HEBREWS: THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH, PART 4

Hebrews 11:24—31

Faith Begins in Egypt

The back story of Moses’ life proves what we all know: the early years of a child’s life are sometimes more important than the later years in a child’s life. Moses’ mother had him while he was most mailable. We may be certain that as a devout Jewess, she schooled him in the knowledge of his religion and in the ways of the one true God. No doubt as Moses grew into a young man, he couldn’t help but compare the simple God-fearing ways of his mother’s people to the exciting, glittering yet empty life of the Egyptian court.

Moses, as an adult is an excellent example of the of faith. As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he had been treated like an Egyptian prince. Even while his people were suffering, he was enjoying the good life of going to school in Egypt. Scholars believe that had Moses kept to his Egyptian life, and remained faithful to his Egyptian family, he would have ascended to the throne of Egypt.

But as a man of faith, Moses knew deep inside that God—the God of the Israelites—had other plans.

1. The choice of faith, 11:24—26

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (vs. 24, 25)

Acts 7 gives us some important details:

When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Acts 7:21, 22)

Stephen obviously knew some Hebrew history because he goes on to say that Moses was 40 years old when when he decided to side with the Israelites. To the observer looking at Moses’ decision to disavow his Egyptian family and to forsake the throne, the young prince must have looked like a fool. But Moses’ faith, not seen for 40 years, came to the surface in the form of a forthright choice. In full knowledge of what he was about to do, Moses made a courageous decision in faith. Here is an important component of true Biblical faith: The outward decision to turn his back on his Egyptian life was the result of a previously made inward decision. Part of Biblical faith is the ability to make up ones mind and to come down on the right side of a choice. Biblical faith is not blind. Biblical faith does not insist that you deny reality, cling to unrealistic dreams, or turn a blind eye to the immediate consequences of your faith-inspired decision. Biblical faith is the ability to make, what often is a difficult and painful choice because it is the right choice.

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (vs. 27)

The pleasures of Egypt would last only a short time, but with no future. Associating with God’s people might bring hardship on Moses, but there would be a future, and this Moses somehow was able to sense. He considered the rewards of faithfully serving God far greater than the momentary and temporary satisfactions which come from position and fame.

Verse 27 is interesting because the writer is very emphatic in writing that Moses made his choice for the sake of THE Christ. Obviously, Moses had no knowledge the Person and work of Christ as we know Jesus from the pages of the New Testament. Elsewhere in this letter to the wavering Hebrews, we read this:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our Lord transcends the centuries. Moses the deliverer was able to see in faith the coming of the ultimate Deliverer and he was willing to surrender the glories of earth for the future glories of God’s kingdom. This is the essence of faith! All the heroes of faith had the uncanny ability to recognize their current state, but make the difficult choice to persevere because “better days lay ahead.”

By faith, then, Moses was able to see his choices clearly in light of eternity. It may have looked to some that the choice was between pleasure and prosperity with that of pain and bondage, but the truth is Moses’ choice was between godliness and sin. It was between serving the one true God or serving himself. It was a choice ultimately between heaven and hell; between immortality and oblivion. And that is the choice set before man today.

2. The endurance of faith, 11:27

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Moses actually left Egypt twice, so which leaving is the writer referring to? The first time Moses fled he did so in fear of his life after he killed an Egyptian. The second time Moses left Egypt was 40 years after that, in the mass exodus of Hebrews from the land of bondage. Given the context, the letter to the Hebrews must be referring to the Exodus. It was by faith that Moses finally and forever turned his back on Egypt after the 10 plagues. Pharaoh refused to bend to God’s will. Compared to Egypt, Israel was a weak nation getting weaker, and yet Moses led that tired nation out of the land of bondage. This made the king angry! Imagine how he must have felt…being backed into the corner by an 80 year old sheepherder, bent on leading a nation of slaves on an exodus to freedom.

Talk about an impossible task, yet by faith Moses was able to do just that because he was with God. The writer makes a valuable point here: Moses was able to persevere, not because he was so committed to the exodus or so loyal to his people, it was because “he saw him who was invisible.” Moses was God’s friend. Moses had a close relationship with God:

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

Biblical faith is exemplified by one like Moses; one who has that kind of relationship with God. That close walk with the One who is invisible is what gave Moses his faith; it’s what sustained him through all those difficult days.

3. The exodus of faith, 11:28—31

Genuine Biblical must always leave Egypt. It can never stay among those who don’t possess it. This is Biblical principle for all people of faith, and it’s even expressed in the New Testament:

Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)

People of faith cannot survive in Egypt; they must eventually leave. Christians are called to “in the world but not of the world.”

The Passover, 11:28

Credit: Vernon Nye, 1948

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The very first step in leaving Egypt was celebrating the Passover. The word “kept” might be better rendered “instituted.” Moses not only started the observance, but he provided for its continuing observance:

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)

What is the significance of the Passover? The Israelites were told to do something that they had never done before that probably made no sense: sprinkle blood on their door posts and stay inside as the angel of death passed by. Who had ever heard of such a thing before? But Moses and his people in simple obedience did just what they were told to do in faith. Their faith was vindicated almost immediately when not a single first-born Israelite died that night while all the first-born of Egypt did. But notice: the people had to be obedient and follow God’s instructions. There could have been no escape from Egypt or from the darkness of death without the sprinkling of blood. However, it wasn’t the shedding of blood that saved the people, it was the application of the blood. Shed blood would have protected nobody. The Israelites were saved only because they sprinkled (applied) the shed blood individually on individual door posts of individual homes. The same thing applies to the shed blood of our Savior; the Lamb of god. It is only effective when by faith it is appropriated by the individual sinner through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Eventually, if the people of God can hang tough and hang on long enough, our faith will be vindicated, too.

Faith demands that sometimes we do things not because they make the most sense, but out of a conviction that God has told us to do them.

The Red Sea, 11:29

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

For those of us who know the story, this verse makes us think. The fact is, the people of Israel had NO faith! When they saw the Pharaoh and the mighty Egyptian military closing in on them, they were angry with Moses and wanted give up and go back to Egypt. It was, in fact, Moses who had the faith. He was the one who walked down to the water’s edge and his was the staff that was plunged into the water.

Here is another aspect of genuine Biblical faith we have seen before: it can save others! The faithless people followed the example of Moses’ faith and they were commended.

We also learn a secondary lesson of the difference between faith and presumption, which does not lie in what is done but rather on whose authority. Israel acted on a divine command: YOU cross over on dry land, God had told them. But the Egyptians who were following Israel, when they tried to do the exact same thing, were drowned. What’s the difference? Both parties did the same thing, but only one did it under God’s command and in His presence. What a powerful lesson for the modern believer! This is why Christians are called to have a personal relationship with Christ. God always deals with the individual.

The walls of Jericho, 11:30

A portion of the excavated fallen walls of Jericho.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

Forty years passes by, and our letter-writer settles on a truly remarkable event in Hebrew history. The story of Jericho’s fall is well-known and the crumbling of those city walls had to be the result of faith; there is no other way to explain it. Now, the author does not indicate whose faith is responsible for this event, although we can deduce it was Joshua’s faith and example and the obedience of all those who did what they were told.

Think about how strange this event must have seen to those living in Jericho. What kind of warriors were these Hebrews? They didn’t have an army. They didn’t have many weapons. They didn’t march on the city, they just marched around the city in formation.

But how can faith bring down walls, anyway? Was it positive thinking? Was it the vibrations of all those feet? Sometimes there is a psychological, subjective side of faith that produces results. But genuine Biblical faith does not rely on thought waves or physical power. Biblical faith achieves its objective mediately, not immediately, by way of two things working hand in glove: human obedience and the power of God. Therefore, when the people obeyed Joshua, who was obeying God, the walls came down. As James 2:26 says:

Faith without works is dead.

However, it must be stressed that the “works” must be ones ordered by God, not by man.

Rahab, convert, 11:31

Rahab and the Scarlet Cord

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Faith knows no barriers! Rahab had nothing going for her: she was a pagan, she was a prostitute, and she was a woman. In Rahab we see faith in the unlikliest of places! She knew nothing about God, but she was familiar with Israel’s recent history. She, like her people, feared the God of Israel because of what happened to the Egyptians. But somehow, through her fear, she could see God’s plan for His people and she seemed to believe Israel’s God. She received no assurance of salvation, no gospel of faith and repentance and no assurance of acceptance. What moved her to express faith? She had heard all about what God had done for His people and her faith was based solely on the works of God.

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:11)

There was never a more simple and basic confession of faith! But it was from her heart and she acted in faith. She welcomed the spies and hid them at great personal risk. But she trusted God that when Jericho fell, she and her family would be spared.

unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. (Joshua 2:18)

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Joshua 6:25)

Rahab did exactly what she was told. In that scarlet cord given to Rahab we see a type of the longer “scarlet cord” of redemption which runs from Genesis to Revelation; the “scarlet cord” which binds believer’s to their Savior.

James cites Rahab’s faith as an example of one being justified by works:

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:25)

Biblical faith is able to combine the divine and the human to achieve God’s will.  In other words, there is an indispensable component to Biblical faith:  ours.

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