Light and Hope in the Valley: Tears and Talk

Sunday 11 July 2021

Dr Ben Hooman

Please open your Bibles at the book of Lamentations. We begin today a four-week series that speaks especially to all who walk the path of sorrow and loss. Sooner, or later that will be all of us. 

Packer says, “Grief is the inward desolation that follows the losing of something or someone we loved – a child, a relative, an actual or anticipated life partner, a pet, a job, one’s home, one’s hopes, one’s health or whatever.” The key words here of course are ‘love’ and ‘loss.’ Grief is the process of adapting to the loss of something or someone that we loved.

When a person loses a loved one, we speak of them being bereaved. The word ‘reaved’ means to rob, plunder, or tear away. So, the one who is bereaved feels that he/she has been robbed or plundered, like having something or someone who is dearly loved taken away. The person feels they’re being torn in two.

All of us will walk through the valley of grief and loss in different times and in different ways. God has given us an entire book of the Bible that teaches us how to navigate the valley of sorrow and loss, an entire book of the Bible that addresses the issue of grief, an entire book that shows us how to navigate through this valley of sorrow and loss.

The book is called Lamentations. Studying this book will help you to be better equipped to live and serve in a suffering world, and it will encourage you to meet Christ on the path of sorrow. It is not a book that is often preached. I’ve never preached a series on Lamentations. Why not? Especially since this book speaks to something that every one of us will experience. God’s Word in its fullness speaks to every part of our lives. Neglect any part of God’s Word, and we miss the provision that God has made for us there.

We all in these times we live in, experience the loss of a partner, a child, a friend, a colleague. We tend to prevent speaking about the sorrow and the loss. And many a time we don’t know how to act or cope in times of sorrow and loss. 

We have three aims for the series: 

  • That we will better understand what it means to grieve and to hope

What does it mean to grieve? People sometimes say, “I don’t think I ever grieved properly.” Well, what does it look like to grieve properly?

What does it mean to hope while you grieve? It’s not that Christians grieve for a little while and then, when we are done with that, we are full of hope. It’s not like that. Christians grieve and hope at the same time. We grieve as we hope and we hope as we grieve. I want us to see from Lamentations what that looks like.

  • That we will be better equipped to live and serve in a suffering world

We do not go to church to escape from reality. Folks who don’t believe sometimes have this view of the church. We come to face reality together in the presence of God.

God speaks to us in this world as it is, not as we would like it to be. The Scriptures are given to us not only to prepare us for the world to come, where pain and sorrow will be no more, but also to equip us to live in this world, scarred as it is with pain, and with sorrow, and with loss.

One writer describes the book of Lamentations as “a house for sorrow and a school for compassion.” Here’s a place where you can learn to have a tender heart. Immersion in this book will soften our hearts towards a suffering world.

  • That we will meet Jesus Christ on the path of sorrow

The path of sorrow is a difficult and painful path. But it is a path that Jesus is familiar with. He was familiar with suffering and sorrow. Any path on which we come to a closer, deeper walk with Christ is a path that will be blessed, even if it is a path of great sorrow and loss.

Historical background to Lamentations

Lamentations describes, in excruciating detail, the grief and sorrow that resulted from the siege and eventual collapse of Jerusalem in 586 BC. It is called Lamentations because it is the lament of people who survived unspeakable loss, and then had to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and somehow find the strength to carry on.

“How long sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.” (Lamentations 1:1,2)

God’s people endured five disasters – one on top of the other.

  • Enemies laid siege to the city

They just camped outside – no water, no food going in. They said, in effect: “We are just going to sit out here until the people in the city starve.”

  • Then the people starved

You will find more in this book about the horrors of surviving in a besieged city than you ever wanted to know.

  • Then the city fell

The walls of the city kept the people safe from their enemies. But when the walls were finally breached, what made these people feel secure was taken away. And then they were completely overrun.

  • Then the city was occupied

The fall of the city meant the end of the siege, but it also meant the beginning on an occupation in which God’s people found themselves under the heel of a brutal enemy who had smashed their walls and homes. They had become slaves.

  • Then the temple was destroyed

The place where God had promised His presence was gone. So where was God in all of this? “Even the temple is gone.” Here are people who feel all alone, bereft, bereaved.

Many died in these awful days. Many more were taken off into exile – Ezekiel, Daniel, etc. Lamentations is the cry of the few who remained, the survivors, who had to find a way to survive in the ruins of their fallen city, The place they once called home.

Lamentations is a cry from the depths of pain, sorrow and loss. It is the lament of the survivors. And more than any other book of the Bible, it speaks to those who grieve today.

The five chapters of this book are somewhat repetitive. Grief is like that. Grief is not linear. Those who have experienced grief know what it is like to go over and over what has happened again and again.

In this series, I want to draw out the main themes of this book: 

  • Tears and Talk; 
  • Guilt and Grievance; 
  • Hope and Healing; 
  • Prayer and Praise. 

We begin today with tears and talk.

Leslie Allen, senior professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, also serving in that time as a hospital chaplain, has written a helpful book in which he uses what he learned (as an Old Testament professor) about Lamentations to shed light on grief, and then uses what he learned (as a hospital chaplain) about grief to shed light on Lamentations.

He begins with the story of a young man named Raymond, who was brought to the hospital late one evening as a precaution against suicide. Raymond was a Christian man in his early twenties, committed to church, and actively engaged in youth ministry.

But he had gone through a series of tragedies that had overwhelmed him. A few months before, his parents had died, one after the other in a short space of time. Then he learned that his girlfriend had died from an overdose.

The chaplain was called for and Leslie says, “When I arrived, I gently woke Raymond out of an exhausted sleep. Bleary eyed, he sat up in bed and said, ‘All I want to do is sleep…’ I realized that this was not the occasion for a long pastoral interchange. What short message could I leave about the way forward? I thought for a moment and said, ‘I want to leave three words with you, Raymond: tears, talk and time.’ I added a brief sentence to each word and then told him to go back to sleep and remember those three words when he woke up.”  

Tears: Let them flow!

Tears are the shuddering of the body at the pain of the soul. Tears are a wonderful gift from God. Tears are a release valve for pain. So let the tears flow! Don’t hold them back. 

There was once an old man who lost his wife. Every day he sat on his stoep crying. The young boy next door saw it and walked over, and jumped on the man’s lap. When he got back home, his mom asked him what he said to the old man. He replied, “Nothing, I just helped him to cry”. 

Lamentations is a book soaked in tears. Let me give you some samples,

“She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks;” (Lamentations 1:2)

“For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me.” (Lamentations 1:16)

“My eyes are spent with weeping.” (Lamentations 2:11)

“My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (Lamentations 3:48)

“My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees.” (Lamentations 3:49)

Notice that the references to tears run throughout the book. They are not just in the first chapter and then they dry up. The tears of grieving people come at unexpected times. You never know when they’re going to come next.

There is a hymn that says, “When sorrows like sea billows roll…” Sorrow comes in waves, often when you don’t expect it. A new wave can be set off by a sight, a sound or a smell.

Someone once said, “People often say to me: ‘I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t want to make you cry.’ And I say to them, ‘You’re not going to take me to a place that I don’t already live all the time.’”

Sometimes the tears just won’t come. Have you also heard someone saying, “I was in such a state of shock, I couldn’t cry for days?” 

You have that in Lamentations too: “He has left me stunned, faint all the day long” (Lamentations 1:13). Sometimes the shock of a great loss freezes the senses for a time so that what you expect to feel, or even what you think you should feel, you don’t feel at all.

But Lamentations says, “When the tears come, let them flow! Don’t hold them back! 

“… let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.” (Lamentations 2:18,19)

Leslie Allen comments, “I recall a patient who, having undergone a mastectomy, found it difficult to grieve [she said] because of her Christian faith… She thought grief was a sign of spiritual weakness and lack of trust. It had to be stifled [she thought] as dishonouring to God… Lamentations belies such a stoic view.” 

He is absolutely right. Here we have in a book of the Bible, something that validates the tears of godly people, the tears of faithful people.

Talk: Don’t hold it back!

The entire book of Lamentations is an expression of grief. It puts grief into words. Lamentations is a sustained outpouring of grief in which painful details of all that has happened, and all that was lost are poured over again and again. That is what grief does. That is what grief is like.

Leslie Allen quotes the words of Shakespeare in Macbeth, “Give sorrow words: The grief that does not speak, Whispers the o’er fraught heart, and bids it breaks.” In other words, if there is a grief that won’t speak, it tempts the heart to break.

If you read Lamentations, from beginning to end, you will be struck by the repetition. Grief is like that. It is not linear. It circles back over the same ground. Every detail of what has happened is rehearsed.

Imagine a priceless vase or ornament is dropped on the floor and smashed to pieces. The woman who loved it kneels down. She picks up the pieces, one by one. She looks at each one in detail, turning it round, as if to remember where it once belonged.

The vase was loved and so when it was shattered, every piece was worth picking up, no matter how small. A grieving person will often want to talk about the smallest detail of their loss. It is as if every broken piece is taken up and wept over. When you listen, you may feel that the detail was small, but it is part of something that was supremely valued, part of something dearly loved.

God has given us a whole book of the Bible that is a sustained outpouring of grief, in which the loss is put into words and it is expressed over and over again. Surely in this, God is telling us something very important about how to grieve. Tears and talk – let the tears flow, and don’t hold the words back.

One writer cites the story of a man whose sister died at the age of eight. And his father responded by turning to his sister’s picture on the wall saying, “Get rid of all her possessions, and forbidding anyone to mention her name.”  In other words, he was saying, “We are moving on.”

Thankfully, our culture is much more in touch with the importance of speaking about pain and loss. But a grieving person can only speak about their pain and loss if other people are ready to listen. There are two sides to every story.

Donald Howard writes on this with great pastoral wisdom: “Let the bereaved speak…Statements such as ‘You must often think of the time when you did such and such together…’ are ways of initiating discussion. A typical illustration of this is of a widow whose friends are talking with her when one remembers a humorous story about the husband. He stops himself telling it out of consideration for her and, like everyone else, steers the conversation away from her husband’s life altogether. Had he told the story, she probably would have laughed; perhaps there might have been a tear or two in her eyes, but she would have thought it wonderful that he was still remembered”. 

Part of our responsibility and part of the way we help those who have lost a loved one is to help keep the memory of them alive. What they wonder is: Does anyone else remember? Does anyone else care?

This reminds us of the importance of the ministry of listening in the body of Christ. Lamentations gives us a picture of what it means for God’s people to grieve together. We are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

There are two sides to weeping with those who weep. The first is that there must be brothers and sisters in Christ who are ready to listen, ready to sit with the one who grieves and identify with their sorrow. But if this is to happen, the one who grieves must be ready to allow some brothers or sisters into their own sorrow.

Here is a difficult challenge to those who are grieving a loss: It is very easy to put on a ‘brave front,’ and to say that you don’t want any sadness, to tell others that you only want to focus on the celebration of a loved one’s life, and then to determine that you will only do your weeping on your own. That’s not what we find in Lamentations.

God calls your brothers and sisters to weep with you. With whom will you share your weeping? Who will you allow, by the grace of God, to share in your sorrow and loss?

The body of Christ is part of God’s provision for you. They are given the privilege and calling to listen, so allow others into your grief, your sorrow, and your loss.

Tears, Talk, and Christ

The Bible tells us that Jesus wept. When Lazarus, who Jesus loved, died, our Lord came to Bethany. When he arrived, Martha came out to meet him, and later her sister Mary. These two women were grieving the death of their dearly-loved brother.

“Now when Mary came where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.” (John 11:32-35)

Why did He weep? Christ knew that in five minutes He would raise Lazarus from the dead – the resurrection is five minutes away for this brother! He told Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). But He did not say to Martha, “Don’t grieve.” He did not say that. He is the Resurrection and the Life, but He weeps with Martha and Mary over their loss. Jesus wept!

God is always intimately involved in the grief of His people. There is a beautiful verse in the book of Psalms that speaks of God gathering all our tears in a bottle. If you don’t know it, I hope you will note it, so that you will remember it.

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8)

Every tear you have ever shed is completely known to your heavenly Father. Not one of them is ever forgotten by Him. The tears of God’s children are precious to God. They are part of why He sent His Son into this world.

There are many wonderful statements in the Bible of why Jesus Christ came into the world. In one of them the Messiah says, 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to… bind up the broken hearted… to comfort all who mourn… that they may be called oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

All this so that you may be able to stand and not be destroyed in your grief. Our Lord was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” (Isaiah 53:3) 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord said, 

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matthew 26:38). When your soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, your Saviour has been there. You have a Saviour who knows what it is to weep!

You also have a Saviour with whom you can talk. There is a great gulf between this world and the next. You cannot talk to your loved one who has died. But if your loved one was in Christ, he or she is with the Saviour, and you can talk to the Saviour about your loved one who is now in His house. You can tell the Saviour how much you miss them and how much you love them. You can bring the pain of your loss to this Saviour who is familiar with sorrow and grief.

One day Christ will wipe away all tears from your eyes. Literally, the Bible says he will wipe all tears “out of” our eyes (see Revelation 21:4), as if he would take away not only the tears, but the tear-ducts themselves (in the resurrection body), because they would no longer be needed. It is not only the tears that God will take away, but also the sorrow and loss that gave rise to them. Lord, hasten that day!

Now that day has not yet come. And until then there will be tears. But there is also the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief, who says in this book,

 “See if there is any sorrow like My sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12) 

He plumbed the depths of sorrow when He suffered on the cross. And no one is more ready, or no one more able to walk with you through the valley of grief, sorrow, and loss, than Jesus Christ.

FAITH LIFE SERIES: FAITH REWARDS

Sermon – Ps Ben Hooman

04 July 2021

Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible for the last time in this series at Hebrews 11. I have enjoyed every step of our journey through this marvellous chapter of the Bible, in which the Holy Spirit teaches us about living by faith. We’ve seen what faith is,

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is an assurance and a conviction. Faith is sure of things we hope for because they have been promised by God. Faith is convinced of things we cannot see because they have been revealed by God. Faith believes what God has revealed and trusts what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 shows us what faith looks like through a series of examples: Each of them highlights a distinct aspect of faith, and we have seen that: Faith listens to God, faith walks with God, and faith fears God. Faith obeys God, faith receives from God and faith submits to God. Faith worships God, faith hopes in God, faith depends on God and faith commits to God.

Faith is a living tree bursting with fruit. If you have faith, all kinds of good things will follow. We have looked at 10 models or examples of faith in this series. And the writer of Hebrews, clearly could have called on many more.

“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” (Hebrews 11:32)

You will be glad to know that I am not going to attempt to tell the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets today. Time would fail us! The point here is that the examples of genuine faith are not a few, they are many.

Then the writer goes on to describe the achievements and the agonies of the heroes of faith. Verse 33 lists some of the achievements: They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, stopped the mouths of lions.

Verse 35 lists some of the agonies. “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release. Others were mocked, flogged, and stoned to death. The world was not worthy of them.”

And now, as we come to the close of this chapter, we all know how it’s going to end. It’s going to say: Some heroes of faith achieved great triumphs. Other heroes of faith endured great suffering. But all of them received what God had promised and entered into their glorious reward.

But that’s not how the chapter ends. Just when we are expecting the heroes to receive their crowns, we read,

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews11:39)

You read this verse and you say, “Really?” These people have been held up to us as models of faith, and none of them received what was promised? That’s what it says. Abraham did not receive what was promised. Moses did not receive what was promised. David did not receive what was promised.

Now, clearly, Abraham Moses, David and the others received many wonderful gifts from God.

Old Testament believers were forgiven

And they were forgiven in the same way we are today. Our faith looks back to Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross. Their faith looked forward to Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross.

The whole point of the Old Testament sacrifices was that they were a way of expressing trust in the sacrifice that God Himself would provide for our sin. On that basis, David says,

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2)

Old Testament believers received the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was poured out in greater abundance in the New Testament, but the Spirit of God came rushing on the Judges, and God answered the prayer of David when he said,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51: 10,11)

Old Testament believers went to heaven

Asaph describes the experience of an Old Testament believer when he says,

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24)

These Old Testament believers looked in faith to the Saviour who was to come. Their sins were forgiven, by grace and through faith they knew the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They entered into the glorious presence of the Lord when they died, and yet Hebrews tells us, “They did not receive what was promised” (verse 39). What part of the promise did they not receive? Look at what it says,

“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” (Hebrews 11:39-40)

This is a difficult verse, but the key words are “something better.” What is this “something better” that God has planned? It could be that the writer is making a contrast between the blessings that the Old Testament believers enjoyed and the blessings that New Testament believers enjoy today. But I don’t think so, and here’s why. He speaks here about being “made perfect,” and that is not something that happens in this life.

The contrast here seems to be between the experience that they and we have on earth, and the experience they and we will have when we are made perfect.

God has promised “something better” for us than anything we could experience in this world, just as He promised something better for the Old Testament believers than anything they experienced in this world.

So, the point here is not that our position is different from theirs, but that in this life, our position is exactly the same. They lived and died looking forward to what God had promised, and we will do the same. They did not receive what God has promised in this life, and neither will we.

It was the same with Jesus. He came preaching the kingdom of God. And He lived and died in a world that rejected Him. But that is not the end of the story. He rose from the dead and right now, He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

God had planned “something better” than the cross and the grave for Jesus. And God has planned something better for the Old Testament believers and for us. The Old Testament believers have gone ahead of us. And they are waiting for us to finish our race, because “apart from us” they will “not be made perfect.”

Believers who have died are with Christ

“So, we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which shall I choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1: 21-23)

Believers who have died are waiting

They don’t yet have the resurrection body. They don’t yet have the company of the whole believing family. They don’t yet enjoy the new earth that will be the home of righteousness. So, they are waiting for the glorious return of our Lord because only then will the whole family be gathered.

Only then will they receive the resurrection body. Only then will they enter the fullness of all that God has promised. Something glorious lies ahead, that even those in heaven have not seen.

When God gave the apostle John a glimpse into heaven, he said,

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10)

Notice their question: “How long?” They are in heaven, but they are still waiting. What are they waiting for? Three R’s. They are waiting for the Resurrection body. They are waiting for the Redeemed family to be gathered. They are waiting for the Restored universe – The new heaven and earth that will be the home of righteousness forever.

This is the position of Old Testament believers and of our believing loved ones who have died. They are with Christ, consciously enjoying the glory of His presence. And they are waiting, for the resurrection body, the gathering of the redeemed family and the restored universe, all of which will come when the glory of the Lord is revealed.

Now what does all this have to do with us? These heroes of faith have run their race, and now we must run ours. Think about Olympic athletes running in a vast stadium. The stands are packed with spectators, and they are cheering as we run.

In the same way, we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and many more beside. They have run their race, and now they are waiting for us to finish ours. So,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)

Now how are we to do this? How are we to run our race with endurance. How are we to withstand the relentless pressures that keep coming to us throughout the course of our lives? The answer lies in three wonderful words in verse 2, “Looking to Jesus.”

Looking to Jesus

  • Faith looks to Jesus

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, …” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Christian faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have learned from these models of faith in the Old Testament. But faith is not looking to Noah, Abraham, Moses or Rahab. Faith is looking to Jesus.

This is what the Old Testament models of faith were doing. Jesus says, “Abraham saw My day” (John 8:56). Moses chose the “reproach of Christ” over the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26).

The whole point of Hebrews 11 is that we are in the same position as these Old Testament believers. We believe as they believed. We must endure as they endured. We look to Jesus as they looked to Jesus.

Faith believes what God has revealed and trust what God has promised. And it is in Jesus that God has revealed Himself. And it is through Jesus that all God has promised will be ours. So, faith looks to Jesus.

  • Jesus is more than our example

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

These words are really important because they remind us that Jesus is more than our example. You can admire an athlete breaking the hundred meters record, but that does not give you the ability to do what he or she did.

If all we have is examples, we would be crushed. If the message of this chapter was to say, “Enoch walked with God, Noah feared God, Abraham obeyed God, Rahab committed to God, so get your act together and follow their example,” we would all be saying “How can we match up to them?”

If we were told simply that Jesus is our example, and now we must step up and live a life like His, we would all be saying. How can we ever match up to Him? So, thank God the message of this chapter is not “These heroes of faith were great, and you should try and do better.”

The message is, “the same faith that was formed in them has also been formed in you, and Jesus is the One who has formed that faith. Jesus is more than our example of faith. Jesus is the “founder” of our faith.

A founder is a person who brings something into being. Jesus is the “founder” of our faith. You believe. You have faith. How did this come about? Jesus formed faith in you. He is the founder of your faith. He laid hold of you. He put His Spirit in you. He opened your eyes to the truth. He brought your faith into being.

And Jesus is the “perfecter” of your faith. A perfecter is a person who brings something to completion. Notice that faith does not make you perfect. The best of the Old Testament believers were far from being perfect. Noah got drunk. Abraham lied about his wife. Moses lost his temper. Jacob was a miserable old man. They were all flawed people as we are. But Jesus will make them perfect, and He will do the same for us.

“God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). Our faith is far  from perfect. We often feel like the man who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

That prayer will be answered. Jesus will perfect your faith. He will bring it to completion. He will vindicate your faith by bringing you into all that He has promised. And He will do this when all of His family are gathered together.

Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus brought your faith into being, and He will complete what He has begun.

  • Jesus will enable you to endure

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36)

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

Hebrews was given first to Jewish believers who were facing difficult days. They had “endured a hard struggle with sufferings (Hebrews 10:32). They had been “publicly exposed to reproach and affliction (Hebrews 10:33). Their property had been plundered (Hebrews 10:34).

The strain of all this was beginning to tell, and the writer tells them “You have need of endurance” (Hebrews 10:36). You read that and you find yourself saying, “That’s me! That’s what I need!” I need endurance, but how am I going to get it?

Hebrews 11 is the answer to that question. The writer says, “My righteous one shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38). And from there, he launches into this marvellous exposition of faith in Hebrews 11.

But here’s the question: How does faith enable us to endure? We’ve seen that faith Listens to God, Walks with God, Fears God, Obeys God, Receives from God, Submits to God, Worships God, Hopes in God, Depends on God, and Commits to God.

How does faith do these things? Faith joins us to Jesus in a spiritual union in which what is His becomes ours. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). When you are in Christ the life that is in Jesus flows into you.

Paul says, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). When Christ lives in you, He gives you a righteousness you would not have on your own.  When Christ lives in you, He gives you a strength you would not have on your own. When Christ lives in you, He gives you a peace you would not have on your own. When Christ lives in you, He gives you an endurance you would not have on your own.

Look at the endurance of Jesus: He endured the cross! The Saviour who endured the cross lives in you by His Holy Spirit. And because He lives in you, you will be able to endure as you run the race that is set before you.

  • Jesus will bring you into His glorious reward

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus endured the cross, but He is not there now. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And notice that He got through the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” and I believe that the joy set before Him is the “something better” that God has planned for all His people.

The Three R’s

  • The joy of the Redeemed family

Jesus is going to bring the whole family together, and when He does, not one of His own will be missing. You will be reunited with loved ones who are already with the Lord. What a day of rejoicing that will be. Jesus said,

“I tell you many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11)

On that day there will be no divisions, no disputes, no arguments in the believing family. Every effect of sin will be removed from us. We will be made perfect. The bride of Christ will be without blemish.

  • The joy of the Resurrection

Your redeemed spirit will be clothed with a resurrected body that will never ache, never tire, and never tempt you to sin. A body in which you will be able to serve the Lord and enjoy His new creation forever.

  • The joy of the Restored universe

Abraham was looking for “a heavenly city whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). And John says,

 “I saw the holy city…coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2).

What makes the city holy is that God Himself is there.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new. …” (Revelation 21:3-5)

Jesus will bring us into His glorious reward, so “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

FAITH LIFE SERIES – FAITH COMMITS

Sunday 27 June 2021

Ps Ben Hooman

Joshua 2:1-21, Hebrews 11:31

Please open your Bible at Hebrews 11. Our core passages are from Joshua 2:1-21, and Hebrews 11:31. We have just two more weeks left in our series on faith. God teaches us in Hebrews 11 through a series of examples. Each one highlights a particular aspect of the faith to which we are called. We have looked at the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob. We have looked at the faith of Joseph, and the faith of Moses. Who would you expect to come next? Joshua was the successor to Moses and without doubt he was a man of extraordinary faith.

Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan by Moses. When the spies returned, ten of them brought a bad report.

“And they him, ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there… We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:27-28,31)

But Joshua and Caleb said, “If the LORD delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 14:8)

Joshua was a man of great faith. It was under Joshua’s leadership that God’s people finally entered the Promised Land. It was Joshua who directed the people to march round the fortified city of Jericho till, by the power of God, the walls fell down. That story is recorded in Hebrews 11:30. Joshua was without doubt a great hero of faith, but his name does not appear in Hebrews 11. The next person named after Moses is not Joshua, but Rahab,

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31)

Of all the examples of faith in Hebrews 11, Rahab is the most surprising. God had given His promises to Abraham and his descendants. Rahab was not a descendant of Abraham. She was not one of God’s people. And Rahab had not lived a righteous life. She had been a prostitute. Yet here she is held up for us as a model of faith!

If you want to know about genuine faith, look at Rahab! The Holy Spirit must have something very special to teach us from Rahab’s story and that story is told in Joshua 2 which was read for us earlier. When God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land, Joshua sent two spies to gather intelligence about Jericho. And when these men came to the city, they lodged with Rahab.

Clearly the spies had not been successful in concealing their identity. Word got out that two “men of Israel” had come to town (verse 2). And since it was known that God’s people were moving towards Jericho, it wasn’t hard to work out why these men had come.

When the king of Jericho heard about the visitors, he sent messengers to Rahab with an order that she should hand over the men who had come to her house. Rahab must have guessed that this would happen, and before the king’s messengers arrived, she had taken the spies up to the roof of her house and hidden them under stalks of flax. When the king’s messengers arrived, she sent them off on a wild goose chase.

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, ‘True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out.” (Joshua 2:4,5)

So off went the king’s messengers, chasing after the spies who were hiding under the flax on Rahab’s roof. Then the Bible records,

“So, the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out”. (Joshua 2:7)

The search for the spies was on, and once the gate was shut, the city was in lockdown. No one could enter the city, and no one could leave. So now the spies had a real problem. They were trapped! How could they escape from the city when the gate was shut? Rahab’s house was on the edge of the city. It was built into the city wall (verse 15). The front of her house looked over the streets of the city and the back of her house looked out to the open country outside.

When darkness came, Rahab let the spies out of the city on a rope hanging from her window. Why did Rahab do this? Why did she put loyalty to these men higher than loyalty to her own king who demanded that she hand the men over?

Rahab saw that a great conflict was coming. She was faced with a choice. She chose a side, and she made a commitment. And Hebrews tells us that she did this by faith.

The simplicity of Rahab’s faith

“By faith Rahab… did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31)

The first thing we learn from Rahab’s faith is that you don’t need vast knowledge before you can believe. You don’t need to have all your questions answered before you can trust.

Rahab had a very limited knowledge of the truth. She was not an Israelite. No prophet had ever spoken the Word of God to her. She would have known nothing of the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or of the revelation that they had received. But Rahab did have some knowledge of the Lord. Notice that she says,

“Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land …” (Joshua 2:8,9)

When you see the name LORD in four capital letters in the Old Testament, it signifies the name God revealed to Moses. Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14). And Rahab refers to God, by name, four times (verses 9, 10, 11, 12)

  • Notice what Rahab knew about God
  • Who God is

“… for the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11)

“Your God is the Sovereign Lord: He reigns in heaven and He rules over the earth. The idols of Jericho will fall before Him.” Rahab knew who God is. And she knew what God had done.

  • What God had done

“… we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt” (Joshua 2:10)

This amazing story had got around. Israel’s God had parted the waters and piled them up like a wall on either side of His people. God’s people crossed on dry land and then the waters came crashing down on the oppressors who pursued them.

“Who is this, that even the winds and the waves obey Him?” (Mark 4:41)

Rahab knew who God is, and she knew what God had done. And she knew:

  • What God was about to do

“… I know that the LORD has given you the land” (Joshua 2:9)

Rahab was part of a community with a long history of evil. And God had determined that they would be destroyed. Back in Genesis 15:16, God said,

“In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure.” (Genesis 15:16 NIV)

The sin of the Amorites was great. But God was merciful. He held back judgement for four hundred years until their sin reached “full measure.” Rahab knew that she was part of a community whose sin had reached “full measure.” She realized that her city would be destroyed. “I know that the LORD has given you the land” (verse 9).

Here’s what we learn from Rahab’s faith: Faith rests on who God is, what He has done, and what He will do.

Who is God? God is the ruler of heaven and earth. What has God done? God sent His Son to save His people, by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and rising from the dead.

What will God do? God will bring justice. He will destroy all evil. And He will bring His people into all that He has promised: the new heaven and earth that will be the home of righteousness.

Rahab’s faith was very simple. She had no Bible. No pastor. No believing friends. But she knew that there is a great God in heaven. She knew that He would bring judgment on the earth. And she knew that God was with His people.

You don’t need to know everything about the Bible before you can believe. You don’t have to have all your questions answered before you can be saved.

Here’s what we all need to grasp: God reigns in heaven and He rules over the earth. He is who He is. He is not whoever you want Him to be. He will judge all sin, and destroy all evil. But He has sent His Son to save His people. And if we are among His people, we will be saved.

Faith rests on who God is, what He has done, and what He will do. And on that basis, faith commits to God’s people.

The depth of Rahab’s commitment

“By faith Rahab… did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:31)

Hebrews makes it clear that it was “by faith” that Rahab did not perish. But the evidence, the proof that her faith was genuine, was that she gave a friendly welcome to the spies. The strength of Rahab’s faith was shown in her commitment to God’s people.

We have seen that faith believes what God has revealed and trusts what God has promised. That’s what faith is. But the whole message of Hebrews 11 is that faith shows itself to be genuine by what it does.

In Abel, we see that faith listens to God, and faith led Abel to offer a sacrifice. In Noah we saw that faith fears God, and faith led Noah to build and ark. In Moses we saw that faith depends on God, and faith led Moses to leave Egypt and prepare for future ministry. In Rahab we see that faith commits to God, and faith led Rahab to identify with God’s people.

Faith shows itself by what it does! This is the great theme of the letter of James in the New Testament: And James takes Rahab as one of his shining examples.

“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25)

You read that and you say, “justified by works?” How come? Paul says that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1).

James and Paul use the word ‘justified’ in two different ways. Paul speaks about the declaration by which God makes us right with Him. James speaks about the demonstration by which we show that our faith is authentic. Paul speaks about a sinner set free. James speaks about a believer proved genuine.

Hebrews is right in line with both James and Paul. It was by faith (as Paul would say) that Rahab did not perish. Rahab believed who God is, what He had done, and what He was about to do and by faith she was saved. She did not perish with those who were disobedient. But (as James would say), the evidence that Rahab’s faith was genuine was that she committed herself to God’s people and put her life at risk by protecting the spies.

Rahab took a huge risk in welcoming the spies. If the spies had been found on her roof, Rahab would have been done for. And the strength of Rahab’s faith was shown in the depth of her commitment to God’s people.

We live in a highly individualistic culture. So, it is easy to get the idea that faith is a purely private matter between me and God. But Hebrews is telling us that faith shows itself in commitment to God’s people, and for us today that means the church.

Rahab made a lifelong commitment to God’s people. After the destruction of Jericho, we read that Rahab…has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho (Joshua 6:25).

Faith shows itself in commitment to the people of God. And the strength of Rahab’s faith was seen in the depth of her commitment to God’s people.

The simplicity of Rahab’s faith, The depth of Rahab’s commitment, and then, The promise of Rahab’s safety.

The promise of Rahab’s safety

Before Rahab lowered the spies to safety from her window, she asked them to swear a solemn promise.

“Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house” (Joshua 2:12)

Rahab pressed the spies not just for a promise, but for a promise that was made in the name of the Lord because she knew that a promise with God’s name attached was a promise that would be kept. The spies gave a solemn promise in the name of the LORD.

“Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household” (Joshua 2:18)

Rahab trusted a promise that had God’s name attached to it, “swear to me by the LORD …” (Joshua 2:12). The promise was clear, “Tie the scarlet cord in the window, and anyone who is in your house will be saved. And Joshua records, “She tied the scarlet cord in the window” (Joshua 2:21)

Faith commits to God’s people because of who God is, what He has done, and what He will do. And faith trusts God’s promise.

Some time, after the spies had gone, the people of God appeared on the horizon. When Rahab saw them coming, she gathered all her family. When you come to believe you have a great desire that your loved ones should also believe and be saved. And Rahab was concerned not only for her own safety, but also for the safety of her father and her mother, her sisters and brothers and all of their families too (verse 13).

So, Rahab gathered her family. “This city is going to be destroyed. Come to my house and you will be safe.” I wonder what they made of it? I expect Rahab had caused her mother and father no end of worry through the years.

What would you feel if Rahab was your daughter? Rahab what are you up to now? No doubt she explained her simple faith to her family. There is a great God in heaven. He is about to bring judgment on our city for all the evil we have done. But I have been given a promise of safety, given in His name. Believe that promise with me and come into my house. The family gathered – packed into Rahab’s house.

What did they make of the strange scene as God’s people marched round the city in silence? And at the end, nothing happened. On the second day, God’s people marched round the city again. Rahab watched from the window. And at the end of the second day, nothing happened. It was the same on the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day and the sixth day.

But every time Joshua’s army marched round the city, they would see the scarlet cord hanging from Rahab’s window. “The people in that house are with us. When the walls come down, make sure they are taken to safety!”

Then on the seventh day, God’s people marched round the city seven times. Then the sounded the trumpets, and the great walls of the fortified city fell down. Remember, Rahab’s house was built into the city wall (Joshua 2:15). So, when the wall came down, one side of her house collapsed completely. Rahab and her family were completely exposed to the armies outside.

But Rahab’s house had been marked by the scarlet cord. She was one of God’s people. And she was ushered to safety along with her father, her mother, her sisters, her brothers, and all of their families.

Application

  • God’s grace covers real sins

Rahab had lived a deeply immoral life. Her sins before she believed were many. And Scripture records her lie to the king’s messengers which clearly was after she believed.

Some writers seem to pay more attention to the lie that she told than to the truth she believed. But there is no doubt that she broke the 9th commandment. “The spies are gone” she said. I don’t know where they are, but if you hurry you will catch them.”

The Bible never defends the lie. God commands us to speak the truth. But Hebrews passes over the lie, and focuses only on Rahab’s faith. That’s grace. God’s grace covers real sins. Draw near to God in faith and repentance, and whatever your past may have been, you will be forgiven, accepted, loved and saved. No sin, however great, can stop you from receiving the mercy of God if you will trust His promise as Rahab did.

“By faith Rahab… did not perish with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

God’s grace covers real sins, and God’s grace offers real hope.

  • God’s grace offers real hope

If ever there was a person who would be likely to think, “There may be hope for others but not for me,” it was Rahab. Rahab could have said, “What I have done has shaped who I am,” But Rahab found hope because she believed.

Jeremiah records an occasion when God called people to turn from their evil ways. And this is what they said, “There is no hope” (Jeremiah 18:12 KJV). And because there is no hope, “We will follow our own plans.” But the story of Rahab says, “There is hope!” Where there is even the simplest faith, the door to a new and different life is open.

  • God’s grace brings real change

We’ve seen that Rahab became one of God’s people. But the best part of the story was still to come, and it is told at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Rahab married a man by the name of Salmon, and they had a son whose name was Boaz.

“And Boaz was the father of Obed, Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of king David” (Matthew 1:5)

Rahab became the great-great-grandmother of king David, and it was into the line of David that Jesus Christ was born. That’s what God’s grace did for Rahab. Think what His grace can do for you!

REPENTANCE SERIES: LESSON 12 MARKS OF TRUE REPENTANCE (PART 2)

MARKS OF TRUE REPENTANCE (PART 2)

Dr Ben Hooman

Charles Hodge, who was a professor of theology at Princeton, made a very striking statement. Writing on the passage in Corinthians he writes, 

“It is a great mistake to suppose that the natural tendency of pain and sorrow is towards the good. A great mistake to think that it naturally moves into a good direction. 

The natural tendency to pain and sorrow rather is to excite rebellion against God and all evil feelings. It is only when these are sanctified, and that by the Holy Spirit to bring into exercise patience and faith in the sufferer, that they then bring forth the good fruit of righteousness”.

FAITH LIFE SERIES – FAITH DEPENDS

Sunday 20 June 2021

Worship – Wolmarans Family

Sermon -Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Hebrews 11. We are continuing our Faith Life Series, and today we come to the story of Moses. God had given an amazing promise to Abraham, 500 years before Moses was born saying,

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gates of enemies,” (Genesis 22:17)

Well Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac fathered Jacob and Esau. After two generations, there had not been much progress. But Jacob fathered twelve sons, and then things really got going. In the generations that followed, God’s people grew rapidly. They came to Egypt as an extended family of just seventy people. They left Egypt as a great nation of around two million people!

We saw last time that when God’s people arrived in Egypt, the smile of the culture was on them. Joseph was loved in Egypt, and his extended family enjoyed the favour of the people. But, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). He feared the rapid growth of God’s people. And so, the great oppression began. God’s people endured hard labour. But even then, God blessed His people and their number continued to grow.

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Exodus 1:22)

This was a despicable act of ethnic cleansing. Notice that the Pharaoh gave this order to “all his people.” He called on the people to ensure compliance. This was a license for mob rule. “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile…” When a Hebrew boy was born, the parents would be required to report the birth to the authorities who would then come and take the child away. And if the parents did not do that it would be up to the neighbours to take action themselves.

A Hebrew boy is born, and word gets around the neighbourhood. “There’s a baby in that house and I think it is a boy.” Then one night there is a knock on the door. A gang of thugs want to see the baby. It was a horrific evil. Never under-estimate the evil of which the human heart is capable.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

When Jesus was born, Herod purged all the infants in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt. It was in Egypt that the life of Jesus was guarded, and it was in Egypt that the life of Moses was saved.

We begin today with the remarkable story of how the life of Moses was preserved.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.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. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.: (Hebrews 11:23-28)

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents”. It seems that Moses’ parents were able to hide their son at home for the first weeks of his life, but after three months it was clearly getting more difficult and more dangerous.

Where could they hide the baby? Moses’ parents came up with a clever plan. “The mob would throw the baby into the river. That’s where we should hide him!” So, they made a basket, covered it in pitch, and hid the infant Moses in the reeds at the edge of the river, while Moses older sister Miriam kept watch over the basket from a distance.

One day, the crown princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, came down to the river to bathe. And she found the basket. When her servant opened it, Scripture says,

“When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children” (Exodus 2:6)

Moses’ sister Miriam was watching. She approached Pharoah’s daughter, and in a stroke of genius she said,

“Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrews women to nurse the child for you?’ And Pharoah’s daughter said ‘take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages. ‘Go’. So, the girl went, and called the child’s mother. And Pharoah’s daughter said to her, ‘Take the child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him.” ((Exodus 2:7-9)

So, Moses’ mother was paid by the crown princess of Egypt to nurse her own child. The story reminds us that grace, love and kindness can be found in some unexpected places. The crown princess had every reason to implement the deadly policy of the regime to which she belonged. But she did the opposite. Her heart was opened and the life of Moses was saved.

I want us to focus today on the faith of Moses himself. We’ve seen in this series that the Holy Spirit has drawn out one lesson from each of these heroes of faith. But in the case of Moses there are three things for us to learn. Notice that the words, “by faith” comes three times (verse 24, verse 27, and verse 28).

Today we’re going to look at: The choice that faith makes; The courage faith brings, and, The confidence faith enjoys.

The choice faith makes

“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” (Hebrews 11:24,25)

This was an extraordinary decision: Moses grew up in the palace. He was known as the son of the crown princess. He had all the privilege of being a member of the royal household.

Moses could have become like Joseph, who was second only to Pharoah himself. But he made this astonishing decision: He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

I wonder what the crown princess made of this? She knew, of course that Moses was a Hebrew, and according to the king’s decree, he should not have been alive. But the crown princess had shown kindness to him. She had adopted Moses as her own son.

She had prepared him for a royal career, and now he says that this is not what he wants! He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and chose rather to be mistreated with the people of God. “I belong with these people who are despised by the world. I would rather take my stand with the people of God than have all the treasures of Egypt.”

In making this decision, Moses points us, very obviously, to Jesus. The Son of God enjoyed a glorious life in heaven but He gave it up. He did not grasp onto what was his by right. He left the pleasures and the treasures of heaven and chose to be mistreated with the people of God. He came from a throne to a manger and went from the manger to the cross.

Moses lived 1500 years before Jesus. But Hebrews makes it clear that, just like Abraham (John 8:56), Moses saw Jesus from afar. That is why we read in Hebrews,

“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26).

Moses had some glimpse of this wonderful truth that one day God Himself would come among His people. That He would be mistreated; that He would be reproached, and that out of this would come a glorious reward that He would share with all His people.

Moses had some glimpse of what Jesus would do and he said, “I want to be like Him. I am going to stand with the people of God no matter what it costs.”

The calling of Moses and the calling of Jesus is our calling too. Jesus said,

“And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34)

Jesus is saying, “There is a cross for Me and there will be a cross for you. You must take up your cross. If anyone would come after Me, let him… take up his cross”. Thomas Boston said that God will lay down a cross at everyone’s door. “God had one Son without sin, but no son without a cross.”

The cross you carry may change but in every season of your life there will be some cost for you to bear in following Jesus. So, here’s the question: How are you going to take up your cross? How will you bear the painful and costly things that confront you as you follow Jesus?

The cross God gave to Moses involved renouncing his royal title and taking his stand with the mistreated people of God. And Hebrews tells us that Moses made his decision by faith.

Faith makes it possible to take up your cross. And faith does this in two ways:

  • Faith takes up the cross because it sees that the world is fleeting

“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” (Hebrews 11:24,25)

Acts tells us that Moses was forty years old when he made this life changing decision,

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.’ (Acts 7:23)

For forty years, Moses had enjoyed the pleasures of the royal lifestyle. Riding in chariots, sailing boats on the Nile, building great structures etc. But through it all, one word kept pressing in on his mind, “Fleeting”. The fleeting pleasures of sin.

This is all passing away. “Here I am, forty years old. And I am living a comfortable life. But God brought me into the world for a greater purpose than this. My life must be about more than the pursuit of pleasure and treasure. These things are fleeting. They are passing away”.

Faith takes up the cross because it sees that the world is fleeting, and

  • Faith takes up the cross because it looks to the reward

“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26)

It is clear from the life of Moses that his reward was not in this world. Taking his stand with the people of God meant spending the rest of his years in the desert leading a people who were ungrateful and uncooperative.

Following Jesus means taking up a cross, and if this world is all that there is, it simply isn’t worth it. Paul says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

But faith factors in eternity. Following Jesus means taking up a cross now but it does not end there. The cross led to a glorious resurrection for Jesus. Right now, our Lord Jesus enjoys His reward in the glory of heaven, and one day we who follow Him, will share in His reward. Faith factors in eternity.

 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18)

By faith, Moses saw through the world with its fleeting pleasures and treasures. By faith, he factored in eternity and looked to the reward. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must do the same. You have to factor in eternity.

Some of you who are younger are trying to figure out if you will follow Jesus. You know that if you do, the smile of the culture will not be on you. You wonder if it’s worth it? There’s only one way you can make the costly decision to follow Jesus. By faith that factors in eternity.

Faith that sees through the fleeting pleasures and treasures of the world, Faith that looks to the reward. So, firstly: The choice faith makes, and secondly: The courage faith brings.

The courage faith brings

“By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27)

When Moses made his decision to leave the palace, his first venture as an advocate for the people of God was an absolute disaster. He decided to do some research. He went out to see what life was like for his Hebrew brothers and sisters. And what he saw appalled him. He came across an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew slaves and on an act of impulse, “he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:12)

Moses thought that what he had done was hidden, but what he did was seen. And when Pharaoh heard it, “he sought to kill Moses” (Exodus 2:15). Moses went from a favoured son to a hunted fugitive, in a single day. Scripture tells us that “Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15).

Moving to Midian may not sound like an act of faith and courage, and some scholars suggest that Hebrews is referring to the second time Moses left Egypt in the Exodus. But I’m convinced that Hebrews is referring to this first time that Moses left Egypt.

“By faith he left Egypt, … By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:27-29)

Firstly because of the flow of the story: Hebrews tells us that Moses left Egypt after he left the palace and before it tells us about the Passover, which comes in verse 28. Secondly, I don’t think this is referring to the Exodus, because the story of God’s people leaving Egypt comes later in verse 29. Thirdly, Hebrews describes Moses leaving Egypt alone. “By faith he left Egypt.” There is no reference here to the people of God being with him.

The reason some suggest that Moses leaving Egypt by faith is a reference to the exodus, is that Exodus tells us Moses was “afraid” when what he did was known (Exodus 2:14). But that does not mean that fear was his motive in leaving Egypt. Hebrews tells us that he left Egypt by faith.

  • Why did Moses leave Egypt?

Why did Moses not stay and fight? There are two reasons:

  • God’s people were not ready

The first response of God’s people to Moses was to say, “Who made you a prince a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14)

  • Moses was not ready

Moses clearly had a violent temper. What damage might he have done if he had assumed leadership of the people of God at the age of 40? Moses needed to master himself. He needed to learn self-control. God taught him these things in the desert.

The worst thing that can happen to a man is to have success before he is ready. Moses was not ready for the work God would call him to do. God’s time had not yet come for him. So, Moses spent the next forty years of his life in the desert. God taught him to master himself and the man with the violent temper became a man who was known for his meekness (Numbers 12:3).

Why did he leave Egypt? And why was this an act of faith?

  • Why was this an act of Faith?  

Moses knew that his time had not yet come, but he also knew and believed that his time would come. So, by faith he left Egypt, to prepare for the work God would call him to do. “I believe that God has a future for me and so I am going to prepare for the work He will give me to do.”

After the disaster of his first venture into ministry, Moses might have said, “It’s all over for me now. I messed up. God’s people don’t want me. Pharoah wants to kill me. I’m done. I’ve blown it. There’s no future for me”. Moses might have caved in on himself. But he did not do that. By faith Moses left Egypt!

Here’s the principle: Focus your attention of becoming the person God calls you to be, and trust Him to lead you into the right work at the right time.

Never despise the years of preparation. Paul spent years in the Arabia. Jesus worked for years in a carpenter’s shop. Moses spent forty years in Midian. His great contribution came in the last third of his life.

How did Moses endure these long years of preparation? His 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, all passed and still he had not entered into the great work that God had prepared for him to do. How did he endure all these years?

“By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27)

Moses endured when everything was against him. God’s people were against him. Pharaoh was against him. His own conscience was against him. But he dared to believe that God was for him. And he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

Some of you are going through some very tough things. Here’s the question: How are you going to endure? If you could see God standing next to you, you would trust Him completely. If you could turn round at any moment, and see the Lord and hear Him say “I’m with you. I’ve got you.” You would be able to endure.

One day you will see Him. When faith is turned to sight: When you see the Lord in His glory you will say, “Why didn’t I trust Him more?” Moses trusted God as if he could see Him right there in the desert. That is how he endured. He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

The choice that Faith makes, the courage that Faith brings, and thirdly, the confidence Faith enjoys.

The confidence faith enjoys

“By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” (Hebrews 11:28)

We’re coming to the Lord’s table today, and this brings us there. Here we read about the Passover lamb and the sprinkled blood. We usually think of this in relation to all of God’s people. But Hebrews records the personal faith of Moses in observing the Passover himself.

By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood. Here is this great man of God. A man who has spent forty years in preparation. A man who would do miracles. A man who God would use to form and lead an entire nation. And this man says, “I am a sinner who needs a Saviour.” I need the blood of the sacrifice sprinkled over me”.

But faith says more than “I need a Saviour.” Faith says, “I have a Saviour.” The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin.

Prayer

  • A prayer for the person who is facing a costly choice:

Sin that is hard to give up. A sacrifice that is hard to make. A price that seems high to pay. Father strengthen my faith, and help me to see through the world with its fleeting pleasures and treasures and look to the eternal reward that belongs to all who take up the cross and follow Jesus.

  • A prayer for the person who needs courage to endure:

Father help me to endure as if I could see you standing right next to me. Help me to say, “I have set the Lord always before me and because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).

  • A prayer for all of us as we prepare to come to the Lord’s Table:

Father, I acknowledge my need of a Saviour. Thank you that Jesus is the Saviour I need. Give me the peace and confidence of knowing that the blood of Christ was shed for my sins, and that through Him, I have peace with You.

FAITH LIFE SERIES: FAITH HOPES

Worship – Jacques & Priscilla Wolmarans

Sunday 13 June 2021

Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Hebrews 11 as we continue our series on Faith. We are looking today at the story of Joseph. Again, the scene that God has chosen to teach us what faith looks like, comes right at the end of Joseph’s life.

“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22)

Of all the scenes from Joseph’s life, this seems a surprising selection. When you think about the story of Joseph you might expect to read, “By faith, Joseph resisted temptation.” “By faith, Joseph interpreted dreams.” “By faith, Joseph forgave his brothers.” “By faith, Joseph saved his family by providing food in the famine.” But these are all passed over, and the Holy Spirit has recorded the arrangements Joseph made for his burial as his greatest act of faith.

Last week we saw that where there is faith, there will be worship. Today we’re going to see that where there is faith, there will be hope. The Scripture we are looking at today speaks to a question that weighs heavily on all of our minds. What does the future hold for God’s people?

The Bible makes it clear that life for God’s people goes through different seasons. You see this in the story of Joseph. There were years that he had to endure, there were years that he could enjoy.

The same will be true of us. There are times to be enjoyed, and there are times to be endured. When we see the world around us changing, we all wonder: “What does the future hold for our children and for our children’s children? Will they know times to be enjoyed or times to be endured?”

This was the question facing Joseph at the end of his life. The family God had chosen to bless were living in Egypt. What did the future hold for them there?

Hebrews tells us that when Joseph faced this question, he exercised faith, and because he exercised faith, he had hope. Faith is like a tree bursting with fruit, and hope is the fruit of faith that Hebrews draws out from the life of Joseph. Where there is faith, there will be hope.

Please turn to Genesis 50, where we find a beautiful picture of a family finally at peace.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So, they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many peopleshould be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21)

After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared that he might pay them back for the evil they had done to him. But Joseph had forgiven them, and he wept because they did not believe him. He said “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”. Then he said, “So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them”.

At the end of Joseph’s life everything was picture perfect for the people of God. The brothers enjoyed a time of blessing greater than they had ever know before. The chosen family was united at last. Everything they needed was provided. And they had nothing to fear. The smile of the culture was on God’s people. Joseph was loved in Egypt! His brothers could bask in the reflected glory that came with being his relatives. Genesis tells us that when Jacob died, “the Egyptians wept for him seventy days” (Gen 50:3). That gives you some sense of the affection in which this family was held.

You look at the blessings that the chosen family enjoyed at the end of the book of Genesis and you feel, “if only it could be like this forever.” There will be times in your life, when you say, “I wish I could hold onto this forever.” And of-course you never can. Life moves on. Things change. And not always for the better.

So, as we come to the end of the book of Genesis, the obvious question is: What does the future hold for the family of God? There are three answers to that question. Firstly, there is a time of growth.

A time of growth

“Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:6,7)

God multiplied his people. When Jacob arrived in Egypt, the entire family were just 70 people. When they left Egypt, they were around 2 million. God’s people flourished in Egypt. The multiplied. They prospered.

This is true in our own lives and in the life of the church. There will be times of growth when we must seize every opportunity we can. Jesus said,

“We must work…while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4)

First, there was a time of growth. But God had already revealed to Abraham that the future would hold a time of trial. Secondly there is a time of trail.

A time of trial

“Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13)

This must have been hard for Joseph to imagine. How could it be that in Egypt, where God’s people are loved and respected, they would become slaves? How could they be afflicted in the land where they had been so richly blessed? And how could this last for four hundred years?

The world is constantly changing, and Joseph believed what God had revealed to Abraham. “Your offspring will be sojourners…and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” and so it was. We read in the book of Exodus,

“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us…” Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens” (Exodus 1:8-9,11)

The great oppression began. The culture no longer smiled on God’s people. But here’s what I want you to notice: God continued to bless His people during this time of trial.

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 1:12)

The God who blessed them in the time of growth, continued to bless them in the time of trial. God is always with His people. What does the future hold for God’s people? There will be times of growth and there will be times of trial. How could God’s great purpose to bring His people into the Promised Land be fulfilled if they were oppressed in Egypt? Thirdly there is a time of deliverance.

A time of deliverance

God had said to Abraham,

“But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:14)

The world around us is always changing, but faith looks beyond the changing moods of the culture. Like Abraham, we are looking for a heavenly city (Hebrews 11:10,16). God’s people know that however much we are blessed in this life, His plan for us cannot be fulfilled here.

Here’s the future: There will be times of growth. There will be times of trial. And there will a time of deliverance. And this is what Joseph spoke about at the end of His life. Hebrews tells us that,

“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites…” (Hebrews 11:22)

These last words of Joseph are recorded for us in Genesis 50. They are full of hope: Hope while we live, and hope when we die.

Hope while we live

“And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Genesis 50:24)

Joseph was speaking here as a prophet, so what he said was the Word of God. Through all the years of oppression in Egypt, this was the hope of God’s people: God will visit you. God will bring you up out of this land. God will come down from heaven and He will deliver you.

That is exactly what happened. God visited His people. He revealed Himself to Moses. Then Moses and Aaron told the people what God had said, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:8).

God brought them up out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When God’s people came into the Promised Land, they enjoyed times of growth. They endured times of trial. And they looked to God for a time of deliverance.

The prophets spoke of a day when God would come down and deliver His people. Through all the years of the Old Testament, this was the hope of God’s people: God will visit you. And that is exactly what happened. God has visited us in Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and lived among us.

Luke records a day when Jesus came to the town of Nain. A funeral procession was leaving the city. A widow was grieving the loss of her only son, and Jesus had compassion on her. He stopped the procession and said, “Young man, I say to you arise.” Scripture records that he sat up and began to speak. The people were terrified and said, “Surely God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16).

Here we are today: More than 2000 years have passed since Jesus died and rose, and ascended into heaven. Through these long years, the church has enjoyed times of growth and endured times of trial. Through all these years, this has been her hope: God will visit you.

“The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Our exodus is coming. God will visit you. This is what He has done in Christ. This is what He will do in Christ. And because we believe we have hope, Hope while we live, and Hope when we die.

Hope when we die

“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life…gave directions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22)

Why would this be so important to Joseph? Why would it make any difference where he was buried? It is clear from the book of Hebrews that the patriarchs believed in the resurrection. Abraham considered that God was able even to raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). God could raise the body of Joseph from a plot of ground in Egypt as easily as from a plot of ground in Canaan or anywhere else. But Genesis tells us that Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying,

“God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:25)

There must be something important about this, because Jacob also asked that his body be taken to the Promised Land: Jacob said to Joseph,

“Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed” (Genesis 47:29-31)

This really mattered to Jacob. And it mattered to Joseph. He made his brothers swear an oath that when God’s people went to the land of Canaan, they would take the bones of Joseph with them. And Hebrews regards this as the great act of Joseph’s faith.

Why? Remember that in the Old Testament, God teaches us in pictures. The Old Testament is God’s book of visual aids. God uses things that we can see to help us grasp the invisible. God uses what we can touch to help us grasp the spiritual. God uses things in time to help us grasp the eternal.

God had chosen a land that He would bless, and the blessed land on earth points us to the blessed life of heaven. Abraham knew that the Promised Land was pointing forward to something greater than could

ever be found in this world. That is why it says that he was looking for a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16). “The city whose designer and builder are God” (Hebrews 11:10).

So, when Joseph gave directions concerning his bones, he was saying: “When I die, I will enter into all that God has promised. And as a sign of that, I want you to take my bones to the Promised Land.”

So, the bones of Joseph were kept and carried as a sign of hope. It is not just the living who will enter into what God has promised. Those who have died in faith will enter into what God has promised too.

Joseph was laid to rest in a coffin marked “destined for the Promised Land.” Joseph’s coffin was a sign of hope. Joseph had said, “you shall carry up my bones from here.” So, during these long years of oppression in Egypt, God’s people could look at the coffin, destined for the promised land and say, “He’s going there, and that means that one day we’re going there too.”

We too have a sign of hope. It is not coffin filled with bones. It is an empty tomb! Jesus Christ is risen. He is ascended. He is already in the Promised Land, and because He is there, we will be too.

The directions given by Jacob and Joseph point to two wonderful and complementary truths that are the hope of all believers when we die. When Jacob died, his body was taken straight to the promised land.

“So, Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household” (Genesis 50:78).

This must have been the longest funeral procession ever. And they carried the body of Jacob all the way from Egypt to Canaan. When Jacob died, his body was taken straight to the Promised Land.

The story of Jacob reminds us that believers who die enter immediately into God’s promised rest. Death separates the soul from the body. And for the believer, to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The thief on the cross said to Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” But Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Get this settled in your mind: The souls of those who die in faith are taken immediately into the conscious enjoyment of the presence of God.

The body of your believing loved one is laid to rest here, ashes to ashes, dust to dust but the soul of your believing loved one is at home with the Lord. That is pictured by the fact that when Jacob died, he was taken straight to the Promised Land.

With Joseph it was very different: The body of Joseph was taken to Canaan a long time after he died. God’s people were in Egypt 400 years. And the body of Joseph remained there with them, until the exodus. Then we are told that, Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying,

 “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here” (Exodus 13:19)

The body of Joseph was not taken to the Promised Land until all of God’s people arrived there. The story of Joseph reminds us that believers will enter into the full joy of all that God has promised together.

What happens to a believer after death is like a two-stage journey. At the moment of death, Christ will bring your soul immediately, consciously and joyfully into His presence in heaven. To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. And that will be better by far than any joy you can know in this life.

But that is not the end of the story. Even then, the best is yet to be. When Christ returns, those who are with Him will be clothed with resurrected bodies, adapted for everlasting life in the new heaven and earth where we will enjoy the presence of God forever.

Believers who have died are on a stopover. They are with Christ. But like us, they are waiting and looking for the day when Christ will return in glory. Then we will enter into the full joy of all that God has promised together.

Conclusion

So, here’s what we learn from the story of Joseph. Faith hopes in God. If we have faith, we will have hope.Hope while we live, and Hope when we die, and where there is Faith there will be Hope.

Where there is faith there will be hope

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

“We have been born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3)

“Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)

Paul prays that the eyes of your hearts will be enlightened, “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18).

Scripture calls us to live self-controlled and godly lives as we wait for “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). “So, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Where there is faith there will be hope.

If we would have hope, we must exercise faith

When a storm hit the disciples in their boat on the lake, Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?” I don’t know about you, but I feel the challenge of that question. It is so easy to live in fear. When the world changes, God’s people must exercise faith. And we need to hear these words of Scripture: “God will visit you.”

What does the future hold for God’s people? There will be times of growth to enjoy. There will be times of trial to endure. But most of all, a time of deliverance will come. The future is glorious for all who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

FAITH LIFE SERIES: FAITH WORSHIPS

Sunday 06 June 2021

Worship – Jacques Wolmarans

Sermon – Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Hebrews 11 as we continue our Faith Life Series. We’re learning from this chapter what a life of faith looks like. We’ve seen that faith: Listens to God, Walks with God, Fears God, Obeys God, Receives from God, and Submits to God. Today we come to a seventh feature of faith: Faith Worships God. And we see this in the story of Jacob.

“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” (Hebrews 11:21)

The key word here is worship. Jacob ended his days in worship, leaning over his staff. It’s a beautiful picture. Here is a man so unsteady on his feet that he needs a stick to hold him up. He can’t raise his hands in worship. If he did, he would fall over, but holding onto his stick with both hands, he bows his head in worship before God.

This scene is certainly not the first scene that comes to mind when you think of Jacob. There are other stories from Jacob’s life that seem more likely to be remembered. By faith Jacob wrestled with God. He said “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26)

We expect this story to be here in Hebrews. But that amazing story gets passed over, and what is recorded here is the relatively obscure occasion at the end of Jacob’s life when he blessed the sons of Joseph and worshipped, leaning on his staff.

What makes this even more surprising is that this is not a story about the continuation of the line into which our Lord Jesus Christ would be born. We saw last week that when Isaac blessed Jacob, he was naming the heir to the promise. He was announcing the line into which the promised Saviour would be born.

This is not the case here. Hebrews tells us about Jacob by faith blessing the sons of Joseph. And Jesus was not born into the line of Joseph. Jesus was born into the tribe of Judah. So, this story is not about identifying the line into which the Saviour would be born. The focus here is on an old man who worshipped and the book of Hebrews tells us that he blessed his grandchildren as he worshipped by faith.

Worship is one of the fruits of faith. Here is the heart of what we are learning from Scripture today: Where there is faith, there will be worship.

Let us call on the story of Jacob. When Jacob fled from home in fear of what Esau might do to him, he went to work for a man called Laban, who had two daughters. Jacob fell in love with one of them, whose name was Rachel, and he served Laban for seven years to win her hand in marriage. But when the day of the wedding came, Laban played a cruel trick on Jacob. The bride behind the veil was not Rachel, but her sister Leah.

Jacob had been deceived in a way that was a mirror image of how he had deceived his father. All through Jacob’s life, God taught Jacob to hate his sin by allowing him to feel its painful effects in his own life.

The Bible makes it clear that God often deals with us in a way that reflects the way we deal with others.

“With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous” (Psalm 18:25, 26)

You see this very clearly in the life of Jacob. The deceiver was deceived. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine. And that is how he came to hate his own sin.

You see this same principle in the teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the mount:

“With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2)

“So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

There is a very great principle here: God brought Jacob to repentance by repaying him in his own coin. What Jacob did to Isaac, Laban did to him. Jacob’s own sin rebounded on him until he hated deception as much as he used to love it at one time.

Jacob worked for Laban another seven years after the deception, and then Laban gave him the hand of Rachel in marriage. Needless to say, this was not a happy family. Leah was blessed with children one after another: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun.

Then, finally, Rachel conceived, and gave birth to Joseph. Jacob had a special love for Joseph because he was Rachel’s firstborn. And Jacob showed this special love by giving Joseph a coat of many colours.

It’s not surprising that the brothers resented Joseph. And their resentment became worse when he told them about his dream that one day, they would all bow down to him. This was what God had revealed, but the brothers didn’t like it. And from that day on, Joseph’s brothers hated him.

One day, Jacob sent Joseph to visit his brothers who were pasturing their sheep. The brothers were determined to get rid of him. They put him in a pit, and then they sold him to traders who took him to Egypt. But the brothers kept Joseph’s multicoloured coat. They dipped it in the blood of an animal, and then they brought it to Jacob,

“They took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. And they sent the robe of many colours and brought it to their father and said, ‘This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not” (Genesis 37:31,32)

Jacob had been deceived by Laban. Now there is something much worse. He was deceived by his own sons, and this was the most painful deception of his life. Jacob looked at the coat, covered in blood, and,

“He identified it and said, ‘This is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.’ Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. He covered himself in sackcloth and he mourned. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning’” (Genesis 37:33-35)

Jacob said, “I’m going to go to the grave in misery. I’m going to live the rest of my life in mourning. There’s not joy for me now. No future for me. Nothing for me to look forward to”. Jacob was devastated. Losing Joseph, he felt he had nothing left to live for.

Meanwhile, Joseph was very much alive in Egypt. God blessed him, and he rose to become the most powerful person in the land, second only to Pharoah.

Some years later, there was a widespread and devastating famine. God had revealed that famine would come in a dream given to Pharaoh. After Joseph interpreted the dream, Pharoah put him in charge of preparing for the famine by storing up grain in years of plenty so that there would be enough to feed the people in the years of famine.

So, when there was no food in Canaan, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt. They had no idea that the man in charge of the storehouses was the brother they had sold as a slave and when Joseph revealed himself, they were terrified.

But Joseph forgave them for what they had done and told them to bring their father Jacob to Egypt so that Joseph could see him again. The brothers returned to Jacob and told their father that Joseph was alive in Egypt, and that God has raised him to a position of power and authority in the land.

Can you imagine, after years of inconsolable sorrow over the loss of his dearly loved son, Jacob now hears that his son is alive.

“So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt’. And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them”. (Genesis 45:25,26)

When the brothers told the truth to Jacob, “his heart became numb, for he did not believe them”. How could this possibly be? Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal. Jacob had seen the blood on the coat.

So now the brothers had to confess that they had deceived their father. And Jacob realized that he had lived in misery for years because he had believed a lie.

Joseph sent wagons to carry his father to Egypt and Jacob said,

“And Israel said, ‘It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:28)

There is great sadness in these words. “Joseph is alive, but it is too late for me now. My life is over and nothing can bring back the years I have lost. I will go and see Joseph, but after that I am done”.

When he arrived in Egypt, the reunion was hardly the celebration that you might expect. When Joseph came to meet his father, we read that,

“He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive” (Genesis 46:29,30)

Really father? Is that all you have to say? What about, “Son it is so good to be with you at last!” “Son, let’s treasure every day that we have together.” No! Nothing like that but just a rather miserable old man who says, “now let me die!”

But God had something better in store for Jacob than dying on arrival,

“Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So, the days of Jacob, the years of his life, was 147 years.” (Genesis 47:28)

And these years brought a remarkable change in Jacob. We know this because Jacob gave two descriptions of his life. One, when he arrived in Egypt. The other, seventeen years later, when he worshipped leaning on his staff. Only two accounts given and there is a great difference in these accounts. There was a great change that took place in Jacob’s life. The first account he gives of his life when he arrived in Egypt,

“And Jacob said to Pharoah, ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning” (Genesis 47:9)

When Jacob arrived in Egypt, he was full of regret. Pharaoh asks, “How old are you?” “130 years, but that’s not much! Compared with my father and grandfather, my years are few. I don’t amount to much beside them. And if I was to pick one word to describe my years, the word would be ‘evil’. Looking back, I wish I had chosen a different path. I wish I had done more with my life. It all seems to have passed so quickly. Pharoah, you ask me about my years. I’d say they were ‘few’ and ‘evil.”

There’s not a lot of faith there. There certainly isn’t any worship. But that’s not the end of Jacob’s story. And if you find yourself today in a place of regret, it need not be the end of your story either.

Jacob changed during his last years in Egypt. The faith that seems almost to have died in him, revived. And when faith revived, Hebrews tells us that Jacob worshipped. Why? Because where there is faith, there will be worship.

God gave Jacob seventeen years in Egypt, and at the end of that time, Jacob gave a very different account of his life,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on…” (Genesis 48:15,16)

Do you see the contrast? Here is a man who arrived in Egypt full of regret: “My years have been few and evil”. But seventeen years later, he looks back on the same life and says, “I now see that God has been my shepherd all my life. He has redeemed me from all evil. Evil has not had the last word in my life”. And he worships!

If your faith is burning low, this is a story for you. If you live with a lot of regret, if you look back on your life and say, “it has all gone so quickly and I wish I had made different choices,” this story is for you.

Jacob made a wonderful journey from regret to worship. And you can make Jacob’s journey too. The way that Jacob did it and the way that you can do it is by faith. Where there is faith, instead of regret, there’s going to be worship!

How did Jacob move from regret to worship? How did faith take Jacob to an altogether different view of his entire life? Two things that we see from this story today:

Faith worships because it receives God’s forgiveness

“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21)

I love this picture of Jacob leaning on his staff. An old man remembering, looking back, reflecting, leaning on his stick. His mind wandering through the various scenes of his extraordinary life.

When Jacob looked back on his life, he would remember how he had deceived his father. He would remember how he had been deceived by Laban and by his own sons. How could he ever forget these things? His entire life had been shaped by the mirror image of his own sin.

Old sins have a way of catching up with you in later years. You are leaning on your stick, or sitting in your chair, or lying in your bed, and you say, “Why did I do that? What a fool I was. What was I thinking about?” as your years gone by you find yourself in regret as you look at all the past events and sins of your own life.

But Hebrews tells us that at the end of his life, Jacob worshipped! There’s only one way that a man whose life has been filled with regret can worship, and that is that he knows he really is forgiven.

Jacob bows his head in worship because he knows that God does not hold his sins against him. God has forgiven him. God has cleansed him. God has restored him. And looking back, he sees that through all the painful years of his life, he sees that through it all, God’s love has never let him go.

Jacob’s journey from regret to worship can also be yours. Listen to this promise of God, and to its condition for God says,

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Notice there’s something for us to do: If we confess our sins…! It is not enough to say, “God forgives, so all is well.” We must confess. We must draw near to God in repentance.

The freedom of knowing that we are forgiven comes when we confess and repent. Guilt is lifted and cleansing comes when we draw near to God in repentance. Without that, we continue to live in regret. And nothing inhibits worship more than a conscience that has not yet been cleansed!

Perhaps you know what this is like. You come to worship and you think about your own sins. You look back on what you have done. You think about what might have been and you feel miserable and feel regret. You don’t feel like worshipping at all.

Robert Bruce says very helpfully, “When there is no repentance, our sins are remembered.”  That’s how it was for Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son. He had committed a particularly vile sin. And at the end of Jacob’s life, it was still remembered.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it…” (Genesis 49:3-4)

That was years ago. Why would Jacob bring it up at the end of his life? The answer is that Jacob was speaking as a prophet. The Spirit of God brought this to Jacob’s mind. God was saying, “Reuben, your sin is still before the Lord: You need to repent!”

Brothers, sisters, we cannot be cleansed from guilt and shame simply by moving on. “If we confess our sins…” That means there’s something there for us to do.

So, don’t wallow in misery when you come to worship. Do what God calls you to do! Draw near to Him. Confess. Repent. Do what needs to be done with regard to others when confession to others needs to be made.

But now listen to this marvellous promise:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

This promise is so good, it is hard to take in. That’s where faith comes in. Faith believes what God has revealed, and trusts what God has promised.

And Jacob was able to worship at the end of his life because faith receives God’s forgiveness.

Forgiveness can be yours by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And when by faith you know that you are forgiven, here is what will happen, you will worship! It changes the entire view of your whole life!

Faith worships because it receives God’s forgiveness and secondly,

Faith worships because it believes God’s promise

“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21)

Joseph’s sons were crown princes in Egypt! They had it made! Then Jacob their grandfather arrived in Egypt as a refugee. He didn’t own anything. So how could Jacob bless these boys? Well, Jacob had something more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt. He had the promise of God. The promise of life in a land that God would give.

“After this, Joseph was told, ‘Behold your father was ill’. So, he took with him his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to see the old man before he died” (Genesis 48:1)

Jacob said to Joseph,

“And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are” (Genesis 48:5)

At the end of his life, Jacob adopted the sons of Joseph as his own. And that meant that Ephraim and Manasseh became heads of tribes that were named after them. Each of Jacob’s sons became the head of a tribe. The sons of Reuben were Reubenites. The sons of Simeon were Simeonites. The sons of Levi were Levites. But the sons of Joseph were not Josephites. Ephraim and Manasseh became the heads of their own tribes as if they were both Jacob’s sons, with a direct share in the promise of God.

Generations later, when God’s people entered the Promised Land, it was divided into twelve regions, one for each of the twelve tribes. And if you look at a map of how the land was divided, there are two surprises:

  • No land was given to the sons of Levi

This was because the special calling of the Levites was to serve the other tribes by leading God’s people in worship, and they were supported in this works by the other tribes.

  • Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel received a double portion

Jacob said to Joseph, “Ephraim and Manasseh are mine.” So instead of giving one portion of land to all the descendants of Joseph, land was given to the children of Ephraim and land was given to the children of Manasseh, as if they were Jacob’s own sons.

When Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons, he made them direct sharers in the promise of God. “Boys, you have been born to great wealth. But hear this from an old and dying man. You may have full and rich lives here in Egypt, but this is not where you belong. You belong to another land. A land you have never seen. You will prosper in Egypt, but here’s what really matters. You belong to the people of God. You are heirs of God’s promise. Your destiny is in another land.”

Jacob gave these boys a direct share in the promise of God. And that is exactly what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, one body together with the 12 tribes of Jacob and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We live our lives in this world, as Ephraim and Manasseh lived their lives in Egypt, but God has given us through Jesus Christ “an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4)

And faith worships because it believes God’s promise!

Jacob arrived in Egypt full of regret. He ended his days in worship, leaning on his staff. That journey from regret to worship is one that you can make too.

Jesus said that the Father is seeking people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. And you can become such a worshipper by faith: Faith receives God’s forgiveness. Faith believes God’s promise. And where there is faith, there will be worship.

REPENTANCE SERIES: LESSON 11 MARKS OF TRUE REPENTANCE (PART 1)

MARKS OF TRUE REPENTANCE (PART 1)

Dr Ben Hooman

Today we come to a very important questions: How do you know if you are on the path of repentance? 

  • How do you know if you have really repented? 
  • What are the marks of being on the path to a transformed life?  
  • How could you recognize or discern true repentance in another person?

FAITH LIFE SERIES: FAITH SUBMITS

30 May 2021

Ps Ben Hooman

Please open your Bible at Hebrews 11. We are looking today at the extraordinary story of how the blessing of God came to a weak father, a strong mother, and a very troubled son. We’re looking today at Isaac, the son given to Abraham and Sarah in fulfilment of the promise of God. I am so glad that Isaac is included among the models of faith. Here’s why: Isaac lived an unremarkable life. When you put him alongside Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, he seems insignificant. What great thing did Isaac ever do?

Here is a man who is overshadowed by his famous father (Abraham), his notorious son (Jacob), and his extraordinarily gifted grandson (Joseph). Imagine having Abraham as your father and Sarah as your mother! Who could ever live up to that?

Perhaps you know what this is like. You have a multi-talented wife or husband. Or unusually successful colleagues or friends. Maybe you tire of being introduced as someone’s father or husband, or mother or wife or son or daughter or neighbour or friend.

Isaac was completely overshadowed by the people around him. Of 50 chapters in the book of Genesis, 12 are devoted to Abraham (chapters 12-23), 10 are devoted to Jacob (28-35, 48, 49), and 11 are devoted to Joseph (37, 39-47, 50). Only two chapters are devoted to Isaac (Genesis 26 and 27).

There’s very little that’s memorable about him. What great events took place in the life of Isaac? The first thing we think about is what happened on Mount Moriah where Isaac was laid on the altar and his life was spared because God provided a substitute to die in his place. That story is recorded here in Hebrews 11. But it is recorded as a story about the faith of Abraham, not Isaac.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (Hebrews 11:17,18)

In Genesis 24, we have the story of the search for a wife for Isaac. The extraordinary thing about that story is that Isaac doesn’t feature in it at all! It is another Abraham story: Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for Isaac. What was Isaac doing?

Here we have a quiet man who lived an unremarkable life. What’s recorded of him in Genesis is that he dug wells in various places, and then had disputes with the neighbours over who had the rights to the water!

But God’s blessing was on this unremarkable man. And Hebrews includes him in the models and examples of faith.

“By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” (Hebrews 11:20)

Isaac’s outstanding act of faith came right at the end of his life. He invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. It is never too late to exercise faith.

Why does Isaac’s blessing of his sons this matter? God had said to Abraham, “I will bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2,3).

Blessing will come to the whole world through Abraham. But this promise would not be fulfilled through Abraham personally. It would be fulfilled through his offspring. That is why the birth of Isaac was such an important event. God has said, “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).

This theme is taken up in the New Testament where we read,

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring’, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

Somewhere in Abraham’s line, there would be a descendent who would bring blessing to the world. And Galatians tells us that this descendent is Jesus Christ. This is why the Old Testament story focuses on the line of Abraham. God had promised that His blessing would come to the world through a Person born into this line.

In each new generation, the question was, who would continue this line? When Abraham died, the promise of blessing through his offspring was carried forward by Isaac. But Isaac had two sons: Esau and Jacob. Which of them would carry the promise forward? The greatest responsibility given to Isaac in his uneventful life, was to name and bless the heir to the promise.

Hebrews records this as the most significant event of his life, and it tells us that he gave the blessing by faith.

When we pray that God will bless someone we love, we are asking that God will bring good gifts into their lives. But when Isaac pronounced the blessing at the end of his life, he was speaking as a prophet. He was announcing the line into which the One who would bring blessing to the world would come.

We see this most clearly in Genesis 28, where Isaac says to Jacob,

“May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you” (Genesis 28:4)

Hebrews records that Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. God gives good gifts to those who despise Him as well as those who love Him. But the great blessing that was given to Jacob was that he was directly related to Jesus Christ. And it is through Christ that God’s promised blessing comes to the world.

The story of how the blessing was given is told in Genesis 27. Isaac would never have made it into faith’s hall of fame had it not been for the strength and resolve of his wife Rebekah. What a remarkable woman she was!

Rebekah had endured an unusually difficult pregnancy. Carrying twins is never easy, and Scripture tells us that the twins she carried “struggled together within her”. Jacob and his brother Esau were fighting before they were even born! God spoke to Rebekah during her pregnancy and revealed what He had planned,

“And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, ‘If it is thus, why is this happening to me?’ And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:21-23)

“When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterwards his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob” (Genesis 25:24-26)

Rebekah knew the will of God: It was God’s revealed purpose that the promise given to Abraham, and carried forward by Isaac, would continue through Jacob. But when the time came for Isaac to pronounce this blessing on his son, Rebekah realized that her husband was about to make a big mistake. Isaac had a special affection for Esau – not least because Esau was a hunter and he used to cook venison for the old man. Clearly the best way to Isaac’s heart was through his stomach! Isaac said to Esau,

 “Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” (Genesis 27:3,4)

Rebekah heard what Isaac said, and she realized that her husband was about to act in direct opposition to the revealed will of God. God had said that the promised blessing would come through the line of Jacob, but Isaac was about to pronounce the promised blessing on Esau.

What was Rebekah to do? Rebekah came up with a cunning plan: She said to Jacob,

“I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you.” (Genesis 27:6-8)

Rebekah was not willing to let her husband contradict the will of God. Rebekah’s plan was simple: She would prepare a meal, cooked just as Isaac liked it. Jacob would impersonate Esau, and take the food to Isaac, whose eyes were so weak that he could barely see. Then, Isaac would impart the promised blessing to Jacob.

Jacob was far from convinced that the plan would work. Esau’s skin was hairy and Jacob’s skin was smooth. The old man may not be able to see, but if he reached out and touched Jacob’s skin, he would know that this was Jacob and not Esau.

Rebekah had already thought about that. First, she dressed Jacob is Esau’s clothes that had the smell of the field on them. Then she put the hairy skin of an animal on Jacob’s hands and on his neck. And when the food was prepared, she gave it to Jacob and sent him to receive the old man’s blessing.

“When Jacob went to see his father, he said, “I am Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me, now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” (Genesis 27:19)

 It was a downright lie. The old man seemed suspicious,

“Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come near, that I may feel you my son to know whether you are really my son Esau or not” (Genesis 27:21)

Jacob’s heart must have been pounding as the old man felt the animal skin on his neck and the back of his hands.

“So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Genesis 27:22)

Then Isaac said,

“Come near and kiss me, my son’. So, he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him.” (Genesis 27:26)

Jacob had hardly left when Esau returned with the food he had prepared. “Who are you?” Isaac asked. “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau” (verse 32). Scripture records,

“Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, he shall be blessed’. As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (Genesis 27:33,34)

That’s the story, and here’s the question: Hebrews 11 tells us, “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau” (Hebrews 11:20)

How could Isaac possibly have invoked the blessing by faith? Imparting the blessing to Jacob was not what he wanted or what he intended. Should it not say, “by mistake, Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau?” Where was the faith?

When Isaac realized what had happened, he submitted to the will of God. He accepted what had happened and made no attempt to change it. “I have blessed him, Yes, and he shall be blessed”.

In fact, as we saw earlier, Isaac repeated the blessing on Jacob. “May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you” (Genesis 28:4).

This is why Hebrews says that Isaac gave the blessing by faith. If Isaac had gone with what he felt, he would have revoked the blessing on Jacob. He would have said, “I was tricked!” I never intended to give the blessing to Jacob, so what I said to him is null and void.”

But Isaac didn’t do that. He realized that what he had spoken was the word of God. He saw that behind Rebekah’s cunning trick, God was working out His sovereign purpose.

Isaac’s faith lay in this: He submitted to God, even when God’s will is not what he wanted. “I have blessed him, Yes, and he shall be blessed” (Genesis 27:33).

Here’s what genuine faith looks like: Faith submits to God, even when His plan is not what you would have chosen. When your plans are frustrated, when God doesn’t give you what you wanted, faith submits to God.

Here’s the challenge that comes to us from this story: How will you respond when God’s plan is not what you would have chosen? What will you do when your prayer is not answered, when your hope is not fulfilled, when God leads you on a painful path?

There are two ways you can go: You can be like Isaac, or you can be like Esau. Here are two men: a father and a son: They both want the same thing. Isaac wants Esau to inherit the promise. Esau wants Isaac to give him the blessing. But when God’s plan is not what they would have chosen they respond in very different ways.

Esau walked away from God

Esau is described in the New Testament as a “godless” man (Hebrews 12:16 NIV). That is, a man who lived far from God. “If God doesn’t give me what I want, I don’t want anything more to do with Him.”

When God’s plan is not what you would have chosen, you will face this temptation – to live at a distance from God because He did not give you what you wanted.

Hebrews gives us this tragic bottom line about Esau, “he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). I find that one of the saddest statements in the Bible.

He lived at a distance from God, and he couldn’t repent. He could find no repentance because he had no faith. All he had was bitter regret that God did not give him what he wanted. So, he lived at a distance from God. “I don’t want anything to do with a God who withholds what I want.”

Isaac submitted to God

Isaac is described in the New Testament as a man of faith in Hebrews 11:20. He didn’t get what he wanted, but he submitted to God’s plan. Submitting to God’s plan when it is not what you would have chosen is the sure mark of genuine faith.

You see this in the story of Isaac. You see this in the story of Job, and you see this in the story of Jesus. Jesus came to a place where the Father’s plan was not what He would have chosen. The will of God for Jesus meant enduring great pain. It meant being taken from the friends He loved. It meant bearing the sins of the world. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said,

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42)

That’s what faith does: Faith submits to God, even when His plan is not what you would have chosen.

What we learn from this story:

  • God’s promise to bless always prevails

This story is not a moral example. This message is not “Be like Rebekah! Deceive your husband and get what you want!” The lesson is not “Be like Jacob! Tell lies to your father and you will be blessed.”

Read the rest of the story and you will see that lies and deception brought pain and sorrow. They always do. The family divided, for Jacob left home in fear of what Esau might do to him. Rebekah never saw her dearly loved son again.

So, don’t base your ethics on the story of Jacob and Rebekah. That’s not why this story is in the Bible. What we learn from this story is that God’s promise to bless always prevails.

This story is a story of hope for “far from perfect” families. It’s a story about a husband and wife who are not on the same page. It is a story of two brothers who just can’t seem to get along.

Where can God’s blessing be found in all of this? And yet God is present here working out His purpose though the pain of this troubled family.

This is a story of lies, deception, and betrayal with a kiss. But God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth moved forward through it all.

It points us forward to the New Testament, where we read about a disciple of Jesus who lied, and deceived, and betrayed his Master with a kiss. And God’s promise to bring blessing to the world moved forward through it all.

If you should endure the pain of lies and deception and betrayal with a kiss, your first thought may be that this is the end of hope. But God’s promise to bless always prevails.

  • God’s promise to bless is a gift, not a right

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23, 24)

No one is entitled to the blessing of God. It is a gift, not a right. It cannot be earned or deserved.

By convention the blessing went to the eldest child. So, Esau thought it was his by right. But God does not work by convention.

“For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15)

Esau wanted the blessing, and he went to work to get it. He hunted the game. He cooked the stew. “If I put in the effort; if I do the work, I will be rewarded with the blessing.” But despite all his effort, he didn’t get what he wanted.

You see the same spirit of entitlement in the elder brother in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son. The elder brother worked hard. And because he worked hard, he felt entitled. He says to his father,

“but he answered his father ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, … (Luke 15:29)

Have you ever felt like that? Lord, I have lived a good life. I have worked hard. I have kept your commandments. Now why have you not given what I want?

Esau thought the blessing of God was his right. But no one has a right to the blessing of God. That includes Jacob! He certainly did not deserve to inherit the blessing. And we don’t deserve it either!

God’s blessing is a gift, not a right. If you would receive the blessing of God, you must give up claiming it as a right. You must humble yourself and receive it as a gift.

  • God’s promise to bless is ours in Jesus Christ

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28,29)

In the Old Testament the blessing of being heir to the promise only went to one person in each generation. But here we are told that the promised blessing will come to men and women of every generation and every social status. Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female; You are Abraham’s offspring! You are heirs of the promise of God, if you belong to Jesus Christ.

The arms of Jesus Christ are extended towards you today. The blessing of being adopted into God’s family. The blessing of being His forever can be yours through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think about this: Jacob came to Isaac, dressed in Esau’s clothing and received a blessing that he did not deserve.

We come to the Father as sinners, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. And when we do come in this way, God’s blessing will be ours.

REPENTANCE SERIES: LESSON 10 FINDING THE PATH (PART 2)

FINDING THE PATH (PART 2)

Dr Ben Hooman

Repentance and faith are so closely intertwined that one cannot exist without the other. 

You cannot belief without repenting and you cannot repent without believing. 

The two belong together like the sun’s heat and the sun’s light. They are distinct but cannot be separated.