Lesson Number 19
"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude; innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore . . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them" (Hebrews 11:4-12, 17-28)
When it comes to pleasing God, the emphasis is placed upon faith. Those who have been accepted by Him have always been people of faith, and without it, it is not possible to please the Lord. Whether the individual lived before Law, during the Law, or during the New Covenant, believing God has always been the premier evidence of spiritual life and acceptance. The Scriptures place such a great stress upon this, it is difficult to conceive of it being overlooked. Notwithstanding this condition, men have always struggled with unbelief and doubt, twin arrows hurled at us by our adversary.
The disqualifying quality of unbelief is also declared. Think, for example, of the powerful statements made concerning unbelief. This was the besetting sin of Israel. "Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath, And a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also mounted against Israel; Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation" (Psa 78:21-22). The work of the Lord Jesus was restricted by unbelief. "And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief" (Matt 13:58). Jesus did not overlook unbelief--especially in His disciples, who refused to receive the testimony of the women concerning His resurrection. "And afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief" (Mark 16:14). The unbelieving Israelites were excluded from the Divine promise. " . . . they (the Israelites) were broken off for their unbelief . . . " (Rom 11:20). Unbelief is the essence of wickedness, prompting the individual to withdraw from God Himself."Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God" (Heb 3:12). Unbelief makes it impossible to obtain the promises. "And so we see that they (Israel) were not able to enter [Canaan] because of unbelief" (Heb 3:19).
In my judgment, unbelief runs rampant in the churches, and it is inexcusable. Departures from God, the absence of the great works of God, and general hardness of heart, are evidences of the presence of unbelief.
This section of Hebrews will confirm to our hearts that God has never honored an individual dominated by unbelief. It has always been the reason for exclusion, and is unanimously cursed by God, with no exceptions.
When the Lord diagnosed faith as "little," He always rebuked the condition. It is a prelude to full-blown unbelief. The inability to trust God for daily provision occasioned the Lord remark, "O men of little faith" (Matt 6:30; Luke 12:38). When the disciples feared during a threatening storm, Jesus, before He rebuked the winds and the sea, said to His disciples, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" (Matt 8:26). When Peter began to sink, after being distracted when walking on the water to go to Jesus, the Lord took hold of Him and said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt 14:31). On another occasion when the disciples wondered at Christ's saying to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees," Jesus said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?" (Matt 16:8).
It is imperative to see the seriousness of unbelief, doubt, and little faith. Unless they are abandoned, they will be the cause for exclusion from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power! It is not to be tolerated, excused, or explained. With righteous zeal we are to make war on unbelief, not allowing it to encroach upon us. I fear for many of the assemblies in which I have ministered when I recall the remarkable expressions of unbelief I have heard when among them. It is possible for our spiritual senses to become dull to this condition because we are among "friends." But we must not allow this to happen. The "unbelieving" are among those whose "part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev 21:8). On the whole, I do not believe this perspective has reached an acceptable level among those claiming identity with Christ Jesus.
Faith, on the other hand, has a sanctifying power. Repeatedly the Holy Spirit affirms this to be the case. A few expressions will suffice. Faith purifies the heart, purging from it lower interests and contaminating pursuits. "And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). Faith sets aside the individual for the Lord--it sanctifies the person. " . . . to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).
The righteousness of God is appropriated by faith. " . . . even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe . . . " (Rom 3:22). Our justification is "by faith without the deeds of the Law" (Rom 3:28 5:1). Our access to God is through the avenue of faith, not procedure. " through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand . . . " (Rom 5:2). Faith gives us the ability to stand, not falling away or being swept aside by Satan's flood of delusion. " . . . for by faith ye stand . . . " (2 Cor 1:24). An acceptable manner of life is lived by faith. Faith is the motivation for living, and the impetus behind expression. "For we walk by faith . . . the just shall live by faith" (2 Cor 5:7; Gal 3:11). The bold announcement is made, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26). The anticipation of righteousness in its fulness prompted by faith. "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness" (Gal 5:5). The appointed means through which Christ dwells in our hearts is "by faith" (Eph 3:16). The effectiveness of Christ's propitiation is appropriated through faith. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood . . . " (Rom 3:25). The promise of the Spirit is received through faith. " . . . in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:14). The grace of God, which brings salvation, is appropriated through faith. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).
It is our conviction of these things, and our confidence they are for us, that brings the blessing! You cannot make these things real to the heart by logic, philosophy, or tangible evidence. As valuable as the historicity of Christ is, it is not the means through the appropriation of His Person and accomplishments are realized. Faith is the appointed means!
It is not possible for a more extensive case to be made for the necessity of faith. Faith must be the dominating factor, not an auxiliary influence, within the child of God. Whatever is presented to God apart from faith is unacceptable. This is the reason for rejection of people who claimed to have worked extensively in the behalf of Christ. Remember the words of the Lord? "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt 7:22-23). What they called "wonderful works," the Lord of glory called "iniquity." Why so?" Because their works were not wrought by faith. He does not deny they had accomplished what they said. The Lord does not charge them with lying, but with working iniquity. They themselves were dominated by unbelief. Therefore, their very best efforts were rejected. They themselves were thrust aside. Jesus "never knew" them. They did not work in fellowship with Him. The ramifications of this for the church of our day are startling!
"By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks" (V. 4). When sin entered the world, death entered also (Rom 5:12,21). It appeared to be hopeless for humanity. A curse was placed upon the woman, the man, and the ground. Adam and Eve were thrust from the Edenic paradise, with an acute awareness their exclusion was permanent. They were privy, however, to a promise that a coming Seed would bring an end to the old serpent who deceived them. Clothed with coats of skin provided by the Lord (Gen 3:21), they began their tenure in a cursed world. It was not long until two sons were born to them--Cain and Abel.
The Scriptures move us through history to events of significance in the Divine economy. We do not know how long a period is covered by the first two verses of Genesis Four. "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground" (Gen 4:1-2). Here is one of the brotherly pairs of Scripture that are presented as examples of flesh and spirit, natural and spiritual. The second pair is Isaac and Ishmael (Gal 4:28-29). The third is Jacob and Esau (Rom 9:10-13). In all three cases, God was pleased with one brother and displeased with the other. One was chosen and one was not. One was extraordinarily blessed, the other was not. In all three cases, the unaccepted one opposed the accepted one. What was said of Abel may also be said of Isaac and Jacob. They all "obtained the testimony" they were righteous because of their faith.
Sufficient time passed for Adam and Eve to have two sons who grew into young manhood, having life vocations. As time progressed, the race maintained a consciousness of the God against Whom the mother and father of all living had sinned. The words are arresting. "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering" (Gen 4:3-4).
A significant event, indeed--and it is pertinent to our discussion of faith. The Spirit takes up the matter of Abel and his offering to God. He reaches further into the event than did Moses. Moses gives us the facts. The book of Hebrews unveils the reason for the facts. There, in those most primitive times, without a codified Law, without Scriptures, and with a minimum of Divine communication, God was honored by offerings and oblations. The Genesis text says these offerings occurred "in the process of time." It is quite probable they were offered on the seventh day, which God consecrated in the beginning (Gen 2:2-3). There was a consciousness of God among that ancient family!
Cain was the first to bring an offering to the Lord, presenting the fruit of the ground as an offering unto the Lord. Centuries, such offerings were established as thank offerings (meal offerings), in recognition of the provision of the Lord (Lev 7:11-14). Whatever his motivation, the offering of Cain was not prompted by faith--the persuasion that God is, and that He is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek Him.
Here is the first example of spiritual worship--worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). Cain's offering was not prompted by faith, did not involve his heart, and was for show. He was truly being "of the wicked one" (1 John 3:12), becoming the first murderer. We know he was corrupt in the manner in which he gave his offering. God said to him, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen 4:6-7). But it was not so with Abel! His heart was right. Faith made it right. His offering was accepted because of his faith--because of his conviction of God and insight into His Person.
Abel's offering went further than Cain's. He took of the firstborn of his flock, and offered it to God. In this he prefigured the offering of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. His offering cost him more, and evidenced more sensitivity. He had seen the implications of the covering coats God provided his parents, and offered a sacrifice in keeping with the nature of that covering.
It is still the same today. Faith prompts men and women to make acceptable sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1-2; Phil 4:18; 1 Tim 2:3; 1 Pet 2:5; 2:20). God will receive the most lowly offerings that are given by faith. The widow who gave all her living did so because of her faith (Mark 12:44). The Law did not require that she give everything she had. No it even the tradition of the elders made such a demand. It was her faith that, like Abel, made her acceptable to God.
Faith obtained a witness from God that Abel was righteous. It was not merely what he did that brought this recognition, but the motivation that prompted it. It was "by faith" that he "offered God a better sacrifice" (NIV). God still approves and speaks well of those who dare to believe--those who walk and live by faith. Men are still righteous because of their faith, for "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Rom 3:25). The triumphant nature of faith is seen in sacrifices made by the people of God, and His recognition of both them and their offerings.
"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God" (V. 5, NASB). Enoch is a marvelous example of the potency of faith. He lived in a moral and spiritual decline that consummated in the destruction of the world by the flood. Jude provides us with one of Enoch's prophecies, which had to do with the flood itself. "And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him'" (Jude 14-15).
The genealogical order occurs in Genesis 5:4-20, in which Enoch is the seventh generation: (1) Adam, (2) Seth, (3) Enos, (4) Cainan, (5) Mahalaleel, (6) Jared, (7) Enoch. His prophecy was an announcement of the impending flood, which occurred approximately 460-470 years after his translation. Considering the times, his was a remarkable prophecy, during a time when prophecy was relatively unknown, so far as the Scriptural record is concerned. Interestingly enough, you will not find this quotation in the book of Genesis, which records Enoch's birth, fatherhood, and translation. The quotation is taken from The Book of Enoch, part of what is called "Apocalyptic Literature." It is generally conceded that The Books of Enoch are the most important of these writings. This quotation is purported to come from Enoch 1:9.
The point of the Hebrews reference to Enoch is the effectiveness of faith in obtaining the favor of God. Enoch lived in a time of moral and spiritual deterioration. The decline would become so serious, that the Spirit of God would cease to strive with men, a prelude to the unparalleled judgment of the flood. In his generation, men did not have the advantage of a bible, nor were prophets in abundance. Yet it is said of Enoch, "And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters" (Gen 5:21-22).
This is a most remarkable accomplishment in view of Adam's expulsion from such fellowship. In the case of Adam, it was a face-to-face experience, where the presence of God was known even by the senses. But this was not the case with Enoch. In him we see the power and effectiveness of faith, which gains access to the God from which sin alienates us. The Scripture tells us "by faith Enoch was translated . . . " (Heb 11:50). God dominated his thoughts and was his preference. Though the prophet of Enoch shows his alertness to the world in which he lived, his faith made him more aware of God than of the wicked world surrounding him. It was this condition that gave Enoch a perspective of the world that reflected the mind of the Lord; i.e., "ungodly . . . ungodly deeds . . . ungodly committed . . . hard speeches . . . ungodly sinners . . . " (Jude 15). His faith caused the world to be repulsive to him, and God to be precious.
God was so endeared to Enoch that He "took Him," wafting him to the glory without him seeing death. By faith, Enoch walked so close to God that there came a time when he was closer to heaven than to the earth, so to speak. Then, "God took him.." He "took" Enoch because wanted him. He delighted in Enoch, or, as it is written, "for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb 11:5b). Later, God would divulge His desire to find such a man (2 Chron 16:9)--a man whose heart was enthralled with God Himself. Such a man was Enoch.
Here is one of two men in the history of humanity that did not see death, and one of three that ascended bodily into heaven. Elijah also was translated into heaven y a whirlwind in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses (2 Kings 2:11). That prophet also dwelt in a time of departure and reprobation, but pleased God by his faith. The other to ascend bodily into heaven was the Lord Jesus Himself, the only difference being His death for the sins of humanity. God also attested to the faith of the Son by saying He was "well pleased" with Him (Matt 3:17). Three men from three differing ages! Enoch from the patriarchal age, before the Law. Elijah from the era of the Law. Jesus from the threshold of the "day of salvation." These three instances attest to the power of faith and the reality of the world to come.
It is the peculiar property of faith to please God. Those persuaded of the Person and promises of God are near and dear to His heart. If you want to please God, believe Him! Thrust the world from the throne of your mind and affection, and seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Col 3:1-3). This may not bring the accolades of men, but it will bring the praise of God. When the world troubles you, and the contemporary church becomes a source of vexation, look to Enoch and remember, you can please God in the midst of a society that angers Him!
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who seek Him" (v. 6). Having declared the triumph of Enoch, the Spirit now affirms a primary consideration. Surely every person knows the individual that displeases God will not be saved by Him. Although there is far too little talk about pleasing God, it is a premier activity in the Kingdom. God is to be pleased at all cost. Paul prayed the Colossians would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects" (Col 1:10, NASB). Even the matter of children obeying their parents is related to being "well-pleasing to the Lord" (Col 3:20, NASB). In his preaching, Paul affirmed he did not seek to please men "but God, Who examines the heart" (1 Thess 2:4, NASB). Answers to pray are related to us doing things "that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22). Pleasing God is pivotal in spiritual life!
With characteristic determination Paul affirmed, "Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor 5:9, NASB). When God is active within His people, He always works "in us that which is pleasing in His sight" (Heb 13:21, NASB). One of the reasons sited for Christ's effectiveness in accomplishing our salvation is this: "the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Isa 53:10).
There have been examples of people who DISPLEASED God, and they are all arresting. A man named Onan "displeased the Lord," and was slain as a result (Gen 38:10). On one occasion, Israel began to murmur about their circumstances. The Scriptures say, "Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp" (Num 11:1). When David sinned with Bathsheba, it grieved the Lord. Thus it is written, "But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD" (2 Sam 11:27). As a consequence, the child conceived through Bathsheba died, the sword never departed from David's house, and he was not allowed to build the temple. When David numbered the people, "God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel" (1 Chron 21:7). David once sang of the effects of God's displeasure upon the people. "O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again" (Psa 60:1). Isaiah wrote of God being displeased because there was no sound judgment among the people (Isa 59:15). Zechariah wrote of Jehovah being "sore displeased" with some of the ancients (Zech 1:2), and "very sore displeased with the heathen" (Zech 1:15). Paul reminds us of the plight of the wayward Israelites saying, "with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (1 Cor 10:5). WHETHER OR NOT GOD IS PLEASED WITH US, IS MOST IMPorTANT!
Our text affirms it is not possible to please God without faith! Like it or not, that shuts people up to displeasing God and incurring His indignation apart from faith--personal faith. We dare not approach faith academically, coming up with fanciful and powerless explanations and definitions. Eternity is at stake here! In faith, God has made provision for Himself to be pleased with us. Our faith will be the sanctifying element in all that we do. It will be what makes our words and deeds acceptable.
Faith involves more than simply assenting to the truth of a proposition, although it does involve such assent. The Holy Spirit declares faith is GOD-centered. It is persuaded that "GOD IS" and that He is "A REWARDER OF THEM THAT DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM" (Heb 11:6b). Those are pivotal considerations for the soul. To doubt the reality of God Himself is to be shut up to displeasing Him. To question that He rewards those who persistently seek Him is also to displease Him. The alarming thing about this affirmation is its contradiction of many attitudes within the very church Jesus purchased with His own blood. There remain people who conduct their lives as though there were not God. They may appear to be good people, but they are not. You may be sure, Satan will tempt you to doubt God and His determination to reward those aggressive to know Him. But you must not yield to the temptation.
Without this kind of faith--the kind that is persuaded of the reality of God and Him being a Rewarder--it is not possible to please Him. There is no form of religious service or worship that is acceptable to God apart from faith--none at all! If people are not motivated by the persuasion of God and conviction that He will reward their pursuit of Him, their religious activities only anger Him. This was the condition into which Israel's unbelief thrust them. Their religious activities were like many about us to day. God responded in an arresting manner. "Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies; I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood" (Isa 1:13-15, NKJV). Their "sacred meetings" were "iniquity" to God. And who so? Because they were not motivated by faith! They had immersed themselves in sin, refusing to cleanse themselves from things offensive to God. Their eyes were turned inward, a property of unbelief.
Believing that God "is," is not simply acknowledging that there is a God--not even that there is one God. James reminds us, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble!" (James 2:19). Tremble they did! When confronting Jesus, these corrupt spirits were afraid He was going to "torment" them "before the time" (Matt 8:29). In this regard, they are more advanced than many people professing to be followers of Christ. But this is not believing that "He is."
Believing that God "is" involves believing the Scriptural representation of Him. It requires the unqualified acceptance of the revelation He has given of Himself. Abel had a comparatively limited revelation, but believed what He knew of God. Noah and Abraham followed by believing the revelation that was given to them. They believed the God depicted in the revelation "IS." As the revelation advanced, Moses received more and believed more concerning God. Believing that "God is" involves infinitely more than being persuaded He exists! In this "day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2), believing God "is" requires the persuasion He is the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:3), the Architect of our salvation, and the One to Whom Jesus brings us. The God declared in the Gospel "IS," and must be so acknowledged if He is to be pleased. God must be perceived and embraced as more than the Creator of the universe. He is also the "Savior of all men, especially them that believe" (1 Tim 4:10). Faith joyfully receives that!
The point of this affirmation must not be obscured to us. Elsewhere, God has affirmed the same thing in other words. "I did not say to the seed of Jacob, 'Seek Me in vain'" (Isa 45:19). The Holy Spirit declares in Christ, " . . . your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58). And again, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb 6:10). How firmly the Lord Jesus lays down this premise--namely, that God is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward" (Matt 10:42, NKJV).
However, the preeminent reward is God Himself. If, as the text states, He is "a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," then He Himself, Who is the Object of the quest, becomes the Reward. That is precisely how He revealed Himself to our father Abraham. "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward" (Gen 15:1, NKJV). The ultimate fulfillment of this will be realized in the "world to come." Then, as it is written, "God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Rev 21:3). This will be the fulfillment of the phrase "heirs of God" (Rom 8:17). That is what the child of God longs for--the Presence of the Lord Himself. The spiritual intimacy that will attend this union challenges the mind.
There is no way to adequately describe this blessing. In apocalyptic language, the Holy Spirit goes as far as He can in our language. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name" (Rev 21:3, NKJV). We will be IN God's temple--in His most sacred Presence, like the Holy of holies.
Those who inherit God will never again be without Him, in any sense--they will "go no more out." Now, while we are present in the body, we are "absent from the Lord" (2 Cor 5:6). That will not be the case when God rewards us with Himself, praise the Lord!
Perhaps you have wondered why the Lord is called "A Rewarder" instead of "THE Rewarder." This does not mean there are other rewarders distinct from Himself. The point of the text is that faith views Him as a Rewarder, while cringing fear perceives Him as a "consuming fire." God is, in truth, a "consuming fire"--that is His nature (Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29). Faith, indeed, recognizes that, but goes further to lay hold of another aspect of His nature. He is "a Rewarder." The perception of His indignation will compel one to avoid sin. The conviction of God being "a Rewarder" constrains a fervent quest for His Person and Presence.
But I must not wander far from the subject. It is not possible to please God without a dominating persuasion of these realities. Ritual does not please God. Mere activity does not bring satisfaction to the Lord. Unless we "keep the faith" we will not only be a disgrace to the Lord, we will incur His indignation. That being the case, there is no greater work among God's people than nourishing their faith. In a hostile world, and hounded by a fierce adversary, our faith tends to dissipate and wane. It must be nourished! God gives us faith (Rom 12:3; Phil 1:29), but we must keep it, for "without faith, it is impossible to please God." It is necessary to "fight" to keep this faith, refusing to make "shipwreck" of it or "depart from" it (1 Tim 6:12; 1 Tim 1:19; 1 Tim 4:1), for at the very moment we lose faith, it becomes impossible to please God!
"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence [fear, KJV] prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (v. 7). In the world order, seeing is believing. Unless the matter is visual, doubt remains as to its reality. But this is not the way it is in the Kingdom of God. Faith triumphs over sight, giving substance to unseen things. Noah stands as one of the first examples of this. Until Noah, there is no record of rain upon the earth no waters falling upon the earth from the heavens. It is written, "Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground" (Gen 2:5-6, NASB). The first mention of falling rain is made in connection with the flood, when a torrential and uninterrupted rain continued for forty consecutive days. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. In addition, there had never been a flood, particularly a global one. Noah, in every sense of the word was "warned by God about things not yet seen."
Not only was Noah convinced the flood was coming, he was also onvinced he would be saved from it by means of the ark. The scope of his earthly knowledge did not justify such conclusions, but his faith triumphed over that impediment. Faith does not need to see the matter, it only needs to be told of it. Faith itself becomes the substance of things hoped for. When warned by God of an impending flood, Noah took immediate action upon the basis of that word. He did not need a body of experiential knowledge to support the warning. No geological or astronomical information was needed to buttress the Word of God. Faith is superior to earthly knowledge. It exercises a more powerful constraint upon the individual, and produces a consistency that cannot be duplicated by the world.
The power of Noah's faith is glorious. It constrained him not only to begin the construction of the ark, but to carry the project through to completion. He prepared it for the saving of his household, thereby making provision for their salvation from the curse. He also condemned the world, towering above it in his persuasion of things to come. The world saw the activity of Noah, and should have inquired into his aggressive construction of the ark. They were without excuse--to be confronted with a man dominated by conviction. In his work, he condemned the world, a most remarkable circumstance. His faith also made him "an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith," in very spiritually primitive times. What a marvelous triumph faith exhibited in Noah.
I cannot pass by this event without mentioning it's parallel to our situation. The presence of the ark actually condemned the world of Noah's day. Men should have beaten a path to Noah's door, so to speak, inquiring into the reason for its construction. Contemporary evangelists give the world too much credit. They speak of its failure to hear the Gospel as though it had no witness to the coming judgment of the world. But they are not correct. The very presence of a holy people, devoting themselves to the Lord, and preparing themselves for the end of the world, is reason enough to provoke them to inquire about these things. Little wonder Peter spoke of sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, and being "to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Pet 3:15). Wherever there are godly people, those who surround them are without excuse. If the testimony of the nature leaves the world "without excuse" (Rom 1:20), how must the testimony of an "epistle of Christ," written with the Spirit of God, leave them (2 Cor 3:3)?
The Word of God tells us the world is reserved for fire (2 Pet 3:7). It reminds us that the heavens will pass away, as well as the earth and all of the works in it (2 Pet 3:10-12). It is just as foolish to study nature to see if these things are possible, as it would have been for Noah to research the possibility of a global flood. Whatever is seen remains inferior to faith. Faith can perceive beyond the visible, and prepare for what is coming.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going" (v. 8). Abraham is our father, possessing the kind of faith that saves the soul. He obeyed "when he was called," not when he understood. The account is found in Genesis 12:4-5. "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."
Our text affirms that Abraham did NOT know where he was going. God called him to a land, but did not, at the beginning, specify which one. God said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" (Gen 12:1). The land would be identified while en route to it. This contradicts the wisdom of this world. If we are going somewhere, in this world, it is imperative that we know where we are going. But this is not the manner of the Kingdom. Faith compelled Abraham to obey immediately--"when he was called." Faith does not require an elaborate network of supporting arguments and evidence--just a word from the Lord!
Faith moved Abraham to begin the journey, and to continue it. It is not enough to start the journey only to come short of the promised land, like Israel of old. He had to leave where he was located, and begin making progress to a land unknown--something illogical to the flesh. The knowledge of this world could never justify such actions, but faith triumphs over the knowledge of this world.
As is His manner, the Lord sweetened the command with a promise: "And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3). The promises of God are to faith what solid nourishment is to the body. They ignite faith as a fire ignites wood. One small promise will outweigh a thousand seeming facts, as the world counts facts. At some point, faith moves you into the unknown, where your knowledge has not yet ventured. It is the peculiar property of faith to rest fully in Divine commitments. It satisfies the soul, and the intellect, emotion, and will as well. Where faith is dominate, you will have no trouble obeying God.
Abraham headed for the land of Canaan as though he were going to take immediate possession of it. Faith has that kind of effect upon the soul. However, when h arrived there, "the Canaanite was then in the land" (Gen 12:6b). This knowledge appeared to contradict the promise of God. However, because Abraham had obeyed by faith, the Lord revealed more to him. "To your descendants I will give this land" (Gen 12:7). To the carnal, this would have been a discouraging word, but not to Abraham. Faith triumphs over knowledge! Instead of becoming cast down, Abraham proceeded from there to a mountain, where he built an altar to the Lord (Gen 12:8). It was there that he "called upon the name of the Lord." Then, as though surveying the land, Abraham proceeded toward the south.
As though it was not enough that the Canaanite was in the land promised to Abraham and his seed, "there was a famine in the land" (Gen 12:10). This required Abraham to go down into Egypt for a season. There his faith was tried in new and challenging ways. Still, he came out of the experience, cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart. Faith always triumphs, and those who keep it will, by that means, become triumphant themselves.
When coming into Christ, extremely little was known of our ultimate destination. The bulk of the knowledge we possess has of our future home has been revealed to us en route to the promised land. Faith propels the individual into obedience. Where there is no obedience, there is no faith. Obedience flows from faith like water from a fountain. Whatever value may be ascribed to philosophical arguments, apologetics, and the like, they are vastly inferior to faith. Every form of human knowledge, regardless of the discipline it requires, must stand behind faith. With has a moral power that is unequaled, causing its possessor to stand in fire, walk through floods, or prepare an ark--whatever is necessary to be ready for the future. God is praised for the glorious provision of faith!
"By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 9-10). The experience of Abraham in Canaan appeared to contradict the promise given to him. First, the Canaanite was in the land, then a famine ravaged the land while he was there. Finally, the Spirit affirms, he lived as an alien in the very land he had been promised. He was like a foreigner in the land God had given to him, and had no permanent dwelling there. The same experience was endured by his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, "fellow heirs of the same promise." That experience is enough to overcome anyone but a believer! Only faith is equal to such challenging experiences.
Abraham, though given a small amount of information, sensed the promise of God involved more than this world. Without a page of Scripture, and with comparatively minimal promises, "he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." How is it that he vision could be so keen? That is the characteristic of faith! Faith always triumphs over experience, even when human deduction can produce no satisfactory reason to continue!
The parallel between Abraham as those in Christ Jesus is most noteworthy. We too have been called to a land which we will "after inherit." We have been told we will "inherit the earth," and yet it is now inhabited by hostile personalities. We must spend our time in this world as "strangers and pilgrims" (1 Pet 2:11). Often, and in special measures, we sense the famine that pervades the realm of nature. With David we cry out, "O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, In a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psa 63:1; 143:6). Our experience seems to contradict the promise. We experience a fierce battle within, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. Like a lurking Canaanite, we find "another law in our members, warring against the law of our mind" (Rom 7:23). Our present experience involves not only abounding, but suffering need (Phil 4:12).
Still, faith triumphs over these experiences, enabling the child of God to make progress in famine, and stand against enemies. Still, with perseverance, we "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:12). Faith clings to the Word of the Lord, like Jesus, scorning the shame of contrary experiences (Heb 12:2).
"By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE" (v. 11-12). Faith deals with the realm of impossibilities. We have such a case in Sarah, through whose Seed the world was blessed. From nature's viewpoint, Sarah has not ability to conceive a child. She was "barren," incapable of having a child (Gen 11:30). No fertility drug could alter her condition! That this was the case is seen in the duration of her barrenness. She remained in that condition until "even when she was past the age" of childbearing (RSV). Nature was impotent in this case, even though given sufficient time to recuperate, were that possible.
Now faith did what nature could not do! It gave Sarah the ability to conceive--she "received ability to conceive." Rather than looking to her inability, she considered the faithfulness of God, Who had promised she would bear a son (Gen 17:19). Sarah did have a bout with unbelief when both she and Abraham were "were old and well stricken in age" (Gen 18:13-16). But faith triumphed, and she took hold of the Word of the Lord. Because of her faith, the Spirit witnesses, she was visited by the Lord at the appointed time, and bore a son in her old age, contradicting the laws of nature (Gen 21:1-2). It is as though her faith was mingled with unbelief, which she chose to cast aside as contemptible. This is the spirit the father of a possessed child had when he cried, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). There too, faith triumphed over nature! At first, she rejected the word of promise. Yet, when she knew it came from God, she embraced it in triumph!
Learn, child of God, that if you will keep the faith, God will honor it, and you shall triumph! Nature will often appear to contradict the promise of God. Men with haltering speech may be told they will testify before kings and princes--nature contradicting the promise (Luke 21:12-14). When summoned before the world's most prodigious rulers and thinkers, they were transformed into leaders. Moses was called to speak in a kings court, although nature denied him oratorical abilities (Ex 4:10). Yet, even Pharaoh eventually trembled at his word. Paul was summoned by the King of glory to turn men from darkness to light through speaking, even though that was an area in which he was comparatively contemptible (2 Cor 10:10). On one occasion, a ruler of Rome trembled at his powerful presentation (Acts 24:25). The disciples of Christ were, in the judgment of the world, "unlearned and ignorant." Yet, when they stood before the world's astute men, their reasoning towered over them, to such an extent their enemies could not answer them (Acts 4:13). The religious elite could not resist the wisdom of Stephen (Acts 6:10).
How is it that these men became so adequate? It was their faith! Faith always triumphs over nature--over natural handicaps and disabilities. The history of the church is filled with powerful persuaders and prodigious Kingdom laborers that were denied natural advantages. But their faith was superior to their natural handicaps, and they triumphed. It can be the same with you! Whatever you may lack in nature, is more than compensated for by your faith. God does not take your natural abilities into consideration when calling you into His work, but your faith!
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED' He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type" (v. 17-19). Here is one of the great occurrences of Scripture, and it is written "for our learning, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (Rom 15:4). The event is recorded in the 22nd chapter of Genesis. Here one of the most dramatic tests of faith in history took place. God put Abraham to the test! Knowing the sensitivity of Abraham, God only had to call his name one time, and he heard: "Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am" (Gen 22:1). Faith does sensitize the heart to God!
At the time of this test, Isaac was not a mere child. Prior to this, Ishmael, with his mother Hagar, had been expelled from the household of Abraham (Gen 21:9-14). Sufficient time passed for Ishmael to grow and become an archer, and finally be married (Gen 21:20-21). Abraham had also sojourned in the land of the Philistines for "many days," or a lengthy space of time (Gen 21:34). He had grown accustomed to his son's presence, as he had grown into young manhood. Isaac was the future heir of the world, and the one through whom the world would be blessed. Isaac was probably somewhere between his latter teens and early twenties when this trial occurred.
The trial was couched in heart-rending language. It was brief, and to the point. "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen 22:1). YOUR son . . . your ONLY son . . . whom you LOVE! And what is it that God requires Abraham to do? He was to take him to the land of Moriah, and there offer him as a "burnt offering." The specific place would be divulged later. As when God first called Abraham, he would have to move out by faith, not knowing the specific destination appointed by God. Those governed by sentimentality could never have obeyed that command! Neither, indeed, would a loose association with God have allowed for such obedience. The son to whom Abraham's heart had been knit by both nature and spirit, was commanded to be offered up to God! Here was the one upon whom the hopes of the world had been suspended, and yet he was to be forfeited--offered up to God! What form of earthly reason would justify such a command? But faith is equal to the challenge.
Abraham does ponder the command. He does not evacuate his mind, and blindly proceed without due consideration of what God has commanded him. The Word of God tells us how Abraham reasoned, with the reasoning of faith. He "reasoned that God could raise the dead" (Heb 11:19, NIV). At this point of history, a resurrection had not yet occurred. The first resurrection of record would not occur until centuries later, when Elijah would raise a widow's son from the dead (1 Kgs 17). Abraham could not look to the example of a predecessor for hope! Nor, indeed, had God spoken concerning a resurrection of the dead. There simply was no earthly basis for reasoning God could or would raise Isaac from the dead! But faith does not draw from the well of earthly wisdom. It feeds upon the promise of the Almighty!
Abraham believed the word of the Lord, that "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED" (Heb 11:18). He knew God "cannot lie" (Tit 1:2), and that He is "the faithful God, who keeps His covenant" (Deut 7:9). He knew God would not command an action that would negate His promise. Faith persuaded Him of the nature of God, when fleshly reasoning would have stumbled at His Word. Rest assured, this was not accomplished in a vacuum or with a minimal amount of effort. The adversary was surely there to resist Abraham, even as he was with Joshua the high priest (Zech 3:1). Just as Satan tempted Eve by introducing a contrary line of reasoning (Gen 3:1-6), he also must have assaulted Abraham. How he must have desired to have Abraham, as he did Peter (Luke 22:31-32).
See faith rise to the occasion. It is superior to earthly reason, having a reasoning pattern of its own. Technically, Abraham was not right. God was NOT going to raise Isaac from the dead. Nor, indeed, was he going to allow Abraham to take Isaac's life. But Abraham did not know this. All he knew is what he was commanded to do, and he rose up early in the morning to do it (Gen 22:3). Although technically incorrect, the manner of Abraham's reasoning was precisely correct. God was at the core of his reasoning, and for that reason, Abraham triumphed in trial. Even when he arrived at the mountain of sacrifice, Abraham knew he was going to come back down the mountain with a living Isaac. As he began the ascent to the place of offering, he told his servants "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you" (Gen 22:5). On the way up the mountain, he also spoke words of faith to an inquiring Isaac, who wondered about the lack of a "lamb for a burnt offering." In towering and exemplary faith Abraham answered, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you" (Gen 22:8). Faith not only triumphs after the trial, it is triumphant throughout the trial!
The purpose for this trial was not to persuade God of the ability faith gave to Abraham. The record confirms this was done for the sake of angelic hosts--not to mention ourselves. Following the preparation of the altar, Abraham "arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood." With unwavering faith he "stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." It was then, and only then, that a voice thundered out, forbidding him to kill Isaac. It was not the voice of the living God, but of an angel, who had great interest in the mountain event. "But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Gen 22:9-12). Peter tells us of the interest of angels in God's redemptive work (1 Pet 1:12). How satisfied that angel must have been to witness the power of faith in a mortal! I cannot help but wonder how the angels react top the level of obedience they see in our time.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come" (v. 20). Here is one of the great statements of Scripture, conducive to much contemplation. The circumstances under which the blessing was conferred were certainly not ideal, from a human point of view. Through the prompting of his mother, Jacob had feigned himself to be Esau. He came into his father with the skins of kids upon his hands and the smooth of his neck, giving him the feel of his twin brother, who was a hairy man (Gen 27:11,16; 23). Will these circumstances circumvent the blessing of the Lord? Indeed not!
You will recall the blessing of the firstborn was given to Jacob, while Esau lost it, even though he was the firstborn. Nature, in this case, violated the promise of God. God declares that before Jacob and Esau were born He "loved Jacob and hated Esau" (Rom 9:11-13). Jacob's heart was tender to the Lord, while Esau "despised" his birthright, being a "fornicator and profane person" (Gen 25:34; Heb 12:16). Although Isaac was not aware of these things cognitively, his faith took hold of the mind of the Lord. He pronounced appropriate blessings upon both sons "concerning things to come"--things that had not yet taken place. With the eye of an eagle, he spoke precisely concerning the future of both Esau and Jacob (Gen 27:27-40; 28:2-3). The circumstance was inferior to the faith of Isaac! The blessing was even conferred without the full awareness of the circumstances! Isaac trembled when he found out he had blessed Isaac thinking it was Esau (Gen 27:33). But his faith would not allow him to recall the blessing! Faith triumphed over the circumstances, even though the extent of them was not known to the patriarch.
"By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff" (v. 21). For faith to be thoroughly effective, it must flourish in the time of death. In death we face the "last enemy" the last bastion of the curse (1 Cor 15:26). The triumph of faith is seen in the death of Jacob, the last of the triad of fathers for whom Israel still remains beloved (Rom 11:28). The event in reference is recorded in Genesis 48:5-22 and verse 31. Once again, the blessing of the sons took a course contrary to nature. Having never met the sons of Joseph, Jacob (or Israel, as he is called in the Genesis record) said, "Who are these?" Giving glory to God, Joseph replied "They are my sons, whom God has given me here " [in Egypt] (Gen 48:9). What a blessing it was to the aged Jacob to see them. With a thankful heart he replied, "I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well" (v. 10).
Jacob called for the boys to be brought to him for a blessing, and Joseph took them from his knees to receive that blessing. The boys' names were Ephraim and Manasseh, with Manasseh being the older. Joseph, knowing the eyesight of his father was failing, positioned the boys so that Manasseh was under the right hand of Jacob, and Ephraim was under the left. That was, he thought, the proper order for the blessing. However, in this case, God had determined that the covenantal blessing go to the younger, as He did with Jacob and Esau. How would the aged Jacob handle this case? Would faith prevail? He was not only nearly blind, but was sick, and ready to die. He had "strengthened himself" to sit up in bed for the occasion (48:1-2). Was faith equal to this occasion?
Indeed, faith does rise to the occasion! The record reads, "But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born" (48:14). As soon as Jacob had started the blessing Joseph remonstrated. "Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head" (48:18). Though himself a godly man, the faith of Jacob exceeded his in this case. It was no mistake that Jacob blessed the younger. Jacob replied to Joseph, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations" (48:19).
This event would have been remarkable enough under ordinary circumstances, but Jacob was dying. He himself said during that occasion, "Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers" (48:21, NKJV). His physical eyes were dim., but the eye of faith was not. He saw beyond the circumstances when he was at his weakest physical point. He even "worshiped" during this occasion, "leaning on the top of his staff" (Heb 11:21b, NASB). The Scriptures provide us with a vivid picture of Jacob's departure. "And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people" (Gen 49:33). Faith unto the end! That is the way I want to depart! With the last exertion of his energy, he draws his feet into the bed upon which he will die, and breathes his last breath. It was then that he was "gathered to his people," those kindred spirits who also had lived by faith.
This is but one of several instances in Scripture where the fear of death was dissipated by faith. Saints maintained their grasp upon the realities of the Kingdom as they were about to exit "this present evil world." Blessed contemplation, that this can also be our lot, that in our death we shall keep the things of God in clear view! In the end, you too will be gathered to your people. Those "people" are the associations we develop in this world. May they be associations wrought by faith.
"By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones" (v. 22). Here is another case of a dying person with keen spiritual vision and determination. Joseph had lived his adult life in Egypt, and had been blessed of God in that place. He had risen to the second in the land, and was used of God to keep the covenantal people alive. Now, his time came to die. At 110 years of age, his pilgrimage was brought to its culmination. Before his brothers he now declares his faith, boldly and confidently. "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here" (Gen 50:25-26).
Joseph knew Egypt was only a temporary residence for the covenant people. Although their deliverance would not occur for nearly four centuries, Joseph, by faith, declares the people's deliverance. God had sworn with an oath to give another land to Israel, and they would surely come into it. Joseph had taken care of his people in Egypt, but now he is ready to die. Still, he has a mind for the seed of Abraham. He reminds them, "God will surely take care of you!" But these are not just empty words. Joseph has himself embraced the promise. Although he is dying, he wants his bones to be taken to the promised land, and not left in Egypt.
There are sophists who care nothing for the body once the spirit has left it. They have less understanding than did Joseph before the giving of the Law. When the day of deliverance came, by faith Joseph gave a commandment concerning his bones. "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here." The Holy Spirit declares he said this "by faith." I gather that contrary views are said by unbelief. Incidentally, Israel passed these words along, keeping them alive until the exodus from Egypt. Of that eventful evening of deliverance it is written, "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, "God shall surely take care of you; and you shall carry my bones from here with you" (Ex 13:19).
The faith of Joseph stretched forward, taking hold of a promise that would be fulfilled long after his departure. It will do no less for you. Like the ancients, you can see them afar off, be persuaded of them, embrace them, and confess you are a stranger and pilgrim in the earth (Heb 11:13). Faith still obtains the promise!
Faith Triumphs Over Fear Faith's triumphant traits are seen in Moses, through whom the Law was given (John 1:17). That faith was evidenced in his parents before him, who lived in extremely difficult times. The male babies were being killed when Moses was born, and it was being done by order of the king. However, Amram and Jochebed, his parents, had faith, and thus triumphed over fear. "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" (v. 23). Indeed, the edict of the king had gone forth, but they did not obey the king. Their allegiance was to God, not to man. They perceived in Moses more than a mere baby. He was, as the NIV puts it, "no ordinary child."
A weak and vacillating church cannot have an appreciation for such boldness! After concealing the infant for three months, they could no longer hide him. They then became creative in their boldness, making a small ark for Joseph, seeing to it he would be saved by water, something like Noah (Ex 2:3). His sister, Miriam, was positioned a short distance from the ark to see what would happen to him. You recall, I am sure, the account of Pharaoh's daughter finding the infant, and Moses' sister seeing to it that Moses' own mother weaned him in Pharaoh's house.
How is it that such a blessing took place? It was because Moses' parents lived by faith, not by sight. They were NOT afraid of the king, but took precautions to spare the child the king had commanded should die. Faith still has that kind of power. We do well to fight to maintain it, and keep it to the end! Lord, give us such people, that are not afraid when commanded by earthly dignitaries to act contrary to Your will!
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (v.24-26). To make choices is one thing, to make bold choices is quite another. For forty years, Moses was reared in Egypt--in the king's house. He was given every imaginable worldly advantage. He was raised by a woman who he later refused to call his mother. There came a time when he had to make a choice between the advantages of this world and the disadvantage of being associated with the people of God. Many a soul has been dashed upon the rocks of this decision!
Notice what Moses' faith prompted him to do. He refused, chose, considered, and looked! With a dogmatism that comes through faith alone, he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter"-- however good she may have been to him. Moses' own mother nursed him, then delivering him to Pharaoh's daughter, who gave him his name--Moses (drawing out), for, she said, "I drew him out of the water" (Gen 2:9-10). But when Moses was grown, "he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors" (Ex 11:24). He did not see them as Egyptian slaves, but as his brethren! Faith gave him that vision, and he joyfully received it. He deliberately chose to be identified with the suffering people of God, and he did so by faith. The "pleasures of sin for a season" were not rioting and drunkenness for Moses, but the luxury of Pharaoh's house, and being a ruler in the land. He knew such things were short-lived, but the promises of God would be forever. Faith can triumph over fleshly associations, even though they have developed over a long period of time.
Moses considered suffering with Christ of greater value than all the treasures of Egypt, which were the greatest in the world. He identified the people of God with the coming Seed that would conquer the old serpent, and deliver the people of God. He sensed the promised Messiah could not be enjoyed apart from identity with the people of God. So, for a while, he chose to endure the opposition of men that he might enjoy the approbation of God. He did not do this because he had to, but because he wanted to! Faith drove him to make this choice!
Although he could easily recall the splendor of ancient Egypt, he chose to look beyond the constrictions of time. He "had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Such bold choices are not unnoticed by God, and Moses knew it. Faith is always equal to the requirement for choice. It still can enable us to boldly choose what is right, and bear the temporary consequences for doing so!
"By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen" (v. 27). On the surface, it may appear that Moses was, in fact, afraid of the king's wrath. It is true that when Moses killed an Egyptian who was oppressing his brethren, it says, "Then Moses was afraid, and said, 'Surely the matter has become known'" (Ex 2:14). This may appear to contradict what the Hebrews text affirms. First, when he fled, the fear of the king was not his "dominant" thought. While fear was present, it was inferior to the consideration of God and an exceeding great reward. Second, this more specifically applies to the final departure of Moses from Egypt, when he led the people in triumphal exodus without any regard for the reappraisals of the wicked king.
Our choice to seek the prize of life eternal will be attended by the opposition of the world. The degree of opposition can vary, but it will surely be present. Faith, however, is fully equal to such a challenge. It enables the individual to choose Christ without fearing the devil or the world to choose to follow Him regardless of the temporary consequences. I find such faith lacking greatly in the professing choice. Such a condition does not need to exist! Faith can constrain and empower us to leave the world without regard to what it thinks of our departure!
"By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them" (v. 28). The night of the Exodus was a fearful night from any perspective other than that of faith! An outbreak of plagues preceded the deliverance. A night of rigorous and disciplined activity was required. Beside this, a destroying angel went throughout the land, slaying the firstborn in every house not having the blood of the paschal lamb applied precisely as instructed. A meal had to be eaten, late at night, and with the people fully attired and ready to go. All of their belongings had to be ready, and everyone had to be alert.
Moses kept the Passover, the Scripture affirms, by faith. He instructed the people in the application of the blood, how the lamb was to be prepared and eaten, and all of the attending activities of the evening. All of this occurred in the land of the enemy, and in the midst of a plague more grievous than we dare to imagine. How can mortals--mere mortals--conduct themselves acceptably under such circumstances? How can all of the requirements be met, without an error or omission? How can the human spirit be that alert at the midnight hour?
I will tell you how. It is by faith! Faith accomplishes all of those things, ushering the child of God into a state of blessed triumph! Faith will be no less effective for those who are waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. That will be the hour of our final deliverance. It too will be attended by plagues of an unparalleled nature. The heavens and the earth passing away, all of the works of men being burned up, and nature convulsing in the throes of death. The wrath of God will then be revealed against the ungodly, the angels gathering out the tares, and all things that offend. How shall we endure such things? Our faith will take us through! If we live by faith now, we will live triumphantly here and now. In addition, when the consummation comes, we will joyfully respond at the appearing of the Lord, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation" (Isa 25:9). God be praised for the triumphant nature of faith!