baby." Suffice it to say that there was something special about this baby and it was more than the way he looked. It seems Moses' parents received insight from the Spirit that this child was to be saved at all costs. I remember being a five-year-old boy in my grandmother's house, a couple of my aunts were there, my mother and me. They were discussing how bad of a little boy I was. They said I was spoiled and that if my mother didn't get control of me I would be criminal. My mother had taken about all she could so she grabbed my hand and whisked me up the stairs where we were living while my father was in Vietnam. As she made the dramatic exit she said, "You just wait . . . he'll be somebody great someday!" I have never forgotten my mother's words. Of course I'll never forget one of my aunt's retort, she said, "Yea! The antichrist!" Truth is, I went through years of rebellion and depression. But God's grace and my mother's love motivated me to reach higher. I was the first of all my forty some first


cousins to obtain a Bachelor's degree, and the first to achieve a Master's degree. To this day I am motivated, in part, by the confidence my mother had in me. Believing that Moses was special, his parents made a daring decision to refuse to submit to the dastardly decree of Pharaoh. They tried to hide him for the first three months of his life but when he got too big to keep hidden, Moses' mother made a small waterproof basket out of reeds, which she collected by the Nile River. Then, in an act of utter faith in God, she put the basket in the Nile River. The basket was in the river but she was placing their baby in the hands of God. If it was discovered that she was disobeying Pharaoh, both she and her entire household could have been killed. Faith like Moses' parents displayed is fearless. The roar of the roaming lion doesn’t intimidate real faith. Real faith fears God and not man.
REFLECT: Put yourself in the place of Moses' parents, what would you have done? Imagine placing your baby in the crocodile infested waters of the Nile River, what would you have been praying? Do you think that Moses' mother anticipated that Pharaoh's daughter would find the baby? We live in a day when Satanic forces in the world are trying to steal, kill or destroy our children, how can we respond to these forces? What does it mean to put our children in God's hands?

DIVINE DELIVERANCE God delivered Moses and in so doing was delivering the Hebrews from the hands of Egypt. God's deliverance of Moses was a direct result of the faith of his parents who had placed the baby in God's hands. They were participating in God's plan to bring the Hebrews out of bondage.


Pharaoh's daughter was bathing in the Nile and saw the basket on the water. When she saw the beautiful baby in the basket she decided to raise him as her own. Divine deliverance was at work in the life of this child. It is amazing what God can do when we have fearless faith in Him.
REFLECT: Is it possible to have faith and fear at the same time? Is it possible to have faith and yet ask God to help you for a lack of fait? What about the man whose child was possessed with a devil; he prayed, "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24)? Jesus responded to his prayer by healing the child. How does this correspond to your concept of faith?

I have seen parents and spouses make daring decisions with regard to parenting or marriage. There have been times when I was amazed at the faith of these people and in a way I admired them, but at the same time I thought they were making a mistake. In many of these cases I have been surprised at how God worked things out. I've seen marriages, which I was sure were over, restored when one spouse decided not to take the easy way out, choosing instead to fight for his or her marriage. I've seen children that I thought were on a downhill slide, turn around and come back to Christ, all because they had parents with fearless faith and who put their child in the hands of God. SUMMARY The parents of Moses were people of great faith. They refused to bow to the will of a despotic ruler, but instead, placed their faith in God. Because of their faith in God they were willing to put their very lives on the line. God rewarded their faith and delivered their nation through their child.


REFLECT: What is the most daring thing you have ever done in faith? What was the result? Did it increase or decrease your faith? Is there anything in your life which you have not put into the hands of God? If we have really placed our most precious treasures into the hands of God, will we still be anxious over them?


CHAPTER THIRTEEN Verses 24-26 Moses: Faith Chooses the Right Way Heb 11:24-26 (KJV) 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Heb 11:24-26 (NLT) 24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him. INTRODUCTION No personality in the Old Testament stands any taller or carries more weight than Moses. In both Christian and Jewish traditions Moses was a man of mighty faith who had a unique and intimate relationship with God. He was chosen by God to be His man to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Also, Moses was the man on the mountain to whom God gave the Law, and Moses was privileged to see the afterglow of God in a way that no other man ever saw.


Far from the confident and even cocky personality which is often depicted in the popular media, Moses was not a man who sought to be a leader. He appears in Scripture as somewhat reclusive, choosing to lead sheep in the mountain passes instead of becoming a leader in Egypt. He was not a dignified (eloquent) speaker, but a man who was "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" (Ex. 4:10). The Hebrew word translated “slow” is kabed which means, among other things, "stupid." Yet, this is the man whom God chose. As the Spirit would later tell Samuel, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7, KJV). The Writer tells us that it was "by faith" Moses chose to identify with the Hebrews and thereby forfeit all his privileges as a member of the royal family of Egypt. By faith Moses chose to do what was right and in so doing reversed the process by which the Hebrews came into Egypt. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery. From there he ascended into the palace of Egypt. Four hundred years later Moses chose to leave the palace to identify with his enslaved brothers. Joseph saved his people by bringing them to Egypt from Canaan during a great famine. Moses saved his people by leading them out of Egypt and back to Canaan. God Himself said through His prophet Isaiah, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9, KJV).
REFLECT: Have you ever given up rights and privileges in order to identify more completely with Christ? If so, what did others around you think of your choice? If you have never had to give up a position or privilege to identify with Christ and His Church, do you think you would? How would (or did) you explain your choice to others?


REFUSE By faith we, like Moses can refuse. First, we can refuse to rationalize. Faith will lead us to the right choices and faith in God will give us the courage to reject the wrong and choose the right. It is easy to automatically assume that the things which are most advantageous for us must be God's will. After all, we reason, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas. 1:17, KJV). "If it's good for me, then it must be from God." But this form of reasoning is more a reflection of Western thinking than a true reflection of God's will. In Eastern thought the community is as important, and in some respects more important, than the individual. The question, then, is not, "What is best for me?" But, "What is best?" It is my experience that when I'm walking out of God's will it not because I "accidentally" went astray, but with the Holy Spirit trying to guide me back to paths of righteousness, I continued to walk my own way. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Prov. 14:12, NIV). Why do we do that? Why do we run the red lights and crash through the roadblocks God puts in front of us to keep us from going in the wrong direction? We rationalize, we talk ourselves into doing what God is trying to talk us out of. The heart is indeed deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Second, by faith we can refuse to run with the crowd. Moses had been brought up in Pharaoh's household. Moses had been treated as and trained as a son of Pharaoh's daughter. His friends and family from youth had been the powerful oppressors of the people of God. There is no doubt that Moses had grown up in an atmosphere of superiority and racial prejudice. But Moses refused to run with the crowd he had grown


up with. There was a point of departure for him. There came a time to break from the familiar and to start on a new journey, a journey of faith. Interestingly, for Jews today to become converted to Christianity means that they will be virtually disowned by their family. It is an act of faith to be willing to make a break with the familiar ways of life to go in new directions with Christ. It may cost us a job, it may cost us our friends, and in some cases, our family, but nothing and nobody on earth is worth our soul. Finally, by faith we can refuse to settle for second best. Being a son of Pharaoh’s daughter must have been one of the top three positions in the entire world at that time. Egypt was a world empire, and Pharaoh was the leader. It was only one step for Moses to get to the top. But being a son of Pharaoh's daughter does not compare to being a son of God. Moses' faith in the true God was what allowed him to refuse to settle for second best. It is easy to settle in and say, "Hey this isn't half bad! Why rock to boat? I'll just stay right here and enjoy my life like it is." But regardless of our station or status in life, if we have not been Born Again, we are settling for second best or worse.
REFLECT: Is it always easy for you to decide that God’s ways are the best ways? Are there times when a compromise might make your life easier? How do you remain faithful to God when the easiest way would be to accept the compromise which the world offers?

CHOOSE It is not enough just to refuse, Moses shows us that we have to choose. Somewhere along the way Moses was made aware of his real nationality. Perhaps it was


his own mother, who served as his nursemaid for several years, who told him. Maybe he heard rumors from among the Hebrews. Or maybe Pharaoh's daughter told him the story of where she found him. Regardless of where he heard the truth, Moses had to choose whom he would serve. Would he identify with the Egyptians and accept their many gods, or would he identify with the Hebrews and accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Would he pay homage to idols or worship the One God Who had no equal and of Whom no idols existed? By faith, Moses chose to identify with the suffering slaves of Egypt. There was something very powerful about Moses' choice. He was choosing affliction over privilege. He was choosing to refuse to give in to the pull of the flesh to go on living a lifestyle that would give him pleasures of sin for a season. This verse affirms that there are pleasures in sin. Carnal desires are satisfied and immediate gratification is realized in sin. But this verse also contains the caveat that these sins are but "for a season." The time of pleasure is limited and at the end of that season the payback is hell. To the natural man it made no sense at all. Who would chose oppression over opportunities for privilege and prestige? It takes faith. Moses made the choice to do what was right and later as he lead the people through the desert, he expected the people to make this choice as well. When he came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, he saw them dancing before an idol carved to look like a golden calf, an idol of Egypt. In his outrage he threw down the tablets, which broke, and proceeded to purge the camp of these rebellious people. I can imagine Moses at the gate of camp and I can see him with his beard blowing in the hot desert wind. With


a rod in his hand he draws a line in sand and cries out, "Who is on the LORD's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" (Ex. 32:26, KJV). It was time to make a choice.
REFLECT: What is the single best choice you have made in your life up to this point? Why is it the best? Did this choice cost you anything?

Moses' protégé, Joshua, must have learned something that day. Years later, after settling into the Promised Land, Joshua would call the people together and challenge them to choose the Lord: 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Josh. 24:15, KJV). Every day is a walk of faith for the Christian, and every day we must choose to walk with God. When we receive salvation we are choosing to respond to God's tug on our heart. He comes looking for us but we must choose to respond. After that we live every day walking a narrow road that has markers, has roadblocks, and warning signs but it has no fences, no walls and no guards. We cannot accidentally wander off the walk of faith, but we can choose to ignore the warnings and walk away from God. By faith we can choose to do what is right. By faith we can walk the right way and "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). By faith we can escape the pull of the flesh and the desire to continue in the season of sin. By faith we can allow the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ to wash away every trace of the man or woman we used to be. No longer the children of the devil (John 8:44), we can walk in triumph as the sons and daughters of God (2 Cor. 6:18).


REFLECT: Are you a decisive person, or an indecisive person? If you are a decisive person, have you ever suffered as a result of making a decision too quickly? If you are indecisive, have you ever missed an opportunity because you did not move quickly enough? How does your faith help you to make the right decision, even the difficult ones?

There is a mantra in the business world which says, "To fail to plan, is to plan to fail." Similarly, "To refuse to choose God, is to choose to refuse God." But Jesus calls us to make this choice, He calls out to the world: 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30, KJV). There is no middle ground, real faith is bold and brave and willing to choose sides. There is, of course, this great mystery at work in the grand plan of God. God had chosen Moses, and yet it is also Moses who chose God. We are called and chosen of God yet we still must choose Him. Foreknowledge and free will engaged in that eternal dance which falls into the realm known as the sovereignty of God. NOTHING TO LOSE Many people refuse to yield to the pull of the Holy Spirit on their heart because Satan has convinced them that they will have to give up too much. If only we could get it into every sinner’s heart that there is nothing to lose in being a Christian we would see more people come to Christ. By faith we understand that paltry prizes of this world are not worthy to be compared to the riches of heaven which await the child of God. By faith we are able to look beyond the immediate gratification of pleasures of sin for a season


and see that eternity hold either eternal life for the child of God, or eternal punishment for those who refuse to choose grace. Jesus asked the question, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26). In short, there is nothing in the world to compare with what awaits the child of God. Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in a way which illustrates this point: 44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matt 13:44-46, KJV). When we understand the value of the kingdom of God then we know that if we give everything we are, and everything we have, we still have not lost a thing. There is nothing to loose in being a child of God, and yet, at the same time it costs us everything. A rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said, "Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21, NIV). That sounds like a paradox but it’s really not. To trade a penny for a gold mine is not to lose a penny, it is to gain a gold mine. To give up the pleasures of sin for an eternity in the presence of God is not losing pleasure but gaining an eternity of abundant life.
REFLECT: Looking back over your life as a child of God, would you say that you have gained more than you’ve lost? When you witness to others do you tend to emphasize


the cost of following Christ or the benefits? What are the benefits of serving Christ with regard to: Finances? Marriage? Parenting?

SUMMARY By faith Moses had to refuse, choose, and know that there was nothing to loose. It takes faith to do these things. Faith understands that which does not make sense to the world. Faith trades the temporal for the eternal. By faith we can choose the right way every time we face a fork in the road. Often we are confronted with a myriad of choices and we can find ourselves agonizing of which choice is the right choice. It takes faith to make the right choice when there is an easier way to go. It takes faith to choose not to take a higher paying job because it would mean that we would have to work on Sundays. It takes faith to choose to pay our tithes and offerings when we know that there are other financial demands tugging on our checking account. It takes faith, and thankfully, God gives both the grace and faith to make the hard choices that we face.
REFLECT: Put yourself in Moses’ place; wouldn’t it have been easy to rationalize the situation and to conclude that you could do more from the palace of the Pharaoh than from the fields with the sheep? What do you think would have happened if Moses had not chosen to identify with his people?


CHAPTER FOURTEEN Verse 27 Moses: Faith Forsakes the Wrong Way Heb 11:27 (KJV) 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Heb 11:27 (NLT) 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt. He was not afraid of the king. Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. INTRODUCTION It takes faith to forsake the wrong, to turn aside from temptations and press ahead fearlessly. By having a firm and healthy hold on that which is right we are more prepared to refuse to reach for the wrong. Faith, then, is as much the acceptance and trust in a body of doctrine as it is an act of believing. When Jude exhorts us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) he was referring to the "doctrine" or teaching of Jesus, which amazed those who heard it ( Matt. 22:33). Objective faith is also tied to the "apostles' doctrine" (Ac. 2:42) which contains, but is not limited to, the "gospel of Christ" (Rom. 1:16). This is, as mentioned above, what is known as objective faith, a body of teaching originating from Old Testament Scripture, fulfilled and refined in Christ's life, works and words, and expanded in the Epistles and teachings of the Apostles. When faced with


wrong choices we have "sound doctrine" by which we can measure the appropriateness or inappropriateness of an action. If it runs contrary to what the Word teaches then we can make the right choice by virtue both of the faith by which we believe, as well as the faith in which we believe. I’ve had people come to me and say, “Pastor, we don’t want ‘doctrine’ we just want to worship and serve God.” I’m always confounded by this declaration. What god do they intend to worship? What makes them think God wants their worship? How should they worship? What constitutes acceptable worship and service? This is what the teachings, or doctrines, of Scripture tell us. These teachings are “the sound doctrine” for which we earnestly contend. Our ability to do what is right is based, in part, on our knowledge of right and wrong. Is it wrong to worship an idol? The teaching of Scripture tells us that it is wrong. Many of the martyrs of early church were put to death because the faith in which they believed said it would be wrong to offer sacrifices to the idols and gods of Rome. People who denigrate doctrine are in peril of being so open-minded that their brains fall out. Faith is knowing what and Whom you believe in even if it challenges empirical proofs. The old maxim that they who believe in nothing will fall for anything is true. People who have not learned and received sound doctrine are susceptible to false doctrine—“doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1) and “old wives’ fables” (1 Tim. 4:7). FAITH TO FORSAKE We are told that "by faith Moses forsook Egypt." Somewhere, someone informed Moses of the true God. As noted above, it may well have been his own mother who


nursed him during the early years of his life, but whatever the source, Moses knew he was a Jew and he believed in the God who had no idol in Egypt. Because of what he believed, and because of Whom he believed in, Moses chose not to identify with or become bound to Egypt. Paul told the young bishop Timothy that there are times to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12), and there are times to "flee also youthful lusts" (2 Tim. 2:22). There are things to put down, things to lay aside, things to put away and things to avoid. Knowing the truth sets us free to know what is wrong and to forsake it. Knowing the truth is not just the power to be free, but also the power to stay free from sin. It is a combination of what we believe and how much we believe it that empowers us to act. When that which we believe is right and we believe enough to base our life upon it, then we are able to choose wisely. Jesus said, "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt 6:23, NIV). If your revelation is wrong, if it is darkness, then everything you do, think, and say is infected with that darkness. To be sure, subjective faith, that which is within a man which enables him to hold on to the truth he has received, is necessary as well. Moses was able to forsake Egypt and all the benefits he could have enjoyed because he believed in God. Perhaps he believed God would provide better or perhaps he believed God would deliver Israel. Or, it may be that Moses did not have a clue what God would do, it may simply be that Moses knew what was right so he did what was right and left the outcome in the hands of God.


If we truly have faith we should be able to make the correct decision even if it costs us our life. John the Baptist spoke the truth to Herod and it cost John his life. Did John have faith? I would say that he certainly did. Great faith, however, is no guarantee that doing the right thing will end in riches. It takes faith to do what is right regardless of the cost. Refusing to lie for your boss may cost you your job, but your faith, if it is real, will not allow for other options. Job or no job, Egypt or no Egypt, palace or poverty, mountain or valley, faith in God and in His Word will empower us to do right.

REFLECT: Do you know what you believe in? Would you be more likely to choose a church because its teachings are in line with Scripture, or because it has more programs and ministries to offer? Which do you think is more important, for a church to do good things, or to teach the right things? Have you ever had to forsake some things that others enjoy because it was contrary to what Scriptures teach? Was it worth it?

FAITH OVER FEAR Moses chose to do right because he was not afraid of what the king might do. The king might very well have had Moses killed, but if faith is worth living for, it is worth dying for. The early martyrs of the church found that faith does not always guarantee deliverance from man's wrath, indeed real faith may cost us our life. But true faith in God will result in a reverence of God which is so strong that we will not fear what man can do (Ps. 56:11; Matt. 10:28). Many slaveholders in the United States were very committed to their churches and yet participated in the sale and abuse of people who were created in the image and likeness of God. Likewise, during Nazi control of Germany many of the Christian


leaders in the country were silent to the atrocities that were going on around them. Many looked the other way while the wholesale slaughter of millions of Jews occurred under their noses. There were some, however, who raised their voices. In the United States it was the Christian conscience which finally fought to end slavery and good men died for what was right. In Germany there were some clergy who were willing lay down their lives for their faith. Deitrich Bonhoffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship as a treatise on so called Christians who did not have the courage to lay down their lives for the truth. Bonhoffer himself would ultimately be killed because of what he taught. These were people who, in his words, wanted “cheap grace,” they wanted Christianity without a cost or a cross to bear. Faith makes brave men out of cowards and spiritual warriors out of little women. Some of the greatest examples of faith I know never owned much, never wanted much except to love God, and lived what they believed through the highs and lows of life. Some of the greatest preachers and pastors I know have never seen as much as one hundred in attendance on a Sunday morning. Many have had to work a second job and have never known what it was to have another person on staff to help share the load of pastoral ministry. Still, with little recognition or reward from the denominational hierarchy, they dedicate babies, marry couples, counsel troubled marriages, and bury the dead. These are my heroes. I was in Cleveland, Tennessee trying to attend seminary but finding it difficult to afford more than one or two classes a semester. While in the Air Force I worked as a surgery technician and went to night school taking a heavy load of classes in the biological sciences (I had thought about becoming a medical doctor). So when I went to


Cleveland I looked into the nursing program at the local community college. I found that I had already completed all the required courses except the core nursing classes. I applied and was accepted to the nursing program. Unfortunately, the company I was working at canceled its third shift and my schedule would not allow me to finish the nursing program. I was convinced that I would have to be a bi-vocational pastor and I was fine with that, only I wanted to become a Registered Nurse so that I would be able to find work anywhere and would get sufficient pay to care for my family. One night as I worked at the sheet-metal press of the stove company I worked at, I prayed. I was complaining to God about the shift change and fretting about what I was going to do now. How could I pastor if I couldn't pay my own way? How would I ever finish seminary? How would I take care of my family? But as I was silently asking these things God interrupted my little pity party with one question: "Don't you think I can take care of you?" It wasn't an audible voice but it was clear and loudly spoken to my mind and heart. I paused to consider the question. It was not a question that I could ignore and the answer I gave would reflect either faith or a failure to trust God. I bowed my head with tears and said, "Yes, Lord. I believe you can take care of me." I've never been wealthy but I can testify that God has taken care of my family and me. Satan did his best to scare and intimidate me. He tried to convince me that if I followed God's will I would fail. Later that year I was granted a loan from the school and the next two years I attended on a scholastic scholarship. Recently my wife and I purchased a home. Even though it isn't opulent, it is the nicest home I have ever lived in. God has taken care of me and I know He will never fail.


REFLECT: Have you ever been too scared to do what God was calling you to do? Why were you afraid? Did you ever overcome that fear? If so, how? Faith can conquer fear, but only when we are willing to place complete trust in God. If our complete trust is not in God, then who are we trusting? Jeremiah cautions: 5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit (Jer. 17:5-8, KJV). Look at verse 8, it reflects a man or woman of faith. He or she is not "careful in the year of drought," that is, he is not afraid, sorrowful or intimidated, and he continues to yield fruit. Can you receive that promise?

FAITH ENDURES Not only does faith forsake the wrong and stand fearless in the face of the enemy, faith endures. That simply means it doesn't give up, it is strong and steadfast. The Greek root word behind the English word translated "endure" is kratos, which literally means "great vigor." Kratos is translated, variously as, “dominion,” “might,” “power,” and “strength” in the King James Version. Faith is not fearful, it allows the believer to press on in power despite the apparent obstacles. It often takes a little time before our faith rises to the level of the challenge. Our initial response to the trials and temptations of life may not be courage, yet somewhere between the initial fear and triumph of faith we hear Him say, "Be not afraid, it is I!" And with that calming voice our faith comes to rest upon the One Who cares for us.

The Writer is telling us something about the character of Moses here. Once he believed and made up his mind to forsake the wrong, Moses never looked back. It took some convincing by God to get Moses to accept the role of leadership because Moses’ initial response was self-doubt. After accepting the call of God, however, Moses moved with vigor and power as the chosen vessel of God. The Israelites looked back to the fleshpots of slavery, but Moses never looked back to the palaces of Pharaoh!
REFLECT: Have you ever felt that calming hand of God come upon you when what you were seeing on the horizon of your life caused fear? Have you ever experienced an initial time lapse between fear and faith in the face of a crisis? How was God able to get your attention and "help your unbelief"? Was it through a passage of Scripture, through prayer, through a sermon, a song, or something else?

FAITH SEES WHAT CANNOT BE SEEN God is described here as being, "invisible." The Apostle Paul also used the word “invisible” to describe God. In Colossians Paul declared that Jesus ". . . is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15, KJV). And in a doxology Paul described God as ". . . the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever" (1 Tim 1:17, KJV). In addition, Paul told Timothy that God is immortal, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet, Moses is described as a man who saw "Him who is invisible." How can that be? By faith. We know that Moses was allowed to get very close to God. So close in fact, that when it came time for Moses to die, God personally handled the funeral arrangements.


On Mount Sinai Moses received the Law from God. Though mediated through angels (Heb. 2:2), it was written by the hand of God and given to Moses. Moses spoke to God and was even allowed to see the "afterglow" of His glory. But this doesn't appear to be what the Writer is referring to here. By faith Moses saw what cannot be seen because “faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen." The Writer is referring to what Moses was able to see through eyes of faith, namely, the power of God, the Oneness of God, the uniqueness and love of God for His people. The physical eyes of all who dwelt in Egypt could look upon the idols of the false gods, but only eyes of faith could see the true God for whom no idol exists. The closest we are allowed to come to seeing the fullness of God is in looking at His Son. Jesus is the express image of the Father. Jesus told Philip, ". . . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). Paul tells us that "in him (Jesus) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).

SUMMARY Moses was a man of faith who forsook the wrong way, overcame fear, moved with vigor, and saw what others could not see. This is faith. Again, it has less to do with wealth and health and more to do with trust and obedience. In fact, people of true faith are willing to sacrifice, to forsake the riches of the world, if need be, to claim the treasures of heaven. Compromising one’s integrity may gain gold in this life but brings about spiritual bankruptcy. There are many things that are more important than wealth or health. Faithfulness to God is at the top of that list.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN Verse 28 Moses: Passover Faith Heb 11:28 (KJV) 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. Heb 11:28 (NLT) 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. INTRODUCTION As Christians we generally associate Passover with the Lord's Supper (also called the Eucharist, or Communion). It is true that Jesus, on the night He was to be betrayed, would observe Passover and fill it with new meaning. Looking back at the first Passover in Egypt, however, we find that it was designed by God to point to Christ. After leaving Egypt, after choosing the right and refusing the wrong, Moses spent forty years in the desert where he lead the life of a shepherd. This too was part of the training of Moses by God to become a leader who could keep a flock together and to lead them in the right direction. It was while watching his father-in-law's sheep that God spoke to Moses from a bush that was ablaze but was not consumed. 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."


5 6

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God (Exod. 3:4-6, NIV).

Throughout the whole exchange between God and Moses the reader can detect genuine meekness and humility on the part of Moses. He was not seeking this position, he was content just to be with his family and take care of his father-in-law's sheep. When God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people, the Israelites, go, Moses replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exod. 3:11, KJV). God chose Moses and God made Moses to become a great man. God's answer to Moses' question was, "Certainly, I will be with thee" (v. 12). Aside from Jesus Christ, it is doubtful that the life of any other single man made as much of an impact upon world history as Moses. Not because Moses was brought up in the Pharaoh's palace, but because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was with him. When Moses reminded God that he was not an eloquent speaker, God told Moses to take his brother Aaron with him and Aaron would speak for Moses, who was speaking for God. As we know, Moses obeyed and Pharaoh disobeyed. The result was a series of plagues after which Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34). After repeatedly hardening his own heart, we are told that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex. 10:1, 20, 27). At this point Pharaoh's fate was sealed. After the last plague, that of three days of thick darkness, the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart one last time. After this last refusal to let God's people go, God told Moses that there was one last plague, the firstborn son of every human and every animal would die:


4 And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5 And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6 And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. 7 But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel (Ex. 11:3-7, KJV). The fact that it is the first born sons who would die is significant. Jesus is the "only begotten Son" of God (John 3:16). As the "only begotten" Jesus is also the firstborn. In other words, if a man had only one son that night, and if the blood had not been applied to his doorposts, then that son would die. God gave His Son as our sacrifice so that we could leave the spiritual Egypt of sin. THE PASSOVER God gave Moses instructions for the preservation of the life of Israelite sons: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.


9 10 11 12 13 14 15


17 18 19 20 21 22


Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.


24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. 25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service (Ex. 12:1-25, KJV). Our text tells us that "By faith he [Moses] kept the passover." Something, which has already been stressed in this study, is that faith and obedience walk hand in hand. God gave Moses the instructions and Moses saw that they were carried out. Faith and trust, therefore, are two sides of the same coin. Moses told the Israelites to borrow "jewels of silver and jewels of gold" (11:2). This was a sign that marching time was on the way. These riches which the Jews received from the Egyptians were, in effect, the spoils of war. We are told that the Egyptians were glad to give them. In fact, the Egyptian people had been ready for some time to let these Israelites go. The greatest nation on the face of the earth at that time was a defeated nation. They were defeated by the God of the people they had been calling slaves for some four hundred years. Moses told the people to take these things because the battle was the Lord's and the Lord had won. To the Victor, and to His people, go the spoils!
REFLECT: If Jesus was victorious over Satan, sin and death, what are the spoils for the child of God? When we come marching out of our spiritual Egypt what should we be bringing with us? Sometimes it appears that people who come out of the "pleasures of sin for a season" have left their joy behind. Being a Christian should not be a life without pleasures, but as the Psalmist said, with God the pleasures are not just for a season: "in thy presence there is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore." (16:11).


THE SPRINKLING OF THE BLOOD The Writer tells us that by faith Moses "kept the passover" and by faith Moses sprinkled the blood. That is to say, he did as God commanded by instructing the people to take a hyssop and apply the blood to the door frames of their homes. They were to strike the two sides and the top. By doing this the agent of death would be prevented from entering their homes and killing the firstborn sons in these homes. The blood was to come from the lamb of a sheep or a goat. This lamb was chosen on the tenth day of the first month of spring, Abib (Nisan) and kept until the fourteenth day. On the fourteenth day, at twilight, the lamb was killed and the blood was collected at the threshold. [The word translated “bason” in the King James Version is from a word which can refer to the trench dug in front of the door of these homes.] The lamb was to be a male lamb not more than one year old. It was to be a lamb "without blemish," that is, without any defects or disease of any sort. This lamb was to be killed, roasted, and eaten during the evening of the Passover. They were to eat all of the meat and the entrails, none of it was to remain until morning. If the family was too small to consume one lamb, then they were to join with another family. They were to observe this feast with their clothes and their shoes on. They were to have their bags packed because God knew that in the morning, with millions of Egyptians looking into the dead faces of their firstborn sons, Israel would be allowed to leave. But they had to be ready to move before Pharaoh could change his mind, or the people could take up hostilities against the Jews. God also told the Israelites to change their calendars and to mark the month of Passover as the first month of the year. This was a new beginning for His people, a day


of liberation from the cruel whips of slavery. They were coming out of Egypt as a free people, as a people whose God had delivered them and made them victorious. As God promised, those whose doorposts were sprinkled with blood were spared the cruel fate of those who homes were not covered by the blood. The idea of covering stands behind the Hebrew word translated "passover": The verb "pass over" has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pesah, which is translated "Passover." These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means "to spread wings over" in order to protect.1 There is a sense in which the blood became an umbrella of grace over the Israelites covering them from the rain of God's wrath upon a hardhearted and rebellious Pharaoh and the nation he led. The Writer is not ignorant of the connection between the Passover Lamb and Jesus who is "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36). The Apostle John would recognize Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). The Apostle Paul calls Jesus, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7). In addition, the Lamb before the throne of God becomes the salvation of the believer for He alone was worthy to take the scroll and to loose the seals and thus unfurl the plan of God that brings to a close the reign of sin upon the earth (Rev. 5-8).
REFLECT: In what ways does Jesus fulfill the requirements of the Passover Lamb? How do believers obtain the benefits of the blood that Jesus shed? What is the fate of

Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Christ In The Passover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978),

p. 22.


those who do not have their lives "covered by the blood"? In light of the promise that the Church has not been "appointed . . . to wrath" (1 Thess. 5:9), does the idea of covering and protection by the blood of Christ have any eschatological significance for the believer? Explain.

A PERPETUAL FEAST God told Moses that this was not a one time feast, this was to become a memorial for all generations of Jews to follow. By making it a perpetual feast each generation was reminded of their deliverance from Egypt by the outstretched arm of God. The Passover meal became a time for celebrating the salvation of the Lord. It is no accident that Jesus observed the Passover meal with his disciples on the night prior to His death. There is some difficulty in harmonizing the Synoptic Gospels and John on the issue of when the Passover was held. The Synoptic Gospels indicate that Jesus observed the Passover meal on the night of the "Lord's Supper" (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Lk. 22:15). In this respect, then, Jesus used the unleavened bread and the cup of the fruit of the vine to represent His body and His blood that was to be given for the sins of the world. John's Gospel, however, indicates that Jesus actually died on the cross at the precise time that Passover Lambs were to be killed at the temple (John 18:28; 19:14). The most common way to bring the two perspectives into agreement is to view the "Lord's Supper" as one of the preparatory meals which lead up to the Passover. By the time of Christ Passover was not a one night affair, but a week long event coupled with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread only bread without yeast was to be eaten. This is precisely the bread that Jesus used in the upper


room with His disciples and there is no mention of the meat of the lamb in the account of the Gospels. If this scenario is correct, then it may well be that as Jesus gave up His spirit and died upon the cross, the first Lambs were being killed by the priests at the temple. At that precise point in time the old and the new covenants converge. The old is fulfilled and the new is begins. Just as the Passover was to be a memorial through the generations, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper as memorial of His sacrifice and as a reminder of His promise to return. He said, "Do this in remembrance of me. . . . For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:24-26, NIV). SUMMARY In Revelation Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20, NIV). Jesus is addressing the church here. He is pictured as standing outside knocking, waiting for someone to open the door and let Him in so that He may eat with us. There is, I believe, another picture here. The picture is of Jesus standing outside the door of every believer's heart. Jesus is the Lamb whose blood must be applied to that door. Jesus will either be the judge who executes judgment upon us as sinners, or He will be our friend Whom we invite in to share the fellowship meal with. Our faith, or lack of faith, will determine which Jesus will be in our life. It is customary for modern Jews to eat the Passover with their front door open. There are many reasons given for this, but the irony is that while they eat a meal which


prefigured the life and death of their Messiah, they eat with the door open and yet for the most part Jews have closed the door of their heart to Jesus. May it never be said of us as "believers" that we come to God's house, read and preach God's word, sing in God's name, and yet leave God's Son standing on the outside knocking. The Writer asks the rhetorical question, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (Heb. 2:3). By faith we must welcome the Lamb who is our sacrifice to come in. By faith we must have the covering of His blood applied to the doorposts of our heart. And by faith we must perpetuate the Good News from one generation to the next. It was a night of fear, it was a night of hope, and it was a night of faith. Moses faithfully carried out the instructions of the Lord and lead the Israelites to do what was required. The full meaning of the event would not be realized until over a thousand years later the Lamb of God shed His blood as a covering for all who will accept it. He gave His life as a sacrifice for all who call upon His name. Even now, almost two thousand years after Jesus died on the cross, the Church observes a meal, the Lord’s Supper, and it is only when our faith is employed that the true meaning and hope of the meal gains full significance. By faith we look back and receive the grace of God which hung from a cross for our sins. And by faith we look forward to the blessed hope that awaits all believers.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN Verse 29 Moses: Faith Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Heb 11:29 (KJV) 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. Heb 11:29 (NLT) 29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians followed, they were all drowned. INTRODUCTION Leonard Ravenhill once made the statement that, "God doesn't answer prayer. He answers desperate prayer."2 His point was that millions of people pray every day but how many prayers are answered? Prayers thrown up like handfuls of sand seldom reach their mark. It's not that God cannot hear or answer them, the problem is that we are not sincere enough to touch God with them. It is when our backs are against the wall, when every other resource has been exhausted, that we become focused and purposeful in our prayers. The woman with the issue of blood is a great illustration of this (Matt. 9; Mark 5; Luke 8). She had given all her money to the physicians and had only grown worse. After Doug Stringer, "Pray Until Something Happens," Charisma and Christian Life, Vol. 24, Num. 8 (March 1999): 78-80.


her money was gone and all other options depleted, she heard about a man named Jesus. She thought that if she could but touch the hem of His garment she could be healed. In her desperation she managed to force her way through the crowd and touch Jesus' garment. Healing power flowed out of Jesus into her and the channel for this transfer was her faith. Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering" (Mark 5:34, NIV). It is not without significance that this woman had not come to Jesus before spending all her money. She had not come before she had grown worse. It was only after the other options had been expended that she had the determination to get to Jesus and only after her faith in man had been disappointed that she was able to believe for her healing. There are many other examples of people who were desperate enough to get to Jesus and were healed: ♦ The paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof (Mark 2:1-12). ♦ The blind man, Bartimaeus, who cried out (Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43). ♦ The woman of Canaan whose daughter was vexed with a spirit (Matt. 15:22-28). ♦ The lepers who cried out (Luke 17:12-19). ♦ The man whose son was demon possessed (Matt. 17:15-21; Mark 9:17-29). ♦ Martha and Mary at Lazarus' tomb (John 11:1-44). James tells us in his Epistle that various temptations and trials will test our faith (Jas. 1:2-4). But he also promises that the end result of the trying of our faith is that we become mature and committed Christians. Hard times and "divers temptations" work on


our faith and, when our faith proves true, produces that which allows a Christian to remain faithful even when under the crush of life's trials. THE VICISSITUDES In my Christian history classes in seminary I had a professor, Dr. David Franklin, who repeatedly used the word "vicissitudes." That word really bugged me because I didn't know what it meant, but I was too proud to admit it and ask him. For a year I tried looking it up in the dictionary but I could not figure out how to spell it. I finally came to some understanding of the meaning from the context of his lectures and was even able to confirm this by use of the dictionary: vicissitude, n. (esp. pl.) a change in fortunes or in a situation (The New Webster's Dictionary). Simply put, vicissitudes are the ups and downs of life. Israel came out of Egypt with the spoils. They came out marching like a victorious army, only their salvation had come by the hand of God and not from their own efforts. They were marching along singing a song when all of the sudden they saw a great sea stretching out in front of them. The parade came to a screeching halt. "No problem," Moses probably thought, "we'll just turn back and go around." Problem . . . someone noticed dust rising on the horizon behind them. A scout climbed the highest hill and their fears were confirmed, Pharaoh had changed his mind and was leading his armies in the direction of Israel. At this point they were literally between the devil and the deep blue—okay, "Red"—Sea.


This is the way life is sometimes. One minute you're like an acquaintance of mine in seminary who had eaten lunch and was singing in his heart, enjoying life; the next minute as he was backing his car out of the driveway a horrible bone-crunching sound changed his world. He leaped from his car and found his little girl crushed beneath the tires of his own car. She had been on her tricycle and he had not seen her in any of his rear view mirrors as he backed up. After she died he was out of ministry for two years before he was able to stand behind a pulpit again and declare that God is good regardless of what life throws at you. These are the vicissitudes, the up one day down the next, realities of living. It is not that our faith is fragile or that we are tossed to and fro, only that life itself is filled endless possibilities. Real faith, faith that is grounded upon God and upon His Son, can handle both the successes and the sorrows. A mere infatuation with God will wither in the heat of battle leaving us defeated, deflated, and discouraged. It takes faith to stand in the storms, or to stand in the sun, but "having done all to stand," to stand (Eph. 6:13). Jesus used the parable of two men who built their houses on two different foundations: 24 "Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse, because it is built on rock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash" (Matt. 7:24-27, NLT). The point of the story is that the house of each man faced the floods and the winds of the storm but only the house on the rock stood firm. Having faith is not a guarantee


that you will not get laid off with everybody else. Having faith is not a guarantee that you will not get cancer in your lifetime. Having faith is not a guarantee that your children will never stray or even worse, that you will never face the pain of burying your own child. What, then, is the benefit of having faith in Christ? When our faith is in Him, and if we truly believe, then we will obey. When we obey Him He is able to make everything work together for good (Rom. 8:28). This doesn't mean that everything that happens is good, only that God can weave the tapestry of our life together in such a way that every thread finds its place and completes the picture of God's grace. Even Jesus knew what it was like to have the crowd cheering Him and inviting Him to be their king one day, only to hear them crying out "Crucify him!" a few days later. He knows what it's like to for life to take sharp turns and because He knows what it's like, He knows how to bring us through.
REFLECT: Have you ever experienced a startling turn of events in your life? How did you deal with it? Have your crises helped you to become more adept at helping other when they go through similar crises? Was there anyone there to help you when life took that unexpected turn? If so, how did they help?

WHEN IT RAINS ON YOUR PARADE Have you ever wished there were a parade held in your honor? Imagine that there was such a parade, a once in a lifetime parade just for you. The city allowed one day for the event and then . . . on your day . . . it rains so hard that it stops your parade. That's really a bummer isn't?


While attending seminary in Tennessee, my wife, son and I lived in a rented house for the first year before we purchased a mobile home. That summer was the third year of a drought in the area. The grass was brown (which was okay with me because I didn't have to mow very often), it was dry, hot, and dusty all summer—until the day I moved from the house to the mobile home. I borrowed a pick-up truck and was going to have to make several trips. I got the day off from work, arranged for some help and started the move. As I drove that first load to the mobile home I noticed the darkening skies overhead. By the second load it was beginning to rain. Somewhere a farmer was rejoicing in his field. Somewhere a child was playing in the rain. Somewhere some church folks were thanking God for answering their prayers for rain. But me? I was mad. I recall complaining the whole day. "God," I said out loud, "You knew I was moving today! Why couldn't you hold off the rain for one more day?" My possessions (most made of pressed wood) got wet, some were damaged for good, and I managed to lose our wedding album. It was probably in the box that fell off the back of the truck somewhere. Why did it have to rain on my moving day? That next Sunday I lead the congregation in worship (?) singing, rather sarcastically, "Showers of Blessings." Moses and Israel were in a bind. Why hadn't God lead them in another direction? Why did He lead them into a place where they could not run, could not turn around, and could not go forward? Because God wanted them to "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" (Ex. 14:13).


It takes faith to "stand still." Most of us are like Abraham, we start thinking about the problem and we think that maybe God needs our help, so we try to work it out ourselves. Often this isn't always what God wants. God may simply be bringing us to the point that our prayers are desperate. I have to believe that Moses was pretty sincere and probably said something like, "Lord, I told them to stand still and watch you work, so how about letting me know what we need to do." 15 The LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Use your shepherd's staff-- hold it out over the water, and a path will open up before you through the sea. Then all the people of Israel will walk through on dry ground" (Exod. 14:15-16, NLT). It takes faith to go forward when everything you see and hear, taste and touch, tells you that you can't. Moses said, "Stand still, you're about to see God work it out." Then God said, "Tell the people to get moving." Is there a contradiction here? Moses said, "Stop" and God said "Go." It takes faith for both. Stop, listen, wait on God and take a breath; don't panic, don't despair, don't quit . . . stop for a moment and look behind you. Do you remember what God has already brought you through? John Newton wrote the insightful verse in "Amazing Grace”: Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. Look at the pillar of fire between you and the enemy. If it had not been for the Lord on your side the enemy would have already taken your life. But God sets the


boundaries and God tells the enemy how far he can go. God is in control even when we are not. Then God told Moses to do something that doesn't make good sense to the natural man, namely, to stretch out his rod over the water. God's promise was the He would give them dry ground to walk on. I've been to Universal Studios, in California where they filmed The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston. Our tour buggy rolled up to the edge of a small lake (it looks a lot bigger in the movies) and stopped. Then, right on cue, a switch somewhere was pulled and the water opened up in front of us. It formed two walls of water, more like two waterfalls, on either side and a dry path down the middle. We drove right through it! No special effects here. By faith Moses trusted God so he obeyed God. The sea opened up in front of them in two heaps and they marched across. What looked like the end of the line was the beginning of a great journey. As they so often say at sports events, "It ain't over until the gravitationally challenged (politically correct) woman sings." Life may appear to bring you to a dead end, but God is on His throne and it ain't over till He says it's over! Stop long enough to get your bearings, stay still long enough to get your directions from God, and then, as Mary told the servants, "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5, NIV).
REFLECT: How do you handle crises? Do you march straight ahead and deal with them, or do you pause and consider the possibilities? Can you remember a time when you came to standstill in a situation, and then, right before your eyes God worked it out?


If you have, then that is a testimony, you need to share it with others who may have come to a similar standstill in their life.

FAITH SLAMS THE DOOR IN THE ENEMY'S FACE What was Pharaoh thinking? He had seen the plagues, he had lost a son, he had been held back from Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and now the last few Israelites and their animals are climbing up the banks on the other side of the sea. The sea is standing up in a heap on either side and a strip of dry ground down the middle is the only way to get vengeance. What do you do? If you're Pharaoh you throw caution to the wind and you give the order to pursue. By faith the Israelites were given safe escape, and by faith God slammed the door in the enemy's face. What was deliverance for God's people spelled defeat for their enemies. Pharaoh's armies and their animals were drown in the Red Sea. Thankfully we are not like Pharaoh. We don't pursue blindly and end up floundering in a sea of sorrow. We wouldn't think of running the spiritual red lights and, ignoring the danger signs, run headlong into disaster. Or would we? The truth is, if we don't stand still and listen, and if we don't obey God's Word we are likely to find ourselves overwhelmed in a world of hurt made with our own hands. God's promise is that the enemy who pursues us will ultimately be thrust into a lake. Only this isn't a lake you can fish or swim in, this is a "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10). But even now he is defeated. The Apostle Paul saw the Red Sea as symbolic of water baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-2) which itself is an outward sign of an inward work. We are baptized into the body of Christ by the blood of Christ. This same blood is the door that slams in the enemy's face when he tries to destroy us. The blood which provides safe

passage into eternity for the believer, is the very blood which condemns and crushes Satan and all who follow him. Both the pillar of cloud and fire, and the Red Sea, which crushed the Egyptian army, are reminders that when we are walking by faith and when we are following the lead of the Lord, we don't have to live looking back over our shoulder. God has our backs covered. He is watching out for us and we do not have to walk in fear when we are walking in faith. SUMMARY It is a fact of life that "stuff happens" but it is not a fact in the life of the believer that stuff has to determine our character or our attitude. When we are between the devil and the deep blue sea we don't despair we just "look up for (our) redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). Jesus warned us that in the world we would have tribulation, but He also advised us to "be of good cheer" because He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). This is His way of saying that there will be devils and there will be deep blue seas, but don't worry, don't falter, and do not fear, He has already provided a path to walk on. Not only a path but also the light to walk it. His Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). When we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place our faith reaches out and grasps the promise that God is a "way in the wilderness" (Isa. 43:19); He will never lead us to defeat. There is indeed, "Victory In Jesus!"


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Verse 30 Israel: Faith That Sees Walls Fall Heb 11:30 (KJV) 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. Heb 11:30 (NLT) 30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho seven days, and the walls came crashing down. INTRODUCTION It is interesting that one of the greatest men of faith in Scripture is not listed by name in the Hall of Faith. Joshua, Jesus' namesake, is not mentioned by name, however, the reference to the defeat of Jericho was well known and Joshua is inextricably bound to the account. Yet the faith which the Writer lifts up for our consideration is not just that of Joshua, but of the people of Israel who collectively obeyed and believed in the Word of the Lord. Just as Israel displayed corporate faith in the face of a common enemy, the church must learn the power of agreeing and believing together to confront common challenges. Without learning to come together in unity to "agree on earth as touching" (Matt. 18:19) the church will never be able to bring down the strongholds which the enemy tries to build. The Word of the Lord included instruction for the entire army and not just for


Joshua. As great a man as he was, God did not plan to send Joshua alone, God intended for the nation to march together, to believe together, and to experience the joy of victory together. On the Day of Pentecost the followers of Christ were "in one place and one accord" when the Spirit empowered the Church to go forward as the army of the Lord. Let's look at the text from the book of Joshua, chapter 6: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 {The Fall of Jericho--} Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go in or out. But the LORD said to Joshua, "I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its mighty warriors. Your entire army is to march around the city once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram's horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the horns, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the walls of the city will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the city." So Joshua called together the priests and said, "Take up the Ark of the Covenant, and assign seven priests to walk in front of it, each carrying a ram's horn." Then he gave orders to the people: "March around the city, and the armed men will lead the way in front of the Ark of the LORD." After Joshua spoke to the people, the seven priests with the rams' horns started marching in the presence of the LORD, blowing the horns as they marched. And the priests carrying the Ark of the LORD's covenant followed behind them. Armed guards marched both in front of the priests and behind the Ark, with the priests continually blowing the horns. "Do not shout; do not even talk," Joshua commanded. "Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!" So the Ark of the LORD was carried around the city once that day, and then everyone returned to spend the night in the camp. Joshua got up early the next morning, and the priests again carried the Ark of the LORD. The seven priests with the rams' horns marched in front of the Ark of the LORD, blowing their horns. Armed guards marched both in front of the priests with the horns and behind the Ark of the LORD. All this time the priests were sounding their horns. On the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They followed this pattern for six days.

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15 On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the city as they had done before. But this time they went around the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! (NLT). STRONGHOLDS Satan is an artist at creating strongholds in churches or in the lives of believers. These are spiritual fortresses which he builds and borrows into so that he has a foothold in and otherwise victorious life. It is what the Writer of Hebrews calls "every weight, and the sin which doeth so easily beset us" (Heb. 12:1). He is presumably writing to believers and yet he admits that there are sometimes things in our life—which he calls "the sin"—which can "easily beset us." He includes himself in this admission by using the first person plural pronoun, "us." But far from admitting defeat or being willing to allow this stronghold to stand, the Writer says we can "lay aside" these weights and sin. It is only by the faith which he illustrates in chapter 11, but it is possible to be an overcomer. Sometimes Satan builds strongholds in churches. These are strongholds that hinder a church and keep it from crossing over or from marching forward. These strongholds are built out of anything which will keep a church from engaging in the Great Commission's call to evangelism. The stronghold may be fear, lack of leadership, tradition, or any other thing that Satan can use to restrain the church and keep them in the trenches when they should be on the front lines. The fourth century preacher and martyr, John Chrysostom, once said, "You are but a poor soldier of Christ if you think you can overcome without fighting, and suppose you can have the crown without the conflict."


The p3omise of Jesus to believers is that He would build His church and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Strongholds will fall when we follow the Captain into battle and put in place the battle plans that He has given us. The first stronghold in Joshua and Israel's path was a walled city called Jericho. They could not pass it by and let it stand because the enemy would become a constant threat to the flank of Israel's armies. This city had to be destroyed if Israel hoped to advance into the Promised Land. THE WALLS This was a formidable city. Though liberal scholars and secular historians call into question the very existence of a city called Jericho at the time of Joshua's invasion; other4 point to the excavations of Kathleen Kenyon which reveal a city that had enormous walls and was a formidable impediment to invading armies. The w5ll that Kenyon discovered appears to have been destroyed in dramatic fashion, in one fell swoop. She attributes this to an earthquake; however, those who claim Kenyon's Jericho as that of Scripture point to the fallen walls as proof of the miraculous work of God on Israel's behalf. Despite the suppositions of archaeologists, Scripture tells us that there was a city called Jericho that had walls large enough for at least one home (Rahab's) to be built into it. Beyond that we do not know from the text the number of the inhabitants of the city, the circumference or width of the walls. We do know that they were high enough that it took the use of ropes for Joshua's spies to escape from the city.
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These were walls that were formidable enough to keep Israel out and the inhabitants in. At this point in their history it is doubtful that Israel had battering rams to force the gates open, towers to climb the walls, or catapults to lob stones or fire into the city. God had been preparing this generation for battle while they were maturing in the wilderness, yet each of their victories had come from the hand of the Lord and not through any military prowess on their part.
REFLECT: Have you identified strongholds in your life, or in your church? Sometimes the only way these strongholds will come down is when they are identified and the combined faith of the church is employed against them. If you know of a stronghold in your church have you joined with others in prayer and faith to do spiritual battle? Are you making progress? If not, why not?

THE WORD God gave Joshua the marching orders. It wasn't the invention of a new instrument of war that would bring the victory. It was not by the might or strength of man that victory would come. God was going to use this occasion to display His power and His protection of His people. All that His people had to do was believe and obey. Here is a lesson for every church struggling with an inferiority complex, God did not choose Israel because they were great but because they were small (Deut. 7:7). God's strength is revealed most clearly when man is at his weakest. The Apostle Paul declared: 8 9 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor 12:8-10, KJV). God had a Word of instruction for Joshua. God's Word reveals His plan for spiritual victory. He told Joshua to walk around the city one time on each of six consecutive days. On the seventh day they would walk around seven times and after the seventh time the priests would blow a long blast upon the rams horns and when the people heard the blast they would shout and the wall would fall. This didn't make good military sense, but this was first and foremost a spiritual victory for Israel. The Israelites would have to go into the city once the walls fell, but God was the one giving the victory to His people. The plan may not have made sense to the natural man and yet time has shown that God's ways are always the best ways. The writer of Proverb 14:12 warned, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." We already know that the church has been called to "go" and to teach and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. We cannot be afraid and we must not be ashamed because the "gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). REFLECT: There is a special power to be found in corporate faith. Jesus said, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:19, KJV). James said, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Jas.


5:14-15, KJV). Can you recall a time when the combined faith of the church accomplished that which your faith alone was not able to accomplish? THE WALK It is not enough to simply hear the Word of God, or memorize the Word of God, nor yet to talk the Word of God, ultimately the Word must become our walk. Every church that has ever opened the Bible knows that Jesus said, "Go." Yet, not every church is focusing on transforming the Word into their walk. The old preacher used to say, "If you're gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk!" For six days they would have to walk without seeing anything happen. This is what is it means to "walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). Strongholds in our personal lives keep us from walking deeper and farther in our relationship with Christ. From the strongholds in our life the enemy makes forays and attacks our faith with defeatism and doubt. We become so anxious about the enemy’s attack from our flanks that we fail to let our faith lead us forward. Day after hot day they walked, hour after hour, step after step they walked. At the end of the day the walls were still standing, yet when the call came the next day, they got up and walked again. Walking according to the Word may not bring overnight victory, and yet the truth is, as long as we walk by faith we are already walking in victory. When I was a boy we had an elderly man in the congregation who always ended his testimony with the request, "Pray for me to keep on, keeping on." Walking by faith and not by sight can only occur when the believer has first heard the Word of God. Walking without first hearing the Word was what caused Israel's defeat at Ai and it will cause the downfall of believers and churches today.

REFLECT: Does your walk accurately reflect your faith? Do your words and your actions agree? If not, then it may be that you have not moved from head knowledge to heart knowledge. We can mentally affirm tenants of faith, such as the Second Coming of Christ, but when we believe it in our heart, it will change the way we live.

THE WORSHIP There is a close connection between the Word, the walk and worship. They heard the Word which told them to walk, and then just before the victory, they were told to shout. When Balaam observed Israel in the desert, he prophesied, "the shout of a King is among them" (Num. 23:21). In Psalm 47:1 the instructions for worship are, "O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph." We can shout the victory before we have engaged the enemy only if we are walking by faith according to the Word and the will of God. It was not the resonance of the trumpets and voices that brought down the walls. This was not an experiment in physics; it was a demonstration of spiritual power. Just as the praise of Paul and Silas proceeded the shaking of the prison and opening of the doors, the shout of the people becomes the voice of faith. The Psalmist declared "thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" (Ps. 22:3). Israel had to follow the Word of the Lord to very crossing of the "t" and the dotting of the "i." If they had failed to shout as the trumpets sounded the walls would not have fallen. The irony is that they were to shout before the walls fell. The shout of victory preceded the victory. The shout itself, then, was an act of faith.


REFLECT: If it is true that praise is the language of faith what does your current expressions of praise say about your faith? Can you shout with the voice of triumph before the walls fall, or do have to see the fallen walls before your shout comes? If Israel had not shouted first, the walls would not have fallen. Could it be that some of the strongholds in your life will not fall until you start praising God for the victory?

THE WITNESS When the church learns to overcome the strongholds by hearing and obeying the Word, walking the walk, and worshipping with a shout of triumph, walls will fall and all that will remain is the witness of what God has done. After the walls fell, the city had been burned and the victory had been secured, Joshua announced: 26 And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. 27 So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country (Jos. 6:26-27, KJV). This heap of crumbled stone and burned buildings would remain for generations as a witness to what God had done for His people. It was also a witness to the other tribes and inhabitants of Canaan that God's army was on the move. The victory was also a witness to the fact that Joshua had been chosen by God to lead Israel into Canaan.

SUMMARY Faith is not a competition; it is not our endeavor to prove that we have more faith than anyone else does. Each of us in a corporate worship experience must come together


to pray with and for one another. The power of the prayer of agreement should not be minimized but should serve as a constant reminder that we need one another. As the Writer said in Hebrews 10:25, "let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do" (NLT). Some walls will only fall when the church starts marching together in faith and obedience to the will and Word of God.


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Verse 31 Rahab: Deliverance Faith Heb 11:31 (KJV) 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. Heb 11:31 (NLT) 31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute did not die with all the others in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. INTRODUCTION Much of her life she had been known simply as Rahab the Harlot. People in her city knew where she lived and they knew what she did. Her's was not a profession which engendered feelings of self worth or esteem. When rumors were going around the city that several million people were heading in the direction of their city she listened. She heard that the God of these people, Whom they called Yahweh, had parted the Red Sea bringing them out of Egyptian captivity. She heard how their God had subdued their enemies and was promising them victory in the land of her father. Instead of fear, however, hope arose. Perhaps for the first time in a long time her wounded soul found something which could set her free from the hands of humiliation..


The spies found her home, or perhaps she found them. She brought them in and her newly found faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was to be her deliverance from her own past. Her faith in Yahweh would change her life and give her a new start with a new people. Ultimately, her faith in God resulted in a new future. Here in the Hall of Faith, where we do not see names of great men like Joshua or Elijah, we find the name of Rahab. Furthermore, her name appears in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel (1:5) and she is listed, along with Abraham, as an example of faith at work in James' Epistle (2:25). It is astounding to see how respected and renowned she became. Her actions seem so insignificant in comparison to other great men and women of faith, and yet her example is one that speaks to the humblest of men and women whose past is checkered and whose future seems bleak. Faith in God, both what He has done and what He can do, believes that surrender to God and His will is the only answer. Rahab's faith changed her life and was part of the process by which God gave the victory to His people. Many of us, had we been God, would not have found a hero of faith in a little woman who was a practicing prostitute. We would probably have looked a little higher up the social ladder. But God knows that people who are desperate for a change in their situation are most likely to accept His help when it comes. People sinking in the sea of life are quicker to take hold of the hand of God than those who seem safe in the ship of self-satisfaction are. Sometimes it's got to get desperate, it's got to get down and dirty— like the prodigal son in the hog pen—before we start thinking of the Father's house or make up our mind to come to Him.


REFLECT: Have you ever been in a desperate situation? Were you more or less interested in prayer and hearing from God? Have you ever gone on a fast in the middle of a personal crisis? Do you think people tend to pray and fast more when we are in trouble than when times are good? Why?

Let's go back to the book of Joshua and review the story from Joshua chapter 21: 1 {Rahab Protects the Spies--} Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia. He instructed them, "Spy out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho." So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night. But someone told the king of Jericho, "Some Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land." So the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab: "Bring out the men who have come into your house. They are spies sent here to discover the best way to attack us." Rahab, who had hidden the two men, replied, "The men were here earlier, but I didn't know where they were from. They left the city at dusk, as the city gates were about to close, and I don't know where they went. If you hurry, you can probably catch up with them." (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them beneath piles of flax.) So the king's men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossing places of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king's men had left, the city gate was shut. Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them. "I know the LORD has given you this land," she told them. "We are all afraid of you. Everyone is living in terror. For we have heard how the LORD made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the LORD your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families." "We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety," the men agreed. "If you don't betray us, we will keep our promise when the LORD gives us the land."

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15 Then, since Rahab's house was built into the city wall, she let them down by a rope through the window. 16 "Escape to the hill country," she told them. "Hide there for three days until the men who are searching for you have returned; then go on your way." 17 Before they left, the men told her, "We can guarantee your safety 18 only if you leave this scarlet rope hanging from the window. And all your family members-- your father, mother, brothers, and all your relatives-- must be here inside the house. 19 If they go out into the street, they will be killed, and we cannot be held to our oath. But we swear that no one inside this house will be killed-- not a hand will be laid on any of them. 20 If you betray us, however, we are not bound by this oath in any way." 21 "I accept your terms," she replied. And she sent them on their way, leaving the scarlet rope hanging from the window. (NLT) RAHAB’S REFUGE FOR THE SPIES We don't know exactly how the spies came to find their way to Rahab's house, but she took them in and, as the Writer states, "received the spies with peace." Perhaps the spies had heard of her and thought that a house on the wall of the city would provide access to escape should the gates be locked behind them. Or, perhaps we might ascribe Sovereign will to the whole turn of events. God knew Rahab and God knew who would be listed in the lineage of Jesus even before He became flesh and dwelt among us. Rahab not only showed them hospitality, she hid them and she tricked the authorities into looking in the wrong direction. Some have wondered how her lying could be justified, but misinformation in a time of war is not lying, it is a good strategy. Rahab was putting her life on the line for what she believed. If she was wrong she might have been killed. If she was wrong her hope of deliverance would have been in vain. For her, any possibility other than the God of Israel defeating Jericho was not on the table. Everything she did and said reflected her belief in the power of Israel's God over the gods of Canaan.


REFLECT: If people looked at our lives and listened to our words would they see and hear a life that demonstrates an unwavering faith in God? If we are God's ambassadors upon the earth, which we are, then shouldn't we be finding those desperate souls that are ready to believe? How do we do that? Where do we find them? (Chances are that we have to leave the camp and spy out the land).

RAHAB’S REASON TO BELIEVE After sending the authorities on a futile search, Rahab had the opportunity to talk further with the spies. She began with a confession of faith, "'I know the LORD has given you this land,' she told them. 'We are all afraid of you. Everyone is living in terror'" (v. 9, NLT). Her confession began with, "I know," and ended with, "For the LORD your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below" (v. 11, NLT). This is the epitome of faith ("the evidence of things not seen"). She told the men that the whole city had heard what God was doing for Israel and she told them further that the whole city was living in terror because of them. But she was willing to go one step further than the city, she was ready to believe. Rahab was not going to cling to her past so tenaciously that she would forfeit her future. Rahab saw a chance for a change and she saw a chance for deliverance. The city of her infamy was going to be defeated, her past would be buried with it and a new life would begin. To the natural mind there was not one chance in a million that a marauding group of nomads with none of the instruments of war could defeat the walled city of Jericho. Still, Rahab chose to believe in the God of Israel and to stake her life on it. Deliverance


faith is never discouraged with the odds. The child of God knows that when our faith is fixed on Him, we will not lose. After going to the school one warm spring day to pick up my cousin before the police could get there to arrest him, his future looked bleak. He had threatened the teacher with a baseball bat and the police were on the way to remove him from the premises. I suggested that he leave voluntarily with me. At first he resisted, but later he came to his senses and left with me and my mother. He was suspended from school for the rest of the year. The years that followed were filled with trouble and school suspensions until he dropped out of high school to join the Marines. While in the Marines he came to know Christ as his personal Savior, and by the grace of God, years of abuse and hurt were healed as God gave him a brand new future with a wife and three healthy children. Since then he has entered the ministry and worked for several years as a youth pastor. Many people would have written my cousin off as unsalvageable. They would have tossed him on the junk pile of ruined lives and broken hearts. But God can even deliver us from our past and give us a brand new future.
REFLECT: When you came to Christ, was your past buried? This is what it means to be "Born Again." Faith in Christ brings a new life, a new future, and a forgiven past. This is why Paul could say, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14, KJV). If you’ve received the forgiveness of God for your past, have you also forgiven yourself?


Have you known people whom the odds were against them ever getting their life straightened out, and then, by the grace of God they beat the odds? I’m one, perhaps you’re another. The Church that Jesus is building is being built with stones cut rough from the mountain and chiseled to fit at the building site. RAHAB REACHED AN AGREEMENT FOR HER DELIVERANCE Not just us, but our family, our marriage, our children and our children's children, can be affected by the faith we put in God. Rahab was not just concerned about herself, she interceded for her family. Father, mother, brother, sister, and anyone else who was in her house when the walls of the city fell would be saved. She let the spies out of her window on a cord, or a rope. The rope was scarlet red and she was instructed to leave the rope dangling out of her window so that they would remember where she lived. One cannot help but to draw certain symbolic inferences from the scarlet cord. The red blood of Christ running down an old rugged cross became our lifeline. When the blood has been applied, which is to say, when we receive by faith the benefits of the cross, we can be sure that we will be safe in His pavilion when His end-time judgment is poured out. In Rahab's case she interceded for her own safety, as well as for that of her family; in our case it is Jesus, born from her bloodline, by whom we receive intercession. Yet Christ did not bargain to save His life, He gave it to save ours. And because He rose again, and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, He now lives forever to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).


Our lives have been marked and sealed by the scarlet line for deliverance from the Great Tribulation. By faith we live with a "blessed hope . . . the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 13). The walls of the present world order will fall and yet we shall be hid in Christ. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9, KJV).
REFLE CT: When you think of your friends and family do you know some who are in need of salvation? How often do you intercede for them in prayer? When you think of the possibility of the return of Christ, does it fill your heart with fear or joy? If you knew for sure Jesus was coming back today, who would be the first person you would call to warn? How do you think they would respond? Why do you think they would respond in that manner?

RAHAB REMEMBERED God is as good as His promises. When the walls fell everyone in the city was killed except those who had hid in Rahab's house: 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.


22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho (Josh. 6:16-17, 20-25, KJV). God doesn't forget His covenants or His promises. Jesus has promised us that He is coming back for His church so that where He is there we may be also (John 14:3). Before it all comes down, we shall be lifted up: 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17, KJV). One can only imagine how much convincing it took from Rahab to get her family to gather in her home. Perhaps the terror that the city was experiencing was enough to bring them, or perhaps her testimony caused them to believe also. Either way they were saved with her, and she was saved because she believed in the God of Israel even when the rest of the city would not. The Writer says that, "Rahab perished not with them that believed not." The other people of the city perished because they believed not in the God of Israel. They placed their confidence in their wall and they were destroyed along with it. Today the walls behind which men hide from God are walls of financial security, intellectualism, political power, or military might and yet even those walls will fall.


Sometimes they fall in our lifetime but even if not in this life they will finally fall into a rubble of ruin and wasted opportunities to come to Christ in faith. If we hope to be saved from the wrath to come we've got to be in the house, which is to say, "Born Again". We have to be living as children of God in the Father's House. Faith is never determined by a majority vote. The rest of the city did not believe, but she did. The rest of the city perished, but she and her family did not. There are many opinion polls being taken in our time. They ask people questions about abortion, about the president, about God, about anything and everything. But the fact that a majority believes or disbelieves does not change the truth. Our deliverance is not found in the majority vote but in faith in Christ. Sometimes this faith may place us in a position which runs counter to culturally accepted opinions and practices of our day, and yet, if our faith is in the truth of God's Word the truth will make us free while the majority run hand in hand down the broad road to destruction.
REFLECT: Have you ever had to make decisions, based on your faith, which were contrary to popular opinion? How did others react to you? Have you ever had someone come to you later and admit that they agreed but were afraid to go against the popular stand? How do you explain to people, who believe in abortion or homosexuality, that you are morally and biblically opposed? What should your demeanor be in these situations?

SUMMARY Rahab had faith that delivered her both from destruction with the rest of the city and from her own checkered past. Her example stands as a testimony to the power of faith to change the course of our lives and give us the glorious future God has planned for us.

It is not enough just to fear and tremble at the prospect of the coming of Jesus Christ. I know many people who believe that the end of the world is at hand, and yet their only response, like those in the days of Noah, is "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!" The Christian on the other hand can face the end of this world with the joy of knowing that today and tomorrow we live!


CHAPTER NINETEEN Verses 32a-34 Gideon: Faith To Believe the Report of the Lord Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION In the verses preceding our text each of the heroes of faith are given enough space to consider a feat and/or feature of their faith. In verse 32, however, names are belted out with machine-gun like rapidity—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. Furthermore, they are not even listed in the order that they appear in the Old Testament. The Writer has progressed from the time of the Patriarchs to the settlement of Israel in Canaan rather leisurely. Now in one verse he covers the judges, kings, and prophets. He


realizes that he has taken considerable space to write of the testimony of the elders, and now begins to summarize. He indicates that these examples should be enough, but if he had more time he could go on with many other examples of faith and he lists six names to make his point. Following these names the Writer lists, without comment, some of the exploits of faith which typify these heroes. The Writer didn't have the time or space to look more closely at the faith of these men, but we do. Let's take each one in the order they appear and consider the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David and Samuel. Verses 33 and 34 are summaries of what some of these great men accomplished through faith. With the exception of Samuel, my initial reaction to this list of men is that the Writer could have picked better examples. As we examine each we will see that the first five examples are fraught with problems and characteristics which run counter to our modern understanding of faith. THE TIMES OF THE JUDGES After Joshua lead Israel into Canaan and the conquest thereof, Israel entered into an era known as the time of the Judges. It was a time of extreme vacillation on the part of Israel. They would worship God and prosper only to grow morally lax in their prosperity and begin to worship false gods. Yahweh, then, would raise up hostile pagan forces to bring judgment upon Israel to cause Israel to remember the True God and to cry out to Him for help. In response to their cry for help God raised up men (and a woman) who were called "judges." They were heroes of faith and obedience, yet some of these people seem to be unlikely choices to accomplish God’s purposes. It was recognized that


every judge was an instrument of God's hand and that their success came from His touch upon their lives.
REFLECT: If America were Israel, and we were living during the time of the judges, what part of the cycle—prosperity, backsliding, judgment, repentance, revival, or deliverance—do you think we are in? Based upon the former works of God at this point in the cycle, what might be next for America?

GIDEON, THE MAN BEHIND THE BARN Imagine for a moment that your country is under siege from hostile forces. You live in the country and you are a farmer. These hostile forces occasionally raid your county and kill some of your friends, but for the most part they let you live. It is not a case of ethnic cleansing because these hostile forces don't want to kill you farmers off, they want you to plant the fields, tend the fields and harvest the fields. Then just when you should be enjoying the fruit of your labors, they come down from the hills and rob you of your harvest. This goes on year after year. What would you do? Maybe you would try to hide the harvest and keep it out of sight and out of reach of the marauders. How would you feel hiding behind the barn doors shucking your corn? Every little sound sends you running for cover. Would you be angry at the hostile forces for their cruelty? Would you feel like a coward for not standing up to them? Would you be angry with God for letting this happen? If you said yes to these questions, then you have an idea of how Gideon must have felt. Look at Judges chapter 6:



And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour (6:11-12, KJV). We might have looked at Gideon and said, "Hello, you coward!" But the report of the Lord to Gideon is, "Mighty Hero! The Lord is with you" (NLT). We look at people as they are, God sees them for what they can be in His hands. In God's hands Gideon would become more than anyone would have ever imagined, including Gideon. In fact, Gideon himself might have wondered who the Lord was talking to. I doubt Gideon considered himself to be a "mighty man." It must have been humiliating for him, like all Israelites, to have to thresh the wheat in the winepress instead of out on the threshingfloor. At that time wheat could only be properly threshed (the process by which the wheat is separated from the husk, or chaff) in the open on a platform called a "threshingfloor." Here they would pound, or thresh, the wheat against the floor and the grain would fall to the floor while the wind carried away the chaff of the grain. The winepress was an enclosed area where the grapes were crushed for juice. There was no wind and therefore a poor separation of wheat and chaff. This made for bad bread. Gideon was living in fear because he had believed the report of the enemy that Israel was too weak and too cowardly to confront them. But when the angel of the Lord came to talk to Gideon, the angel brought with him the report of the Lord. It would take a while, and it would take some convincing, but eventually Gideon began to believe the report of the Lord and his faith in the Lord's report was what transformed the coward into a mighty man of valor.


The world's report is that the Church is an archaic relic of superstitious and unenlightened minds. The report of the world is that committed Christians are a hindrance to the advancement of society and the New World Order which politicians and liberal social scientists want to put in place. The world's report is that there is no God, no hope beyond the grave, and no salvation outside of our own works. This is the report of the enemy and it can intimidate some folks whose faith is weak and whose commitment is wavering. But given the report of the world or the report of the Lord, I choose to believe God.
REFLECT: If your neighbors and work-mates were to write a report about you, do you think it would be positive or negative? Why? Have ever considered what the report of the Lord is concerning the life you live? We will all give an account before God, are you living up to your God given potential to be a man or woman of faith or are you hiding behind the barn, afraid to take a stand?

GIVING VOICE TO THE REPORT OF THE ENEMY The angel called Gideon a mighty man of valor but Gideon's response was to give voice to the report of the enemy. He said: 13 "Sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn't they say, 'The LORD brought us up out of Egypt'? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites" (Jud. 6:13, NLT). Notice that Gideon did not respond like a man of faith or a man of valor. He almost scoffed at the report of the Lord. Gideon sounds a lot like the skeptics of our own day who ask, "If God is all loving and all powerful, then why is there evil in the world?" Instead of accepting blame for their own actions and for their lack of devotion to God, the


people of Israel were blaming God. This is the report of the enemy, "It's God's fault, and besides, I don't believe in God." God looks beyond our moments of doubt and defeat and sees the potential which resides within us. God is able to take underdogs and make winners. In fact, God seems to delight in this very thing. Gideon didn't sound like a candidate to lead Israel to victory. His profession was totally negative. If our words worked like some kind of magic force and condemned us on the spot, Gideon would have sealed his fate right here. Based on much of the modern teaching of faith Gideon would not make the list of heroes. The Lord persists, "Then the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’" (Jud. 6:14, NLT). God is telling Gideon, "I can use what you've got if you will trust and obey. I am sending you!" Gideon has heard the roar of the lion and he is scared. Gideon's reply reflects the very report which the enemy would have each of us believe: 1 "But Lord . . . how can I rescue Israel?" Translation, "I can do nothing!" 2 "My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh." Translation, "I have nothing!" 3 "I am the least in my entire family!" Translation, "I am nothing!" These three lies have stopped more ministries and have hindered more Christians than any other device which the devil has used to stop the church from marching into his territory to take back what he stole from us. The enemy wants us to believe that in the face of the world's ills we can do nothing. In the classrooms of science and secular scholarship, we have nothing. In comparison to the entertainers and sports heroes of our


day, we are nothing. If we believe this report, then we aren't likely to attempt much or accomplish much for the Lord.
REFLECT: Do you know who you are in Christ? Do the words, "more than a conqueror" mean anything to you? Are you aware of the spiritual resources which God has provided for you to live a successful Christian life? Can you think of three things God can use you to do for Him this week?

GIDEON'S GROWING FAITH As we have already seen from previous examples, faith sometimes has to grow to meet the challenge. Gideon wasn't ready to go straight from the winepress to the war. God would condescend to move in ways which would cause the faith of Gideon to grow. To begin, the Lord promised Gideon, "I will be with you." It wasn't that Gideon was inherently a great man that makes him a hero of faith, it was because God was with him. Likewise, we aren't great men and women of faith because of who we are, but because of Whose we are. When God is with us then "greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4, KJV). Gideon, however, required a sign. He was saying, "Prove it!" Fortunately for Gideon, God is "long-suffering." Gideon made lunch and laid it before the angel of the Lord on a rock. The lunch was consumed with a fire and the angel disappeared from before Gideon's eyes. Naturally, this went a long way toward increasing Gideon's faith, but he still wasn't ready for the battlefield. God began to test Gideon's fledging faith. He said:



"Take the second best bull from your father's herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father's altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. 26 Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hill, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down" (Jud. 6:25-26, NLT). Gideon obeyed and when he was challenged by the town's people Gideon stood his ground. He was a champion in the making.
REFLECT: Has God been building a champion out of you? Have you had some battles which have tested your faith? How did you fare? Are you stronger or weaker as a result of the test? Are you ready for the next level?

After passing this test God took Gideon forward in his walk. Gideon called the men to arms. He sounded the trumpets and mustered an army. But far from a positive confession, Gideon displays doubt. Gideon laid out a fleece before the Lord. First he asked God to confirm His promise by allowing the piece of sheep's wool, which he laid on the threshingfloor, to be wet with dew while the surrounding ground remained dry. When the morning came, Gideon found the wool wet just as he had asked of the Lord. Isn't God patient? Gideon wasn't satisfied. He asked God one more time to prove His promise, so he asked the Lord to leave the fleece dry and let the ground wet with dew. Again, the Lord condescended to honor the request of Gideon. Some have asked whether putting a "fleece" before the Lord, that is, asking God to give us a sign before we act, is valid. The only response we can give is that God did honor Gideon's request. However, this was part of a larger process of building Gideon's faith to the point that he would no longer need a fleece. In the early stages of our faith


God may go to great lengths to get us go from crawling like babes to walking like men. The point of the process is to get us to trust completely and to obey without hesitation.
REFLECT: Do you ask God to prove His promises? Are you deep enough in your relationship with God that you can recognize His voice? If you know it is God's Word, then do you need to put a fleece before Him? How would you describe your faith: is it crawling, stumbling, walking or running?

Gideon was successful at getting thirty thousand men to rally as troops against the Midianites. But God wasn't done building the faith of Gideon. God said, "You've got too many!" Now if that doesn't run contrary to everything we know about warfare, what does. You would think that the more the merrier, and yet God doesn't look at numbers or odds, God is looking for men of courage and heart. God told Gideon, "Tell everyone who is afraid to go on home." Twenty-two thousand men went home. I can imagine that Gideon's fledgling faith was faltering a little bit here. Still, God wasn't done! God said, "You've still go too many!" Give Gideon credit, he didn't argue with God this time. God said, "Take them down to the spring and I will sort them out. Tell them to take a drink. Everyone who dives in headfirst and sucks it straight out of the spring, send them home. The men who cup the water in their hands and lap it like a dog can stay." Three hundred men remained. Gideon followed the directions of the Lord. They took clay pots, horns, and torches to go to war with. Gideon was going through the


motions and yet his faith was still lacking. He was obeying, yet there was a grain of fear which still remained in his heart. God decided to take care of that as well. GIDEON BELIEVES THE REPORT OF THE LORD God told Gideon to go down to the outpost of the enemy's camp and listen to what they were saying. The twist is that Gideon heard the report of the Lord from the lips of the enemy. 11 12 13 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack." So Gideon took Purah and went down to the outposts of the enemy camp. The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore-- too many to count! Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his friend about a dream. The man said, "I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!" His friend said, "Your dream can mean only one thing-- God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over all the armies united with Midian!" When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he thanked God. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, "Get up! For the LORD has given you victory over the Midianites!" (Jud. 7:11-15, NLT).

14 15

Finally, we see a "mighty man of valor." It didn't happen over night. It came with starts and stops and through doubts and fears, but Gideon became the man which God knew he could be. God started with Gideon where he was and brought him step by step to where He wanted him to be. Some folks are almost there. They have seen God move and they believe; yet they are afraid to take the final step of faith in their ministry. They go through the motions of obedience, and they do what they believe God is calling them to do, and yet


that grain of doubt remains digging into the heart of their ministry. If we could hear the enemy talking we would find that he is afraid that we will find out that:

1 2 3

We can do all things through Christ. We have spiritual armor and weaponry to fight the good fight of faith. We are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

This is the report of the Lord and when we let these truths take hold we will march forth in boldness and courage to attack the enemy.
REFLECT: Whose report will you believe? God is patient and God will take you from where you are to where you need to be, but you must submit and follow His lead wherever it takes you. Are you timid and scared? Then perhaps your faith is in your own strength and talents instead of the Lord. God can get you from fear to faith if you will follow in the footsteps of obedience. The songwriter said, "trust and obey, for there's no other way."

SUMMARY Gideon shows us that God can bring us from behind the barn to the forefront of the fight when we let Him perfect our faltering faith. The little victories are part of the process. We simply need to recognize that hand of God at work in our lives. The flat tire on the way home from work may be the means by which God gets us to the next level. It may be a small thing to believe and to receive the help we need, but it is working together for good. Every day is another day in the school of faith. We grow, we go to the next level, we lean more, we trust more, we do more, but we do not graduate until faith ends in sight.


The Apostle Paul gives us this assurance: "And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again" (Phil.1:6, NLT).


CHAPTER TWENTY Verse 32b-34 Barak: Faith to Follow Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 35 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION The Writer of Hebrews lists Barak after Gideon. Again, if I were writing the list of men and women of faith, I would have chosen Deborah over Barak. Her faith appears more mature and determined than that of Barak, and yet there is something to be said of a man during that time that was willing to recognize the positions of judge and prophetess held by Deborah. Even in the twentieth century, on the dawn of the twenty-first, we live in a culture which finds it difficult to follow the leadership of women. Our country, the


United States, for example, has never had a woman president or vice-president. But during a time when women had far fewer rights than they do today Deborah was used of God as a judge, one of the of the deliverers of that era. Perhaps the faith of Barak is in the fact that he was willing to listen to the words of a woman and to realize that she was the mouthpiece of God. He was willing to let the glory of the victory go to another woman and in so doing overcome cultural and social pressures so that the nation as a whole could be blessed with deliverance from the hand of the king of Canaan. 1 {Deborah Becomes Israel's Judge--} After Ehud's death, the Israelites again did what was evil in the LORD's sight. 2 So the LORD handed them over to King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim. 3 Sisera, who had nine hundred iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help. 4 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel. 5 She would hold court under the Palm of Deborah, which stood between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes. 6 One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to him, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: Assemble ten thousand warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure Sisera, commander of Jabin's army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him." 8 Barak told her, "I will go, but only if you go with me!" 9 "Very well," she replied, "I will go with you. But since you have made this choice, you will receive no honor. For the LORD's victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 At Kedesh, Barak called together the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand warriors marched up with him. Deborah also marched with them. 11 Now Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Moses' brother-in-law Hobab, had moved away from the other members of his tribe and pitched his tent by the Oak of Zaanannim, near Kedesh. 12 When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor,


13 he called for all nine hundred of his iron chariots and all of his warriors, and they marched from Harosheth-haggoyim to the Kishon River. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, "Get ready! Today the LORD will give you victory over Sisera, for the LORD is marching ahead of you." So Barak led his ten thousand warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. 15 When Barak attacked, the LORD threw Sisera and all his charioteers and warriors into a panic. Then Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. 16 Barak chased the enemy and their chariots all the way to Haroshethhaggoyim, killing all of Sisera's warriors. Not a single one was left alive. 17 Meanwhile, Sisera ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because Heber's family was on friendly terms with King Jabin of Hazor. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come into my tent, sir. Come in. Don't be afraid." So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 "Please give me some water," he said. "I'm thirsty." So she gave him some milk to drink and covered him again. 20 "Stand at the door of the tent," he told her. "If anybody comes and asks you if there is anyone here, say no." 21 But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died. 22 When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him. She said, "Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for." So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple. 23 So on that day Israel saw God subdue Jabin, the Canaanite king. 24 And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin, until they finally destroyed him. (Jud. 4:1-24, NLT) This story reads like a great dramatic presentation. It has the battle, the ironies, the foes, and the foibles of the heroes. It speaks of triumph and tragedy at the same time. Let's study the text like the drama that it is. SETTING THE STAGE As already noted above, this was a time of religious wavering on the part of the Israelites. They worshipped Yahweh and prospered, in their prosperity they forgot God and worshipped other false gods. Then God withdrew His hand of protection and enemy


forces overran Israel, or at the very least, harassed Israel year after year until they cried out to Yahweh again. God heard them and raised up a deliverer, usually referred to as a "judge." The fourth chapter of Judges begins by telling us that Ehud, the previous judge had died and, predictably, they began to worship the false gods. As a result God allowed Jabin, a Canaanite king of Hazor, to ruthlessly harass Israel for twenty years. Jabin's army was impressive. Lead by Sisera, it had nine hundred iron chariots, the equivalent of having nine hundred A-1 Abram tanks in our day. Israel, on the other hand, did not have chariots of iron, SCENE ONE—THE HEROINE, DEBORAH Israel brought this upon themselves through their sinful behavior and yet when they turned to God and cried out to Him for mercy, He responded by raising up another judge. This judge was a prophetess named Deborah. God found in her someone who could still hear His voice when He spoke. Deborah was apparently recognized and honored as a judge and prophetess because we are told that people came to her for her judgment on various issues. Her courtroom was not a grand building, but a tree, the Palm of Deborah, under which she sat in judgment on various local issues. There are not many women in Scripture who held such a prestigious position, and yet there are enough to demonstrate that God has no qualms about using women in positions of spiritual leadership when the need arises. Women such as Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Jud.4, 5), Huldah (2 Kn. 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Esther (Esth.), the Marys of the New Testament, Lydia (Ac. 16) and Priscilla (Ac 18) all speak volumes


about the truth penned by Paul that with God "there is neither male nor female" but we are "all one in Christ" (Gal. 3:28).
REFLECT: Can you think of some women who were great national leaders? What enabled them to rise to positions of power? Have you known women pastors whose leadership had a profound impact on their denomination or movement? Was there anything about these women which was any different than great men of faith of their time? Are you comfortable following a woman as a leader? Are the prejudices against women in leadership cultural, biblical, or both?

ENTER BARAK God did not call Deborah to become a military leader like Joan of Arch. Instead, God told her to send for a man named Barak, our hero of faith. Barak himself did not hear the voice of God, but he did acknowledge that Deborah heard and spoke for God. So when she called, he came, and when she spoke he listened. I recall my own call to ministry. I was sensing in my spirit the call to pulpit ministry but I only spoke of it to the pastor. He offered me opportunities to speak and to teach. After one such service another minister who was visiting and who knew nothing of my own sense of calling, spoke prophetically that God had indeed called me and would use me for His glory if I was faithful. Unfortunately, I later strayed from Christ and was living in sin when I met the woman who would later be my wife. The first year of our marriage was so rough that we both knew that only God could save it, so we responded to the grace of God and returned to church. Shortly thereafter I again began to feel the call of God to ministry. Ashamed


of my recent failures, however, I questioned whether God would want to use me in ministry. A year later, after much prayer and study, I again told my pastor (the same pastor I had spoken to earlier) that I felt that God was still calling me into pulpit ministry. He was a gracious man who, after a year of working faithfully with him and the church, afforded me another opportunity to stand behind the pulpit. That Sunday morning there was a new couple and their family visiting. I had never met them before and I'm sure they had never even heard of me. Yet, following the morning service the wife stopped me and my wife and said, "I have a word for you from the Lord." To be honest, I am often skeptical when people I've never met and about whom I know nothing, stop me tell me that they have a word from the Lord for me. After all, can't God speak directly to me? The truth was, I was still struggling with going into ministry, still wondering how or why God would use me. I stopped and told her to tell me what it was. She began to speak and her words were almost exactly the same as the minister had spoken to me almost two years earlier. God knew I needed to hear Him confirm through the mouth of another, that which He was already laying on my heart. He had not removed His calling from my life. Like Jonah, the word of the Lord came to me the "second time" (Jon. 3:1). Through Deborah God told Barak to muster an army of ten thousand. He told Barak that if he would go up and engage the army of Jabin with all the chariots and warriors, He would give Barak the victory. If we were looking to Barak for a great response of faith demonstrated by an immediate and determined response to the Word of the Lord, then we are disappointed.


Barak, recognizing that Deborah was God's servant, said he would go, but only if Deborah went with him. This was unheard of. A man asking a woman to go to war with him. But give Barak credit for seeing God at work in this woman of faith. Where is Barak's faith in this? His faith is in the fact that he will obey the command of the Lord and be willing to break with convention and culture and take the woman of God into battle with him. Recognizing the gifts and calling of God in the lives of others is an asset. Being willing to allow others to function in their gifts without being jealous or envious is gracious. And being able to go to war against overwhelming odds is an act of faith.
REFLECT: Are you actively involved in a ministry? If so, when did you know where God was leading you and how was this "calling" confirmed? Has God ever used you to confirm His calling in someone else's life?

There is a catch for Barak. Since he was not willing to go to war without Deborah by his side, the ultimate triumph of killing the commander of the opposing army would go to yet another woman and not to Barak, who was leading Israel's army. Barak did not protest. He seemed content just to be victorious and he did not argue over who got the honor. SCENE THREE—THE BATTLE Barak did as the Lord instructed. He mustered the army of ten thousand and led them to slopes of Mount Tabor. When Sisera heard of this he called up all his troops and all nine hundred chariots of iron. When they came marching from Haroshethhaggoyim into the valley of the Kishon River Deborah, acting as God's mouthpiece, gave


the order to attack, "Get ready! Today the LORD will give you victory over Sisera, for the LORD is marching ahead of you." True to His word, when Barak lead his men down the slopes against Sisera and his army, the Lord put fear and panic in their hearts and they fled instead of fought. One thing that everyone knows about a chariot is that it is a powerful weapon on the attack, the front is armored, but when retreating the enemy becomes an easy target. Barak pursued the enemy and every single one of the warriors was killed except Sisera. SCENE FOUR—JAEL, THE WOMAN WHO NAILED HER PART Sisera leaped from his chariot and fled on foot. We don't know how far he ran, but in his exhaustion Sisera accepted the invitation of a woman whose family was known to be friendly with Jabin. The woman was named Jael, whose name means "wild goat." Sisera was at the point of exhaustion so he accepted her invitation to come in and rest. The scene has all the elements of a great tragedy. She appeared to be giving him comfort. His vulnerability and request for a drink of water seemingly arouse feelings of pity for this desperate man. She gave him milk and covered him with a blanket. Then Sisera fell to sleep. Why Jael decided to kill Sisera is not known. There is even some debate as to whether or not she was a Jew. She was married to a Kenite, which were among the nations given into the hands of the Israelites (Gen. 15:19), her family was on friendly terms with Jabin, and yet she moved with deadly stealth to kill the commander of the armies of Jabin. The scene was gruesome. Sicera slept on the floor of the tent as Jael silently slipped over to where he lay. Then with the only weapon at her disposal she took a tent


peg and a hammer, she put the stake to his temple and with one fatal blow drove the stake through his head and into the ground upon which he slept. It is very likely that Sisera never knew what hit him. The death was virtually instantaneous and painless. After killing all of the enemy’s warriors, Barak had time to look for Sisera. He tracked him to Jael's tent. Jael went out to meet Barak saying, "Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for." Going into her tent Barak found Siscera "dead, with a tent peg through his temple." The prophecy of Deborah had been fulfilled just as she had spoken it. The victory was given to Israel by the hand of the Lord, and the captain of the enemy's army had been killed by a woman. Again, where is Barak's faith in all this? First, in recognizing the hand of God upon the woman of God. Second, in his willingness to let the honor be given to another, even a woman, so long as the victory was won. And third, in his obedience to do what the Lord commanded.
REFLECT: Has your faith ever been challenged by a sermon? Have you ever been called to a task in the church by someone who was not recognized as a "leader" in the church? How did you respond? Do you have an official position in the church? Do you have to have a position to be used to inspire or motivate others in ministry? What can you do or say which would encourage others to continue in ministry when they are discouraged and feel like quitting? Are you willing to do things for the Lord even if others get more of the honor than you do?



In chapter 5 we read Deborah's song. It is said that she and Barak sang it. The song opens with a verse that is not translated very well in the King James Version, which says, "Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves." Almost every other version of this text has some variation of the following as translated in the New King James Version, "When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the LORD!" That is a powerful verse. When leaders lead under the direction of the Lord, and the people recognize that leadership and follow, God can reveal His glory in His people. Barak had the faith to follow the leading of the Lord, and the faith to be a leader of ten thousand. God was glorified, the enemy was terrified, and the people of God realized the victory. We too, as God's people must have the faith to follow the leadership which God establishes in the church. Paul said of God that He has ". . . set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments . . . ." (1 Cor 12:28, KJV). Furthermore we told by the Writer: 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Heb. 13:17, KJV). Sure, it takes faith to follow when we believe we know a better way. It takes faith to submit to those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church. But be very sure of this, God is in control and He takes very seriously the sin of lifting up our hand against God's anointed and appointed men and women. True enough, I believe that every man and woman in ministry is anointed, this is not reserved for the clergy, but by the same token it does not exclude the clergy.


Faithfulness to God is measured, in part, by how we respond to those whom He has given the charge and care of our souls, just as they will answer to how fully they have discharged their duties as undershepherds of the flock of God.


CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Verses 32c-34 Samson: Faith on the Rebound Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 36 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION Now let me ask you, does Samson fit the modern idea of a great man of faith? He was a playboy, boastful, arrogant and loud, yet here he is listed with men like Abraham and Moses. If Moses was a meek man of faith, Samson was at the other end of the spectrum. The idea that we get from this list of names in the hall of faith is that you can be a great man or woman of faith and still not be above failure. The lesson to be learned, however, is that great men and woman of faith never give failure the final word.


Samson's example of faith shows us that while it is possible to fall away, to lose the anointing, a repentant heart can find faith on the rebound and turn the defeats into victory. He shows us that its not the size of the man in the fight, but the supply of the Spirit in the man that matters most when the enemy comes looking for a fight. Furthermore, he shows us that faith in God can break the bands and free our hands to accomplish great things for God. THE SPIRIT'S TAPPING Let's go back and look at the life and faith of the man called Samson. The record of Samson's life and feats is longer than that of any of the other judges encompassing chapters 13 through 16. Chapter 13 of Judges opens like many others, Israel is experiencing God's judgment because of their unfaithfulness to Him. They cry out, God hears, and in His mercy prepares a deliverer: 2 3 4 5 6 7 In those days, a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah's wife and said, "Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will rescue Israel from the Philistines." The woman ran and told her husband, "A man of God appeared to me! He was like one of God's angels, terrifying to look at. I didn't ask where he was from, and he didn't tell me his name. But he told me, 'You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.'” (Judg. 13:2-7, NLT)

The angel of the instructed Manoah's wife that their son would be born into a Nazarite vow. This is a vow that included certain dietary restrictions along with the

requirement that Samson never cut his hair. The parents agree and nine months later their baby boy was born. Though Samson is often depicted in Christian and traditional literature as a big muscular man, Jewish tradition maintains that Samson was, by all accounts, an average sized man of his day. His appearance would not have drawn ooh's and ahh's from an adoring following. The record is clear, Samson was able to do what he did as a direct result of the anointing of God coming upon him. Verses 24 and 25 give us some insight into the early life of Samson: 24 When her son was born, they named him Samson. And the LORD blessed him as he grew up. 25 And in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol, the Spirit of the LORD began to take hold of him. (13:24-25, NLT) As Samson grew, the Lord blessed Him, that is, protected and provided for the boy and his family. This indicates that the Spirit of the Lord was becoming more and more prevalent in the life of Samson. It is not as though he woke up and the Spirit was suddenly there one day, but the Spirit began to tap on Samson's shoulder and make him aware of the Spirit's presence. The words, "began to take hold" are from the Hebrew word pa'am which is from a primitive root word meaning "to tap, or to beat regularly." Like Samson, men and women of faith need to recognize the finger of God tapping on our shoulders.6 It is said of Jesus, Himself, that as a child He ". . . grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40, KJV).
The "Spirit of God" and the "finger of God" are used synonymously by the Gospel writers: "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (Matt 12:28, KJV). Compare, "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you" (Lk. 11:20,KJV)


Every Born Again believer lives with the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter who leads and guides the believer into truth. He is the presence which emboldens the believer to accomplish great things for God. It was not the man Samson who killed the lion and defeated the Philistines, it was the Spirit of God in him.
REFLECT: After you were initially "saved" did you recognize the tapping of the Spirit on your heart? Was His presence a new and exciting experience? What about now? Does the Spirit still tap? Is it stronger or weaker than when you first got saved? Why do you think this is so?

WHEN THE SPIRIT TAKES CONTROL In verse 6 of chapter 14, the writer of Judges tells us that something unique happened in the life of Samson. The Spirit went from being a tapping presence to taking control. Strangely, the Samson was coming back from a visit with his parents to the Philistine city of Timnah. While there he saw a woman for whom he took a liking. His parents were distraught at the thought of their son marrying a Philistine woman as opposed to a Jewish woman. They were trying to dissuade Samson as they made their way home. His parents did not realize that even this apparent rebellion on the part of Samson would fit into the plan of God. God would use this relationship as an occasion to create a conflict between Samson and the Philistines and by the power of the Spirit Samson would kill many of the enemy. As Samson walked by the vineyards of Timnah a loin lunged out after him. At that moment, apparently for the first time in his life, "the Spirit powerfully took control of


him." With the Spirit upon him, Samson was able to something he could never have done without the power of the Spirit. This marks a distinct change in the operation of the Spirit of in Samson's life. This is a fitting analogy to the relationship of the Spirit in the life of a believer. The Spirit is present in the life of every believer, and yet there another dimension, a taking control, by the Spirit. Jesus said "and ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Ac. 1:8).
REFLECT: What do these verses mean to you? John 14:17, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (KJV). Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (KJV). Acts 1:5, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (KJV). Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (KJV).

FAITH COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET The fledgling faith of Samson in this instance is in recognizing the power of the Spirit and then acting upon that power. It takes faith to be baptized into the power of the Holy Spirit and then it takes continued faith to recognize the Spirit's leading. Finally, it takes faith to put the power of the Spirit into action. The Spirit took control of Samson and killed a lion. Later, when confronted by angry Philistines, the Spirit of the Lord again came upon Samson and he killed thirty men.


Unfortunately, Samson was a sucker for a woman's tears. The woman who was betrothed to Samson betrayed his trust and ended up marrying his best man. But God used the occasion to cause Samson to start harassing the Philistines. When Samson found out that his fiancée had been given in marriage to another man he set the fields of the Philistines, along with their vineyards and orchards, on fire. This in turn caused the Philistines to kill the woman and her father and to conspire to kill Samson as well. Samson, who apparently still loved the woman, then turned his fury upon the Philistines themselves and killed many of them. Then he went to live in the cave of the rock Etam. While he was in hiding the Philistines started attacking the town of Lehi in Judah. This obviously bothered the men of Lehi who went to Samson to capture him and turn him over to the Philistines. Samson agreed to go peacefully with the men of Judah on the condition that they would not attempt to kill him. Samson was bound by ropes and delivered to the Philistines, but again this was all in the plan of God. When Samson saw the Philistines coming, verse 14 of chapter 15 tells again that "the Spirit of the Lord powerfully took control of Samson." Samson, under the anointing did that which he could not do in the flesh. He broke the ropes which bound him and with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey Samson killed a thousand Philistines.
REFLECT: Have you ever been in a situation where you felt the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit come upon you and allow you to something which you could not, or would not, have done otherwise? How do you recognize this empowering presence?


After the battle Samson was exhausted and thirsty. He literally felt as though he was about to die of thirst and so he called out to God. God responded by causing water to gush up from a hollow in the ground at Lehi. Chapter 15 ends by telling us that Samson ruled as judge for twenty years and yet it also tells us that the Philistines ruled the land. Apparently the Philistines were willing to declare a truce with Samson rather than risk the death of another thousand men. SAMSON'S DOWNFALL With all the victories which the Lord had given Samson we might have expected him to have been a man of virtue. Instead he frequented prostitutes and fell in love with another Philistine woman, Delilah. The Philistines found a friend in Delilah. They convinced her to betray Samson by getting him to tell her the secret of his strength. Three times Delilah begged Samson to tell her the secret. Three times Samson lied to her. Each time he told her a lie the Philistines followed up by trying to rob him of his strength and capture him. After the first or second time, one would have thought that Samson would have caught on to Delilah's deceit. By the third time we could expected to see Samson toss Delilah out on her ear. But the fourth time she cried and begged for the secret, Samson told her the truth. He had made a vow with God and the symbol of that vow was his uncut hair. If his hair were ever to be cut it would symbolize the severing of that vow. True to form the Philistine sent a man to cut Samson's hair while he slept with his head in Delilah's lap. Then, to test the truth of this secret source of strength and to determine if Samson had finally told the truth Delilah ". . . cried out, 'Samson! The


Philistines have come to capture you!' When he woke up, he thought, 'I will do as before and shake myself free.' But he didn't realize the LORD had left him" (Judg. 16:20, NLT). This is a sad commentary on Samson, the Spirit of the Lord had departed and Samson didn't even recognize it. The life of Samson is a warning to the church that it is possible to fall to sleep with our head in the lap of the enemy and not even realize that while we sleep our strength is being cut away. What is even more tragic is that we could wake up and continue to do what we always done and realize that the anointing of the Spirit is no longer there.
REFLECT: Do you recognize when you are growing spiritually weak? What are the secrets to spiritual strength? How much of what you now do for the Lord could you continue to do even if the Spirit of the Lord departed?

FAITH ON THE REBOUND After capturing Samson the Philistines proceeded to gouge out his eyes and thrust him into prison. They bound him to a mill and used him as a beast of burden to grind their grain. But while he was in prison his hair grew back, and more importantly he rediscovered his faith. 23 {Samson's Final Victory--} The Philistine leaders held a great festival, offering sacrifices and praising their god, Dagon. They said, "Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!" 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, "Our god has delivered our enemy to us! The one who killed so many of us is now in our power!" 25 Half drunk by now, the people demanded, "Bring out Samson so he can perform for us!" So he was brought from the prison and made to stand at the center of the temple, between the two pillars supporting the roof. 26 Samson said to the servant who was leading him by the hand, "Place my hands against the two pillars. I want to rest against them."


27 The temple was completely filled with people. All the Philistine leaders were there, and there were about three thousand on the roof who were watching Samson and making fun of him. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "Sovereign LORD, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes." 29 Then Samson put his hands on the center pillars of the temple and pushed against them with all his might. 30 "Let me die with the Philistines," he prayed. And the temple crashed down on the Philistine leaders and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime. 31 Later his brothers and other relatives went down to get his body. They took him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father, Manoah, was buried. Samson had been Israel's judge for twenty years. (Jud. 16:23-31, NLT) Even after great failures God can use the man or woman who is willing to repent and return. Samson was willing to die for the faith. He pleaded with God for one more change to avenge the Philistines for gouging out his eyes. God heard his prayer and by pushing against the main support beams of the arena into which thousands of Philistines had gathered he brought down the house.
REFLECT: Have you ever failed God and wondered if He could ever use you again to serve Him? What did you do? Have you ever seen other people fall from faith and then seen come back to do a great work for God?

SUMMARY There are many examples of men in Scripture who failed miserably and were later used of God. The list of such men include great men like David, John Mark, and Peter. Sometimes it takes as much or more faith to rebound from failure than it did to succeed in the first place.


Samson's eyes were blind, but by faith he saw a great victory over the enemy of Israel. Before he toppled the house he had already seen through eyes of faith what no one else could see. Sometimes our natural eyes can impede the view through spiritual eyes of faith. We look with our eyes and listen with our ears when we should be hearing the Spirit speaking to our heart, or allowing the Word of God to speak to our heart. Faith in God can enable us to rebound from the deepest depths and allow us to reach the highest peaks of the presence of God, but before we achieve those peaks of power we have to believe that we can ascend the heights while we are yet in the valley.


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO Verses 32d-34 Jephthah: Faith To Rise Above Rejection Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 37 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION Another name which many modern faith teachers would not have included in the Hall of Faith is that of Jephthah. Unfortunately, Jephthah is known more for his rash vow which brought dire circumstances upon his family, than he is for the great obstacles he overcame, and the great victories in battle he saw by faith. Yet Jephthah's example teaches us that despite humble beginnings and social disdain, faith can enable us to rise above and triumph over every obstacle. Jephthah's story, like so many of the heroes of


faith, is the story of the underdog whom God made mighty. Let's go back and look at his story of faith. 1 2 3 4 5 Now Jephthah of was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead's wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. "You will not get any of our father's inheritance," they said, "for you are the son of a prostitute." So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him. At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, the leaders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. They said, 6 "Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!" (Jud. 11:16, NLT)

FAITH RISING ABOVE REJECTION Contrary to what some my believe, faith does not begin with the future, it begins where you are and then looks out at the horizon of opportunities. A man lost in the dark on the flat plains of Kansas may look out and see the lights of several different homes or towns. The possible directions may span 360 degrees and yet whatever his choice may be the journey begins with where he is. Faith is not a denial of the realities in which we find ourselves, but a journey toward the possibilities which God lays before us. Faith stands squarely on the problem and reaches beyond that which we can see and seizes the answer. Jephthah's reality was that he had a lot going against him from the day he was born. He was born to prostitute. During a time when inheritance of land or wealth was paramount to the future success of a child, Jephthah's half brothers seized upon his ignominious beginnings as an opportunity to cut Jephthah out of the inheritance picture. They used force to "chase" him or "drive" him away from his home, his family and his


inheritance. The picture of Jephthah fleeing from his brothers suggests that his very life was in jeopardy if he had not left. Jephthah fled to the land of Tob which was on the frontier of the Land of Promise. He was as far from his family as he could get and yet remain within Hebrew territories. As one might expect Jephthah found other outcasts in the area. Instead of sulking and complaining about the unfairness of the conditions in which he now found himself, Jephthah proceeded to gather the outcasts of the area into a band of warriors who followed his lead. He left his home as a rejected and despised child of a prostitute but he begins immediately to rise above his rejection and become a leader. The text indicates that it didn't take long for Jephthah to find his fame as a leader of a large band of rebels. As providence would have it, a war between the Ammonites and Israel began about this time. Because of their location on the border of Israel, Jephthah and his men were in a strategic location to engage in guerrilla warfare. No doubt they began to gain fame from the fact that they were able to raid enemy villages and camps. Like Robin Hood they became heroes for their daring feats of faith. When the war with the Ammonites began the leaders of Gilead sent an entourage to Tob to find and recruit Jephthah to become their commander. What a turn of events, he went from being a reject to becoming a man regarded as the best hope for Israel in their war with the Ammonites. How did Jephthah go from being a social reject to a sought after leader? The Writer of Hebrews is telling us that it was by faith. Not faith in self, or faith in the system, but faith in God. It takes faith to rise above rejection and turn lemons into lemonade. It runs contrary to our emotions, when we are rejected, to believe that we can and will prevail.


But when our confidence is in the providence of God and the power of God we can believe that He will plead our cause and He will turn our trials into triumphs.
REFLECT: How do you handle rejection? Does it make you bitter and resentful, or have to learned to let it make you better and respectful? How do you pray when you have faced rejection? How do you react to those who have rejected you? Now compare your reaction to that of Christ as the very people He had come to love and save rejected Him. Are you Christ-like in your response to rejection?

FAITH RESISTING REVENGE Can you believe it? Some of the very people who had rejected Jephthah and drove him from his home were now coming with hat in hand begging him to be their commander. What an opportunity to get even. What an opportunity to seek revenge and to get even for the unfair way in which they had treated him. But if there was an urge to seek revenge Jephthah resisted it. 7 But Jephthah said to them, "Aren't you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now when you're in trouble?" 8 "Because we need you," they replied. "If you will lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead." 9 Jephthah said, "If I come with you and if the LORD gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?" 10 "The LORD is our witness," the leaders replied. "We promise to do whatever you say." (Judg 11:7-10, NLT) Jephthah's reply indicates that some of his brothers were now leaders in Gilead, they had risen to positions of prestige and yet they were powerless against the Ammonites. There is also the possibility that the leadership of Gilead at the time Jephthah was driven from his home, were complicit to the actions of his brothers.


Jephthah asks, "Aren't you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father's house?" We can see them looking down, refusing to make eye contact as they shift nervously at the indictment. What brash and unabashed presumption on the part of

these leaders. Jephthah challenges them, "Why do come to me now that you're in trouble?" At least they were honest about their motives. Their reason was extremely selfserving, "Because we need you!" Knowing what their rejection of Jephthah had cost him they quickly added the promise that if he would lead them against the Ammonites they would make him their leader, "ruler over all the peoples of Gilead." The fruit of faith in spite of rejection was about to ripen before his eyes. By continuing to believe and to be bold Jephthah was about to receive the reward. Knowing their propensity for subterfuge and subversive tactics Jephthah asked them to repeat the promise which they did and added to the promise the witness of Yahweh Himself. This was a binding and irrevocable vow before man and God. If Jephthah accepted their offer we would we be promoted to a place of prominence in Gilead, the very people who had driven him away. These are the divine reversals which God gives to men and women whose faith prevails over rejection and which leave the vengeance to God. Faith doesn't engage in petty schemes to get even. Faith doesn't live in anger and hatred. Faith doesn't dream of the day when we can point our finger in the face of our false accusers and say, "I told you so!" No . . . faith finds hope and help in hand of God. Faith prevails not by being petty


and vindictive, but by being noble and forgiving. We are not fighting against flesh and blood but against a spiritual enemy. Faith trusts God to balance the books and to handle the issues of judgment. God alone reserves the right to repay our enemies for the wrongs we have suffered. The Apostle Paul makes this very point to the Christians of Rome: 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. 20 Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you." 21 Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Rom 12:1921, NLT)
REFLECT: Have you ever had the opportunity to get even with someone who really did you dirty? What did you do? Have you ever turned all the hurt and hatred over to God and seen Him handle the situation? Who does a better job at dealing with those who have hurt you, God or you? Is God's primary objective in dealing with someone who has hurt you evening the score or using your love and forgiveness to bring them into the family of God? Have you ever done something that wounded the heart of God? How did He deal with you?

FAITH REACTING RESPONSIBLY Faith is not about rushing out and presuming things about God which are not of God. Faith acts and reacts responsibly to the challenges of life. The response may be daring and may defy reason, but faith always reacts responsibly by listening to the Word of God and accepting the will of God as the way to proceed. Jephthah, even though he as a man of valor and not afraid of the fight, began his command with a reasoned response to the accusation from the King of Ammon that Israel had stolen Ammonite land. Jephthah explained very clearly that, first of all, it was not

the land of the Ammonites but of the Amorites that had been won in battle. Furthermore, Jephthah noted that the God of Israel had given them the victory and so it was God, Himself, who had given Israel the land. And Jephthah gave the king of Ammon this challenge, "You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us" (v. 24). This had been Israel's land for three hundred years and they had no intention of giving it back. The king of Ammon ignored Jephthah's message. As a result, war was inevitable. Like all great men of faith Jephthah's source of strength and charismatic source of leadership was in the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord upon his life. After receiving rejection to the rational response to the overtures of war, Jephthah is empowered by the Spirit to lead the men into war. He mustered an army from the land of Gilead and Manassah and lead them into battle against the Ammonites. One glitch in the account is an overzealous vow made by Jephthah just before he lead the army to war. He said to the Lord, "If you give me the victory over the Ammonites, I will give the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." Unless Jephthah made it a habit to have cattle or flocks in his house, there was nothing which would come out of his house which would have been an acceptable sacrifice. Dogs, cats, rats, mice, and especially people were not permitted to be given as sacrifices. What was he thinking?
REFLECT: Have you ever made a "rash vow"? Have you ever promised something to God which you probably should not have promised? Does faith require us to appease God? Do feel like you have to give something to God before God will answer your


prayers? According to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 2:8) faith itself is a gift from God. If God gives us the faith to believe, then what can give God as an inducement to give us the answers to our prayers?

The only two sacrifices which we now give to God are ourselves as "a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1) and the "sacrifice of praise" (Heb. 13:15). Jesus gave Himself as our sin sacrifice and through Him we have access to the Father. Faith is not based on what we can give, but upon what Jesus has already given for us. When we give ourselves to His service and when we glorify Him by our praise we are not doing so to appease God but we do so because our faith has already claimed the benefits of the Cross. FAITH RECEIVING THE RIGHT RESULTS When our faith is in God we can trust Him to secure the right results. In the church I pastor the mantra which I constantly repeat before the congregation is that everything God does is right and He's always right on time. Jephthah's vow may have been rash and he may have been wrong in making the vow, but God gave the right results. Jephthah went to battle by faith and the victory was won. God can use the faith which we have, imperfect though it may sometimes be, and do great things. If we had to have perfect faith before God would move then how many of the men and women in the Hall of Faith would have achieved anything of notoriety for God: Lying Abraham? Lying Isaac? Deceiving Jacob? Questioning Gideon? Often we are like the desperate father and the best we can offer is, "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief!" Imperfect though our faith may sometimes be, the power of faith is in the fact that it is focused on the power and wisdom of Him who is perfect. Sometimes we don't even


know how to pray so the Holy Spirit takes our groans and turns them into prayers which He will answer (Rom. 8:34). SUMMARY When Jephthah returned home the first thing to walk out of his front door was his daughter. She was coming out to celebrate her father's victory. She was Jephthah's only child and when he saw her he began to grieve. Scholarship is split on whether he actually offered her as a human sacrifice to the Lord and in so doing blatantly broke the Law of Moses which prohibited such a sacrifice, or whether he committed her to the Lord's service and, as such, to a pledge of perpetual virginity. The argument for both views can be convincingly made from the language of the text. For my part I will not enter the debate but leave it for other's to consider. The point of the Writer is that Jephthah is an example of faith. He rose from rejection to a position of prominence "by faith." The lesson for all believers is that it is not we where we start from which will determine our destination, but the faith by which we walk. By faith God can take us from anywhere and take us somewhere. By faith God can take nobody's and make somebody's.


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Verse 32e-34 David: Faith To Prevail Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 38 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION Like Abraham and Moses, David is one of the central figures both of Jewish history, but of New Testament Messianic promises. Just as the promise of Deuteronomy 18:18 was that God would "raise up a prophet like you [Moses] from among their fellow Israelites" (NLT); and the promise to Abraham was that in his "seed" (meaning Jesus according to Paul, Gal. 3:16), "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 22:18), David too received a Messianic promise. The promise and covenant that God made with David is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-14:

12 When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. . . . (KJV). Jesus is the fulfillment of each of the three promises above. In fact, Jesus is referred to as "the son of David," several times in the New Testament. So the faith of David, like that of Abraham, was a faith that looked forward to the Messiah. So much so that many of the Psalms attributed to David are Messianic Psalms. WHEN FAITH PREVAILS Unlike some of the other heroes of faith whose faith was found weak and grew strong, David was filled with faith from his youth. How do we know this? David's own testimony to Saul when he was trying to convince Saul to let him fight Goliath. He said: 37 “The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!" Saul finally consented. "All right, go ahead," he said. "And may the LORD be with you!" (1 Sam 17:37, NLT) In fact, David had come to the military encampment to bring cheese and crackers to his brothers because David, himself, was not yet old enough to be in the army. This means that at the time of his triumph over Goliath, David was just a teenager. Yet by this time David has already had his faith formed and confirmed in pastures watching his father's sheep. David gives the credit for his deliverance from the claws of the lion and bear to God. It was faith at work at an early age which had resulted in a mature confidence in God. The older man, King Saul, did not have the faith of the young


shepherd boy. The combined army of Israel did not have the faith which this one boy, without shield or sword, had in the Lord. I've heard one testimony after another of men and women who had their young children pray for them and they were healed. Faith can be fostered early in the lives of our children when we make them aware of the things which God has done and is doing for us. Who knows but what the faith of a child may be the very faith which sparks a revival in our home or in our church. Jesus said, ". . . unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3, NLT).
REFLECT: How old were you when you first gave your heart to Christ? Has your faith grown stronger or weaker since then? How can you help your children, or children of the church, develop the kind of faith David had? Are there any youth in your local church who have David-like faith? Have you encouraged him or her lately?

David's testimony convinced Saul to allow him to go out with nothing but a slingshot against a giant. That was some testimony! We ought to be encouraging our youth to testify, it might surprise and inspire us older folks. David, however, did not view himself as naked before Goliath, he saw himself as clothed in the presence of God. He told Goliath: 45 "You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty-- the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!


47 And everyone will know that the LORD does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The LORD will give you to us!" (1 Sam 17:45-47, NLT) That is an awesome statement of faith. David was seeing things which were not, as though they were. David came wrapped in the name of the Lord and declared that Goliath wasn't just taking on Israel, or a young boy, but he was taking on the very God to whom they belonged. When the victory was won, the whole world would know that "there is a God in Israel." In one of the early Psalms attributed to David, Psalm 23, he wrote, "He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (v. 3). When God gives a promise, He is putting His reputation as God on the line. The function of our faith, then, is to trust God and walk in His promises. David, through faith, killed Goliath and his name was celebrated in the streets of Israel. In fact, he was being given more press than Saul who allowed jealousy to rise up and torment him for the rest of his reign on the throne. David, for over seven years would live with a death warrant hanging over his head. Yet even during the day when we lived on the run from Saul, David matured in his faith and grew into manhood. WHEN FAITH FAILS Like so many of the members of the Hall of Faith, David had his failures too. As is too often the case, success can become intoxicating. David had lived on the run for most of his young adult life and now as he approached middle age he was going to enjoy the fruit of his fortunes. The story begins in verse 1 of Second Samuel chapter 11. The writer notes that was it during the time of the year when the kings go to war to encourage


and to fight along side their men. But instead of going to the front, David sent someone else, Joab. The faith of others along with our own can result in great miracles in our lives. And it is even shown from Scripture that the faith of others on our behalf can bring about miracles in our life. But there will always be those times and places when we cannot depend upon the faith of others, it will be our faith and our faith alone which will be tested in the fiery trials and we will stand or fall by what we believe. David sent someone else to do his job and as a result, David was conquered by lust. David was lounging on the terrace of his palace, looking out over the kingdom below him when he spotted a beautiful woman bathing upon the terrace of her own home below. Why she would bath in such a conspicuous manner we do not know. Perhaps she thought that no one could see her. Or perhaps she knew someone would. (There is never any hint in the record that David forced himself upon her.) David's faith failed. By this I do not mean that God failed, but that David had failed to faithfully fulfill his obligation as king, he failed to remain faithful to his family, and he failed to remain faithful in his walk before God. Instead of having faith to overcome the lust in his own heart, he failed to turned away and instead sent for Bathsheba. The story is sad and tragic. Bathsheba became pregnant by David while her husband, Uriah (a Hittite fighting for David in the Israelite army), was at war. David tried to conceal the pregnancy by calling Uriah back from war hoping that he would go to Bathsheba. But Uriah proved to be more honorable even than David and as a result, David had Uriah sent to the front lines knowing that it would cost him his life. In essence, then, David had Uriah killed.


REFLECT: We know that God never fails but have you ever failed to believe? Have you fallen to sin because you did not remain faithful? If so, what did you learn about yourself and about your faith as a result? Have you ever known someone whom you greatly respected who forsook their faith to follow sinful desires? How did it make you feel? Did you say anything to them? If so, how did they respond?

FAITH THAT TRAVAILS David thought he had gotten away with murder. The dirty deed was done and he was convinced that no one was any the wiser. David's heart was far from God at this time, however, God was intimately aware of what David had done. God sent his prophet Nathan to confront David. Nathan told a story of a man who had a lamb, a pet which was like a child. A rich man had some guests over and wanted some mutton so he took the poor man's lamb and served it to his guests. The story is gripping and compelling and it produced the intended result, it brought David face to face with his own failure. Upon hearing the story, David demanded to know who the man was, pronouncing judgment upon him. Nathan (a character study in faith himself) looked David in the eye and boldly declared, "Thou art the man!" (2 Sam. 12:7, KJV). If we pause here for a moment and compare the sin of Saul with that of David we might wonder why Saul suffered such a terrible fate while David was allow to continue as king. Saul had failed to faithfully fulfill the word of the Lord concerning the disposition of the animals and all the people of city which his army had destroyed. God told him, through Samuel, to destroy every living creature. Saul saved the best of the


sheep and cattle, and the king, Agag, alive (1 Sam. 15:8-9). When confronted by Samuel with his failure to fully obey the Lord, Saul began to make excuses. This is the difference between Saul and David. David confessed and repented while Saul made excuses. It is not the size of the sin which will land a man in hell, but the failure to face his sins, confess his sins and make and about-face from his sins. Was David's sin worse than Saul's? I'm sure that Uriah would have said it was. Yet, Saul ends up as a tragic figure while David goes down in the annals of history as a man of faith, a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:13, Ac. 13:22, KJV). David, by being confronted with his own failure, was slapped by the hand of God back into reality. David acknowledged his sin and repented before the Lord. It is believed that Psalm 51 is the written prayer of David following his conversation with Nathan. The King James Version is a beautiful rendition of this prayer: 1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.


12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. 16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (KJV) This is a prayer that travails before God. It is a prayer which pours out the hurt and the disappointment of having sinned against the one whom David loved the most, God. It is a prayer of faith for it believes that even after having fallen so far, God's love and His hand could still reach him and pick him back up. I remember the mid to late eighties when it seemed one tele-evangelist after another was falling. Recently I was at a large pastor's conference and one of those evangelists (who ultimately did some time in prison) was there. It was very evident that this man had confessed and repented. To be honest I had never cared much for his flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle before his moral failures were revealed to the world; but seeing him and hearing him after the fall, I have come to respect him more than ever. He sincerity and humility drape him in a dignity that his expensive suites could not. He has renounced his “hyper-faith" teachings and now has a balanced and biblical look at prosperity and faith. He may have fallen, but real faith reached up and found the Father ready to dust him off and reclaim a life which the world had written off.
REFLECT: Sometimes Christians fail. We don't have to, in fact, the Bible teaches that we can and should live above sin. Yet the fact is that Christians do sometimes fail. How does the Bible tell us to treat a brother or sister who is "overcome in a fault" (Gal. 6:1)?


If you have ever failed God miserably as a Christian, was it difficult for you to come back to the throne of grace and obtain mercy? Why or why not?

SUMMARY The study of David's life gives a complete picture of the spectrum of faith. From youthful strength and vigor, to a middle-aged crisis, to restoration, to family crises and rebellious children, David's example reveals that faith does not exempt us from problems, but it always provides a way of escape. Being a man of faith, even being a man after God's own heart, does not require perfection, but it does require humility and honesty before the Lord who searches the heart of man. The Writer tells us that we are all naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (4:13). There is nothing hidden from God's eyes and so even when we fail, our faith must travail until again the power of the nail prints in His hands wipe away every sin and stain.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Verses 32f-34 Samuel: Faith To Hear and Fear Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 39 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION Samuel is a study, "par excellence", in faith and faithfulness. Most of the heroes of faith are listed along with their failures; Joseph is one exception and Samuel another. He is bold, consistent and consecrated to God. He anoints kings and pronounces judgments. He has a faith which hears God speak and fears God enough to obey Him when He does.


In many ways Samuel's birth is prototypical of John the Baptist. John's parents had been barren until God miraculously provided the child. John was anointed from youth to be a prophet. He denounced the corruption within the established religious community. He prepared the way for the Son of David to increase while he decreased. And finally, John baptized Jesus, an event which was immediately followed by the Holy Spirit anointing Jesus for the initiation of His public ministry. Let's go back, now and look at how Samuel's life and faith prefigures that of John and provides fitting culmination of the list of names in the Hall of Faith. FAITH TO HEAR Hannah was barren and she was tired of it. Her husband, Elkanah, had children with his other wife, Penninah, and she let Hannah know it. Although Elkanah showered Hannah with love and affection she felt inferior to, and mocked by, Penninah. So Hannah did what any woman of faith would do, she took it to the Lord in prayer. She began by vowing that if God would grant her a son, she would in turn, give that son back to God by dedicating him to service in the tabernacle. Then she went to the tabernacle where she prayed in her heart. There is a lot being said about speaking things into existence and the power of words, but Hannah's request was not spoken aloud. She mouthed the words of her prayers with such passion that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. When she told him that she was grieving and pouring out her soul before the Lord, Eli replied, "In that case, cheer up! May the God of Israel grant you the request you have asked of Him" (1 Sam. 1:17, NLT). She never told Eli that she had been praying for a child.


Shortly thereafter Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son whom she named, Samuel, which means, "heard of God." Interestingly, Samuel would become a man who heard God and whom God heard. When he was old enough to commit to tabernacle service Hannah kept her vow and turned him over to the care of Eli. Eli, however, was not a model father. His own sons, Hophni and Phinehas, committed gross sins within the tabernacle itself and he did not take decisive action to end it. Instead, Eli lectured them a little and warned them, but the law dictated that these sons be severely punished. They got drunk and had sexual liaisons with women just behind the tent flaps of the sacred meeting place. God finally sent a prophet who pronounced judgment upon the two sons (1 Sam. 2:18-36). In the midst of this turmoil there was a young boy who was growing in stature and in faith before the Lord. Because of the failures of the priesthood and the general sinful state of Israel at this time, prophetic messages from God were very rare. There was a famine of the hearing of the Word of the Lord. Yet in the midst of this famine God found a young man of faith. God found a pure heart and sincere soul through whom He could work and reveal His will to the people. Against this backdrop, then, it is understandable that while Samuel had the faith to hear what others were not hearing, he did not recognize who was speaking. The Lord spoke his name, "Samuel, Samuel!" Naturally, Samuel thought it was Eli calling him and he immediately when to see what it was that Eli wanted. But Eli had not called Samuel. The same thing happened a second time and then a third. By the third time Eli realized that it must be the Lord calling the young apprentice. He wisely instructed Samuel to


reply, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." This Samuel did and God told him that judgment upon Eli and his family was immanent (1 Sam. 3:1-14). I've never heard an audible word from God, and I certainly would not put myself on the same platform with Samuel, but I recall an experience from my youth which I have never forgotten. My mother brought me up in church—my father never attended church or professed faith in God. She took the lead and saw to it that we prayed and were instructed in Scripture. One night I lay sleeping in the back bedroom of our little house in West Virginia when I was awaken by a vivid dream of Jesus. I opened my eyes with my heart pounding and saw an image which I recognized to be Christ. With Him was a small child. At first I thought I must have still been dreaming so I literally pinched myself, and sure enough, I was awake. I looked again and the image was still there, like a holographic image standing beside my bed. At first I started to become frightened, much like the disciples who saw Him coming toward them walking on the water, but when I considered that it was Jesus my heart calmed. Peace came over me as the image remained. All this took only seconds. Then in my curiosity I reached out my hand to touch them (Jesus and the child). When I did my hand passed through them both and gradually the images dissolved with the face of Jesus being the last thing to disappear. To this day I am not sure what the significance of the child in the vision was. My mother had a baby who died before I was born. Perhaps Jesus was bringing him so see me. Sounds fantastic, I know, but it happened. I cannot forget that vision and I will never doubt the presence of Jesus with me, even when I cannot see Him except through eyes of faith.


REFLECT: Have you or someone you know ever heard the Lord speak in an audible voice? How does hearing a voice, or seeing a vision affect our faith? What did the Lord mean when He told Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe anyway" (Jn. 20:29)? How does the definition of faith given by the Writer of Hebrews complement the words of Jesus?

FAITH TO FEAR Samuel slept in late that morning, no doubt avoiding Eli. This was not a pleasant message to deliver. But Eli insisted that Samuel tell him what the Lord said. Samuel feared the Lord more than man, and even though it was not a popular message to speak, Samuel told the truth. I pastored a military church in Kansas where our congregation was very diverse and there was an African-American brother who sat near the front of the congregation where he would encourage me while I preached. He would point his finger at me and shout out, "Tell the truth, Mark, tell the truth." That's what preaching we are called to do isn't it? It's not a political speech to gain popularity or votes. It's not entertainment or an exercise in intellectual prowess. Preaching, in its most basic form, is nothing more than telling the truth in love. It takes faith in God. Faith, first to know that you have heard from God, and faith, second, to have the courage to speak for God. Sometimes the message of the man of God cuts like a sword. It is an awesome responsibility for a preacher to be given a Word of correction to deliver. If he has a heart for the flock the man of God will go to the pulpit with a heavy heart. The man or woman who delights in using the pulpit for a whipping post is hireling. It is a true prophet, like Jeremiah or Habakkuk, whose heart grieves while he or she bring the chastising Word of


the Lord to the children of God. To this day I will sit down and cry with my children after I have corrected them. Samuel took no delight in what he had been called upon to say, yet he spoke the Word. This was a small beginning, a test perhaps, to see if Samuel would be faithful. He was. Eli received the Word resolutely. His response was, "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth good to him" (1 Sam. 3:18, KJV).
REFLECT: Have you ever had to tell someone the truth even though you knew it was going to hurt them? Did you pray about it first? What did you pray for? The Apostle Paul tells us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Can you love someone and not tell them the truth when they need to hear it?

FAITHFUL THROUGH THE YEARS Samuel continued to grow as a prophet. The Word says: 19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. 21 The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (1 Sam 3:19-21, NIV) As the years passed Samuel became the transitional figure in the history of Israel. He was the last of the judges and he was the first to anoint a king over Israel. Ironically, Samuel, like Eli before him, had two sons, Joel and Abijah, whom he appointed as judges in Israel. Like Hophni and Phinehas, Samuel's son were corrupt. "They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice" (1 Sam. 8:3, NIV).


As a result of the behavior of Samuel's sons the people decided it was time for a king. It must have been something of an affront to Samuel when the people made the request. Samuel had faithfully declared the Word of the Lord for many years and yet Israel looked at other nations around them and desired to be like them, they wanted a king. Samuel told them that this was not what God had intended for them, but He would grant it. Samuel listened to the Lord and anointed Saul to be king (1 Sam. 10:1). Saul was a tall man and, based primarily upon his appearance, was a popular choice among the people. Saul won the people's choice award and he began with a very humble spirit. When the day of his coronation arrived, he couldn't be found because he had hidden among the baggage. But as history has repeatedly shown, power tends to intoxicate and with the wine of self-indulgence and to grow gardens of pride in the hearts of men. It was a sad day for Samuel when he would again have to deliver a message of correction. Saul had disobeyed the Word of the Lord concerning the disposition of the animals after their battle with the Philistines: 13 "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." (1 Sam 13:13-14, NIV) As a result of Saul's sin and his excuses the Lord declared that Saul's kingdom would not be allowed to pass into the hands of his sons. Instead, the kingdom would be established through another household. But Saul wasn't through with his presumptuous sins and self-excusing folly. A second time God sent Saul to battle with specific


instructions. Saul and his army was to attack Amelekites and to utterly destroy every living thing in the city, every human and every animal. Samuel was very clear and concise in his instructions. Saul simply could not take God at His Word; he always seemed compelled to try to push the boundaries and to make compromises. Saul kept the best of the sheep and cattle and allowed king Agag to live. This time the Lord went a step farther, He had already removed the kingdom from Saul's lineage, this time the Lord removed His Spirit from Saul from being king over Israel (1 Sam. 15).
REFLECT: I've always believed that anytime we are tempted to sin there are two things present, an excuse and an escape. God provides the escape and Satan provides the excuse. The choice as to which we will take is ours. Have you ever found yourself making excuses for your failures? If so, what did it take to get you to acknowledge your sin and seek repentance?

The Lord sent Samuel to anoint yet another king over Israel. This was not the people's choice, this was God choice. The people wanted a man with a commanding presence and impressive stature, but God wanted a man with a humble and obedient heart. God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse. The process by which David was chosen is a wonderful story. Apparently David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, was not even invited to the party. He was content to stay in the fields with his father's flocks. As Samuel, now and old man, sat with Jesse prepared to anoint a new king, Jesse made the most obvious decision to send his oldest and probably the largest son, Eliab, out first. Samuel took a look and thought, "Surely this is


the Lord's anointed" (1 Sam. 16:7, NLT). But the Lord said to Samuel, "Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions" (1 Sam 16:7, NLT). One after another the sons passed by until all those who were present had gone by. But each time the Lord said, "Neither hath the Lord chosen this" (KJV). Samuel had to trust the Lord to make the right decision. Who would he choose? Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more sons, Jesse said, "Just the youngest, he's out with the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him." When the young teenager approached Samuel, the old man of God heard what others would not have heard, God said, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1 Sam. 16:12, KJV). It takes faith to go against everything your eyes the people around you are telling you. The appearance of the older brothers and their presentation by their father suggested that one of these sons was the one to be anointed, but God choose the least likely candidate. God loves taking nobodies and making somebodies.
REFLECT: Have you ever gone against popular opinion to stand up for what you believed was God's will? How did people respond? Did God vindicate> your faith in Him? How?

SUMMARY If there is one blemish on Samuel's record, it would be his sons. After seeing the results of Eli's failures as a father one would have thought that Samuel would not have made the same mistake. Perhaps his sons simply took advantage of their father's age and


did these things behind his back. But the people knew of the sins of the sons. Also, it is true that the children of even the best of parents can make bad choices and follow a path which leads them far from the footsteps of their father. From childhood to senior adulthood, Samuel was a man who had faith to hear what others could not hear, and he had faith to fear God and therefore was not afraid of man. Saul could have had Samuel killed for anointing another king, but Samuel put his life on the line and followed the will of God.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE Verses 32g-34 The Prophets: Faith To Prevail Heb. 11:32-34 (KJV) 32 And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb. 11:32-34 (NLT) 32 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 40 Quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. INTRODUCTION In his summary of other men and women of faith the Writer simply lumps a significant group into one word, “prophets.” When considering the report of the elders as examples of faith the prophets stand as awesome studies in faith. By prophets, the Writer probably has in mind those prophets whose written works are included in the cannon of Jewish Scripture. He has begun with elders from the Books of Moses, then from Joshua, Judges, the historical books, and logically, the books of the prophets follow. Some of the acts of faith that he lists in verses 33 and 34, lead the reader to recall specific acts of some

of the prophets. Shutting the mouths of lions, quenching the flames of fire, and escaping the death by the edge of the sword recalls some of the acts of the prophets. As the Writer says, “time would fail” to tell of the exploits of all the prophets so let’s abbreviate our study by looking at the faith of the “major” prophets, namely, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Each one had a ministry which was birthed in faith and nurtured in obedience.

ISAIAH’S FAITH TO GO FOR GOD Isaiah was a prophet who had access to the king’s court. He had been a friend to King Uzziah and was experiencing a time of grief and loss when, as he was praying in the temple, Isaiah had a profound and life-changing vision of God. Isaiah gives the account of his call in chapter 6: 1 In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. 3 In a great chorus they sang, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” 4 The glorious singing shook the shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew over to the altar, and he picked up a burning coal with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” 8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?” And I said, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.” (NLT) During a time of national political and moral crises Isaiah was in the Temple praying, seeking personal peace and consolation from the Lord. Uzziah had been, by most accounts, a good and a moral king in Judah. Who would take his place? Would


Judah return to the Lord with all her heart or continue to compromise and placate foreign powers? With these questions on his heart he looked up to see an awe-inspiring vision. The vision is filled with sites and sounds that elicit a response from Isaiah which reflects his faith in the face of uncertainty. With the throne of Judah empty Isaiah came to the house of the Lord where he saw the Lord sitting on a lofty throne. The robe of the Lord filled the Temple and the angelic beings, identified as seraphim, flew around throne Lord singing a chorus of praise and honor to the Lord. The vision could do nothing else but remind Isaiah who is really in control and whose sovereign power never diminishes, not even when good leaders die. Isaiah responded, as we would expect him to respond in the face of such a vision, he cried out in confession and repentance, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!” This confession reflects the humility and reverence of Isaiah before the Lord. These two qualities are marked many of the great men and women of faith. Then the Lord, Himself, spoke. He asks to the host of heaven, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?” This is a rather impressive question? Yet it is a question which is repeated each time we are in a position to faithfully declare the message of hope. Each time we have the opportunity to proclaim the Good News the question hangs in the air above us like a neon sign piercing through the fog, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people?” The question at that moment is, “Will you tell the Good News? Will you be my witness?” Isaiah’s lips had been symbolically and spiritually cleansed, his sin was purged and he was thus prepared to faithfully speak the Word of the Lord. Accepting and acknowledging this purging Isaiah stands ready to be God’s spokesman. Isaiah’s


response is one of faith, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me.” The nation is in crisis, the message was one of judgment, the people would not believe and the ministry of Isaiah would not soften the hearts of the people, but “harden” their hearts. Isaiah was faithful in his calling and was not a popular man in his own time. Telling people that judgment is coming because of their sins is not going to get you many kudos from congregation. In chapter 37 verses 37 and 38 Isaiah mentions the death of the Assyrian king, Sennacharib and so Isaiah must have lived to see the death of Hezekiah. Some scholars believe that the reference in Hebrews 11:37, “sawn in two,” is a reference to Isaiah’s death which tradition has it, was during the reign of Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, who is said to have killed Isaiah in a brutal manner.
REFLECT: How does Isaiah’s example speak to Christians today? Are there still prophets today? Are they an elite group or are all Christians called to proclaim the gospel? Has God ever had to remove something from your life before you could see Him for who He is? If you had been standing in Isaiah’s shoes how do you think you would have responded to the Lord’s question, “Who will go for me?” Is that how you generally respond when you have witnessing opportunities?

JEREMIAH’S FAITH TO SPEAK FOR GOD Like Isaiah, Jeremiah had a clear and distinct call into prophetic ministry. Unlike Isaiah, Jeremiah didn’t volunteer without some convincing from the Lord: 4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (KJV)


God told Jeremiah that He had preordained Jeremiah to be His prophet. This isn’t an invitation it is a notification. It is as though Jeremiah is getting his draft notice: “Congratulations! You’ve been chosen go to a hostile people and give them bad news.” Jeremiah’s response indicates a lack of confidence in himself and in his ability to speak for God. Jeremiah was probably a young man, perhaps even just a teenager, and yet God gave him a call that would require faith and faithfulness to fulfill. The message was doom and gloom for the people of Judah. Other prophets were declaring good news and claiming that Judah had nothing to fear and in the face of these mature, if misguided, men, the young man Jeremiah would have to stand and speak truth. Jeremiah was roundly rejected and when the scroll upon which the scribe Baruch had written Jeremiah’s prophecies was presented to King Zedekiah, Zedekiah was blatantly hostile. He took the scroll and cut it column by column throwing each piece into the fire as if to mock Jeremiah. Other times, however, Zedekiah sought the advice and counsel of Jeremiah. Jeremiah took no pleasure in the task God had given him. In several places Jeremiah refers to his own tears as he weeps for his people. What an awesome burden to see the judgment of God which was coming and yet, aside from pronouncing that judgment, being powerless to stop a stiff-necked people who run blindly toward their own destruction. Jeremiah was a man of faith, and because he was a man of faith, he was commanded not to marry of have children so that he could concentrate on the message he was to deliver. Furthermore, he had few friends and was often treated with hostility by the very people he endeavored to move to hear and repent at the Word of the Lord. Instead, the people for whom he wept branded him as a traitor. He was imprisoned and


lived under the threat of death for much of his ministry. Yet, Jeremiah pressed on and proclaimed the word that the Lord placed on his heart and lips. He admitted that he tried to hold this Word in, that is, to keep it to himself, but the Word of the Lord was “like a burning fire shut-up in [his] bones” (20:9). He said that he grew “weary” with trying to keep silent and in time he could do nothing else but to speak the Word of the Lord. There is no direct record of the cause or time of his death, but there are hints (2 Chron. 35:25; 36:12-22; Ezra 1:1; Dan. 9:2) that he was killed by his own people. The people for whom he prayed, even after God told him not to, and the people for whom he wept even while they reviled him, these people so despised and rejected the Word which the Lord had given him to speak that in the end they killed the messenger. Still, God’s sovereign hand protected Jeremiah until the message had been delivered. Jeremiah’s life was lived in the hand of God.
REFLECT: Do you think we will always enjoy doing what God calls us to do? Why do you think Jeremiah didn’t just quit prophesying? Why do you think the people rejected Jeremiah’s message so violently? Does having faith always mean that you will be speaking a “positive” message? Does having faith guarantee protection from the hands of sinners?

EZEKIEL’S FAITH IN EXILE Ezekiel first served the Lord in Jerusalem as a priest in the Temple. He grew up during a time of turmoil in Jerusalem as the armies of Babylon were moving in the direction of Judah. By his twenties the fall of Jerusalem was immanent. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, before him, Ezekiel was divinely called into prophetic ministry. He saw what he described as “a wheel in the middle of a wheel” (1:16). From the midst of the mysterious chariot, God spoke to Ezekiel:



“Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” 2 The Spirit came into me as he spoke and set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. 3 “Son of main,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a nation that is rebelling against me. Their ancestors have rebelled against me from the beginning and they are still in revolt to this very day. 4 They are a hard-hearted and stubborn people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’ 5 And whether they listen or not—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will knew they have had a prophet among them.” (Ez. 2:1-5, NLT)

God went on to tell Ezekiel not to fear his countrymen. Even though they will threaten him and reject him and his message, he must not fear them, he must follow the will of the Lord. Ezekiel’s message (like that of Jeremiah’s whose ministry he overlapped for a few years) was not popular. Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem, fell to the hands of the Babylonians. Ezekiel’s wife was killed, perhaps during the raid and destruction of the Temple (24:1, 15-17) and Ezekiel was carried into captivity. Yet, far from being silenced, Ezekiel continued to speak for God to a demoralized remnant of Judah. He message was both one of accountability and of hope. He challenged the exiled people of Judah to accept personal responsibility for their sins and the judgment they now endured. But he also spoke of a day of restoration when a faithful remnant would return to rebuild Jerusalem and restore the Temple. In a vision that has inspired many a tired and weary pastor, the Lord brought Ezekiel to a field of dry bones. The Lord asked Ezekiel a faith stretching question, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” To which Ezekiel responded, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know the answer to that” (37:3, NLT).


The vision of bones was symbolic of the nation of Judah. They appeared to be done as a nation. They had been defeated, pillaged and pulled from their homeland. They looked dead as a nation, but the question is, “Can they live again? Can the people of Judah be restored?” Ezekiel, great man of faith that he is, did not respond with a positive confession, he simply answered, “Only you know the answer to that Lord.” God told Ezekiel to preach to the dead bones. (A lot of pastors have been there!) God instructed Ezekiel to tell the bones that they would live again. As Ezekiel spoke the words which the Lord told him to speak, the bones were covered with muscle and skin, and finally, with breath. They rose up as a mighty army. God explained the vision to Ezekiel. Just as the bones in the vision had come back to life, Judah would live again as a nation on their own land. This illustration, both of the bones and of the people of Judah, serves to remind us that even when it looks like all hope is gone, faith remains “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
REFLECT: Ezekiel was a man of faith and yet his wife was killed and he was carried into captivity. How do you explain that? How would you have responded to God if He had asked you if those bones could live? Have you ever experienced a situation that looked hopeless and yet you trusted God and maintained your hope in Him? Did you see God work it out, or are you still believing God to work it out? How do you explain your hope to others who don’t understand the power of God and His ability to turn things around?


DANIEL’S FAITH TO STAND Daniel, like Ezekiel, was carried into captivity by the Babylonians. It was a strategic policy for the Babylonians to carry the most influential, educated or skilled men into captivity first. Daniel, therefore, may have been from an important family in Jerusalem. Daniel may have only been a teenager when he, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken into Babylon. Daniel rose to excel all the other wise men and soothsayers of the kingdom. Standing in the Face of Compromise Because of his commitment to God and the Law of Moses Daniel refused to eat the standard diet given to notable captives: 8 Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead. (Dan. 1:8, NLT)

At first the chief official refused for he was afraid that Daniel and the other three Hebrew men would lose their healthy appearance. The Babylonians treated notables and men who were believed to be especially talented or wise, very well. They were used in the administration of the vast Babylonian Empire. Daniel eventually talked the chief official into letting him and the other Hebrew men eat a kosher diet as a test. For ten days the Hebrews ate food which was in keeping with Jewish dietary laws. At the end of the ten days Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king” (1:15, NLT). Daniel’s faith in God prevailed and it became an opportunity for him and the other three Hebrews to prove God.


Standing Where Others Have Fallen The second test of faith came when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. The trouble was that he could not remember the dream and yet he wanted to know what the dream meant. He brought in magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers and demanded that they tell him what he dreamed and what it meant. The men whom Nebuchadnezzar had called insisted that what the king asked was impossible. How could they interpret a dream when they didn’t know what the dream was? As a result the king sent out a decree to have all magicians, sorcerers, astrologers and the like killed. As the authorities went out to gather up any and all men who fit this description Daniel and his friends were on the hit list. When he heard of the situation he went to his friends and asked them to pray with him that God would reveal the dream and the meaning to him. That night God gave Daniel the revelation he had prayed for. The next day Daniel sent word to the king that he could provide the information which the king asked for. In light of the failure of all the other wise men the king himself could scarcely believe Daniel. Daniel declared: 27 “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can tell the king such things. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the vision you saw as you lay on your bed. (Dan. 2:27,28, NLT) The king recognized that Daniel was telling the truth and as a result he recognized and honored the God of Israel. He said to Daniel, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47, NLT).


Then the king appointed Daniel to the position of ruler over the entire province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon (v. 48). Standing to Read the Writing on the Wall A fourth opportunity for Daniel to demonstrate his faith in God came as a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar’s, drunken feast. In his arrogance Belshazzar called for the gold and silver vessels which had been taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He, along with his lords, wives and concubines, proceeded to drink wine from them. As they drank they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. But the party was interrupted when the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began to write a message in the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace. No one could interpret the meaning of the writing. Belshazzar was filled with fear and consternation at the words on the wall. Again, the king’s wise men could not decipher the meaning and the king became even more troubled. Then the queen mother came to Belshazzar and told him of a similar incident that had happened to her husband, Nebuchadnezzar. She said to her son, “There is a man in our kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God . . . he will give the interpretation” (5:11-12, NKJV). Again Daniel, a man full of faith and the Spirit of God, stood before a king to tell him what no one else could tell him. The message was one of judgment upon Belshazzar and Daniel had to have enough faith in God to stand and speak the truth. The kingdom of Belshazzar had been weighed in the balance and found lacking. The days of the kingdom were numbered. That night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans was killed and Darius the Mede, leader of the Persian Empire, became ruler over the defeated Babylonian Empire.


Standing for a Higher Law Over the years men who had been shown up by Daniel and his God became jealous and envious. They put together a plot to have Daniel killed. These men noticed that it was Daniel’s custom to pray three times a day with his windows open. The king, who had honored Daniel by making him a governor over local leaders and other governors, probably knew nothing of Daniel’s custom. The other governors and local leaders came to Darius in a false show of honor and convinced him to make a thirty day decree which would make it illegal to pray too or petition any other god except King Darius. The king swept up in their plot signed the decree which, with his signature, became binding so that not even he could reverse it. Daniel knew of the decree, but Daniel decided that there is a higher law and higher loyalty than any which a man could put into affect. Knowing the penalty was to be thrown into a lions’ den for praying to God Daniel opened his window, as he always did, and began to pray. The wicked men were waiting and all too willing to go running with the news to King Darius that Daniel had broken the law. Darius was angry with himself for signing the decree and yet, by the laws of the kingdom, he was powerless to reverse his decision. Daniel was thrown into the den of lions with the prayer of the king being, “May your God, whom you worship continually, rescue you” (6:16, NLT). The king was tormented at the thought of Daniel being killed by the lions. He didn’t sleep that night and very early the next morning he rushed to the mouth of the den and called out in desperation, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you worship continually, able to rescue you from the lions?” (6:20, NLT).


Much to the delight and relief of the king a voice came up from the den, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty” (6:21-22, NLT). The king ordered that Daniel be lifted out of the den and the light revealed that there was not a scratch on the man of God. The tables were then turned on the wicked men. The king ordered that all those who had tricked him, along with their families, be thrown into the lions’ den. As they were tossed into the den the lions tore them apart before they hit the floor. Daniel’s faith, like that of his three friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to an idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, demonstrates that when we believe God and trust in all circumstances, we can stand for what is right even if it means going against man made laws. Faith in God holds to a higher law that no social or political position can nullify. Every time a man or woman of faith stood for God, they found God standing with them. He was in the furnace with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He was with Daniel in the lions’ den; He was with Jeremiah when he was thrown into a cistern. He was with Isaiah and Ezekiel as they stood before the people to proclaim a message that was not popular. Faith in God gives men and women the backbone to stand straight and tell the truth in love.


REFLECT: Daniel’s exploits are inspiring examples of what faith in God can accomplish. He continually rose to positions of prominence in governments that were sometimes hostile to his people and their God. When is the last time you had to stand against the popular opinion and declare the truth of God’s Word; even though you knew it might make you less popular? Are there any laws that you are aware of which run contrary to your commitment to the Word of God? If so, how do you reconcile the conflict? If there were ever a law passed which made prayer illegal would your current level and commitment to prayer make you liable for conviction under the law?

SUMMARY The examples from the prophets reveal that having faith is no guarantee that we will be popular, or that we will escape persecution. Still, they show us that when we have an awesome reverence toward God we will never have to live in fear of man. Further, they show us that when we step out in faith and obedience God will stand behind the Word that He gives us to speak. The question is whether we ever believe boldly and trust God to confirm His Word with signs and wonders. Too often the Christian community is guilty of qualifying every promise and providing a face saving way out for our proclamations of faith.


I believe that every believer has been called to a prophetic ministry (compare Jeremiah’s call in Jeremiah chapter 1, with the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20), as such we have been called to be lights shining in the darkness. As a Priesthood/Prophethood of believers we are called to confront the world with its sins and then to stand in the gap and intercede for that nation that God not destroy it. It might not make us popular, it might, in fact, make us objects of public scorn and ridicule, but what is the alternative? Should we be so concerned about being popular that we fail to speak the very truth that will set men free? If so then we, ourselves, have fallen into the bondage of fear when we should be walking in the liberty of faith.


CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX Verse 35a Women: Faith To Receive Dead Back To Life Heb. 11:35a Women received their dead raised to life again: (KJV) Heb. 11:35a Women received their loved ones back again from death. (NLT) INTRODUCTION The reference here, to “women receiving their dead raised to life again,” is probably simply another example in the list of exploits accomplished by the heroes of faith. In all likelihood it is not so much the faith of the women which the Writer has in mind, but the faith and exploits of the prophets who attended to the amazing demonstration of God’s power over death. Of all miracles, the miracle of someone returning to life from death stands as an ultimate demonstration of God’s authority over humanity’s greatest nemesis. In all there are ten accounts of people who were raised from the dead: 1 Elijah raised the son of the Zarephath widow from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:17-22). 2 Elisha raised the son of the Shunemmite woman from the dead (2 Kgs. 4:32-35). 3 A man was raised from the dead when his body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kgs. 13:20,21). 4 Many saints rose from the dead at the crucifixion of Jesus (Matt. 27:50-53). 5 Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:5-8; Mk. 16:6; Lk. 24:5,6).

6 Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Lk. 7:11-15). 7 Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Lk. 8:41, 42, 49-55). 8 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:1-44). 9 Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Ac. 9:36-41).

Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Ac. 20:9, 10).7

Only three of these accounts come from the Old Testament, which is where the Writer is drawing his examples. Of these three, two specifically speak of women or mothers of the children who were raised. Let’s look at these two examples and explore the role both of the mothers and of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha. ELIJAH AND THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH The first record in Scripture of a person being raised from death is found in First Kings 17:17-24. The New Living Translation gives the account as follows: 17 Some time later, the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 She then said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to punish my sins by killing my son?” 19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the boy’s body and carried him up to the upper room, where he lived, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, why have you brought tragedy on this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” 21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The LORD heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he came back to life! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look, you son is alive!” he said. 24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.”


J. L. Meredith, Meredith’s Book of Bible Lists, (Bethany House Publishers, 1980),

p. 115.


There is, of course, a prelude to this story. It begins with Elijah declaring to wicked king Ahab that it would not rain again in Israel except at his (Elijah’s) word. The Lord then instructed Elijah to go to Kerith Brook near where it enters the Jordan River. He was in hiding as a result of a death threat from the king, but God sustained Elijah with water from the brook and meat brought in by ravens. After awhile, however, the drought, which Elijah obediently spoke into existence, began to affect his brook until at last it too dried up. God spoke to Elijah and told him to go to the village of Zarephath where he would meet a widow with whom he could stay and she would feed him. Based on this instruction from the Lord we might have expected Elijah to find a woman of wealth who was able to live unscathed by the famine. Instead, Elijah found a widow woman in desperate circumstances. She was out “gathering sticks when he saw her and he asked, ‘Would you please bring me a cup of water?’ As she was going to get it, he called to her, ‘Bring me a bite of bread too.’” (1 Kgs. 17:10,11). Sounds like a man, doesn’t it? “While you’re ups, could you fix me a sandwich Her reply was that she only had a handful of flour and a little oil in the bottom of the jar. Her plans were to cook the last of the flour with a fire from the few sticks she had gathered, “and then,” she said, “my son and I will die.” (v. 12). This is the woman who was going to take care of Elijah, a widow woman with a child, no money, no food and apparently no hope? God must have a sense of humor. But Elijah was indeed a man of faith, he didn’t waver for a moment, he simply said, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and cook that ‘last meal,’ but bake me a little loaf of bread first. Afterward there will still be enough food for you and your son” (v. 13).


Isn’t that just like a preacher? He wants the last spoonful of potatoes and tells you to trust God to feed you. I’ve seen this very principle in action many, many times over the last dozen or so years of ministry. I’ve seen people give their tithes when they didn’t know where the next meal was going to come from, and I’ve seen God take care of them. On the other hand, I’ve seen people hold back from God, rob Him of time, talent or treasure and yet they still never have enough. They may have lived “high on the hog” from the world’s perspective but the creditors were at the door because they were not able to keep up with the payments for the luxuries they insisted they had to have. God’s promise to this widow woman was that if she would feed the prophet first, there would always be plenty of four and oil left in the canisters until the rain came again and the fields began to put forth their yield. Her faith was being tested. Had she refused to trust and obey God could have gotten someone else to feed Elijah, but this woman and her son would almost certainly have died just as she had said. Giving to God is not like playing the lottery. We don’t give because we hope to strike it rich someday. Giving is an expression of thanks and an exercise in faith. We give because we love God and we believe that He loves us enough to meet our needs. It is when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness that we have the right to claim the promise that He will supply all the things we have need of (Matt. 6:33). The woman did as the prophet asked and God did what He promised He would do. Regardless of how much she used, or how many times she dipped and poured, the woman always had plenty of meal and oil to feed herself, her son and the prophet. Which brings us to our text.


The woman’s son grew sick and then died. The text states that the boy “grew worse and worse.” This would indicate that this was a progressive illness and not a sudden death. My question is why didn’t the Elijah pray for healing when the boy was only sick? This incident sounds strangely familiar to the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from death. REFLECT: Has God ever asked you to give something you thought you couldn’t live without? Did you obey Him? What was the outcome? If you had been Elijah do you think it would have been easy to ask a widow woman to give you the last of the food she had? Many denominations believe that tithing is a biblical command which carries over into the New Covenant. Do you practice tithing? If you do, how would you advise someone who tells you that they don’t have any food in the house and the only money they have is their tithes? Should she or he give their tithes? What is your or the church’s responsibility to a person who is in this situation? UNANSWERED QUESTIONS Some questions are better left unanswered. Why did the boy die? Some will quickly answer that God allowed the boy to die so that the woman could be taught a lesson. This is often the stock answer of friends who try to console us during our loss. Many people will try to tell us that God took our child, or our job, or our spouse, so that He could teach us something. I don’t buy that. I believe that it rains on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). I believe that tragedy can strike a Christian as sure as it can strike a sinner, but I do not believe that God orchestrates these tragedies to teach us a lesson. However, God can use anything that happens in life to teach us more about Himself, about His love and His tender mercy. God can make all things work together for good

when we love and serve Him (Rom. 8:28). This doesn’t mean that everything that happens in our life is going to be good, but that God can take the worst that the devil throws at us, weave it back into the tapestry of our life and the picture will still be perfect. When I was a young boy, about four or five years old, I had an aunt who was getting ready to bake something and she had out a freshly opened can of shortening. When I saw the pure white swirl of grease, I didn’t know what it was but I knew it looked good. I lingered underfoot while she tried to bake and I asked her if it was candy. She has a mischievous streak in her so she said, “Yes. Would like some?” “Oh, yes,” I quickly answered. So she took a spoon from the drawer and dug down into the creamy white surface of the shortening and gave it too me. I took the spoon proceeded to have a big bite of tasteless greasy shortening. There isn’t much taste to it, but it sure is hard to get out of your mouth once you’ve had a bite. Over the years I’ve done some baking and I always liked to make my own piecrusts. They are nothing more than water, flour, salt, and shortening. Take any one of these ingredients by themselves and they don’t really have much of a taste. But mix them together and put the fire to them, fill them with filling and you have a pie, and pies taste good. The Bible never said that everything that happens in a Christian’s life is going to be good or fair. It only says that God will take all the things of life and make them “work together for good.” The fiery trials of life may bake “all things” into a faith that can hold the blessings. It may come with trials and tribulation, but nothing can happen in our life which God cannot work together for our good, and through the process teach us something of Himself.


When the woman’s son died she didn’t take it gracefully. She blamed Elijah, “Why have you done this to me?” Elijah, in turn, asked God, “Why have you brought tragedy on this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” Elijah was a great man of faith, and yet even he seems to be puzzled by the turn of events. For some reason we often seem compelled to try to answer all the questions. We won’t stop asking, “Why?” even when there is no apparent answer. Often we become so consumed with what we don’t know that we lose sight of what we do know. I was sixteen years old at track practice when the call came. I wasn’t told much, only that I was needed at my sister’s home. When I arrived I saw my brother-in-law with his mother and father consoling him on the front porch. He was weeping as if his heart would break. As I approached the home another relative came down to me and said, “They found her dead in bed.” “Who!?” I asked in panic. “Melody,” he replied. Melody was my sister’s youngest child at that time. She was three months old and died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (crib death). I walked into the mobile home where my sister was sitting on the sofa with three neighborhood ladies comforting her. When she saw me she got up and came to me where she embraced me and weeping asked me the question, “Why did God take my baby? I loved and cared for her. I clothed and fed her. Why did He take my baby when there are people who abuse and torture theirs?” I was only sixteen years old and I certainly had no theological point of reference from which to attempt an answer. I had no answer, I could only hold her and cry with her. I’m thirty-eight years old now with a Master of Divinity degree, I am a student of


the Word and I’m working toward a Doctorate degree, but I still don’t know the answer to her question. What I have learned is that we cannot allow ourselves to become so preoccupied with what we don’t know that we lose sight of what we do know. I don’t know why a lot of things happen. I know that God is sovereign and nothing happens without His permissive will, and yet that leaves as many questions as it does answers. I have had to look many people in they eyes and simply say, “I don’t know why.” It isn’t what we do know that is most important, it is what we do know. Despite the storms and trials, I know God loved me so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for me. It is what I do know which keeps me standing when the things I don’t know would try to topple my faith. The Apostle Paul said, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (1 Cor. 13:12, NLT). Despite imperfect faith on the part of the widow, and despite the confusion of Elijah, God found faith in a man who had the courage to call upon Him to give life back to this child. He laid upon the body of the boy, as if willing to trade his own life for the life of the child, and prayed, “O LORD, my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” God heard and answered the prayer of His prophet and the child was returned to his mother. As a result, her faith, like that of the father whose boy was delivered from a demon (Mk. 9:24), was strengthened. God had indeed used this tragic circumstance to teach her something. She said, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that


the LORD truly speaks through you.” Her words intimate that she had doubts until “Now.” After seeing this great miracle she now declares, “I know for sure.” After Job had passed through the storms and unanswered questions of life and death, God confronted him. God never answered Job’s questions. But for Job, once He stood in the presence of God, the questions didn’t seem to matter much anymore. At the end of the storm Job said, “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job. 42:5,6, NLT).
REFLECT: Have you ever been through a crises that looked as though it might crush you, and just when you thought you could go no further, God delivered you? Can you identify two or three things that you learned from that experience? Could you have learned these things second hand, that is, by someone else telling you his or her story?

ELISHA AND THE SHUNEMMITE WOMAN In this, the second account in Scripture of a person being raised from death, we see the picture of woman who does, indeed, exercise faith on behalf of her child. This woman was married and was a wealthy woman. This woman took the initiative and asked Elisha to come and enjoy a meal with her and her family. In fact Elisha made it a habit to stop by whenever he passed that way. This woman perceived that Elisha was a prophet. She told her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. Let’s make a little room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by” (2 Kgs. 4:9,10).


Elisha wanted to bless this woman for her hospitality but when she was asked what Elisha and the servant, Gehazi, could do for her she said that she was well taken care of by her family and wasn’t in need of anything. Elisha, however, was determined to bless this woman. He asked Gehazi if he had any ideas. Gehazi noted that she did not have a son and her husband was growing old. This gave Elisha his answer. He called her in and promised her that by the next year she would be holding a son in her arms. She couldn’t believe it and told Elisha not to tease her. But sure enough, within the year she had a son. One day, however, as her son had grown older, he was working in the field with the harvesters when he suddenly cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father told one of the servants to carry the boy home to his mother. He died in his mother’s arms. She immediately saddled up a donkey and rushed to see Elisha. Unlike the widow of Zerapheth, this woman had great faith in the power of God working through the prophet. When Elisha saw her coming he told Gehazi to go out and meet her and ask how everyone in her family was doing. She answered that everyone was fine. This wasn’t a lie on her part, this was faith. She counted those things which were not as though they were. But when she got to Elisha she fell at his feet and said, “It was you, my lord, who said I would have a son. And didn’t I tell you not to raise my hopes?” (v. 28). Elisha was going to send Gehazi to take his (Elisha’s) staff and put it on the face of the child. But the woman said “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me” (v. 30). Elisha agreed and went with her:


32 When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. 33 He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes and his hands on the child’s hands. And the child’s body began to warm again! 35 Elisha got up and walked back and forth in the room a few times. Then he stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes! 36 Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here take your son!” 37 She fell at his feet, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she picked up her son and carried him downstairs. (2 Kgs. 4:32-37, NLT). This was not Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation this was a miracle! This woman exhibited faith from the moment her child died. She went straight to the man of God and insisted that he come and pray for her child. Perhaps she had heard the story of the widow of Zerapheth and how Elisha’s mentor, Elijah, had prayed life back into that child. Likewise, it is almost certain that Elisha was intimately familiar with the account of Elijah’s miracle. Gehazi had gone ahead of the Elisha and the child’s mother and had laid the staff on the child’s face. When Elisha arrived the word from Gehazi was to the point, “The child is still dead” (v. 33). Elisha proceeded immediately to the child who was laying on the bed which the woman and her husband had prepared for the prophet. Elisha’s words are not recorded, though his actions are similar to those of Elijah and the result is the same, the son is raised back to life.
REFLECT: How do you account for the contrast between these two women? Who is the first person you call when you are facing a crisis? Why do you call this person? Are you the first person that someone else calls? If so, why? Do you think that it is God’s intention that we, as women and men of faith, presume to go to hospitals and funeral homes to raise the dead? If we had enough faith could we simply go around raising the dead?


SUMMARY Two women in crisis, two dead sons, two great prophets and two awesome miracles; there are many similarities and many contrasts. The constant is the power of God and the faith to tap into that power to overcome overwhelming odds. In the New Testament Jesus, Peter and Paul are used of God to pray life into dead bodies. There is never an indication that the church has been called to raise every dead person. If this were the case then Jesus could have healed the beheaded John the Baptist as easily as He healed the ear that Peter severed from the guard who came to arrest Jesus. The second half of this verse begins with the words, “and others;” though the faith of these others is as real as that of all the great men and women of faith which the Writer has recorded, the outcomes were very different.


CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN Verses 35b-38 And Others: Faith To Endure Heb. 11:35b-38 (KJV) 35b and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Heb. 35b-38 (NLT) 35b But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. 36 Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. 37 Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. INTRODUCTION I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital with Dorothy, a faithful woman, in the church. Her husband, Everett, also a faithful Christian, was in surgery. A few nights earlier Everett, feeling some pain in his chest and arms, finally asked his wife to take him to the hospital. While he was there waiting in a wheelchair for Dorothy to fill


out the paperwork he had a heart attack. Immediately the emergency room team gave medication to dissolve blood clots in hopes of getting blood flowing back to his heart. Their efforts were successful and his life was saved. Further tests, however, revealed that he had several blockages and would have to undergo surgery for four bypasses. Everett was in surgery while waited with Dorothy. She told me of an incident in her life of which I was unaware. She told me of the death of her son who died while he was only twenty-three years old. He was experiencing some unexplainable problems that were finally diagnosed as small tumors on his brain. The doctors said that if he could get a little stronger they would begin chemotherapy. He slept most of the time and was in and out of consciousness when one night, with Dorothy, his grandmother and his sister in the room, he became alert and fully conscious. This appeared to be the break-through Dorothy had been praying for and she believed as fully as she could that her son would soon get better. Before the day was over, however, he died. As we talked I could see the emotion and pain which still lingered in the heart of this dear mother. She said that the Sunday school teacher of the church she was attending would discuss various subjects that class members turned in on slips of paper. The teacher received her question, which was simply, “Why does God heal some people and allow other people to die?” His answer is a stock answer among the hyper-faith community; “You didn’t have enough faith.” Rather than grapple with a difficult question, or simply admit that there are still yet mysteries in our walk with God which we will not understand until the dark glass has been removed, many people simply blame the wounded. They would say to the man who had been beaten and robbed and left beside


the highway, “You didn’t have enough faith or this would not have happened.” They would say to the mother whose child died in a terrible accident, “You didn’t have enough faith or your child would still be alive.” They would say to the sick, “If you only had more faith you would be healed right now.” Thank God for verses 35 through 38. Sure, some were delivered from lions and swords, and some women did, in fact, receive their dead to life again, but there were “others.” These others, whose names are not listed, are viewed by the Writer as heroes of faith. By faith some escaped the sword, and by the same faith some died by the edge of the sword. By faith Abraham was made to prosper, and by the same faith others were destitute. I know that this doesn’t sit well with some, but there it is. The Writer isn’t telling us that faith will insure freedom from trials or tribulations. His whole point, in this chapter, is to illustrate that through faith we can go the distance regardless of what is asked of us. Some were asked to confront overwhelming odds and when they trusted and obeyed, they turned back armies. Others were asked to endure hardships. Some were asked to confront giants with nothing more than a slingshot, while others were asked to lay down their lives for what they believed. I brought up verse 35b to a friend who is indoctrinated in the “Word of Faith” movement. I noted to him that “others” died by the sword and were destitute. His response may not reflect the position of all those of the Word of Faith movement, but it is typical. He told me that he had heard a pastor/teacher comment on that very verse and the observation of this teacher was that, as the King James Version states it, “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” The point being that God had provided deliverance


for them, but for one reason or another they failed to accept that deliverance from torture, martyrdom, or hardships. In other words, it was their own fault! That’s interesting but it does not capture the meaning of what the Writer is saying about these others. The Writer of Hebrews celebrates the faith of these men and women. He states that the world wasn’t worthy of them. I believe the New Living Translation captures the intent of the Writer better than the King James Version. The New Living Translation says, “But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free.” The Writer is illustrating that these men and women refused to accept deliverance at the cost of compromising their faith. They were tortured because they did believe and were more interested in living again at the resurrection, than living at the cost of their faith in the immediate future.
REFLECT: Have you ever had someone ask you why some people are healed while others are not? What is your answer? Have you ever personally wrestled with this question? What are some of the answers others have given you? Did those answers satisfy you?

WHO ARE THE OTHERS Perhaps the answer to the question of why some were delivered while others suffered can be answered best by considering who the “others” were. To whom is the Writer referring in these verses? Some believe that it is none other than a continuing list of what the judges, kings and prophets endured by faith. There is a tradition that Isaiah was killed by being sawn in half during the reign of Mannasseh. There is a tradition that


Jeremiah was stoned. So perhaps it is true that the Writer had some of these prophets in mind. Jesus said of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers!” (Matt. 23:37a, NLT). Likewise, Stephen said, “Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. . .” (Ac. 7:52a, NLT). There is a hint, however, that the Writer does not have the prophets in mind when he speaks of “others.” After all, he has already mentioned them as a group. The Writer has progressed through his treatise in chapter 11 in a relatively chronological order. He is concluding with a summary that calls to mind the judges, kings and prophets and others. There is another group of men and women, who are not recorded in the cannon of Scripture, but who are recorded in the history of Judaism as people of faith. Their story unfolds during the intertestimental period, the period between the last recorded prophet of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus. The record, while not included in the Cannon of Scripture, was well known by the Writer and by the intended readers of the letter. With one word, “tortured,” he calls to mind the terrible struggle of the Maccabean period. The word translated “tortured” is from the Greek word tympanon which carries with it the idea of stretching, as a skin on a drum, and then to strike it. It is descriptive of the wheel, or the rack, upon which the victim was laid and slowly stretched until his joints were literally pulled from their sockets. The skin on the abdomen and back were also stretched through this process and then the victim was beaten like a drum until his skin tore beneath the blows.


This very word is used in 2 Maccabees chapter 6 which tells of the faithfulness of the old man, Eleazar the scribe and in chapter 7 which tells of the death of seven brothers. This time of torture at the hands of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (170 BC) was very severe. Those who would not compromise fled into the wilderness and caves until Maccabeus (the Hammer) and his followers mounted an attack and pushed the Syrians out of the Temple and of Jerusalem. The account of Eleazar and of the seven brothers is worth recounting as true examples of faith. The author of 2 Maccabees tells of the events which lead up to the torture and martyrdom of these men: 1 Not long after this, the king (Antiochus) sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, 2 And also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place. 3 Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. 4 For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots and had intercourse with women within the sacred precents, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. 5 The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws. 6 A man could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the feasts of his father, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew. 7 On the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Dionysus came, they were compelled to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy. 8 At the suggestion of Ptolemy a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities, that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices, 9 And should slay those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs. One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them. 10 For example, two women were brought in for having circumcised their children. These women they publicly paraded about the city, with their babies hung at their breasts, then hurled them down headlong from the wall.


11 Others who had assembled in the caves near by, to observe the seventh day secretly, were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together because their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of their regard for that most holy day. 12 Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. 13 In fact, not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately, is a sign of great kindness. 14 For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, 15 In order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. 16 Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Though he disciplines us with clamities, he does not forsake his own people. 17 Let what we have said serve as a reminder; we must go on briefly with the story. 18 Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. 19 But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, 20 As men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life. 21 Those who were in charge took the man aside, because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring meat of his own providing, proper for him to use, and pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal which had been commanded by the king, 22 So that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them. 23 But making a high resolve, worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs which he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover according to the holy God-given law, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him do Hades. 24 “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “lest many of the young should suppose that Eleanor in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, 25 And through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. 26 For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty 27 Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age 28 And leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”


29 And those who a little before had acted toward him with good will now changed to ill will, because the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness. 30 When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, “It is clear to the Lord in his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him.” 31 So in this way he died, leaving in his death and example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young but to the great body of his nation. This, then was the life and death of a great man of faith. To suggest that he simply turned down the escape that God had provided is in total disagreement with the story as it is told. Again, while this is not, in the strictest sense, “Sacred Scripture,” it is an inspiring record of a man of faith. Furthermore, there are many words and phrases in this account which lead many scholars to conclude that the “others” to which the Writer of Hebrews alludes is none other than the men and women of faith and courage which the writer of Maccabees records. Let’s look at one last example, the seven brothers whose heroic faith is recorded in chapter 7 of 2 Maccabees: 1 2 3 4 5 It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.” The king fell into a rage, and gave orders that pans and caldrons be heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hand and feet, while the rest of the brothers and mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song which bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, ‘And he will have compassion on his servants.’”



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19 20 21 22 23 24

After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, “Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?” He replied in the language of his fathers, and said to them, “No.” Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.” After him, the third was victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, And said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.” As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing. When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way And when he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!” Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him. But he looked at the king, and said, “Because you have authority among men, mortal though you are, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people. Keep on, and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants!” After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, “Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our God. Therefore astounding things have happened. But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!” The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and she said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.” Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make


him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his father, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. 25 Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. 26 After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. 27 But leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: “My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. 28 I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. 29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.” 30 While she was still speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command, but I will obey the command of the law that was given to our fathers through Moses. 31 But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God. 32 For we are suffering because of our own sins. 33 And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants. 34 But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all men, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. 35 You have not escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. 36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of everflowing life under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive punishment for your arrogance. 37 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, 38 And through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has fallen on our whole nation.” 39 The king fell into a rage, and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn. 40 So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord. 41 Last of all, the mother died, after her sons. 42 Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrapha, Revised Standard Version)


After having read and studied these two accounts from Maccabees, along with other records from that period, I am of the opinion (along with many more noted and studied scholars) that the Writer of Hebrews continuing through the history of the Jews is concluding with the record of “others.” Furthermore, these others are those men and women, many of whose names are not recorded for posterity, are from the terrible times of the intertestimental period. Notice the many similarities, the reference to “torture,” which in the Greek is the same as that used in the Greek writing of the author of Maccabees. The reference to caves, to being destitute, and especially the references to a resurrection. Such references are rare in the writings of the prophets but ample in the Maccabean record. Many Protestants are unduly ignorant of the Apocrypha. While it may not be inspired Scripture and therefore not authoritative for the purposes of doctrine and apologetics, it is inspiring and is, in many cases, a good historical record which answers questions like ours in Hebrews.
REFLECT: Imagine for a moment that someone calls upon you to compromise or it will cost you your life, what would you do? Some scholars believe that a very similar scenario will unfold during the “Great Tribulation Period.” Those who are not living uprightly before the Lord will miss the “Rapture” and will be forced either to deny Christ or die for their faith. Which do you think is easier, living a holy life now and being ready for the Rapture, or being asked to endure torture for the faith? Are you ready now for Christ to return?

To suggest that Eleazar and the seven brothers and mother did not have faith is absurd. They had a faith which many of those who insist that faith insures health and

wealth would do well to know. One of the greatest examples of faith I have ever known personally was a young woman named of Melody. She was a young mother with a daughter, and she was faithful to her God, her family and her church. When I met her she had already been diagnosed with a terrible form of cancer for which there was no known cure. We all prayed. We believe and we rejoiced every time she came back from the doctors with a good report. Some of the tumors were shrinking and she had lived eighteen months longer than any other person had ever been known to live with this cancer. Every time I saw Melody she asked about my family and prayed for my wife who has fibromyalgia, a sometimes painful, but not life-threatening disease. She always praised God and made it to church when others would have stayed home. One day one of the ushers came to Melody and told her that God had instructed him to pray for her. She gladly accepted his offer to pray. When he put his hand on her head, however, he knocked her wig off. (The chemo had long since caused the loss of her own hair.) He was understandably embarrassed and reached to pick it up. She quickly stopped him and said, “Don’t worry about that, just pray!” I stood in the hallway of the hospital with her husband while she lay dying on the other side of the door. She had fought a good fight and through it all she maintained her faithfulness to God. I never for a minute doubted that she believed in healing, and she believed in God, yet she died. He husband was confused and hurt and perhaps angry. I told him that I did not understand why things worked out they way they did but I know that Melody loved God and I know that God loved Melody. I suggested that after he had


gone through the valley, and after he had expressed his anger at his loss, he would find that God loves him. Faith is not a promise that we are immune to life’s tragedies, faith is the lifeline which keeps us anchored to hope that now is and is to come. Faith keeps us tied to the One Who will not allow life to conquer us or crush us. Faith allows us to endure every wind and wave and yet to stay firmly planted on the Rock that will not roll. SUMMARY Sometimes we feel more like the “and others” than we do Abraham, Moses or Samuel. Still, our faith is not determined by our great feats, but by our steadfast commitment to God and to His Word and will. Anyone who believes that living for Christ is always going to be a bed of roses needs to listen again, God is saying, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” Commitment is not wishy-washy or fickle. Commitment is that for which we are willing both to live and die for. This requires faith and follow-through. Resist the temptation to look on the outward, upon the circumstances of a person’s life, and measure their faith by circumstances. People who are going through the most severe struggles, but who continue to trust and obey God even when they do not understand “why” are people of great faith.


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Verses 39-40 Us: Faith and Something Better Heb. 11:39-40 (KJV) 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Heb. 11:39-40 (NLT) 39 All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race. INTRODUCTION Here we come to the end of the chapter, but not to the end of the thought; in fact, this chapter is actually preparatory to what follows in chapter 12 concerning Christ as our ultimate example: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (12:2-4, KJV) When we consider the issue of faith, Christ Himself is both our example and our goal. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to 2


heaven” (Phi. 3:14, NLT). No other objective of faith is worth comparing to the ultimate goal of hearing Jesus Himself say, “Well done! You’ve been a good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). The Writer is addressing the issue of Jewish believers turning from their Christian faith back to Judaism. To encourage continued faith and endurance the Writer uses their own heroes of faith and the testimony of the elders to point out that faith is no guarantee that hard times will not come. He has, in effect, demonstrated that the great men and women of faith were looking for something more than they received during their lifetimes. These Jewish Christians were beginning to suffer persecution and it was causing confusion. Some concluded that it must have been wrong to become Christians and that God was trying to tell them to go back to the Old Covenant. But the Writer tells them that nothing could be further from the truth. Consider Christ, He suffered the cross because He knew what lay on the other side of suffering. It was the exceeding joy of presenting the Church, which is His Bride, to His Father (Jude 24). Jesus saw beyond the present sufferings and beheld the glory which awaited both Him and those who follow Him. This flies in the face of the ambivalence of these Jewish Christians who had not yet “resisted unto blood,” which is to say, they had not yet been asked to lay down their lives in martyrdom. Yet they were on the verge of going back to that which had been rendered powerless by Christ. The Law no longer held the covenant promises that it once did. Christ fulfilled the Law and now a “new” and “better” covenant was available for all people. If they forsook the sacrifice of Christ, then, “. . . there remaineth no more


sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for a judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26b-27, KJV). BELIEVING AND NOT RECEIVING Notice the words of the Writer concerning these elders, they “received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.” We hear a lot about believing and receiving, and yet the example of these men and women, with respect to the ultimate goal of an eternal habitation (“a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Heb. 11:10), is that they did not receive. They did great things through faith, and achieved a measure of notoriety through faith, and yet none of them received all that God had promised. The reason is that none of these great personalities of faith were fixated on the momentary glories or the transitory treasures of this life. Each of them looked for something better.
REFLECT: It is easy to become so focused on our felt needs at the moment that we fail to consider the future glory which awaits. What do you feel is your most important need at this moment? How does your faith relate to that need? Does the idea that the ultimate goal of the believer is not a temporal or material blessing make it easier or harder to believe?

These men and women had faith, and many saw great things happen as a result, others died because of their faith. The Writer does not categorize one group as having more faith than the others have. He simply says, “And these all (everyone of them) received a good report through faith.”


I had a professor in Seminary who told our class of an incident where the wife of a friend of his had died. The Professor drove the man back to his home after the funeral and after saying good-bye watch him walk, with head down and shoulders slumped, down the walkway to his empty house. My Professor said that as he watched that man walking away he said to himself, You sure have been good to me God. And he said that God responded to his spirit, “I’ve been good to that man too.” We tend to measure good and bad, blessings and cursing, faith and unbelief by what we can see, feel or experience here and now. But the definition of faith is that it is “the evidence of things not seen.” The true measure of faith is not the make and model of the car, nor the size of the house we live in. The true measure of faith is not in how long we live or how healthy we’ve been. The example of the elders and of Christ is that true faith is measured by our faithfulness despite what we experience in this life. True faith can look beyond both the sparkle of gold or the veil of tears and see that there is something better that awaits the child of God. This is not to imply that God does not, or will not provide for material needs. He does and will; yet these things are more of a reflection of God grace than a man’s faith. Some would argue that if it is not the faith of man which causes some to have greater wealth and health than others this would mean that God is unfair. Again, it is much easier to put the fault of failing health or the lack of financial prosperity on the lack of man’s faith than it is to wrestle with the idea that God allows some to experience less trouble in this life than he does others. Grace, by definition, is “unmerited,” no man has earned the right to any of the blessings of God. All of humanity is guilty, all have sinned and come short of the glory


of God (Rom. 3:23). Therefore any blessing we receive here and now is by God’s grace and not man can point a finger at God and declare Him to be unfair. Unfair is the cost God paid so that any of us could put faith into action and receive the benefits of the cross. True faith is focused on the goal and the result true faith is a life lived in gratitude for all that God has done. The result is lives lived in trust and obedience to One who paid the price for our victories. Whether that victory is healing over sickness, or dying for the faith, our faithfulness is a direct result of the sacrifice of Christ and His eternal life at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
REFLECT: How would you characterize your faith, weak or strong? What do you base this evaluation on? If others were looking at your life, how do you think they would rate your faith on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being strong)? Why do you think you they would give you this rating? If the true measure of faith is faithfulness, what can you do to increase your faith?

SOMETHING BETTER FOR US The Writer says that these elders did not receive “all that God had for them for God had far better things in mind for us.” The elders lived under the Old Covenant and the Old Covenant anticipated the New. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins; they were simply a shadow of something better. The Writer makes this very point in chapter 10: 9b He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.


What we experience in Christ was anticipated, by faith, in the lives of the elders and they remained faithful even though they never saw the fulfillment of the types and symbols during their lifetimes. We live in a time which some refer to as the “already, but not yet.” The Apostle John said, “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 Jn. 3:2, NLT). We have already received the benefits of the cross in salvation, but we still wait for the completion of the process when our faith will end in sight. When the Writer says God has something better for us, he is talking about the fact that God had something better than the blood of rams and goats, better than a high priest who first had to sanctify himself, better than laws written on stone, God had a better covenant which was purchased by the blood of Christ who is both sacrifice and High Priest and Who has written His law upon our hearts. The elders received the benefits of the cross by faith, but faith which was limited to the acts of obedience in carrying out the shadows and types. We also receive the benefits of the cross, but for us the cross and the benefits are an established fact. We no longer rely on types and symbols, but we by faith bring the power of the cross into our life today. We live and move and have our being in Him (Ac. 17:28).
REFLECT: Do you think it would take more faith to live fulfilling types and shadows, or to live as we do looking back at what God in Christ has done? What benefits do we have that those under the Old Covenant did not have?

The King James Version ends chapter 11 with the phrase, “that they without us should not be made perfect.” Given that chapter 12 begins by continuing the thought

from verse 40, I believe the New Living Translation captures the thought of the Writer: “for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.” In an athletic contest the race has to finish before the medals are handed out. Verse 1 of chapter 12 begins with the word, “therefore.” A wise professor of hermeneutics once gave me this advice, “Whenever you see the word, ‘therefore’ you ought to look and see what it’s there for.” The New Living Translation of chapter 12 verse 1 is: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sine that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. (Heb. 12:1,2, NLT) SUMMARY Faith is a journey, not an act. Faith is dynamic and growing, not static and stale. The Apostle Paul tells us that we “walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7), which implies that the Christian life is a walk of faith. Similarly, Jesus said, “he that endureth to the end, shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22, KJV). The Writer of Hebrews, like the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 9:24), also refers to the Christian life as a race. When running the race we sometimes get weary, tired of trying, and tempted to quit. The thing that keeps us pushing on is keeping our eyes on the prize. What is that prize? The Writer said, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus.” The Apostle Paul said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18, KJV). Our eyes are not on the present sufferings, but on the glory that awaits us.


When I played football in high school and college, I never got put out of a game because of an injury. I was so involved with the game, so focused on running another yard and on winning the game, that I never noticed the bruises and bumps I was getting. The next morning I would be stiff and sore, but I couldn’t wait to go out and get the morning paper to see my name in print. Sounds kind of vain but the glory of the press and accolades of the student body enabled me to endure the pain. The glory of stardom made the pain of game worth the sacrifice. Sure, Christians are buffeted and under attack from the enemy. And yes, even great men and women of faith sometimes feel the pain and the bruises which life sometimes inflicts. So why do we keep going? We keep our eyes on the prize of hearing Jesus say, “Well done.” In one moment in time any suffering which we have endured, any losses incurred, will be swallowed up in victory. It is no wonder that heaven is described as a noisy place. The shouts of victory which we express here are but mere whispers to the shout which will arise from the golden streets of glory. As the old song says, “heaven will surely be worth it all.” This is not to imply that our journey has to be joyless or melancholy, far from it. We already know that we win, and we already know what the prize is, so we walk with joy and peace and rest. Since our faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” we can rejoice here and now. Our faith is measured by our daily expressions of faithfulness. Whether we are walking beside the still waters or we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, whether we are abased, or whether we abound, we express our faith by consistent dependence upon, and obedience to, God.