Agonizomai: Heb 11 - 29-30 - Christ - Our Power and Strength

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Heb 11 - 29-30 - Christ - Our Power and Strength

Heb 11 - 29-30 - Christ - Our Power and Strength

Heb 11:29-30 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

These things seem a bit more obvious than some of the earlier examples. Who ever walked through the midst of the sea? I’m not speaking of that scatterbrained humanistic idea that makes the Red Sea into shallow marshland (the “Reed Sea”), pushed aside by a strong wind and, perhaps a favourable tide. No! I am speaking of a deep and drowning abyss with towering walls of water on either side which, when God’s ceased to restrain them, crashed down upon the Egyptians and swallowed them all into the depths.

It was indeed by faith that the people crossed, but was it the people’s faith or was it Moses’ faith? In this is an interesting study found by comparing how the faith of Christ delivered a people who then had to walk by faith in their deliverance - or, more correctly, in their Deliverer. Moses was the intercessor between the people and God. Moses opened the way, led, encouraged, and communicated the will of God to the people. The people followed. Moses’ faith was at the pointed end and the people’s faith was by trusting in a provision already provided. They could see the way that had been made. But did they trust their eyes? Did they believe God would bring them all the way through?

Just as we can see the cross and the resurrection as a plain way of escape from the judgement of God, and from the realm of Satan - yet we must prove our faith by walking in the Way that God has provided. But, just as we do not put our faith in the route, but in He who has made the way, so we do not follow in the way by looking to our faith, but by looking to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. And this “proving” is not a proving for the benefit of God, but so that we may know that we truly trust him. The genuineness of our faith is made clear to us through the obedience to which it gives rise. {John 7:17-18,8:31-32} Faith is for our benefit, not for God’s.

Then we come to the walls of Jericho. This was no longer about escape or deliverance (as had been the exodus) but about the manifestation of God’s victory. God’s will done in His way, and in His power - as Moses had learned. But would the people also learn the same lesson? Or would they embellish, overlay, alter, "improve," or otherwise change what God’s perfect plan provided? Or worse, would they resist, complain and rebel?

In the first instance we see the flush of enthusiasm about having crossed Jordan carries them through their first encounter with opposition. Israel is, by this time, a large but rag-tag band of nomads. They have little battle experience, few advanced weapons and a baggage train of over a million dependent souls. They have never attacked or besieged a city in their lives. God has them exactly where they need to be. They are powerless, ignorant (in the right way), helpless and clueless. They must depend upon God.

So when God gives these strange commands and promises that the city will fall simply by marching around it daily for 6 days and seven times on the seventh, it does not seem so ridiculous to them as it might to battle hardened and experienced armies. After all, would not such armies, in the past, have assaulted walls and torn them down by brute strength? Would they not, in the past, have raised towers and cast blazing balls of pitch into the town? Would they not, in the past, have taunted and called out the valiant men of the city and fought with them before the gates? And would not all these past successful experiences have taught them to rely upon the strength of their own arms?

But God’s whole point with Israel is that He is their deliverer and that they are not to make flesh their arm. Their confidence must be not in themselves, or in what they think that they can do, or in what they have done before - their confidence is to be in God alone to use them as the instruments of His victorious purposes. And, O, how this parallels the Christian life! And this is the point of the sermon of the writer to the Hebrews here; it is to preach the means by which the victory of Christ is manifested in the world through the lives of the saints. It is by doing God’s will in His way and in His power. Nothing has changed since Jericho.

And so it was by faith that the walls of the city fell down but I hope it is plain once more that this "faith" was not some mysterious substance or power possessed of men that, of itself, effected the collapse of a city. It was the God in whom the faith was placed that effected the result, and it was the people believing in Him (shown in their obedience to His directions) that were blessed to be the witnesses of His great power and faithfulness enacted through their obedient actions.


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