Series on Hebrews, V Superior Privileges, C Superior Participation, Faith of the Overthrow and Occupation Text: 11:23-31, Title: Faith and Acceptance

Introduction


In Hebrews 11 we have been studying faith. We have seen that faith is a capacity of the human mind which by itself is no better than reasoning or imagination. It has no merit of its own. However, the word faith in the Bible always means saving faith and this is the direct result of God’s grace.  This saving faith occurs when God reveals himself to us by his spirit and we are compelled to believe. This saving faith is indispensable precisely because it is the product of God’s grace in us, and not at all because it is something we must generate in our minds. There is a very real sense in which we never struggle to believe. The children of God struggle not to believe. God opens heaven to us by his Word and Spirit and we, with our sinful natures, fight against it. He shows us reality, and we want sham and  pretense. He shows us the way to worship and serve, and we choose some other recipe for happiness. All of this has been illustrated in Hebrews 11.  Today we look at the faith of the overthrow and occupation beginning with the life of Moses. The crucial  perspective here is one of acceptance. We are not talking about people manufacturing courage here. We are talking about people who made decisions based on what God had revealed to them. Shakespeare said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” These people acted decisively based on what God had revealed to them. The reality which they saw left no other option. They accepted God’s plan, God’s provision, and God’s promise. Once you acknowledge this you admit that they had no other option. This is how the grace of God works. If you fail to make the right choice it can only be because you are ignoring the information God has given you.


I Accepting God’s Plan


The story of Moses is the best lesson the author could give to his readers. As Jews, they revered Moses above all others as the giver of the law. Yet, contrary to the opinions of the legalistic teachers of their time, Moses was saved by grace through faith. However, the story begins with Moses parents Amram and Jochabed who saved their baby by hiding him because Pharaoh had decreed that all the newborn male children of the Hebrews must die. He feared the growing population of Abraham’s children. But Moses parents feared God and not Pharaoh. Fear is the first thing that can obstruct our faith. It fights against what we know to be true because God has revealed it to us. Verse 27 says, By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. Moses, like his parents, feared God and not Pharaoh. Are you allowing fear to keep you from doing what God has revealed to you? Another thing in our sinful make-up that fights against faith is fame and fortune as we read in verses 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. 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. In the world, fame always brings a certain amount of honor. If you are born into the right family or are a successful athlete or entertainer, the world will think of you as great, whether you are or not. If you have a lot of money, regardless of how you got it, the world will hold you in high esteem. If you have enough degrees behind your name, certain people will think you have arrived. The same is true in regard to political power and many other types of human success. Moses had most of these things, yet he gave them up. From the worldly standpoint, he was sacrificing everything for nothing. But from the spiritual standpoint, he was sacrificing nothing for everything.  Is success fighting against faith in your life? A third thing that fights against faith is fun. Fear is good if we fear the right things. Fame is good if it comes for the right reasons and fun is good if it is the God-given capacity to enjoy his creation. It says of Moses v.25, He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. Recreation is good, but is it interfering with the pilgrimage of faith? Is it our primary goal, or do we deliberately choose to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ first? Fear, fame and fortune, fun, they all fight against the vision of faith and we must decide. Choose this day whom you will serve.

II Accepting God’s Provision

Verse 28 says of Moses, 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. Faith not only sees and rests in God’s plan but also in God’s provision. Here is the second of the three things faith accepts. This is the positive side of making the right decisions. The last plague that God sent on the Egyptians was the death of all first-born. To protect the Israelites from this plague in the Passover a lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the doorposts of their houses. Obviously the blood itself had no power to stave off the death angel, but sprinkling it as God had commanded was an act of faith and acceptance, and the blood was symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice by which He conquered death for all who believe in Him. The people of Israel did not understand the full significance of the ceremony, but they knew it was part of God’s plan. God required it and they obeyed. Faith always accepts God’s provision, no matter how strange and pointless it may seem to human understanding. When a believer accepts Jesus Christ by faith, he accepts God’s provision for salvation. To the world, good works seem like a much better way to please God than faith. But the world’s way is not God’s way. To Him, “All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” as we read in Isa. 64:6. Faith accepts Christ’s righteousness applied on our behalf. This is God’s way, and is therefore faith’s way. Self righteousness fights against faith. The flesh says God can’t love me that much, but faith sees that he does.


III Accepting God’s Promise


Acceptance is the essence of faith. We fight against the vision God has given us by deliberately trying to avoid dead ends. We want options. We do not want situations where we are caught, and up against the odds. The three illustrations in verses 29-31 all illustrate the same thing, By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Israel leaves Egypt and God guides them in the wilderness, but he deliberately guides them by a zig-zag path to make Pharaoh think that they are confused and vulnerable. It works. The problem is that the people are trapped at the Red Sea. The people say have you brought us out here to die, but Moses says stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.  They enter the land after 40 years and they come up against Jericho, an impregnable fortress. Jericho was the first obstacle in Canaan, and from the human perspective seemed an impossible obstacle to the ragtag multitude of ex-slaves who had been wandering in circles in the wilderness for so many years. Its location was strategic, its walls were high and thick, and its soldiers were well-trained and well-armed. Again, as they marched around the city for seven days and blew their trumpets, the walls fell down flat, Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. The last reference is to Rahab, a woman of Jericho who helped Israel’s spies. Here the marvel is in the person herself. Rahab was a prostitute, and a Canaanite. Her people were among the vilest that every lived. Sexual immorality abounded in worship. They put live babies in jars and built them into their city walls as foundation sacrifices. They were begging for judgment. But Rahab believed. She was converted by God’s grace. Do you know any people who are hopeless? The great missionary Robert Moffatt worked for years in Bechuanaland in South Africa without seeing a single convert. When some friends in England wrote asking what they might send him as a present, he requested a communion set. Since there were no other believers there, they were surprised, but complied with his wishes. When the set arrived several months later, more than a dozen natives had been won to Christ and were served their first Lord’s Supper. Such is the beauty and courage of faith. It simply accepts God’s plan, provision and promise and decides to act.