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Lowell Brueckner

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Carried by Faith, part 2



 An expository study of the book of Hebrews

Chapter 11, Part II:   

 21. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

22. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.

23. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

24. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,

25. choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

26. esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

27. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

28. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.


Faith saw the invisible One

 In verse 20, we saw God turn the will of Isaac, so that he performed the Lord’s purpose by faith. I am insisting that God gives faith in order to accomplish His purposes through people on the earth. Jacob learned that lesson well and when it came time to bless the sons of Joseph, he did it against Joseph’s expectations. 


 Joseph was a faithful man and God gave him authority and power, but no man can dictate or counsel the great Architect of human history. Joseph brought his two sons before his father for blessing in an orderly fashion. The eldest son, Manasseh, faced Jacob’s right hand to receive the right-handed blessing, due to the eldest. Ephraim was on Jacob’s left. Their grandfather’s next action brings a smile to my face, because it shows us how weak and poor are the ways of man, before the Lord’s infinite wisdom. In this case, I find the overruling sovereignty of God to be humorous. Jacob put middle-east custom and the will of the Egyptian nobleman to one side by simply crossing his arms. He laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh.

 Joseph protested, but his father answered very kindly, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he…”  (Gn.48:19). Hebrew history proved the prophecy to be true. Jacob worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. The staff is rather a scepter of the Hebrew patriarch and in his old age, he leans, in dependence, more heavily upon it than ever before. It was an act of worship and symbolic of his determination to lead his clan into the eternal will of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thereby, by faith, Jacob… and Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim… are carried into the will of God (21). It is our privilege to lay our future in God’s hands for Him to do as He pleases.

 As far as Joseph is concerned, his total life was a testimony of his love and honor to the God, who revealed Himself to him in his youth. He did not waver, as he looked forward to joining his people, including his father, in paradise. Hear these words of faith to future generations from a man, who was extraordinarily enlightened concerning God’s will,: “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Gen.50:25). He left word to take his embalmed body out of Egypt into the Land of Promise. He wanted to be there on Resurrection Day (22).

 Jamieson-Faucett-Brown comments upon the death of Christ in Matthew 27:52: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” “These sleeping saints were Old Testament believers, who were quickened into resurrection life at the moment of their Lord’s death… This was a resurrection once for all, to life everlasting; and so there is no room to doubt that they went to glory with their Lord…” Matthew Henry comments also: “It is more agreeable, both to Christ’s honor and theirs, to suppose, though we cannot prove, that they arose as Christ did, to die no more, and therefore ascended with him to glory.” That is my viewpoint, as well. When Christ ascended into heaven, “He led a host of captives” (Eph.4:8, ESV), captives set free from the tomb, body, soul and spirit with Him. The Psalmist saw this great procession and a voice that cried, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps.24:7-8).

 The parents of Moses, Amram and Jochebed, were also carried by faith. They didn’t see a future liberator for their nation, but God did, and gave them faith to save his life. They saw a beautiful child and with that motivation they were not afraid of Pharaoh’s law: “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (Ex.1:22). His mother received wisdom, as well as faith, because she actually did cast her son into the Nile, obeying Pharaoh’s command, but first she put him in a little boat, which she built for him.

 The testimony of Moses, written by the Holy Spirit, is mighty. The Hebrew baby, taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter, became an Egyptian prince. The work of the Lord in a human heart is greater than the influence of the ambiance that surrounds it. He refused to enjoy his royal privileges (24), but please recognize the explanation of his choice which follows. It was between the sinful pleasures of the Egyptian palace, seat of the mightiest empire in the ancient world, and the mistreatment of a slave nation. By faith, he chose the latter… only God’s faith could do that (25).

 Christ came, by revelation, into Moses’ life by that time; much later, he prophesied of His calling from the Father (see Dt.18:15). He refused the best that the world could offer him… the treasures of Egypt… and chose, over it, the very worst that a disciple of Christ could experience… mistreatment, persecution and reproach. The worst that one might experience in the Kingdom of God is greater reward than the best in the kingdom of men. Again, only faith could make that choice and God gave Moses faith to carry him into His will. It was not just for the liberation of Israel or their journey to the Promised Land. The Spirit of Christ in him saw His day coming and for Christ’s sake, he chose His reproach (26).

 The Spirit of God causes the writer to see that it was not fear of Pharaoh that made Moses flee Egypt. He was carried by faith. He already experienced the Christian endurance that John talked about in the book of Revelation: “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (Rv.1:9). Moses had his eyes fixed on the invisible Jesus and that was the faith that carried him for 80 years of trial and desert experience (27).

 He led the Israelites in their first Passover, by faith, giving implicit instruction as to how it was to be done, all of which pointed to the saving and liberating power of the blood of the Lamb of God through His cross. The Destroyer could not lay a finger on the firstborn of Israel, when he took the lives of every one of the Egyptians. When the blood was sprinkled on the doorpost, the Destroyer could not get through the door (28).  In New Testament times, it is clearly seen that “He Who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him… The Son of God has come and has given us understanding” (1 Jn.5:18,20).

 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.

31. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

32. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:


 Faith is for the weak, defenseless and unlikely

 What brought life to the children of Israel, brought death to the Egyptians, in the Passover and in the crossing of the Red Sea. They were carried by faith through the Red Sea (29). Throughout the plagues, the Israelites were spared judgment and were a light to the nations of what it meant to be under the Creator’s care. Even in the case of God’s discipline of His children, Paul teaches that “when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Co.11:32). His discipline is for our good and we will learn more of it in the next chapter.

 Faith provides a highway through the sea and faith crumbles the walls of a great city without a battering ram. The Roman centurion was right; obedience to the highest Authority causes a word from Christ to bring health to a severely sick body. Following implicitly the instructions of the Lord, the walls of Jericho fell, when the trumpets sounded. The number seven is the perfect number of God’s work and, when the Israelites completed the circle of Jericho for the seventh time, God did His perfect work (30).

 Next, we have the wonderful, mysterious work of faith in an idolatrous prostitute from Jericho. She heard, she feared, she believed, she worked to bring about God’s purposes, and she was given an eternal inheritance. Along with her fellow citizens in Jericho, “the fear of you has fallen upon us… We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you… and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites” (Jos.2:9,10). The particular difference in this woman from her fellow-citizens was that she believed that the Creator and Guardian of heaven and earth was a God of mercy. She treated the enemy spies kindly and had them swear by that merciful God that they would be merciful to her and her family. They promised her that they would treat her, as she treated them, and so they did. God did a sanctifying work in her life; she became a faithful wife of a prominent man in the tribe of Judah. Entering by marriage into the tribe, the messianic promises became hers and she became an ancestor of the Christ, as mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy. Her name is honored there, here and in the book of James. By faith, her name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Eternal Life (31).

 Faith is the divine energy and power needed to do the supernatural work of God. The writer only mentions the names of other people carried by faith. There was Gideon, the least in his father’s house, which was of the least of the clans of Manasseh. It was his army that was reduced from 32,000 to 300 so that faith could bring a mighty victory against an army of tens of thousands. The writer mentions Barak, who worked with a prophetess, named Deborah, and another woman, named Jael, received credit for killing the champion general of Canaan. The Holy Spirit gives Barak his due credit here. Jephthah was an illegitimate son of a prostitute, who brought victory to Israel. Samson lost both his eyes before faith moved him to bring down the greatest number of Philistine nobles than ever before in his life time. Even King David and the prophet Samuel are simply named in this chapter. I will not even attempt a brief summary of their stories, which occupy a sizable portion of the history of Israel. All the prophets, major and minor, are reduced to one word in this resume of those who were carried by faith. I will leave it at that.

33. who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

34. quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

35. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

36. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

37. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered abut in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-

38. of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

40. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.


 Some conquered, others suffered, by faith

 The next four verses tell the triumphs of faith. Did they subdue kingdoms? At least two empires were subdued by God’s people. Egypt, of course, was humbled and practically destroyed by plagues brought about by Israel’s God. The little kingdom of Judah stopped the onslaught of the mighty Assyrian Empire and was the only nation in the Middle East, who maintained their independence. In one night, not only biblical history, but secular history also, records the death of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers surrounding Jerusalem, and afterwards King Sennacherib was killed by his own sons, while he was worshipping his god (Is.37:35-38).

 Acting on behalf of the God, whose kingdom is righteousness, they destroyed pagan idolatry and established a nation, which honored Jehovah and His law. They overcame the cruelty and senseless practices of evil people and in their place set up a kingdom that favored the poor and the weak, the widow and the orphan. They served a God, who foresaw the future and honored His word in fulfilling prophesy. It was Daniel, precisely, who stopped the mouths of lions by trusting his God, whom he knew and prayed to consistently (Dn.6:10-23).

 Three of Daniel’s companions quenched the violence of fire by faith and the eternal Son of God came to rescue them from Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. Not a hair on their body was singed and their clothes did not even give evidence of their experience by the smell of smoke (Dn.3:16-27). How many time did the Lord deliver them and turn their enemies’ swords against themselves! The stories are numerous. It was already a principle in the Old Testament that the power of God was seen in human weakness. Again the stories are too numerous to tell. The stories of David’s officers speak of those, who by faith in God, valiantly fought against the odds and numbers of the enemies (2 S.8-39). Armies, which gathered in great numbers against Israel, were put to flight by faith.

 The widow of Zarephath was kind enough to feed Elijah during a famine and afterwards her son became ill and died. Elijah cried to the Lord, who restored life to the child (1 K.17:17-24). Elisha, very similarly, raised the Shunammite’s son from the dead (2 K.4:18-37).

 In the middle of verse 35, the story changes and continues through verse 38, telling of those who, by the power of faith, were given grace to stand firm through suffering and even pay the supreme sacrifice of giving their lives for the glory of God. Warren Wiersbe relates the following account: While making a hospital visit, I found a patient lying in bed weeping. She handed me a book that she had received in the mail. Some anonymous person had written on the flyleaf, “Read this book – it will give you faith to be healed.” I HAVE PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED God’s miracle touch on my body when others were sure I would die. I know that God can heal. But the writer of Hebrews records the fact that many unknown men and women of faith were not delivered from difficult circumstances; in fact, it takes more faith to endure than it does to escape. I also have seen sick or suffering believers hurt by the good intentions of “super-faith experts”, who think they know exactly what the will of God is for everyone. Apparently they haven’t taken this portion of Scripture seriously.

  In Matthew 21:33-41, Jesus told a parable, which was certainly based on fact, when he described how vinedressers beat, killed and stoned the servants, who were sent to them. From the time of Joseph, we read of the Lord’s servants, who were mistreated and imprisoned. Faith had them looking for a better life at the resurrection of their bodies, which was greater than compromising their faith to escape death. Tradition has it that Isaiah was sawn in two and verse 37 describes martyrdom in various forms. Rejected by society others were clothed crudely in sheep and goat skins. The Holy Spirit records that they were destitute, afflicted and tormented.

 God considered that the world was not worthy to have such people as part of their population. They were His chosen ones, rejected by the world. They were despised by men, but highly esteemed by the Lord. They lived for His honor alone and the principle stands through New Testament times. Will you stand for the world or against it, as you pass quickly through your lifespan? In Revelation 14:1-5, we see an elect multitude standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion with His Father’s name written on their foreheads. They were fully identified with the trinity, loyal to another world, singing another song, following the Lamb wherever He goes, of whom the world was not worthy. David and his men lived in a cave, wandering in deserts and mountains. They could not live peaceably in the kingdom of Saul.

Just as the witnesses described earlier in the chapter, these also testified of a faith that is found in God and is born through the life-giving power of His word. As the Jewish Christians, who were contemplating a return to the law and Judaism, so every reader of verse 40 should be ashamed, who in any way looks to abandon his faith. Jamieson-Faucett-Brown comment: I think his (the writer’s) object is to warn Hebrew Christians against their tendency to relapse into Judaism. Though the Old Testament worthies attained such eminence by faith, they are not above us in privileges, but the reverse. It is not we who are perfected with them, but rather they with us. Those, who proceeded the advent of Christ to the earth, were wonderfully faithful, as they looked forward to His coming and the fulfillment of many prophecies.

 God having provided something better for us… We live in the time of the full glory of the completion of the gospel and can become new creatures born into a new creation. Jesus has gone to the cross and has been resurrected from the dead and so, our sins are atoned, the Holy Spirit dwells within, and we live in the power of resurrected life. The Old Testament saints, who awaited these things and died faithfully, have now come, along with the church, into the perfect purpose of God. They waited for us and the Lord waited until this generation to include us, so that we also could be partakers with them. We all look ahead for everlasting glory in heaven.






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