The writer of Hebrews has been announcing the great faith of God’s people through the eleventh chapter. The purpose is to give courage to the saints who are suffering loss, showing how others exhibited great faith through difficult times. The writer has been taking the heroes in a chronological sequence. As we leave Moses, the writer describes the faith of those during the exodus of Egypt and the conquest of Canaan.
By Faith The People Crossed The Red Sea
By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29; ESV)
The writer of Hebrews takes us to a moment of crisis for the Israelites. Pharaoh has relented after the tenth plague devastated the people of Egypt and the people have been released from Egyptian slavery. As the Lord is leading the people, he brings about a test, which we read about in Exodus 14. The Lord tells Moses that he is going to turn the people back. God wanted Pharaoh to think that his people were trapped in by the desert. Pharaoh sends his armies and chariots to go bring the people back. The Israelites cry out to Moses that they should have stayed in Egypt rather than die in the desert.
Moses responds to the people. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14; ESV). A common refrain in the day of trouble- do not be afraid. Just watch and see the salvation of the Lord. Moses tells the people that they will not have to fight. The Lord will take up the fight for them. They just simply need to be silent and watch the Lord at work. We could use this statement by Moses as a reminder for our lives for times of trouble. Do not be afraid. Do not complain. Stop whining. Do not assume that there is no escape. Stand firm. Keep silent and watch for the salvation of the Lord.
God was about to work. Let us pick up the story in Exodus 14:21-22. Moses stretches out his hand over the waters and the Lord brought up a strong east wind, causing the waters to stand, being a wall of water on the left and the right. Imagine the scene as the waters pull back with such great force that you can see the ground! God presented the way of deliverance. But this is not the end because the people now had to make a choice. It is this choice that the writer of Hebrews is highlighting. The people could have the courage and faith in God to walk between the walls on water or surrender to the Egyptians.
Application: We have a choice during the times of difficulty and during the times of joy. Will we decide to follow the way of the Lord or will we decide to do what seems logical to us? The Israelites could have easily rationalized that the best choice was surrender to the Egyptians. Yes, the waters had been parted back. But who was to say that the waters would stay back long enough for me to get through? Further, the Egyptians had chariots and they would simply catch up to us and capture us on the other side. Besides, the scientists would have noticed that the strong east wind was holding back the water and the wind could stop at any time. True faith believes that God will get us through our life challenges. True faith takes the path God offers and does not take the path of human wisdom.
By Faith The Walls Of Jericho Was Encircled
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30; ESV)
The writer of Hebrews moves to the second generation of Israel and their conquest of the land. The first city the Israelites went to battle against was Jericho. The scriptures record: “Now Jericho was strongly fortified because of the Israelites—no one leaving or entering” (Joshua 6:1; HCSB). Now, how would you suppose that the Israelites should take the fortified city? Armies, weapons, chariots, etc? No, the Lord instructs the people to march around the city once for six days. The ark of the covenant was carried around the city and the priests continually blew the trumpets, but no one was allowed to say one word. This happened for six days. Can you imagine what the people of Jericho thought about this? On the first day, I imagine the people were scared, but then surprised when the army left. Nervous on the second day and perhaps on the third day. But after a couple of days, certainly the people of Jericho were watching from the walls, mocking them as they went. “Are you only going to blow trumpets?” “Time to take another walk around the city, huh?” To human thinking, what the Israelites are doing is a pointless act.
But on the seventh day things changed. They marched around the city seven times, blew the trumpets, and the people raised a shout to the Lord (6:20). With this, the walls fell down flat and the people went in and captured the city. The people had to believe that this seemingly pointless act would actually do what God said. The conquest of Jericho demanded great faith. Blowing trumpets and walking around a city is not a good military plan. God does things like this so that all the glory must go to God, not humans.
There are a number of commands and teachings that God gives us that to human wisdom seems like nonsense. These acts require faith in God that we are doing is actually valuable and working. For example, consider prayer. How does thinking about our requests or saying our requests aloud actually have any impact? Perhaps it is only me, but logically prayer seems a little silly and pointless. Faith is demanded that what we are doing has value and that we are talking to God. How about baptism? Why does getting wet do anything? Faith is required believing that God is washing our sins away just as God promised. The people of Israel had to believe that circling the city and blowing trumpets would bring the victory. It did as God delivered Jericho into their hands.
By Faith Rahab
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31; ESV)
In the time leading up to the conquest of Jericho, the faith of one woman stands out: Rahab. The Jericho government knew that spies had entered the city. The king asked for the residents of Jericho to find these spies and turn them over to the king. Rather than obeying this command, Rahab hid the spies from the king, knowing that God was with these spies. She asked for deliverance when Israel attacked and conquered the city. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes a couple of points that he could have overlooked.
The writer brings to the forefront the fact that Rahab was a prostitute. This is an important part of the story. Not only was Rahab a woman and a Gentile, but she was a prostitute, engaged in gross immorality. But she made a decision. She decided that she would not perish with those who were disobedient. She decided that her fate was not sealed. She could make a change. She could fear the Lord, even though her past was mired in evil. She not have to be defined by her sin. She chose to do what was right, asked for deliverance from the coming attack, and God delivered her through Joshua.
By faith Rahab realized that she was not too far gone to come to God. She showed faith believing that God cared about her and that even though she had been sinful, she could still change and obey the Lord.
There is nothing that we can do that will cause us to be unable to receive forgiveness. When we truly turn our heart to the Lord, the sins of our past can be washed away. But we have to believe (have the faith) that God will do this. We must believe that repentance and immersion in water is our process of asking God for grace and that God will respond with forgiveness.
There are two things we need to believe. (1) That God will take us back. We can be steeped in the habit of drugs, but God will take us back. We could be sexual promiscuous but God will take us back. We may have been liars or thieves, but God will take us back. We can be adulterers but God will take us back. All sins can be forgiven by God. (2) The second thing we need to believe is that I must meet all of God’s requirements. I cannot leave one requirement off. Faith realizes that I must do all that God demands. Repentance is not enough. Confession is not enough. Prayer is not enough. Loving our neighbor is not enough. Coming to services in not enough. Baptism is not enough. A changed heart is not enough. God has asked is not to leave any of these things out. God has asked us to seek him first and his will above our own.
- Faith has the courage to look to God for deliverance and will take God’s path rather than our own path.
- Faith understands that according to human wisdom God’s commands may look pointless. But this is how God works to make us rely on his power, not our own.
- Faith knows that God can save us when we return to him.