8. Wilderness Manual–Three Victories but One Redemption (21)

The outward situations are growing in intensity. Arad, Amoriates, and Bashan all fought against God’s people and lost, because of God’s power at work in Israel. They have learned much from the wilderness, and God’s power is effective in creating the impossible right before them. But the heart of the people is still ungrateful.

Principle: The power of the Spirit is simultaneously able to create powerful victory on the outside, while disciplining the weak failure on the inside. God does so when he is using beloved sinners and sinful image bearers to enact his purposes. His way of producing outward results is staggering, but even more profoundly moving is His way of training his children up close. When the people are complaining, God sends fiery serpents and they bite them, and then in the midst of the discipline God provides the cure. Do they have the heart to look to the one who wounded them to see His love and purpose for them?

Application: Do not count your outward victories as evidence of God’s approval of you. Beware your ingratitude, because it will keep rearing its head. When you fail, keep staring God in the face as you experience his discipline. In his face you will find the truth and love that makes you right before Him again. Expect God’s work to be evident beyond you, but let your primary focus be clinging to Him. He is your cloud and your supply.

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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

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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.

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.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 9–Resurrection

Brother,
– – There is plenty of mystery for me surrounding this stage, but I believe Paul: “If we are united with him in the likeness of his death, surely we will be united in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5) A Christian who has gone on past these stages and has remained faithful to the end has passed from the Kingdom stage to the Victory stage. Even in victory and a new resurrected life, however, I think the book of Revelation and Genesis shows that there is still peril.

Toward the end of the Bible, the last threads of the knot of Satan’s twisting are being untied. As deception ruined the good world God made, even when the people were not themselves sinners, it could be that a person who claimed allegiance to God through all the previous stages might falter into the Evil one’s clutches.

Jesus

It is tempting to think of Jesus’ death as the end of the story, since that’s where the natural mind ends. However, the story of the Bible goes through death to Resurrection! Jesus who endured to the end, was raised up by

  • The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11)
  • God the Father (Romans 10:9)
  • The Glory of the Father (Romans 6:4)

And his resurrected body was

  • Flesh and Bone (Luke 24:39)
  • Able to eat food (Luke 24:42-43)
  • First-fruits of those who are raised (1 Corinthians 15:20)

He walked among us as a fully alive and restored human though he still carried the nail marks.

The Believer

I believe I can confidently assert that as was Christ at his resurrection, so will the believer be. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

A Personal Difficulty

For a long time I thought that Christians would be only disembodied spirits, or having some kind of quasi-physical body when we die, but I believe the resurrection of Jesus’ body was evidence that the Believer’s resurrected body will be just like Jesus’: still distinctly human. Perhaps Gnostic influences have led me to seek some sort of abolition of the physical body. But since the end of the story is new Heaven and Earth, I still believe God’s plan is to redeem the whole believer, even their bodies.

Pitfall

The danger I see in this stage is the same danger that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden: Deception. Matthew 24:24 speaks of some time in the future from Jesus’ day when false prophets would arise to deceive, even if possible God’s chosen ones. I see that this is a possibility as humanity will have the choice to heed the deception the Evil One even at the end of time during Christ’s reign of 1,000 years. (Revelation 20:8) It is the sin into which the first human fell, and it is also a sin into which the new human can fall, so he must take heed to obey God’s Word, or he too may be swept away in the Evil one’s last ditch effort to sway the nations against God.

Application:

  1. Walk with God. The Evil One can only deceive a believer as he is wandered away from His blessed presence. Stay before His face, and keep Him before your face so that you will never be shaken.
  2. Listen to His Word–When God speaks, do not harden your hearts, but humbly receive the gift of God’s goodness to you.
  3. Obey Him. “His commandments are His enablements” said a woman to a Pastor in Portland, Oregon named J. Carl Laney. When God gives a command, it is to be obeyed. To cause disobedience is the evil one’s aim, and his greatest method is to deceive. Until he is cast into the lake of fire, you must resist him, and remain faithful to obey God, or you too will fall with him.
  4. Represent God on earth. The restored image of humanity has the privilege of representing Him on earth. As He is, so are we in the world. Now all of Creation is set up as the Temple of the Goodness of God, and the resurrected human is the one built to image God in His delightful creation.

Final thought:

Hard to believe that there may be one more stage to cover. After all, the Evil One is defeated, death is defeated, what could possibly be left? Think with me. What was the last thing we have recorded of Jesus’ time on earth?

A Prayer of Victory

Skiddish Little millipede
Your cyan shell is easily penetrated
I do not seek to break it
I seek only to teach and lead

Oh Room of watchful souls
Your eyes see truth more readily
Than those who bear weight steadily
And see their heart is full of holes

Now comes to tempting trials
That beckon sons to cast their life
Away for what only laziness brings: strife
But can the bars withstand the files?

Fear not, your heart means more
Than countless hours of death and dying
Though my own heart is used to lonely sighing
I will not let this emblem vain be bore

The power of the chronicle to tell
A story that reaches from the body to the soul
Will carefully instruct the wisdom’s role
Lest the story end up half way down to Hell.

A week of peeling self-lessness
That pries the very heart of all things sacred
And spits out everything that desecrates it
And renders those with no time a useless mess

Prickly sticky fingers grab the sword
Where fire leaps upon the drying brush
And carries up the anthem to a hush
And beckons the returning of the Lord

Yea! Battle cry ye sing forth words of old
And bring the AdamSon to heart the break
Of thunder clapping lightning splitted skies
Which echo with the carnage of love’s choice bold

“The battle is accomplished!” Says the son.
The rain has landed on the thirsty ground
The heart is open, and is not made unsound
By the devices of the accusing Evil One.

Nay! For the battle is for the heart of grace
The heart with a single voice to be discovered
May the Lord the Savior grant my whole recovered
So there may be a full light in our face.