Where are you walking?
Hebrews: Jesus is Greater • Sermon • Submitted
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How many steps do you think the average person takes in each day? The average American walks between 3 and 4,000 steps per day or between 1.5-2 miles. Certainly some people walk more than this, but this is the average amount. Some of you cannot even imagine walking 2 miles but did you know that there are some people who willingly run things called marathons? A marathon is 26.2 miles or 10x more than the average person travels by foot in a day. Can you think of how sore you would be after running or walking 26.2 miles? That is an insane distance and some people enjoy doing this! They’re crazy.
In a marathon the runner is going towards the finish line. There is a goal in mind. For those of us who are Christians what is our goal? Our goal is to live a Christlike life and to share the love of Jesus with others as we go throughout our journey. As we have been looking at Biblical Faith the last few weeks and we will continue this study this morning, we see that we are on a journey as followers of Jesus Christ. What is our journey like? We are supposed to walk by faith in God. Our faith is supposed to lead to action. We are supposed to follow God even when that might look a little strange. Some of us have been Christians for many years while others might be relatively new Christians. Some of you might be nearing the end of your marathon while others might’ve just started yours! With that in mind, we are all growing and traveling together. Where are you walking, though? Are you walking by faith and moving towards your goal of being more like Christ? Or, are you walking towards what our world says matters most? Are you more afraid of what other people think of you or are you more afraid of what your heavenly Father says?
Consider this morning where you are on your journey and how you can continue to grow as you walk towards the finish line. Walk by faith and continue to trust in God’s promises just as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham have so far in Hebrews 11. Today we will look specifically at how Moses did this as well.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, after he was born, was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. 26 For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking ahead to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being marched around by the Israelites for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute welcomed the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed.
Biblical Faith looks forward (20-22)
Biblical Faith looks forward (20-22)
A recurrent theme in the book of Hebrews is that people who have faith in God look forward. We’ve looked at this the past 2 weeks especially as we saw that Abraham looked ahead to his eternal home and considered himself a stranger walking through this world. We know that we should do this as Christians, don’t we? We know that we are supposed to look forward and live with the proper mindset that we are living in this world but we are not to live as people of this world. How many of you are familiar with the expression that your mom has eyes in the back of her head? Biologically speaking we know that this is not true because human beings only have 2 eye balls and they are in the front of our head, however it definitely seems as though they know what is going! While mother’s have this strange intuition, not everyone has this. Whenever we look in a particular direction, that is all that we see and that is where our primary focus is directed. In high school one of my science teachers gave us a practical problem about focus and driving in a car. As you’re driving on I-44 the speed limit is 70mph - not everyone goes 70, some of you go 55 and nearly get rear ended whereas others go 85 and fly past everyone! But assuming you’re going 70mph, do you know how many feet you travel in 1 second? You travel over 102 feet in that single second! That means that if you drop something or look in the back seat while driving on I-44 there could be serious consequences because you are distracted while moving over 102 feet per second! Your focus determines your direction.
What we’ve seen in Scripture is that we are to continue looking ahead towards the promises of God - if you think that being distracted on I-44 is dangerous, the moment that you take your eyes off of God and His plan you are in far greater danger! In verses 20-22 we see that these individuals had faith and focus on God’s plan and promise. We see that Abraham’s son, Isaac, blessed both Jacob and Esau - if you are familiar with the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27, you are familiar with the fact that Esau was the older of two brothers and would have received a special honor as such. In Deuteronomy we see that the oldest son receives a double share of the inheritance under the Mosaic law but that would have come about long after Jacob and Esau - either way, it had to have been valuable because Jacob asked Esau to swear his birthright to him in Genesis 25:27-34, a fascinating passage of Scripture! Jacob, as the younger child, not only receives Esau’s birthright but he also steals Esau’s blessing in Genesis 27 by deceiving his own father - Isaac. These brothers did not get along very well! In terms of biology, Esau’s name should be mentioned before Jacob because he was the firstborn, yet the preacher of Hebrews notes Jacob first - why is this? Because Jacob received the blessing from Isaac and that blessing included the promise that God had given to Abraham who had then given it to his son Isaac. Even though Jacob received this blessing and promise from Isaac, Esau still received a blessing.
Not only did these brothers receive a blessing from God, Jacob passed this blessing down to the next generation as he blessed Joseph and his sons in Genesis 48 and tells them that God will give them land as a permanent possession to their descendants. Again, with Joseph’s sons the “wrong” one received the blessing as the younger son, Ephraim, was told that his tribe would be greater and more populous than his older brother, Manasseh. Sometimes God makes promises that will not come about until many years in the future. Verse 23 shares this with us as Joseph, by faith, looked ahead to the Israelites’ leaving Egypt and going to the promised land. Things in Egypt were going well in Joseph’s life. Joseph was a trusted member of Pharaohs court and the 12th dynasty of Egypt was one marked by wealth, success, and victory. Yet, Joseph knew that Egypt was not the home for his people. Because of this, he told his sons to take his bones away from Egypt to the promised land. Even though things were good in Egypt, Joseph knew that there was something greater awaiting the nation of Israel. We see in Joshua 24:32 that his descendants did what Joseph requested.
32 Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.
In these opening 3 verses we see that these people were looking ahead. Even though they received promises of blessing in their lifetime, they did not inhabit the promised land on their own. Because of this, they looked forward to the day that their descendants would do so. They didn’t lose hope because of their circumstances, they lived by faith and trusted that the promises of God would in fact come to fruition in the years to come.
Consider where you are walking today. Are you walking towards your ultimate goal and home in heaven? Is that where your time, effort and energy is directed today or are you half in and half out? Are you distracted behind the wheel of your life today? We all go through moments like this! With that said, we all must make the decision of what we will do today. Will you look ahead to your ultimate home and destination - heaven - or will you continue looking in the rear view mirror and be tempted by the things that our world tries to throw at us? Continue to look forward and grow to be more like Christ while trusting in His plan for your life along the way.
Biblical Faith chooses wisely (23-27)
Biblical Faith chooses wisely (23-27)
The preacher of Hebrews moves from Joseph in verse 22 to Moses in verse 23. We are familiar with the story of Moses, aren’t we? Moses is arguably the most famous Biblical figure in the Old Testament - certainly the most famous in Jewish history as he is the author of the pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) and crucial in bringing the law to the people from Mt. Sinai. What we see in these middle verses, though, is not specifically the accolades of Moses but rather the fact that he chose to suffer with his people instead of enjoying the benefits of living with Egyptian royalty. Have you ever faced a situation in life where there clearly was a right and wrong option but the “right” thing to do would result in difficulty and possibly suffering whereas the “wrong” thing to do would be the easy choice because there wouldn’t be any repercussions? Think of William Carey, the first baptist missionary who left the comforts of England to go to India and share the Gospel with the natives there. The “right” thing for Carey was to follow God’s call on his life and go to India. The “wrong” thing for Carey would’ve been to stay put in England even though it would have been much easier on him and his family. Carey suffered greatly even though he followed God’s calling. Contrary to what some self-professing Christians try to tell you today, just because you follow God’s will and obey Him it doesn’t mean that your life is easy and smooth. Often times when you choose to follow God’s plan for your life it will result in difficulty but it is the best decision you can ever make!
What do we see about Moses and his family obeying God’s plan in these verses? From the get go in verse 23 we see that Moses was hidden by his parents! If you are familiar with Exodus 1 then you know why this was the case. If not then maybe you’re curious as to why Moses had to be hidden here. What we see in Scripture is that Moses was hidden because the Pharoah issued an order for every Israelite boy born must be put to death at birth. Why was this order given? In Exodus 1 we see that the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied rapidly. This was a threat to the new king who did not know about Joseph. Because of this, the Pharoah commanded that the Israelite boys were to be thrown into the Nile river. To disobey this order was to disobey the king and put yourself liable to punishment. See, the “right” thing wasn’t the easy thing to do yet, Moses’ parents hid him for 3 months. Why did they do this? Hebrews 11:23 says that it was because he was beautiful. Does this mean that he was cuter than all the other babies? No. He was beautiful because of God’s calling upon his life. Stephen mentions this in his sermon in Acts 7
20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He was cared for in his father’s home for three months.
Moses’ parents were fearless and trusted in God’s plan and Moses was the same way in his life as verses 24-27 tell us. Moses grew up in the king’s palace. He would have been raised by the smartest teachers and trained by the wisest of leaders in the kingdom and possibly in the whole world at this time. Do you see how God is at work in this? God is training up His mouthpiece not in the slums and fields but instead in the palace of a pagan king.
22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
God has a plan, friends, and we are responsible for trusting in that plan! Moses grew up and left Egypt because he chose to suffer with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasure of sin. If Moses had stayed in the palace, life would have been easy but it would have been a life of sin because he would have disobeyed God’s call upon his life. As Al Mohler notes, “Moses recognized the vanity of Pharaoh’s house and the all-surpassing worth of obedience to God.” Have you experienced this in your own life, friends? Have you felt the purpose and worth that can only be experienced and found while obeying God? Don’t waste your life running to wells that promise life but instead drink you dry and rob you of your joy! Choose to follow God wherever He calls you. It would have been easy for Moses to argue that staying in the palace and winning the people from inside where he had status, nobility and power would have been the right decision - just how many Christians in relationships with non-Christians almost view themselves as a missionary to that person and say, “I’ll save them!” Sometimes that works, but other times God has something else in store. As the preacher notes in verse 26
26 For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking ahead to the reward.
We agree with the preacher that it is greater to follow and suffer for Christ than to be rewarded with earthly treasure, but how does the preacher bring Jesus into the equation here? How could Moses suffer for the sake of Christ when Christ wouldn’t come for another 1500 years? Again, the theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is greater. He is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, greater than Aaron, greater than Joshua and even greater than Moses. Moses would have known about the prophecy that God made with Abraham in Canaan that from his line would come blessings to all the world and from the line of Eve would come one who would crush the head of the serpent once and for all - the Messiah would come and Moses was looking ahead for that reality and as a result, he considered suffering on account of his faith in God to be greater than gaining all the world has to offer.
What do you think about this, church? Do you consider it to be better to suffer for your faith in Jesus than it would be to live a comfortable, friendly, relaxed Christianity in an ivory tower and to regard others as “second class” and not worth your time? As Christians, we must choose wisely. There is nothing wrong with comforts and possessions, but we must ask ourselves if we are using them to further the Kingdom or if we are too comfortable with being comfortable.
This would have been especially convicting for this Jewish audience because they would have been tempted to stop gathering with the body of Christ (remember Hebrews 10:25) and go back to what they were comfortable with - Judaism. The example of Moses, the hero of many Jews, suffering for Christ would have been both convicting and encouraging for this church and it should be for us as well. How was Moses able to do this? He persevered, as verse 27 tells us, and kept his eyes on the ultimate, heavenly, reward. See, Moses was not ultimately afraid of Pharoah or any king, he was afraid of God most of all because God and God alone is sovereign and worthy of being praised and feared.
Who do you fear more today? Your worst enemy or the king of kings? The opposing political party or the Lord of Hosts? The devil or the Sovereign Lord of the Universe? To quote Luther, “Even the devil is God’s devil.” Choose who you will serve and choose who you will fear the most. Live accordingly!
Biblical Faith walks in obedience (28-31)
Biblical Faith walks in obedience (28-31)
Not only did Moses’ faith in God lead to him personally choosing to obey Him, but it also led to the people of Israel observing Passover. We celebrate Passover in a largely positive sense but we know from Exodus that it was a horrible moment for the Egyptians and all who did not obey God’s command as the “destroyer” killed the firstborn son of the Egyptian families. This, as difficult as it can be to swallow, was done by God as He protects His chosen people. Even though Israel was His chosen people, was there still responsibility upon them? Certainly! They had to obey God’s command or else they would have suffered the consequence as well! Aren’t you thankful that Jesus’ blood washes us white as snow and cleanses us of all unrighteousness once and for all? In this sense, Jesus serves as the ultimate Passover Lamb but you and I are responsible for what we do with Jesus. Will you obey and make Him Lord of all or will you reject Him as millions do on a daily basis?
Consider the 2 examples of faith that follow: the parting of the Red Sea and the walls of Jericho falling down.
Both of these events start out with “By faith...” Isn’t this interesting? Why did the Red Sea part for the Israelites? Because it was an act of God, certainly, but also because of the faith of the Israelites as the preacher of Hebrews notes here in verse 29. Could he have used the wind to accomplish this? Sure. But did the wind cause this? No. This was caused by God. Likewise, when the Egyptians were in pursuit and crossing the Sea and the water came crashing upon them and they drowned, was this simply due to bad timing or bad luck? No. It was due to their lack of faith in God and God ultimately bringing them to their destruction. Do you see how crucial obedience is in the life of the follower of God? Maybe you’re thinking in your head, “obviously it matters, pastor.” I’m sure the Israelites were fired up about obeying God after they reached the other side and saw the Egyptian army destroyed in the Sea, but what eventually happened? They were faithless and didn’t believe in the promises of God for for years!
A question for us, how can we ensure that we remain faithful and obedient to God rather than drifting into seasons of faithlessness and disobedience? When you come before opposition, will you trust in God’s promises or will you turn tail and trust in yourself?
The final event is the destruction of Jericho and the faith of Rahab. Again, how did the walls of Jericho fall? Was it primarily because of seismic activity in the region or was it due to God’s sovereign plan? I assure you it wasn’t because of the sound waves from the trumpets that the Israelites blew! It was clearly God’s plan, yet the preacher notes that the people were obedient and had faith in that plan. Joshua saw obeyed the instructions that the angel of the Lord gave to him in Joshua 5 and the people had faith in that plan. If you were told to do this, though, what would your first response be? You’re told to walk around a fortified town 7 times and you’re told that on the last day after the last march it will fall to the ground. This seems absurd! After all, has this ever happened in the history of mankind? Probably not - yet we see that the city did in fact fall and the Israelites were victorious. Why? Because they obeyed God’s plan. They walked in obedience.
Likewise, whenever we have faith in God and walk in obedience, we too can be used by God in mighty ways - it’s not because of our strength but because of our faith in a strong and sovereign God as Paul talks about in 2 Cor 10
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Consider what you would do. Would you walk in obedience as you marched around a city 7 days and 7 times on the last day? Would you allow enemy spies into your home in order to save them from sure death? Consider what Rahab did with the spies inside Jericho - she lets these men inside her home and says that
9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and everyone who lives in the land is panicking because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings you completely destroyed across the Jordan. 11 When we heard this, we lost heart, and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.
She had heard of the victories that God had given to the people of Israel and she had faith in the God of Israel - we would not expect to see her name on this list, especially given her profession, yet she trusted in God not because of political gain, monetary means or anything like that, rather because of her faith. Even though she wasn’t an Israelite, she had faith in the power and might of God. Do you?
When you’re facing opposition or in the midst of a storm, where will you look and how will you walk? Will you continue to look forward, choose to trust in the Lord and suffer for His sake or will you take the easy way out? Our life is not an easy one, but our life is one of purpose as we live not for ourselves but for Christ.
Do you feel comfortable in our world and in the culture that we live in today? If you do, I encourage you to do some soul searching this week and ask the Holy Spirit to help and convict you. If you don’t feel home in this world, that’s a good thing because we’re just passing through.
Where are you walking this week, friends? Are you walking towards Christ or are you walking away from Him? As people who live by faith, we should all strive to be walking towards Him. Encourage one another this week as we are all on this journey together - we’re just at different places. Have a future-looking-faith and endure this week.