If you’re just joining us, you need to read yesterday’s post to make sense of what’s going on here in Hebrews 11.
We’ve so far almost made it through to the end of Abraham’s story of faith. But there’s one last incident to record:
11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
It’s all very well to believe that God could give you a son, and then (once that son miraculously is born) to believe that through his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed. But in Genesis 22 the rubber hits the road. Abraham has to put his faith (his trust and loyalty) where his mouth is, and sacrifice the very son through whom the promise was supposed to come about. And it’s this part of the story James points to (if you remember back to last month) when he highlights how Abraham’s deeds were what justified him. He acted upon his faith when it came to the crunch. Just like first century followers of Jesus had to do when their reputations, their possessions, and even their very lives were at stake… (Yes, I’m back on that horse again.)
11:20-21 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Although Jacob lived the final seventeen years of his life in Egypt, he didn’t want to be buried there. He trusted that God would one day give his family the land he’d promised, and made Joseph swear he’d bury him there. And when he blessed his sons, he promised them the land.
Gen 47:29-31 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” “I will do as you say,” he said. “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Even as a wealthy man, and the father of Egypt’s prime minister, he was looking ahead to something greater.
11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
Gen 50:24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Now we get the story of Moses:
11:23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
And they wouldn’t be afraid of someone like Caesar, either. Just sayin’.
11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
You mean, he wasn’t interested in the status he could get by joining with an oppressive foreign power? Like Roman citizenship?
11:25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Hmmm. Reminds me of verse 33 in the previous chapter:
10:33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
But go on…
11:26 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.
A bit anachronistically phrased, as Moses didn’t know of Christ, but OK, we get the idea. Temporary treasures from the world, or longer-lasting reward from God.
11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
He knows that God is more powerful than Caesa… I mean, Pharaoh…
11:28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
The stakes were high for Moses, too, you know. Remember the warning bit near the end of chapter 10?
Moses was the paradigm for any good Jew to follow; in a sense, the author of Judaism. And here he is being cast as a role model for first century believers to follow in not returning to Judaism. (Whether it be to avoid persecution from family and neighbours, or to gain the protection offered by Judaism as a “legal religion” in the eyes of the Roman Empire.)
To think about
We’ll finish our Hall of Faith tour tomorrow, but for now:
What do we fear about our society that stops us from being completely faithful to God?
How can we gain a greater appreciation of God’s power as something far greater than that which we fear?