For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 16, 2007
The writer continues to recount examples of faith in the Old Testament:
"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible." (11:24-27)
I will be honest with you, this one has always puzzled me. When I read the account of Moses' early life in Exodus, it seems like Moses was forced out because of his killing of the Egyptian, and it certainly appears he was afraid of the wrath of the king. But I have heard some people say that he was trying to lead a revolt of the Jews. Actually, this passage kind of confirms that. Anyway, I want you to notice one thing: that Moses saw greater reward in following God than he saw in staying in Egypt. It takes spiritual eyes to see this, but the Lord does have eternal riches that are greater than temporal riches on earth. Never once does God tell us not to seek rewards. Why else would He offer them unless He wanted us to work for them?
"And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (11:32-40, ESV)
This is my favorite part of this chapter. My first question is, Why Barak? When you read the story in Judges, it seems he was a sniveling, spineless leader who would not lead the soldiers into battle without Deborah. Once again, we find an example of God shedding more light on an Old Testament character in the New Testament. Most importantly, this passage tells us that God sometimes leads His heroes through tragedy. Or at least it seems like tragedy to us. Everybody loves the stories of Joseph and David, men who overcame a lot of obstacles to become the leaders of God's people. Not so many like to talk about the story of Jeremiah, for example, who spent his entire life taking the scorn and abuse of the people. But God was just as pleased with Jeremiah as He was with Joseph. He is more interested in our faithfulness than He is in making us rich or popular. To choose a New Testament example, I have heard lots of sermons from Acts 12 about Peter being freed from prison by angels. I have not heard one about James the brother of John being beheaded in the same week. But God had a different plan for James than He did for Peter. When we sign up for the Lord's army, not everyone gets to be the general. A lot more people get sent to die or suffer anonymously on the front lines. It will be interesting to see who gets the best rewards in heaven. I think we all will be surprised.