Sunday, February 17, 2013
The hope of Israel part 2.
Sometimes when you read a list, it can be boring. However, this list in Hebrews 11 is an impressive list of Old Testament believers and their faith and hope. Through faith and hope these Old Testament patriarchs obtained a good testimony.
Hebrews 11:35-40 Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented--of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
The Bible never tries to hide the fact that life is full of suffering and pain, tears and turmoil, difficulties and obstacles, sicknesses and even death.
These exemplars or “heroes” of faith that Paul mentions are intended to provide an exemplary incentive (12:1) for the Jerusalem Christians to respond in like manner. Paul has been encouraging the Hebrews to persevere in faith, not to give up on their Christianity because of either trials and persecutions or their homesickness for the Judaism they'd grown up with.
The revolutionary zealots were demanding that the Hebrew Christians reconnect with their historical Jewish heritage, and join them in their military exploits to oust the Romans from their homeland, thereby allowing the implementation of all the divine promises to the Jewish people.
Paul wanted the Judean Christians to recognize that they were already connected with the historic faith of their forefathers by receiving the “better things” in Jesus Christ, that the complete fulfillment of God’s promises are in Jesus Christ (Romans 15:8, 2 Corinthians 1:20), and that their present need was to respond with a forward-looking faith and hope like that of their Hebrew forebears, anticipating and expecting the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises as they continued to remained faithfully steadfast in their endurance of the present situation. This makes Paul’s comment all the more pertinent when he wrote, “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him”
He has told them to hold fast without wavering, not to shrink back, but to endure in their faith. To assist them, he gives them bunches of Old Testament examples of people that persevered in hope and faith. Why does Paul utilize a connect with the historical heritage of faith and hope in the old covenant? Because his audience knew the history, it was easy for him to rattle off names, knowing that they would know of whom he spoke and the events.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' and Rahab. No doubt Paul could go on and on with more examples if he had the time. Noah is a hero named in the Hall of Faith. It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. 11:7
Abraham receives much more than a brief mention among the heroes of faith. A good deal of emphasis (from Hebrews 11:8-19) is given to this biblical giant and father of the Jewish nation. While most of the Jews and the modern church today are looking for the fulfillment of God’s land promises to be fulfilled in the physical. Abraham looked beyond the types and looked for a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9, 10) We are told, here, that Abraham expected a city.. Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Abraham had that hope.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, is one of only two women specifically named among the heroes of faith. 11:11 Sarah waited long past childbearing age to have a baby. At times she doubted, struggling to believe God would fulfill his promise. Losing hope, she took matters into her own hands. Like most of us, Sarah was looking at God's promise from her limited, human perspective. But the Lord used her life to unfold an extraordinary plan, proving that God is never restricted by what usually happens. Sarah's faith is an inspiration to every person who has ever waited on God to act.
Jacob, another of Israel's great patriarchs, fathered 12 sons who became head of the 12 tribes. One of his sons was Joseph, a key figure in the Old Testament. But Jacob started out as a liar, cheater, and manipulator. He struggled with God, his entire life.
The turning point for Jacob came after a dramatic, all-night wrestling match with God. In the end the Lord touched Jacob's hip and he was a broken man, but also a new man. God renamed him Israel, which means "he struggles with God." 11:21
Daniel prayed to the Lord in spite of the law that had been passed making such an act illegal. When he was cast into the lions' den as a death sentence, he survived the night because God was with him the lions' mouths were shut (Daniel 6).
When the king of Babylon insisted that his image be worshiped, the faith of Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O. They refuse to worship it. They were cast into the midst of a blazing, fiery furnace. And yet, because God was with them, they walked about in the midst of the fire without their hair or clothes being burned or even smelling like smoke (Daniel 3).
Weak and frightened men were made bold and strong.. Faith and hope have amazing effects on people - it transforms them, enabling them to take a stand against all odds. Regular men whose only way to endure opposition, humiliation, and persecution was their faith and hope in God. But because they had hope, they did amazing things, incredible feats...
Paul tells us And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. (Hebrews 11:39) Paul is not saying that those who did not receive what was promised somehow missed out on God's blessings. Just because some of them died while being tortured, some lost their kingdoms, and some didn't see the fulfillment of prophecies while they were alive doesn't mean they failed or got ripped off by their hope in God.
You see, all of these people of faith entered the afterlife with great reward. They saw the promises of God afar off, and were assured of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth vs 13.
The true and complete fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and the others would only come in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
Leading Jesus to say, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56). The patriarchs caught a glimpse of the spiritual realities of Christ with the foresight of faith, and greeting those “yet unseen” things. Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Messianic events with an embrace that extended across time. They admitted that they were “strangers and sojourners on the earth” Genesis 47:9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. (Hebrews 11:14)
And in I Chronicles 29:15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope. The temporary and transient residents of Canaan. They observed the “shadow-land” of Canaan, but looked forward in faith to the deferred “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) when the promises would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Jerusalem Christians need to “hold fast their confession” At that time they too were in a similar situation as their forefathers, as “aliens and strangers on the earth” I Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. They are strangers to this world by virtue of their new spiritual birth. As God's sojourners and pilgrims these new testament saints look for the new city whose builder and maker is God also. Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.