Sunday, November 6, 2011
Hebrews Chapter 11 (part 3)
Hebrews Chapter 11:17-29
vs. 17-19: STEEP MOUNTAIN
- “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God's promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”
- We look at this incident in Abraham's life in a couple different ways... I've heard it said that it was a foreshadowing of Christ's coming and sacrifice. I've heard it said that it was a test for Abraham's faith. I've heard it said that it was a lesson in obedience for Isaac (and Abraham).
- I think... it is all of those things... and probably more... but since this chapter focuses on faith, that's the route I want to go with this one.
- Luke 14:26-35 says: “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, “There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!” Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can't, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away...”
- To enter into a walk with Christ is not a light decision. When we enter into relationship with God... He is asking us to love Him above all others. To “hate everyone else by comparison.” In other words... He comes first. Always. No matter what. God is first.
- Christ compared this to a building project. My church right now, is in the process of fixing up an old furniture store and warehouse so we can move into it in a month. If we walked into this project without looking at the cost of building materials or anything... then about halfway through getting ready to move in... we'd run out of funds to do anything with. Right now... if we ran out of funds at this stage in the renovation... the space would not be that useable... if at all... there's insulation hanging out of the ceiling... there's no ceiling tiles up... we haven't put the final coat of paint on the walls... there's a hard concrete floor that has all the old glue and stuff sticking to it from the old carpet and leftover tile that was on the floor before the carpet was... The water pipes are leaking... I mean... we could use it... but... it wouldn't be the most welcoming atmosphere... and with the insulation and stuff... probably not the best breathing place either...
- A Christian's life is a life of constant renovation. God is constantly working and changing things. He's fixing things in our lives all the time... but if we don't commit to the renovation... well... we'll be a half-finished life... we won't ever live up to our full potential...
- Christ also compared the walk to a king going to battle... This walk is a battle. Everyday. There's a constant warfare going on for the soul's life.
- If we assume that we can handle the enemy. Or assume that God will handle all our spiritual battles without any input from us... then... we will walk onto the battlefield without our armor.
- This walk is not a social thing. It's not hereditary. It doesn't make life easier. It doesn't bring a constant flow of rainbows and butterflies...
- In Sunday School I think... we were talking about the promise being unconditional. God gives us free gifts. There's no condition in His offering the gift. It is only after we accept the gift of promise that it becomes a conditional relationship.
- It's like... a marriage... once you enter into the marriage state... you have agreed to be faithful for life. To stand by one another through sickness and health, for richer or poorer... thick and thin... you'll stay right beside that person til death do you part... It becomes conditional... because you both have to hold up your end of the deal.
- God will never NOT hold up His end. He is intrinsically faithful. It's His very nature to be that way... So once we enter into the Christian walk with God... it is up to us to maintain the relationship and remain faithful to Him... because He won't leave us unless we walk away from Him and refuse to come back.
- When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He was asking him to take a deeper walk with Him. “I have given you this promise... and I promise to uphold my end... but I want all of you...” God doesn't ask us for part of us. He asks for all of us. Our entire allegiance.
- It says that Abraham had faith that God would bring his son back from the dead... and in Genesis, it says that he kept telling Isaac that God would provide the sacrifice...
- I wonder if Abraham believed without doubt... I mean could any father seriously walk up that mountain with full confidence that this was all a test and his son was going to be fine?
- I imagine Abraham walking up the mountain a little slower than usual... wondering if God was really going to make him do this... and wondering if he would be able to go through with it... I think when God said “Abraham! Wait!”... that Abraham broke down and cried in relief...
- And I know we have to take into account that human sacrifice was not uncommon in the pagan religions surrounding Abraham... maybe he started to think that this God was like all the others...
- Did he ever doubt God's promise? God said his descendants would come through Isaac... and then he asked him to kill that same Isaac...
- Sometimes our faith asks a lot of us. Sometimes it seems like so much to bear... But God never asks more of us than we can handle... with Him. I Corinthians 10:13 says that God never allows our temptations to be more than we can handle... and that He will show us a way out so that we can endure...
- but we have to be willing to take that path... and to follow through with whatever God asks of us... no matter how hard...
- Genesis 22:1-19
- James 2:14-26
- Romans 4:13-25
vs. 20-22: WHEN!
- “It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.”
- Isaac hadn't seen the promise fulfilled... they were still living in tents... still foreigners in the land... still were not a nation. But because he had faith.. he passed the promise on to his sons.
- “It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.”
- Jacob... not even being in the promised land at this point... still had faith that eventually God would see the promise through. He didn't say “if you go back to Canaan, then you will inherit...” He said “you WILL inherit.” There was no “if” about it. So even though he too wasn't going to get to see the promise come to fruition... he didn't lose faith in it.
- “It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”
- Joseph... yet another of the patriarchs that didn't get to see the promise come to be... and yet again... there's that “when”. Not if... WHEN.
- Galatians 3:15-4:7
- II Peter 3:1-16
vs. 23-29: MOSES
- “It was by faith that Moses' parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's command.”
- This doesn't talk about having faith to put the baby in the basket to float him down the Nile... I mean... have you watched the Discovery Channel? Do you know what lives in the Nile!? Good grief! Can you imagine putting a crying baby in a basket to float him down a crocodile infested river? And trust that he was going to be okay? Man...
- But going back to disobeying pharaoh... There's a few places in the New Testament that talk about following the laws of the land... however... this is one of those times, that... I think it was okay to break the law of the land... But can you imagine? If they had been caught at it... they would have probably most definitely been made into an example for the other Israelites... at the very least... they would have been killed outright... if not tortured or beaten severely before being killed. They risked their lives to save their son...
- They were willing to face horrible things... because they knew that God had given them something special. They knew that this boy... this child... was something God-ordained. And so they risked all... having faith that God would indeed do something with their act of faith.
- “It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to share the oppression of god's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.”
- Moses grew up in pharaoh's household. He was raised with everything his heart could desire at his fingertips. But even having all that... Moses knew who he was. He knew his place... Whether the rest of the palace did or not is another story... We know that Moses' mother became his nurse. She must have told him all the old stories. He must have known the whole story...
- He could have chosen to stay in the palace... be in a leadership position in one of the greatest nations of its time...
- But he chose to leave his place of power and prestige... for wandering in the desert as a shepherd... for facing his former family... as the opposition.
- He chose to leave his privileged place and return to his people... as a slave.
- He was looking ahead to the end. He counted the cost...
- He led the people through the first passover... led them out of Egypt... even when they weren't too thrilled about going... But they went... and then they got stuck at the Red Sea.
- The Egyptians are closing in... the Red Sea is before them... where are they to go? There is no hope! They're going to be slaughtered. Can you imagine?
- “It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.”
- Can you imagine the people? I mean... they saw all the plagues... they literally saw God work miracles... faith builder much? And now... God splits the Sea... and lets the people walk across on dry land... if you didn't believe Him before... do you believe Him now? Lol
- My hope is that as we read through these stories about the faith of the patriarchs, that our own faith is strengthened... and that we see pictures of faith that we can model...
- Luke 12:16-21
- I Timothy 6:17-19
- Romans 3:3-4