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Hebrews 11:29-11:40
Key Verse: 11:29

From the last three lessons we have learned about the definition of faith and many examples of faith presented by the ancestors of faith from Abel to Moses. By faith they experienced the power of God and overcame their fatalistic situation, and they were used for God’s salvation work. They all pleased God by faith.

The last part of Hebrews 11 continues to show us how the faith had been flowing in the history of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, beginning from crossing the Red Sea. Faith enabled them to conquer the Promised Land and to overcome their weaknesses. May God let us learn how they overcame the world!

Part I. Faith that overcomes impossible situations (29-30)

Look at verse 29. “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” This event is written in the book of Exodus. As God promised to the ancestors of faith, Israel was brought out from Egypt and arrived at the Red Sea. However, Pharaoh changed his mind. So he took 600 of best chariots along with all the other chariots to chase and attack, and then enslave Israel again. When the Israelites saw the Egyptians marching after them, they were terrified and began to complain. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? Didn’t we say to you…, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” They all of sudden forgot God’s great deliverance.

What did Moses do in this situation? Look at Ex14:13-14. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” How did the people respond? They did not remain stubborn. They responded to Moses' words because they were obedient, and they had no choice. The people of Israel, who had felt like dying in fear, began to gain strength when they began to have faith in God.

When Moses raised his staff and stretched out his hand over the sea as the Lord had commanded, the water was divided into two parts and stood like walls. At that moment, the people had two choices to live as slaves surrendering to Egypt or to cross the Rea Sea and live a new life as God’s people. It was not easy for them to choose because of their fear. But they overcame their inner fear by holding onto God’s promise given by Moses. By faith they put their shaky feet in the Red Sea and passed through it as on dry land.

They were slave people from birth. In their slave mentality, they could have given up, surrendered and returned to Egypt. It is more familiar than starting an uncertain new lifestyle. But by faith they decided to live as God’s chosen people in the Promised Land.

However, the Egyptians tried to do so and they were drowned. What made them different is faith. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea fully trusting in God, meanwhile the Egyptians depended on themselves and tested God without fearing God.

Why did God drive his people into such a terrifying situation? What God wanted is for them to grow in faith. God wanted them to experience the power of God by faith. There is a Red Sea in each person's life. It can be health matter, financial matter, relationship problem, family and job matter, and heavy school study etc. Sometimes God drives us into the corner so that we cannot escape but confront our Red Sea. What God wants is not our superpower to divide it, but our faith and full trust in him. Dividing the Red Sea is God’s, not ours. He will make the way as long as we do not give up but have faith in Him. He wants our faith to grow so that our relationship with God can be perfect. I pray that we may be able to have faith in him and begin to step into the Red Sea one step after another and pass through it to the end.

Let us read verse 30. “ By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” The fall of Jericho is recorded in Joshua 6. After 40 years of discipline in the desert they came into the Promised Land at last, and they won great victories against Amorites east of the Jordan. They might have overjoyed to put their feet on the Land. But there was an invincible fortress named “Jericho” waiting for them. How did they conquer the city? God commanded them to march around Jericho once a day in complete silence for 6 days, then on the 7th day, march around it 7 times. Then they were to blow trumpets and shout. It seems hard for them to obey because it doesn’t make any sense. However, they obeyed God’s instructions absolutely. When they did so, the walls of Jericho fell down flat. Most enemies died. They conquered the 1st city of the land.

How could they obey God’s command? Verse 30 says that by faith they marched around them and the walls fell. We learn that one of the greatest acts of faith is to obey God’s word absolutely in an impossible situation. When we obey him, he is the one who brings us great victory. I pray that we may be able to practice obedience to God and his words.

Part II. Faith that overcomes destiny (31)

Let us read verse 31. “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Verse 31 introduced Rahab as a Gentile prostitute. She lived in the wall of Jericho, fated to be destroyed in a few days. But her faith changed her life as well as those who belonged to her. When Joshua sent spies to Jericho, she welcomed them, helped them to hide and escape from pursuers. Her act might have caused her to put in full of risk. She could have been put to death if it was exposed. How could she act like this? Look at Joshua 2:9-11. Jos2:9 "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. According to Rahab, they all knew that God of Israel has delivered whole land into Israel, so everyone in Jericho was melting in fear. But what separates her from them is that by faith she took a stand on God’s side at a historical moment. By faith she welcomed them and showed them her kindness when everyone else chose to resist and fight against God. By welcoming God’s people she in effect was welcoming God as her God. This faith let her and her family pass from death to life and she was included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Her faith gives us one clear lesson that the act of faith is to stand on God’s side no matter what situation we are in. We also learn from here that there is no boundary for anyone to come to God. What is required to come to God is only faith which is that anyone can have. The Bible clearly tells us that everything against God in this world will be destroyed on the day of judgment. But he promised through Jesus Christ that whoever believes in him will not be perish, but have eternal life. The faith in Jesus can only change the destiny of final destruction into eternal salvation. I pray that we may not follow the trend of this world, but take a stand on God’s side by faith.

Part III. Faith that overcomes weakness (32-35a)

Let us read verse 32-35a. V32 “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35a Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Most of the Heroes of faith the author mentioned are judges who were used by God in the days of the conquest of Canaan. During the time of Judges, God’s people did not maintain God’s blessing because they liked the advanced cultural life of the land more than God. As a result, they were invaded and plundered by ungodly peoples. In spite of their sins, God raised up Judges each time to deliver them. The author had no time to tell about them, but I chose two judges to tell whom I was impressed.

Barak was supposed to be the commander-in-chief of Israel’s army against Sisera who plotted to invade them with 900 chariots. But he was too afraid to carry out this heavy task. He asked a woman Deborah to go with him, saying “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” With her attendance he defeated the entire army of Canaanites. By faith he overcame his fear and conquered the enemy.

Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. He was driven out by his step-mom and his family. He was also deserted from his people and lived a hermit life. At that time, Israelites were helpless under the constant threat of the Ammonites. When the elder came to him for help, he would have rejected their request. But by faith he overcame his hatred and bitterness and fought and defeated the Ammonites. He became a commander of his people.

When studying the judges, we find one common factor in them: they were all like us full of weakness and shortcoming. But their weakness was turned to strength when they have faith in God. By faith they overcame their weakness and gained the power from God to conquer kingdoms. Faith indeed makes the weak into strong men and women. May God please raise among us men and women of faith.

Part IV. Faith that overcomes the world (35b-38)

Let us take look at verses 35b-38. V35b“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; 37 they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” Here ‘they’ includes all prophets, prophetess and all God’s people in the Old Testament. Their names are not written. It is not because their faith is not noticeable, but because their life of faith are too much to record on the paper. When observing these verses, the way of demonstrating their faith seems different unlike many victories of Judges. They were tortured by their people because they challenged Israelites to repent of their sins and idol worship and kept preaching the messages from God. They were mistreated by unbelievers because they kept their faith without any compromise with sins of the world. Therefore, some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, sawed and put to death by the sword. They wandered in deserts and mountains in poverty, wearing animal skins.

Why did they choose to be mistreated like this in this world? For what did they bear all these hardships and persecutions? It is because of their faith they were mistreated harshly and they endured all these things. What kind of faith did they have?

Their faith is assurance of the hope of God’s reward, a better resurrection which the eternal life begins with. It is unseen to them but 100% sure because God promised to them. This faith could make them gladly endure all the hardships which is temporary, meanwhile the resurrection is eternal. The eternal life in God’s kingdom is so much worthier than the world.

We learn from their faith that the power of faith is stronger than anything else, even stronger than death. By faith, many overcame extreme persecutions, human circumstances and conditions. By faith they overcame themselves; they also overcame the world.

Let’s read verses 39-40. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” The promise that they had not received is Jesus Christ. They all fell in sleep in faith without seeing Jesus in this world. But God had a better plan; that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole in Jesus. Without them our faith cannot be completed; neither can their faith. We all together wait for the day when we will be with our father God and our savior Jesus. We will be perfect as he is perfect. The day has not yet come, but it is coming.

In conclusion, we live in this post modern generation. God gave each one of us one life and he began our faith through Jesus. God works his works according to our faith. I pray that God may give us faith so that God can use us for his salvation work. This year we all may please God by having faith.

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