Biblical Faith, Part 6

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We tend to think faith is all about us. We possess it, therefore we believe God has given it to benefit us, the one who possesses it. We’re such a self-centered people. In our previous studies of this topic, we discovered that faith isn’t all about us. It does involve us and faith does benefit us. But faith is primarily about God – God working out His will in our lives for the benefit of, first of all, His kingdom, and secondary, for our benefit. And then there’s this:

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20 | NIV84)

Did Isaac have that power? Do we have that power? Do believers have the power to bless others? Specifically, does the present generation have the power to bless the upcoming generation? That’s a good question, and how you answer it will determine the kind of parent you are and what the future of your children will look like. The short answer is “yes,” Christian parents do have the power to bless their children. Unfortunately, many Christian parents think so little of their faith, that they rob their children of this essential blessing. They don’t know it. They’re not bad parents. They’re not bad Christians. But they don’t understand the spiritual power that resides within them.

Let’s take a look at how this works by looking once again at the patriarchs.

The blessings of faith

Faith, it has been said, “gives to its possessor the eyes of the seer, and a quiet confidence in the future of God’s people.” That’s a good way to look at the issue. And it hints at the kind of power faith endows its possessor with: “the eyes of the seer.” The ability to see life beyond the horizon. That’s what faith gives us, and that’s part of the blessing Christian parents may pass on to their children. The son, grandson, and great grandson of Abraham span the generations and centuries by faith, and in their declining years with death approaching, the patriarchs Jacob and Joseph passed on blessings and instructions concerning the Promised Land.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20 | NIV84)

With this verse, the writer of this letter begins to show us what the tradition of the “patriarchal blessings” involves. In the case of Abraham, it was Isaac that received his father’s blessing, not his brother Ishmael. It’s not that there was something wrong with Ishmael, it’s that Isaac was destined to become the son of the Promise. In the following generation, it was Jacob, not his brother Esau, that received his father’s blessing. Again, it wasn’t that Esau was an evil person, it was God’s will that the Promise be passed onto Jacob. And in the generation that followed, it wasn’t Rueben, Jacob’s first-born that received the blessing, it was Joseph who was blessed. And it wasn’t Joseph’s first born who received the blessing, it was Ephraim who received the choice blessing.

What this teaches us about God is vitally important for the modern believer to understand. It is God who is in control, and His sovereign will does not abide by man’s traditions or rules. In other words, regardless of our wants and wishes; regardless of what our society deems to be the norm, God’s will is accomplished as He sees fit.

Yet, God still used those to whom He had given a measure of faith. Each of the patriarchs blessed their children with a prophetic insight, and while each time a single son was blessed with that special blessing related to the Promise, all the children were blessed.

But we notice something else. In addition to passing on God’s blessing to the next generation, something else was passed on:

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:21-22 | NIV84)

Words of worship and instruction were passed on. God’s Word was given to the younger generation by the older one. They didn’t have a Bible – no Old or New Testament to read to them – all they had was the promise given to Abraham. That’s all these patriarchs had, and that’s what they gave to their children. That Word from God was never forgotten; it was so important it was spoken from the deathbed, as it were.

What Joseph taught his family is important. Of all the things Joseph could have talked about; of all his amazing experiences he could have passed on to his family, he chose the Promise, and how his descendants would relate to it. Again, it’s the prophetic insight talking.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Genesis 50:23c-25 | NIV84)

He actually spoke those words to brothers, though his descendants would have heard them too. The thread of the promise binds the patriarchs in faith that transcends time.

It’s the thread of the Word of God that binds your family together, too, and it transcends time. Of all the things we can pass on to our posterity, none is more vitally important than God’s Word. We want so much to pass on a heritage – usually financial – to our children, without realizing how temporal that kind of heritage is. It’s dangerous too because unearned wealth almost always causes problems. The Word of God, though, is what solves problems. It was Peter who said these words in one of his great sermons:

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39 | NIV84)

Indeed it is. The Christian parent receives it and passes it on to their children. Or, at least they’re supposed to. If you are a believing parent, hopefully you have or are passing the Word of God onto your children. But even if you aren’t a parent, you’re still on the hook. Others may be blessed by your faith. That’s right! If you are living a life of faith, then all those whom you rub shoulders with, stand to be blessed simply because of your possession of faith.

Now, that’s some kind of power you have!

The secrets of faith

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Hebrews 11:23 | NIV84)

The theme of faith working within a family unit is carried on in Hebrews 11:23. Moses’ parents exercised incredible faith when they defied “the law of the land” in hiding their infant son. If Abraham is considered to be the spiritual father of all believers, everywhere, then Moses must be be seen as the father of the nation of Israel. It was essential for him to grow into adulthood. Moses’ parents saw a certain “something” in their infant son that told them he must survive in spite of the Pharaoh’s determination of destroy the Israel within the nation of Egypt by killing all baby boys. What Moses’ parents saw in their son is not stated. Josephus, writing in his Antiquities of the Jews, relates that Amram, father of Moses, had a vision from God, in which he was told not to fear or despair because Moses would be Israel’s deliverer. No wonder, then, they took the chance to let their baby son go, floating down the Nile. They, like Abraham before them, were instructed by God to do something crazy.

There’s the prophetic insight again, working with faith for the blessing of the next (and future) generations. The parents exercised faith, and faith combined with prophetic insight, led to Moses surviving, prospering, and eventually delivering his people out of the land of Egypt and into the land of Promise. But the future had happened yet. It hinged on Amram and Jochebed being obedient to God and risking the very life of Moses.

Because Moses had parents that followed the Word of the Lord, we read this:

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. (Hebrews 11:24-25 | NIV84)

Where did Moses get his character? He was the “son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” but he was raised by his own mother. The man’s character descended from his real parents, not his adopted parents. Over in the New Testament, Stephen, who had access to records we don’t, said this of Moses:

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. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. (Acts 7:21-23 | NIV84)

Moses had it all going for him. He might have risen to the highest rank possible within his adopted family, perhaps even ascending to the very throne of Egypt. But he would have none of that. He refused to be identified with the Egyptians, choosing instead to suffer along with his people, the people of God. Hebrews says it was “by faith” that Moses came to this shocking decision. At 40 years of age, Moses deliberately and thoughtfully of his own free will chose to side with the Israelites.

Moses’ faith was manifested in a forthright choice. How is your faith manifested? Is it manifested in eternal pursuits or temporal ones? The pleasures of Egypt would have lasted just a short time. Association with God’s people might bring some hardship, but it would be temporary, with a bright future waiting just over the horizon.

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. (Hebrews 11:26 | NIV84)

This is fascinating verse for three reasons. First, the writer to the Hebrews mentions Christ. Of course, Jesus Christ hadn’t been born when Moses walked the earth, so why mention Him at all in relation to Moses? It has to do with that prophetic insight. In the original Greek, the definite article is there, making it “the Christ.” Moses did what he did for the sake of the Christ, the writer of this letter wrote. Moses never used the name “Messiah,” but clearly his actions were motivated by an awareness that at some point in the future, the Messiah, the Christ, the Final Deliverer, would come. Christ, like faith, transcends time.

Second, we have a stark comparison between spiritual riches (disgrace for the sake of Christ) and earthly treasure (the treasures of Egypt). Spiritual riches are infinitely more valuable than earthly ones, and often come disguised as persecution. Jesus clarifies this for us in Matthew 5:11, 12 –

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 | NIV84)

Moses did what he did – he gave up everything he had in the world and risked his life – because he was pursuing a spiritual objective which would end in his “reward.”

And finally, what about this “reward?” Scripture teaches in the clearest way possible that salvation cannot be earned. Yet we see the word “reward” all over the New Testament. No man can earn salvation, but God rewards man on the basis of divine sovereignty, not merit. Simply put in a way our finite minds can grasp, the believer’s reward has everything to do with his obedience to the Word of God.

We’ve looked at how faith works within the family. Christian parents have a responsibility to bless their children by passing on to them the Word of God. It’s that Word that activates God’s richest blessings in their lives. The power you, as a believing mother or father, have is to bless your children with the Word of God. It’s life-changing. It’s life-preserving. In the case of Moses, it’s life-saving. The faith of his parents translated into a godly character, which in turn caused Moses to become a man of faith; a man who in turn would bless an entire nation because he exercised the kind of faith he learned from his real parents.

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