3. Wilderness Manual–The Siblings

The Family may be God’s first institution, but since the fall it is far from perfect. My older sisters and I had a pretty good relationship, managed well by my Mom and Dad, but growing up I still felt looked down upon or pushed to the side, or left out. One of my favorite lines from a TV show called “Home Improvement” is where Jill, a psychology student, asks her husband, who claims to be an expert in child behavior, “Okay, honey, what causes sibling rivalry?” Tim, her husband confidently answers, “Having more than one kid!”

Principle: The work of God in the wilderness will go deep into all of the things that have shaped you into who you are: Family being one of the foremost. In Numbers 12, Moses’ two older siblings Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses because of the woman he married. They make a statement which seems totally rational in the realm of Sibling Rivalry, “Has God spoken through Moses only? Has he not spoken through us as well?” The Logic of sibling equality does not work in this stage. Family will not be able to understand what is going on, nor provide clarity as to what God to. I believe this is a part of God’s proving realities that run deeper than the blood ties of family and the family’s communal and relational role in shaping a person.

God heard the dispute and called them outside the tent of meeting. Moses had said nothing in response, (according to the writer because he was the most humble person there ever was.) God explained to Miriam and Aaron that Moses was not just their brother, he was also God’s servant. Therefore they should have thought twice before speaking against him. This logic reorients the whole family relationship to what God is doing in each person’s life, instead of what the family thinks is best in relation to itself.

Application: Don’t lean on your family for everything you need in this wilderness stage, and take their advice with a grain of salt. In Deuteronomy, Moses will show that the lessons God is teaching you cannot be learned from the family unit. Instead, be humble: regard each person as those whom God must lead individually, and look to God for His vindication in His timing. Beware the sibling rivalry need to be as special as, or more than other family members. It is a self-trap from which God would love to extricate you.

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2. Wilderness Manual–The Elders

How many of us have cried to God, “Just kill me now.” I say us because you are not alone in this. For me it was when my heart was broken, and a friend told me that he had a premonition I was going to die. Despairing of life is not uncommon in this stage. If that’s you, hang in there. Help is on the way, and you’ve still got a long way to go through this wilderness.

Principle: Moses heard the people complaining, and he cried out to God “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” ~Numbers 11:14-15

God answered him. He gave him 70 elders to help him. For a while I thought that the wilderness was meant to be largely gone through alone, but I now see that it can be as large or as small a group as God wishes it to be. Moses cried out for someone to go through the wilderness helping him, and so God did. He gave him 70 others to support him. In the wilderness, he learned He needed God’s help. It was too much for him. He couldn’t quit. He was doing God’s will, and it was too much for him. So, God provided a group of people to help him where he was lacking. Community at its finest. It starts though with a cry for help to God.

Application: Be honest with God, and yourself. God has designed you to be a part of a group, not just on your own. God’s provision may come in the form of people to share the wilderness journey with you. This is part of His teaching you humility, and your design as a part of a group of other people working together. Share the load with them. This is well-pleasing in God’s sight.

1. Wilderness Manual–The Cloud

Floridian winters are almost always snowless. Still, it is a joy to go outside and not have the heat and damp meet you. The crispness is contrasted brightly with the warm vaporous heat that one can see escaping your lips with every breath. This is one of my favorite things about Winter, I can see the proof of life coming out of my mouth right in front of me.

Principle: When Israel left Egypt, they weren’t following a man, they were following the cloud. God’s messenger would be a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day.

In the Wilderness, a believer will not have any earthly thing to navigate by, or by which to make decisions. God’s ways are far above ours, and the things He teaches us in this stage cannot be learned by earthly means, this blog included. He will provide guidance by the evidence of His Presence, and by His Mouth. As we will see in future discussions about the wilderness, The Mouth of God is going to be your livelihood in the wilderness. Look at Numbers 9:18. In English it’s often translated at the “Command” of the Lord, but the Hebrew word there is “Peh” which simply translated is “mouth.”

“At the mouth of the Lord the sons of Israel would set out, and at the mouth of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.”

Application: Whatever God says, do. When God doesn’t say, wait. This is your path through the wilderness. He will be your path and provision. He will move you at the right time.

Some may ask, “How do I hear God’s voice?” or “How do I know God is saying something?” Surrender control, seek God’s word, pray. If you don’t have any sort of leading in your spirit, ask God for one. No matter how silly or unnecessary or uncomfortable it seems, do it. Your food, your direction, and purpose will be from God’s mouth. A dependent relationship of trust is what He is growing with you.

0. Wilderness Manual: Intro and Foreword

Intro: What is the Wilderness Stage?

In Israel’s life, it’s the time in between their receiving the Law, and their taking possession of the Promised Land. In Jesus’ life, it is the time directly after his baptism where the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, right before his ministry. In the Christian’s life which comes after genuine conversion, and before commissioning to doing ministry in the world. It is a time when the believer learns how to be led by the Spirit, deny the flesh, stand against Satan, and fully enter into the power of the Holy Spirit.T

If there is a Wilderness Stage, why haven’t I heard about it?

There are a couple of reasons I consider for why many Christian’s don’t really consider the wilderness stage as a part of their Christian growth. First, is that it has not been a part of the Church’s way of life for a few hundred years. The Church in America at least has been able to give Christians access to the privileges of Christian ministry without a deep, personal, and stricturing time with God. The results today is many powerless leaders and many disillusioned followers. I am bold, but I believe I am accurate when I say, if you are a Christian and you haven’t gone through the Wilderness stage, you are not yet mature enough as a Christian to call yourself “an adult.” There is no real ripe Christian Maturity until this stage has been walked. After all, even Jesus went through the wilderness after he was baptized. How could we think we are supposed to dodge this bullet?

Second, I believe that the wilderness stage is as crucial to becoming a mature christian, as training up a teenager to become a full grown man. This is something largely lacking in American society, so it would not be any surprise that our culturally conditioned eyes would look for a training period in a believer’s life in the scripture. Many men were not trained by their fathers as I was. I see the Wilderness and its importance. Military men know that you don’t send someone into the battlefield without training. And this training is a lot deeper than just learning how to pray and read your Bible.

The third reason why the church doesn’t seem to know much about the Wilderness stage is the Bible doesn’t seem to talk about the wilderness except in vague details. There are stories of Israel, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in the wilderness, but why should we take these as prescriptive? It’s not like there’s a book of the Bible called “Wilderness” for us to read to get an idea of how to handle this time in a believer’s life. This is a sad result of English book names being two steps away from their Hebrew originals. (First the Hebrew names, then the Latin names, then the English names.) “Now, hang on,” you might say.

There’s a book called “In the Wilderness” in the Bible?

Yes. The 4th Book of the Old Testament, the 4th book of the Torah, the 4th book of the Law, the book most of us know as Numbers has the Hebrew title, B’midthbar. Which in English translates to “In the Wilderness.” This alone would not be enough to validate such connections being drawn. The content would need to match up with the rest of Scripture.

First of all, which of the two titles befits the book better? Consider this list of chapters and their contents of the 4th book of the Torah, and you decide if “Numbers” or “In the Wilderness” is a better title.

  1. Census (Lots of Numbers)
  2. Arranging the Camps (Organization)
  3. Levites as Priests (Instructions)
  4. Specific Duties (More Instructions)
  5. Marriage Instructions (More Instructions)
  6. Vow Instructions; Aaronic blessing (More Instructions)
  7. Offerings of the Leaders (Lots of Numbers)
  8. Lamps, Cleansing Levites, Retirement (More Instructions)
  9. Passover and the Cloud (More Instructions and story)
  10. Silver Trumpets, and the people leave Sinai (Instructions and story)
  11. People complain; Moses gets 70 elders to help; people complain (Story)
  12. Miriam and Aaron vs. Moses (Story)
  13. Spies check out the land; 10 bring bad report, 2 bring good report. (Story)
  14. People reject God; Moses intercedes, God punishes for 40 years, Israel still tries and fails (Story)
  15. Laws of Canaan, and sojourners, and Sabbath Breaking (More Instructions)
  16. Korah’s Rebellion; more rebellion (Story)
  17. Aaron’s Rod buds (Story)
  18. Duties and portion for priests/Levites (More Instructions)
  19. Ordinance of Red Heifer (More Instructions)
  20. Death of Miriam, and Moses’ sin, Aaron dies (Story)
  21. Conquering Arad, Bronze Serpent, Sihon and Og (Story)
  22. Balak sends for Balaam (Story)
  23. Balaam’s First two prophecies (Story)
  24. Balaam’s Third prophecy (Story)
  25. Sin of Peor and Zeal of Phineas (Story)
  26. New Census (Lots of Numbers)
  27. Law of Inheritance, Joshua Succeeds Moses (More Instructions)
  28. Law of Offerings (More Instructions)
  29. Offerings of seventh Month (More Instructions)
  30. Law of Vows (More Instructions)
  31. Slaughter of Midian and Division of spoil (story and lots of numbers)
  32. Reuben and Gad Settle in Gilead (Story)
  33. Review the Journey, laws of possession (Brief Story and more instruction)
  34. Instructions for apportioning Canaan. (More Instructions)
  35. Cities of Levites, Cities of Refuge (More Instructions)
  36. Laws of Marriage and Inheritance (More Instructions)

As can be seen by this rough outline, there are 4 chapters abounding in lists of numerical values, and 19 with lots of instructions, and 15 devoted to stories. The Numbers and the Instructions are important. The word for the first 5 books of the Old Testament “Torah” means “Instruction, so of course we would expect to see lots of instructions here. And when it comes to an approach to studying the book, “In the Wilderness,” I welcome any biblical scholar to dive deep into the instructions and numbers and their fascinating insights into the character of God and history of His people. I have decided to write about some of the stories, because I desire others to see the significance of what goes on “In the Wilderness” on a principle level, while exploring ties to the rest of Scripture, and hopefully bringing to bear the importance of this stage in the believer’s life today. I have emboldened those chapters I will examine more closely in this series, which I will list here.

  1. The Cloud (9)
  2. The Elders (11)
  3. The Siblings (12)
  4. Fear of Failure (13-14)
  5. Enough (16)
  6. Fruit (17)
  7. Contention and Holiness (20)
  8. Three Victories but One redemption (21)
  9. Sin and Zeal (25)
  10. Coming up Short? (32)

Furthermore, Deuteronomy 8:1-6 further describes what was happening in Numbers as a training time for Israel. I will devote a post to the different areas of the wilderness and the principles they teach us about our walk with the Lord, and close with some thoughts in conjunction with Deuteronomy 8. Now that I have introduced what I’m talking about and why, let me introduce some preliminary considerations.

Foreword: The Torah and the Human Heart

The [Torah] of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether. 

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold; 
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb. 
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me! 
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression. 
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 
~Psalm 19:7-14

The purpose of the first 5 books: the Torah, containing the instructions, testimonies, precepts, commandments, fear, and rules of the LORD, is to expose and change the heart of sinful man. It points out the difference between God and Man and calls Man to return to the God who made him in His image. This is also the purpose of the Wilderness stage in a believer’s life. What better overlap of a book subject, and practical experience? What better way to really train the Believer in this new life he has just begun? May this time studying the Torah be helpful to reveal God’s heart, and your own as you come into deeper intimacy with Him.

Encouragement

If you are finding yourself in the wilderness, you are going to be made aware of things you did not really know before. I want to offer you these two immediate encouragements.

  1. You are not alone.
  2. There is reason and purpose to everything. You may not like the reasons, but I hope that Israel’s time in the wilderness will give you some insight into what is currently going on in your life.

The Analogy of the Three Testaments

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.

Old Testament

In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.

Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.

New Testament

Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)

Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.

So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.

But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering

Our Testament

Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:

What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.

What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!

To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?

What is the answer?

The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.

11. Closing Thoughts: Running the Race

Related image
Photo Cred: eternalcall.com

Therefore, we having around us this cloud of witnesses, every weight let us cast aside and easily ensnaring sin, with endurance let us run the “set-before us” race looking to the author and perfecter of our faith Jesus, who for the “set before him” joy endured the cross disregarding the shame, on the right hand of the throne of God has sat down. For consider the one enduring much hostility by sinners so that you may not grow fatigued in your soul giving out.
~Hebrews 12:1-3 (translation mine)

The Cloud

The heavenly company surrounding us now that we have seen their faith is numerous as the stars of heaven, just as God promised Abraham. The visible World made by the unseen word of the real God is based in an unseen reality. Abel knew it, and offered an acceptable offering to this God by giving the best of his life. Enoch knew it, and walked with the Unseen God who ruled it all. Noah knew it and obeyed God and condemned the world by his faith. Abraham knew it, and went into exile on earth so that God might give him the Unseen Promise. He also knew it when he obeyed God to offer up Isaac his son, trusting that God could even raise the dead. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph knew it and carried this promise in their hearts. Moses knew it when he forsook his earthly pomp for persecution with God’s people. The nation of Israel knew it as they revered the God who fought for them. The servants of God have known it in their exaltation and humiliation that there was a glory that awaited them at the revelation of their Beloved’s face.

The Cross

Jesus was the beginner and the finisher of this faith, having showed us the whole path of maturity in faith from humble Birth through Ascension to God’s right hand. (see “To a Mature Man”) While Christ lived the life of faith, he also died the death of faith. He endured the cross disregarding the shame because he was aiming for what was on the other side. He has shown us that there can be no life of faith for us except through the cross– through the principle and practice of dying to self and to the world, submitting under the just judgment of God, so that other’s may know His forgiveness and love through us.

Cast aside everything that holds us back.

The Cross is how we do this. By the cross the world is crucified to us, and us to the world. (Galatians 6:14) The weight of the world represents the cares and investments we make for any reason other than the pleasure and glory of God. They are snares to us, and they strengthen our unbelief against God. That unbelief is the achilles heel to any runner. We run because we know that we are going somewhere we cannot see, and it is not too far for us to reach. Let us keep Jesus in mind so that any difficulties we face from the world or within us may not cause our breath to give out. We must have endurance to finish strong, and there is something at the end of the race that we can have right now in the midst of the race to keep us going.

“Set before”

The author of Hebrews wrote in Greek the same world for “set before” us about the race and “set before” Jesus the Joy. The Master of this race has hidden in the fabric of the race itself this secret: The Race that is set before us, the same race Jesus ran, is the Race of Joy. This is the invitation of faith: Leave the fruitless pursuits of this age and pursue the eternal promise with God, and through that pursuit enter into the Joy of your salvation.

This is the Invitation set before you right here on this screen. Will you accept it?

10. The Servants of God–The Visible Reality (32-40)

– – “And what yet will I say? For time will let me down to describe concerning Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the Prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong from weakness, became mighty in battle, put hostile camps to flight, women received their dead from resurrection.
– – “Others were tortured not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection, others received the experience of mocking and lashes, and in addition bonds and imprisonment, being stoned, sawn in two, in murder died by sword, wandering about in sheepskins, in goatskins, needy, oppressed, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in the wilderness, mountains, and caves, and holes in the ground.
– – “And all these bearing witness by faith did not receive the promise, God foresaw to something better for us, that they not be made complete without us.”
~ Hebrews 11:32-40 (translation mine)

The author of Hebrews makes one final point about faith with these examples. The visible reality is a two-sided coin: Victory and Martyrdom.

Victory

Photo Credit: Baptist and Reflector
https://baptistandreflector.org/2016-resolutions-you-need-a-tipping-point/climb-mountain-rock-victory-top-determination/

When someone lives the life of exile, walking with God, pleasing God, and obedient under judgment they will find themselves in the midst of God’s miraculous works. The power available to the believer in faith is all of God’s miraculous power to heal, to conquer, to restore, to gain, and even to extinguish mighty powers. Faith strengthens the weak, and makes mighty in battle, and makes entire fortified camps flee. Here are a list of stories in which we see each of these things happening.

  • Conquered Kingdoms (Deuteronomy 2:24-36)
  • Performed acts of Righteousness (2 Samuel 8:15)
  • Obtained promises (Genesis 21:1-3)
  • Shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-27)
  • Extinguished the power of fire (Daniel 3)
  • Escaped the edge of the sword (Psalm 144:9-11)
  • Were made strong from weakness (1 Samuel 30:1-18
  • Became mighty in battle (2 Samuel 8:1-6)
  • Put fortified camps to flight (2 Kings 6:24-7:20)
  • Women received their dead by resurrection (2 Kings 4:8-37)

The power of faith is attested in ways the author of Hebrews could only begin to paint with broad strokes to describe here. But while these strokes may indicate a striped pattern, the next section shows that it is more plaid.

Martyrdom

Image result for victory and humiliation faith
Photo credit: The Preaching Club
https://www.preachingclub.com/jesus-chose-humiliation-over-glory-good-friday-sermon/

Faith is not just the victory that happens through our exaltation, but also the victory achieved by our humiliation. That humiliation would ever be considered a victory is the offense of the Cross. It smacks the face of all human decency and dignity by being utterly stripped of its glory.

Still, anybody can tell you that there is a glory associated with martyrdom. The church has long been nourished by the glory of God seen in the faith of those recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But Martyrdom is only effective when it is the final step in living for God faithfully. Consider these examples:

  • Tortured (2 Corinthians 11:23)
  • Mocking and lashes (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
  • Bonds and imprisonment (Genesis 39)
  • Being stoned (Acts 7)
  • Sawn in two (Isaiah according to Babylonian Talmud)
  • Murdered by sword (1 Kings 19:10)
  • Wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins (2 Kings 1:8)
  • Needy (Isaiah 20)
  • Oppressed (Exodus 2:23)
  • Mistreated (Jeremiah 38:1-6)

“Not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Truly “The world was not worthy of them.” They lived out of a different reality entirely: one based on eternity rather than the transient and passing plays for power by humanity. This reality, to the world’s way of doing things, was not worthy to be compared to the glory that was and is opposed by the evil one, and the glory still to come in full strength through faith.

Us

Faith is a reality of the eternal past and eternal future shaping the momentary present. We who live right now are on a cosmic strand of faith beneath the beads of the kingdoms of this world clashing together like so many pearls. And one day those pearls will fall off and a new more glorious value will replace it. And our goal is not to cast off this reality entirely, but rather to bring it into alignment with the past and the future eternity of God’s rule. So simple: live now according to the eternity of God forever! That is what it means to live by faith. For some in the past it meant conquering kingdoms; for others in the past it meant being utterly humbled.

For us today, we are part of something better. Jesus has finished the work, and now we are His fruit. We are a part of the promise that is being fully grown from the seed of Jesus Christ. Apart from us, these faithful witnesses of God are not made complete. Now the work of Christ is made real in the body of Christ in the world. The Servants of God, those who walk by faith for the glory of His Kingdom now represent the Invisible Reality of God in the world now made visible for those who are blind. In short, our faith gives others eyes to see the invisible reality of God’s eternal rule in us.

Application

  1. Internally take stock of your inner life: purpose, fulfillment, thoughts, emotions, cares, self-identity, and align all of it with the gospel of God’s love that has transformed you into one who is like Jesus.
  2. Close to you, set your life in order according to the Word of God. Relationships, possessions, goals– let nothing go to waste or be a mockery of the Kingdom of God, but rather let the invisible reality of God at work in your heart manifest itself close to you.
  3. Stand in the community of faith– as people who will not live according to the world’s rules, or compromising with the world’s values, but as those who either in humiliation or exaltation give glory to God as the True King.
  4. Show God’s love to the world by serving and meeting the needs of others.
  5. Show God’s sacrificial justice by taking a stand to fight for the rights of the poor and afflicted against those who refuse to acknowledge God’s rule over them.
  6. Give glory to God and thank Him for the victory by which we overcome the world: our faith.

9. Israel–Obedience under Judgement

“By Faith he kept the passover and the application of blood in order that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land, the Egyptians taking their try were drowned. By faith Rahab, the harlot, who welcomed the spies with peace was not destroyed along with the unfaithful.” ~Hebrews 11:38– (translation mine)

Photo Cred: posted on Nov 22, 2011 by adamsart. accessed:
https://bibleartwork.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/crossing-the-red-sea/

Judgment

Sin deserves judgment. Humanity, yea the world, is inextricably and implicitly bound up with it. The Justice of God demands that He be feared, respected, and obeyed. Faith sees this reality plus one more. Faith sees that the same God who is Judge is Savior. He is also working to rescue those who are under his judgment if they will look to Him for their deliverance.

All three stories are astounding in that God was bringing about horrific judgment upon the world–Egyptian people, Egyptian army, and the people of Jericho. The Judgment of God upon the world being created by Him and refusing to worship Him is just.

And here we see the people of God showing us what faith is, and why it is so important. As Enoch knew, without faith it is impossible to please God. But Israel was the poster child to show the world that without faith it is impossible to appease God. Indeed, it is through the final gate of God’s Judgment that faith alone can carry a person to eternal life.

Salvation

All three times in this passage, God has come down hard upon the peoples of the world. God is not cruel to punish Egypt, who had refused to let his people Israel go. He is not cruel to slay the army who presume upon the goodwill of his miracles to soundly slaughter those who would without his hinderance end his people’s lives. He is not cruel to save only the one who believed in him when destroying the first city of the land of Canaan who had long ceased walking with Him or worshipping Him. Even so, God will not be unjust, cruel, vindictive to destroy all those who do not obey and believe. In fact, one might say that His work to save His people is a proof that he will not be unjust to do so. (See Romans 3:21-26 for some food for thought about this.)

Look at Israel. In Egypt, they cried out to God to deliver them. God starts fighting for them. The final plague and final test was a warhead of the most deeply devastating magnitude. He in essence told Israel, “Build a bunker.” They obeyed. They survived. Off they go to the promised land while everyone else who did not fear God lost their first-born son.

(For any people who think God was not just in what he did, please read the whole book of Genesis through Exodus 15, and then talk with me if you still feel that way.)

And then comes the Red Sea. The archetypal representation for Baptism and Salvation itself. By the miraculous mediation of God’s messenger the people are delivered through the water. And when the world tried it, they were utterly destroyed. God had to pass his people through the waters of Judgment. (See To a Mature Man: Stage 3–Baptism) It was the obedience of Faith which said, “He will fight for me. I will do the impossible, and He will deliver me.”

And then coming into the promised land, what should happen to those who are outside Israel. Those who fear God and have that faith are delivered, but those who are not (the “un-faith-ful” [those without faith]) are destroyed. Faith is the only means of Salvation.

New Testament

More than this, my seminary professor taught me that Paul in his ministry wrote to the Roman church to show what he was going for in his whole ministry for Jesus Christ. It’s in the beginning and the ending of Romans. “The Obedience of Faith” for all nations. There is One Judge of all the earth. All are under His judgment from our sinful birth. But faith alone is the way to Salvation, and faith without obedience does not deliver from Judgment. Therefore, because of Judgment, faith without obedience is not saving faith. As James said, “What good, brethren, does it do if someone claims to have faith but no works [of obedience]. Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14)

No.

Application

  1. Flee. Bestir yourself that judgment is coming against the whole world, and you are a part of that world.
  2. Trust. The same God who justly judges this world, will also save all who call upon His name for deliverance.
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord, for Him to save you, and do as He tells you.
  4. Obey. If you believe in him as your King, your Judge, your Savior, do as He says. It is through listening under Him and obeying His commands that you will know His salvation through and through.

8. Moses–Identifying with God

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a handsome child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather co-suffering evil-treatment with the people of God than enjoying the pleasures of sin bound to time. He considered greater riches than the treasures of Egypt the reproach of Christ; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Heb 11:23–27. NASB (italics my translation)

Victorious Faith–Hidden, Unbound, Fearless

Hidden

John wrote in his first letter that “This is our victory that overcomes the world. Our faith.” (1 John 5:4) The First work of a victorious faith is that it is hidden: protected, for the Lord, sacred and deeply rooted.

It is an act of faith to plant a seed. You are trusting that there is life in that dead seed that will sprout. But it has to stay hidden for it to sprout. A seed must be entombed if it is to have strong growth. Close enough to the soil, sun, and water for life to break the surface. Moses’ beginnings of faith was his being hidden, and indeed the work of faith is often begun in this humble way: the way of every living/life-giving plant.

From this tiny beginning, the child grew great, but his own deep-seeded hidden truth planted within his own heart of who he truly was came forth, and as he expanded, that central part of him never went away. The decision was already made, that no matter where his plant was grown, he would become a tree bearing fruit for God.

Unbound to Time

So, Moses had all the wealth of a glorious nation before him. That secret part of him which lived in light of the Unseen God could not abide by the here-and-now of His present situation. He saw something more valuable than the Seen world, He saw the Unseen Reality of the Reward of God, and that reward was suffering evil at the hands of his Seen World of Egypt.

The second work of a faith that is victorious is it is unbound to time. Moses looked and saw the riches of the treasure of Egypt within his grasp, but he saw something far more valuable, something that time could not touch: that eternal reward which belongs to all who suffer the reproach of faith.

Scholars will debate me on the significance of the phrase “of Christ” in this passage, but I believe the author meant the reproach that Christ suffered is the same reproach that Moses suffered, enduring evil treatment of God’s people. It is the price one pays for siding with God and identifying with him. And when Moses did this, he lost his whole share in the world. All who seek to enter into the victory of faith must not only be willing to lose their whole share in the world, but to embrace it along with the the reward of suffering reproach just as Christ did. Nothing of the world can compare with the inexpressible richness of knowing God in Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Not Fearing the King’s Wrath

When that time comes– when the tempter cannot snuff out the seed, when it cannot choke it out with thorny cares of this world, the evil one will have little recourse but to do battle against the irrepressible power of the seed of faith which overcomes the world. The third stage of victorious faith is no fear of the King’s wrath. One cannot be filled with fear, when one has nothing to lose in this world, and one is filled with the love and power of God. “No power of hell, no scheme of man,” as the song says, can destroy or stop such faith. All it can do then is try to destroy the man. This is why faith leads to the Cross. This is why identifying with God will ultimately end in death at the hands of sinners. Moses escaped and endured in only one way, “As seeing the Unseen One.” So must endure each one who seeks to walk the path of faith all the way to Him. This victory of faith belongs to God, for even as David said looking at a very see-able Giant, “The battle is the LORD’s” 1 Samuel. 17:47

God’s

Moses’ faith was seen in his refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Rather, he identified as being God’s. This another the fundamental distinction of faith: One cannot be the world’s and God’s. One must be one or the other. As Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters.” ~ Matthew 6:24. To whom do you belong? Who requires things of you? To whom do you owe anything? Are you bound by Possessions? Banks? Family? Money? Success? Control? Which of these do you serve? because you cannot be God’s servant and bound to any one of these things. When a servant of God is unbound by these things, and binds himself to God, then the rest of Matthew 6 can come true in his life. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the nations eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:31–33.

Application:

  1. Hide your faith so deeply in your heart that it becomes the deepest part of you. Self-examination, prayer, and the will to act granted by the power of God is all you need.
  2. Unbind yourself from the things that are bound to this time. Bind yourself to the unseen God, and endure the shame and evil treatment that God’s people achieve. Instead of having the ambition to succeed in this temporal world, rather do what Paul told the Thessalonians and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. (1 Thes. 4:11)
  3. Do not fear the powerful ones who rise up against you. The power within you is greater than the power of those who oppose you. (1 John 4:4)
  4. Consider yourself bound to God, belonging to him, and living for His service.

7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph: Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise

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By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. ~Hebrews 11:20-22

Isaac

The God of the Living blessed Isaac according to his father’s blessing, and because of it, Isaac knew a fruitful life. He and Rebekah had heard the tale of What God had promised Abraham concerning his offspring. Isaac was the beginning of that offspring. Could you imagine being the first son among innumerable children? Isaac’s life had already been given back to him, and so now all he had to do was wait, and keep walking with God, enjoying His bounty and thanking him.

Now Isaac favored Esau, but with a little finagling according to the predetermined plan of God, at the end of Isaac’s life, Jacob got the greater portion of the blessing. And all Isaac needed to do was just keep living according to the promise. The nobly simple life of the first son of Abraham is an example of resting in the continuous stream of God’s faithfulness to His promise. God had chosen to bless Abraham forever, and there was nothing Isaac could do about it, except pass the blessing on to the next generation.

Jacob

Faith in the life of Jacob has been hard for some to find. After all, he got much of his wealth, blessing, and advantage by tricking other people out of theirs. Indeed, what wealth and advantage did he seek to gain from God?

At Bethel, after Jacob slept on a stone, and saw the angels and God in his dream, Jacob made a vow to God. “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” ~ Genesis 28:20–22.

I have often wondered why God wanted to “back this horse in the race” so to speak. I mean he had promised Abraham, and this was two generations, and already we’ve got a conniving swindler and deal-broker. Where is Faith in this? Why is God called the God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob?

I think the answer lies in the encounter Jacob had with God, as a result of which he leaned on his staff in worship. When he wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he refused to let go of the Angel until He had blessed him. He laid hold of God until God gave him what he wanted. This is the kind of faith that is worth learning from. The story of Jacob is about God materially blessing him, and making good on the vow-deal Jacob had made in faith that God was faithful to do what He had promised. And once Jacob returns to the land of his father, he erects the altar to Yahweh as his own God, and takes on the name God has given him.

Joseph

The stories of Joseph are told in such a way as to inspire people with his faithfulness to God when going through extreme difficulty– how he faced his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and prison, but got elevated to the second highest place in all the land! Surprisingly, this is not the lesson of faith this passage is seeking to teach. It’s rather about the bones being carried out of Egypt. What could be the purpose of this seemingly trivial thing in light of all Joseph went through?

Faith doesn’t just look back at the glory days, or consider the victories for the present only, but faith looks forward and gives direction to those about to walk the next league of the journey so they too can keep in line with the promise. This is the lesson of faith learned from Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Faith is a larger commitment than the short time we live on this earth. The real task for many of us is to nail our own faith down during this lifetime by grappling with God as Jacob did, and resting in it as Isaac did. And when it comes time to pass it on to the next generation, we must keep our eyes on the Promises of God, so that the generation to come may See Him who is Unseen by looking at our lives to help them understand the mystery of their own.

Application:

  1. Keep track of your story: how you got here, and where you’re headed.
  2. Rest in full assurance of faith and communicate that to all whom God has given you to continue your journey.
  3. Grapple with God to accomplish His desire. And you be fully assured of his presence with you, and power to work in you.
  4. Pass your faith on to the next generation. This can look like passing on inheritance to your children, or telling them how God has worked in your life to get you here. Specifics really help, because a lot of youngsters these days need to hear the hard-core details about how God got you through your own self-made nightmares, and still proved to be good. Remember it’s a story about Him, not you. It is the sober reality of our failures and God’s salvation that makes up the most profound heritage one can leave to one’s children. Then, they too will know what promises to keep their eyes on.