Heroes of Faith: What Must We Do?

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

In Hebrews chapter 11, we find a list of people and the characteristics that enabled them to do great things by faith in God. The last two verses of chapter 11 make a bold statement. The people listed here did receive recognition from God for what they did. However, there lives and deeds do not really stand alone. What they did was preparing the way for us. They never received the fullness of what God promised his people. The Bible tells us that their stories were not complete without us. To me, this implies that we can, and should, have the same capability to do great things in God by faith that they did.

Let me define great things. In this study we have looked at some of the greatest people in history. They did things that changed how the world looks today. What would the middle east look like if it had not been for Moses? Some may think it would be better and some worse but there is no doubt it would not be the same. That said, we also studied Abel and Enoch. Neither one did anything that changed the whole world. I believe their faith touched God and changed their world.

You do not have to travel the world, change governments, fight in wars or any such thing to be considered for faith’s hall of fame. Abel worshiped in purity. Enoch walked with God. Both were charter members of God’s hall of fame of faith. What you must do is live by faith, grow in the things of God and fulfill what God has for you to do right where you are. If we do that, we can be part of God’s hall of fame. Jesus said that the least who walk in and work to build the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist who was the greatest of all prophets. What God really wants from us is that we walk in faithfulness and that we grow in our relationship with him. If we do that, we will make God’s Hall of Fame of Faith.

Where chapter 11 ends by telling us that we are called to complete what they began and receive the promise they never did, chapter 12 begins by telling us how. There is a great deal in this chapter and right now I am not sure if that is what I am going to be writing about in the weeks to come, but if I do not do anything else, I want to at least make the connection.

Whoever wrote Hebrews, and I think it was probably Paul, wants the believers of his day to know that they are a part of the story that was begun by those mentioned in chapter 11. Their faith and sacrifice set the stage for the next act in the drama that is playing out in the history of the world. This cloud of witnesses does not end with the Old Testament saints in chapter 11. There are many throughout the history of the church who played their part to bring us to where we are today. There are those dying right now because they refuse to renounce Jesus. They have become part of the cloud as have our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers that have gone before us.

I travel a great deal in Africa. One of the things we must deal with there is ancestor worship. I do not have time to go into all the problems that poses in this post but let me be very clear that Hebrews is not talking about that. This great cloud is not to be worshiped. They are, however, to be remembered. We will see them some day. Will we be able to join them and say as Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7.) If we can, we will make God’s Hall of Fame.

What this cloud of witnesses must be to us is twofold. First it is a challenge. If they could do so much, we can do our part. We may not be called to lay down our lives or do mighty deeds for God. Nevertheless, we must look at them and remind ourselves that we cannot “drop the ball” in our generation. We must do what is required of us no matter what it may be. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is determined by the God of the Kingdom. They finished their race, we can and must finish ours.

They are also an encouragement to us. In a sense, they are cheering us on in our walk of faith. They stand as evidence that real human beings can do great things for God. Most will never be famous in the eyes of men, but we can be famous in heaven. That is the real goal for a Christian. Our Hall of Fame credentials may be raising our family for God, preserving the God given institution of marriage by staying faithful or just living as a Christian witness in our community.

Some will have the privilege of traveling to other nations and other cultures and preaching and teaching to those people. To God it is all the same as long as we walk by faith. There are no small and great destinies in God. We all receive the same reward when we stand before the master. For that which we have done well we will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” There is nothing higher.

This verse goes on to say something else that is important. The rest of chapter 12 is really telling us how to do this next admonition. He tells us to lay aside two things. One is the sins that so easily ensnare us. We all have such things in our lives. What is the sin that so easily ensnares you? It is the same as the one that easily ensnares me. It is the one you like.

Before you get offended, Hebrews 11:25 says there is pleasure in sin for a season. Each of us has something that we find difficult to let go of. In Romans 14:23, the Amplified Bible tells us that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Paul is not speaking here from a law perspective. This takes sin out of the “do’s and don’ts realm and into the heart realm. If we walk by true faith, we will not walk in sin. Nevertheless, there are some things that each of us find more difficult to overcome because they tend to be pleasing to our flesh. That is just human nature.

I do not have to list them. You know what they are. Sin is anything that controls us or could lead us to compromise the things of God. What may be sin for me may not be sin for you. Paul says as much in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. We must each objectively look at ourselves and find those “sins that easily ensnare us.” Then we must ask God to help us lay them aside.

It might be easy if he was just talking about sins. He is not. He is also talking about weights. Weights are those things in our lives that hold us back from being all we can be in our faith. When we see an Olympic runner, they do not wear anything that is unnecessary. In Greece most athletes performed nude. This had nothing to do with eroticism. It was all about carrying as little weight as possible so they could run unhindered.

To have Hall of Fame faith we must lay aside the weights as well as the sins. Once again, I cannot tell you what your weights are. I can say that you have them. They are the unnecessary things in your life that keep you from growing in God. They keep you from doing what you know you should. Hall of Fame faith, and for that matter lives, require that we examine ourselves and lay aside the unnecessary if it keeps us from walking the way we should.

All of us can do this. We do not do it by law, we do it by faith. Read the rest of Hebrews 12. It will not be easy but verse 28 makes it worth it.

Hebrews 12:28 (NKJV) 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.


Heroes of Faith: What About Us?

Hebrews 11:39-40 (NKJV) 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

We have spent a good deal of time in Hebrews chapter 11. Our goal has been to determine what qualities caused the people God speaks of in this “Hall of Fame” of faith to be worthy of inclusion. Each had qualities of character and lifestyle that enabled them to do great things by faith. All these people were Old Testament characters. What about us? Can we do the kind of things they did? The answer may surprise some of you.

In today’s verse we read something astounding. Remember, we are talking about people like Noah, Abraham and Joshua. Moses alone experienced miracles that no one else ever has. From the ten plagues of Egypt to the borders of Canaan, we see great and powerful manifestations of the power of God that have never been seen again. The only thing that could compare with Moses in the pure release of power would be the ministry of Jesus. Yet these two verses tell us that they were not the point of it all.

According to verse 39, they all obtained a good testimony, but they did not receive the promise. There was something more than what they did by faith. There was a promise that they never obtained despite the show of power they saw. What was this promise?

Verse 40 tells us that God had something better for us. They cannot be made perfect without us. The things they did were intended to bring about something that they could not experience in their lifetimes. It was for us that all the things they did by faith happened. Their faith accomplishments could never be complete without what we are given today. Moses was not the point of it all. Neither was Abraham, Joshua or Rahab. The prophets, priests and kings of the Old Testament were not what God was really after. There are many heroes in the Old Testament, and they are all worth studying. Yet they were not the point of what God was doing. Who was it all for? It was for you and me.

God’s desire was never to have a few people who could function at a high level of faith because of their exceptional character or unique abilities. God’s plan from creation was to have a family who would all be able to flow in his life and power. He put man into the earth, a place he created. He made man to be part of the earth, but the earth was not the source of their life. He put his own life in man and told him to rule the creation. How was man to do that?

Man was not to have dominion by his own might or power. He was not even to have dominion over other people. He was to have dominion over the rest of creation. Had man never sinned, there would not have been a few who ruled over everyone else. Each person would have exercised dominion over his own life and the world around him. Creation would have responded to them. Life would not have been a struggle against the elements. It would have been lived in harmony with the elements. That is what we see in Eden and I see no reason to expect that this would have changed as man fulfilled God’s command to “replenish the earth” with God’s children.

Sin changed all that because it changed the nature of man. What was the promise that the heroes of Hebrews 11 never received? What is it about us that completes all that God did in the Old Testament? Christianity is not just another religion trying to find relationship with “a higher power.” Christianity is the restoration of relationship between God and man through the eradication of sin and its penalty over God’s family.

Jesus came to die for our sins. He never committed a sin at any point in his life even though he experienced the same temptation every other human being suffered (Hebrews 4:15.) Therefore, the payment he made for sin could not be for himself. His crucifixion was our crucifixion. His burial was our burial. His victory over death, hell, the grave and Satan himself was our victory. His resurrection was our resurrection. All that is left to us is to say yes to God’s offer of salvation. We must choose life. God will never force us to be saved, but it is available to all.

Jesus foreshadowed what Hebrews 11:39-40 is saying.

Luke 7:28 (NKJV) 28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

This is an amazing statement. John the Baptist did no mighty miracles. He did not heal anyone nor cast out evil spirits as Jesus had. He neither parted waters nor walked on them, yet Jesus says he is the greatest of all the prophets. That means greater than Moses. Greater than Isaiah, Jerimiah and every other prophet that ever lived. Yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John.

Who is Jesus talking about? He is talking about all those who would believe in and receive the salvation that he was going to bring to the earth. He was speaking of everyone who has been born again because of his sacrifice. That is what it takes to be a citizen of the kingdom of God. It does not take religious discipline or great sacrifice. It does not take special gifts or callings. We are born into the Kingdom of God by being born again according to the sacrifice of Jesus.

All that was done in the Old Testament by every hero, prophet or king was leading to one thing. It was leading up to the sacrifice of Jesus that would open the door to the new birth. When a person is born again, his spirit is returned to the same condition as Adam’s. He is once again capable of walking in dominion. He is given the capacity for faith in God that Adam had. All the people mentioned in this verse were operating at a disadvantage because they were not born again.

On the surface it might seem that we must automatically have all the qualities we saw in the Heroes of Hebrews 11. Potentially that is absolutely true. We have been given all we need to walk in both life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:2-3.) That does not mean we are walking in those things. When we are born as humans, we have everything we need to be a fully functioning adult. I believe that the creator God created every person with gifts and callings that make him or her fully able to walk in the destiny God has for each one. Yet when they are babies, they are not walking in any of that.

In some ways, babies are barely human. They cannot walk or talk. They cannot feed, clothe or care for themselves. As they grow, they begin to develop more of the characteristics that will enable them to become productive adults. Many never do. They simply do not develop what they have been given. Some develop destructive behavior instead. It is the same where the things of God, including faith, are concerned.

Hebrews 11 ends by telling us that none of the Old Testament heroes obtained the promise of restoration to full sonship in God’s family. They did not have the new birth and therefore they had to fight their old nature to do the things by faith that they did. Potentially we do not. However, that does not mean we are automatically perfect. We must grow in all that God gives us in salvation. That does not mean it is not already ours. It does not mean we have to earn the kind of faith that can do great things. It means we need to grow in our relationship with God.

Hebrews 12 begins by telling us that we have a “great cloud of witnesses” watching us. He then tells us to lay aside the weights and sins that keep us from doing the things they did and the greater things we have the potential to do. The rest of the chapter tells us how. We will look at that next.

Heroes of Faith: What Can Hall of Fame Faith Do?

Hebrews 11:33-40 (NKJV) 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented– 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

As we finish our look at Hebrews chapter 11, we see a list of things that people did by faith. This list is in addition to the specific things we know that the likes of Noah, Abraham and Moses did. Most of the things in this list we will not need to do. However, as we look at it, we can find parallels in our lives. All of these were done by faith. We can and do have that kind of faith. We need to develop it. We need to fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We need to give the Word of God first place and final authority in our lives. Nevertheless, we can do anything in this list and more.

Let me spend a few moments looking at some of these things. The first sentence in verse 33 gives us a list of things people did. It begins with, “who through faith subdued Kingdoms.” We are not going against natural kingdoms, but the bible speaks of other kingdoms that we must subdue.

Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) 13 He has delivered us from the power (kingdom) of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

There are two kingdoms vying for control of the people in our world. One is the Kingdom of God, or Light, and one is the kingdom of darkness. We as believers are no longer under the power of darkness. Those who have never received Jesus still are. It is our responsibility to subdue the kingdom of darkness in our own lives and also its influence in the world. The most important goal is the deliverance of many more souls from the darkness into the Kingdom of “the son of His love.”

It goes on to say that they worked righteousness. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. That is our position and the spiritual reality of our relationship with God. However, this word also means doing right things the right way. In this context, since it says they worked righteousness, it means they lived in a righteous manner. It implies they stood for righteousness. When we do that, Jesus says we become salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14.) We cannot live righteousness by law. We will fail every time. We can live it by faith.

The next thing it says in this sentence is that they obtained promises. The Bible is full of promises. Some of them for specific things like healing and others that can be applied in many areas of life. 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that they are all “yes and amen” in Christ. How can we obtain these “great and precious promises?” We obtain them the same way they did. By faith in God and his Word.

Finally, it says that they stopped the mouths of lions. I travel in Africa and have seen lions close up in the wild. I would not want to try to “stop their mouths.” The implication is to keep them from eating you. There is a lion we must overcome, and we must do it by faith just as Danial did in the physical lion’s den.

1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV) 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The next section speaks of many things that involve warfare or fighting. Read through this list and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these things would apply today. I want to focus on one thing. It says that by faith they were made strong out of weakness. You may not see yourself as a strong person. There may be good reasons for that. I have good news for you. You do not have to be strong in the flesh. By faith we can be made “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10)” Paul, in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, says that Jesus spoke to him and told him that in his own weakness he was made strong.

We all face battles in life. We may not be fighting wars in the natural, but we fight wars in the spirit. We fight battles in our personal lives, and we fight battles for the lives of others. We can become valiant in battle but not by leaning on our own strength. By faith we need to acknowledge that we cannot do what is necessary, but he can do it through us.

The list of things they did is powerful. It says here that women, and I believe what God will do for women he will do for men, received their dead back to life. Mark 16 says that believers will even raise the dead. If that is true, and it was Jesus who said it, anything short of that is possible.

The list takes a turn we may not want to see. It begins to speak of persecutions. Jesus said we would have them. It speaks of hardships. It speaks of being destitute. I believe that God desires his children to prosper and be blessed. I also believe that God has left us in this world because we are part of an army fighting a great war. It is the war for the souls of God’s children. In times of war things are not always easy.

In verse 36 it says that some refused to accept deliverance so they might receive a better resurrection. I have no idea what a better resurrection might be. I do know that they chose the eternal over the temporal. No one can do that by the flesh. It is only possible by faith.

There is a statement in verse 38 that says the world was not worthy of the people who went through these things. That is not a statement of pride or a “holier than thou” attitude. It is a statement of truth. They chose the Kingdom of God. The things of the world were simply not a priority and because of that, God saw them as hall of fame people. Most of them we do not know. We cannot simply choose to have that level of consecration. However, if we ever face a time when we need it, the only way we can walk in it is by faith.

There are two more verses in this chapter. These two verses tie the whole chapter together and indelibly connect what it says to you and I. We will end this series with them in our next post.

Heroes of Faith: What Shall We Say About the Rest?

Hebrews 11:32-33 (NKJV) 32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

We are coming to an end of our study of God’s Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews chapter 11. We have looked at the faith of some of the most powerful and familiar characters in the Old Testament. We have also looked at some that are barely mentioned and at one who was called a harlot. She was no one special except that she chose the God of Israel over the natural protection of the walls of Jericho. Nevertheless, each one of these people showed characteristics that we can emulate if we want to have hall of fame quality faith.

Now we come to the last few verses of Hebrews 11. The writer mentions some names that I might have considered worthy of inclusion in the detailed accounts earlier in the chapter. I do not think God is saying they did not do great things. We certainly should study their lives and their faith. We can and should learn much from them. As the writer says, there just is not time to detail them all. Why did God pick the ones he did?

I do not pretend to understand the answer to that question. What I will say is that the Bible was not just written by men. If we are going to accept the Bible as the Word of God, we must also accept that it was directly inspired by God himself. It is accurate to say that the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible as he communicated it to man. That being the case, we must believe that God chose the people that he wanted us to look at more closely at this point in the Word of God. I know I have learned many things about faith and the qualities I need to cultivate to have great faith from them. Let me review a little.

As we looked at each individual, we did not really see a chronical of how to walk in faith. What we saw were the kind of people they were. We saw that a heart that truly worships God was necessary. We saw that to walk with God was important. It was not enough to ask God to walk with us. In Noah we saw that those who walk in great faith must go against the flow of the world in their generation. We also saw that it is not enough to talk about doing the will of God or even intending to do the will of God. To have great faith we must actually do what God asks.

Abraham obeyed without knowing where he was going nor how God would accomplish what he told him. He simply continued to believe and obey, even though it looked impossible for God to fulfill his word in Abraham’s life. In Sarah we found that even in the midst of the doubts we all have in our minds, we can still be a vessel for faith that will change the world.

Moses had a heritage of faith. That is important. On the other hand, Moses came to an age where he had to choose for himself what he would identify with. Would he identify with Egypt and its power or would he identify with his heritage and endure the rejection of the world. So it is with each one of us. Hebrews 11 says that Moses chose God over Egypt by faith. We must recognize that the only way we can overcome the temptation and pull of the world is by faith. This often means we must reject certain things in the world we might want. It means we may suffer persecution as Moses did. It also means we open the door for a faith that can change the world.

The last two in the detailed list were two people who were almost polar opposites in their walk of faith. Joshua was exhorted by God to be “bold and very courageous. He heard a word from God, acted on that word and saw the walls of Jericho fall. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that he did all of that by faith. To have hall of fame faith we have to be willing to be bold. We must be able to obey what God says no matter how it may look. When we do, it will often result in a quick and spectacular deliverance. You do not have to be anyone special to walk in bold and aggressive faith. You can do that!

Rahab’s experience was very different and more like what most of our faith walk will be like. Rahab also decided to act on what she believed. I would say her actions were bold in that she took a great risk by hiding and aiding the enemy of her home, Jericho. Once again, Hebrews 11 makes it clear that what she did, she did by faith. She was not moved by fear or personal gain. She did desire to be protected from what she knew was coming at the hands of Israel. However, it was her faith in the superiority of the God of the Israelites that caused her to act. The result was that she lost everything in the natural but gained life. That is the attitude we must have if we want hall of fame faith.

Once she made her choice and acted on it, she had no control over the outcome. All she could do was wait for God to keep his promise. That is most often our experience. The battle for Joshua was on the field. The battle for Rahab was in her mind and heart. That describes most of our faith experiences.

So, what about the others who at least obtained ‘honorable mention” in the Hall? We see Gideon who became a great leader of his people even though it seemed at first that he was fearful. We see a general named Barak. He was a man under the leadership of Deborah. It would not have been easy to submit to a woman, but Barak refused to take the lead even though Deborah wanted him to. God honored him because he was not afraid to stay in the place God put him and allow the honor to go to a woman because God had put her in charge.

We see Samson. He is a deeply flawed person. I am not sure I would even give him honorable mention, but even with his flaws, God says he did what he did by faith. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute, yet God raised him up to lead Israel at a time when he was needed. It does not matter who you are or where you come from, it is possible for you to walk in a faith that will help you to lead the people of God. I am not talking about having a title. I am talking about leading by an example of faith that will inspire others.

Finally, he mentions David, Samuel and the prophets. Books have been written about and by all of them. We might put them first in the hall of fame list. Certainly, we can read about their works, but God puts them all together. What we do know is that they were all people who put God first. David, even though he had flaws, was a man after God’s own heart. Samuel was dedicated by his mother to God at birth. He lived most of his life separated unto God and his service. The prophets, by calling and by nature, sought the heart of God. They were channels for what he wanted to tell Israel. It was neither their word nor their reputation that was important. Many suffered for their faith and others did strange things. All chose obedience to God over everything else.

All the people we see in Hebrews chapter 11 had an underlying character that enabled them to be a channel for a kind of faith that affected their lives and the lives of the people around them. I want that kind of faith. To get it I must have that kind of character.

What kinds of things will this Hall of Fame faith do? That is what we will look at next.

The Heroes of Faith: Rahab and Waiting Faith 4

Hebrews 11:31 (NKJV) 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

We have been studying Rahab who gave aid and comfort to the enemy Israelite spies when they came to gather intelligence about Jericho. Yesterday we ended with the people of Israel coming out of their camp and marching around the city with their whole army. We read in Joshua chapter 6 that they blew the rams horns as they marched.

Joshua 6:7-8 (NKJV) 7 And he said to the people, “Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD.” 8 So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.

However, something strange happened. Israel marched around the city and then went back to their camp. There was no attack. Nothing happened at all. The next day the army of Israel came out of their camp. Once again, they began to march around the city. Once again, the trumpets played but no one spoke. Once again Rahab and her family got excited about what would happen next. Once again, the defenders of Jericho prepared for battle. Once again, Israel marched around the city and went back to the camp.

For four more days this same process was repeated. I can hear Rahab’s father now. “Rahab, why are we here? Obviously, Israel is going to do nothing. They are trying to scare us, that’s all. I am going back to my home.”

Rahab knew differently. She had a promise from God. She could not understand what was happening. She had no idea about the plan given to Joshua by the angel. Everything she saw would have been confusing. Yet she chose to keep believing.

The defenders of Jericho must have become bolder every day. The behavior of this army was so strange. They came out each morning for six days and just marched. None of them spoke. The only sound was the shuffling of feet and the incessant playing of the trumpets. I think they would have begun to jeer at the Israelis. “Why don’t you come and fight? Are you all cowards? Why don’t you say something? You will never break through these walls. You better go back to the wilderness you came from. Better to die there than at our hands!”

I am sure Rahab and her family were about at there wits end. It had been six days. They expected their deliverance to come the first day. What makes it more difficult is that every day is the same. Nothing happens. That is the struggle we often find ourselves facing. We know the promise is true, but time goes by and nothing seems to change. Let me say again that just because nothing seems to be happening does not mean God is not working. He is always working. We must continue to believe. We must continue to walk out the conditions from the Word of God. If we do, we will see God move.

Finally, the seventh day comes. It begins the same as every other day. Israel comes out and begins to march. They do not speak but the trumpets play. They walk all the way around the city. As they come to the same place they have for the last six days with no attack, I can see Rahab turning away from the window. She thinks it will be the same as every other day, but it is not the same. Israel does not go back to the camp. They continue to march.

The pressure to quit is greatest when the answer is about to come. God has many reasons for the delays we face in our faith life. Sometimes it is to prove that nothing and no one could meet the need but him. For Rahab, it was a time of testing. She had to continue to trust God. It was evident to her that if Israel could take the city, they would have done it by now. However, God was not finished.

Joshua 6:16-17 (NKJV) 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! 17 Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

I want you to notice something from the verse above. Joshua knew about Rahab. She had not been forgotten. It often seems that we have been forgotten by God when we must wait in faith. We have not! God remembered Rahab and he remembers you.

After the seventh circuit of the city all those in Jericho heard something terrifying. The trumpets that have been playing the whole time change their sound. Suddenly Jericho hears the trumpets play one long blast. This was followed by a loud shout from every member of the attacking force. After watching Israel march around the city thirteen times in silence, what must the defenders have thought when they heard these two piercing sounds.

In her house, Rahab and her family were watching intently. This must be the day. Yet how could any of this help Israel take the city? They soon found out. The ground began to shake as if there was an earthquake. The walls vibrated with a ferocity they could not understand. After a few moments the walls of Jericho, so thick a chariot could drive upon them began to crumble. Their defenses were stripped away from them and the city was open. Each Israelite soldier ran straight into the city, killing as he went.

What about Rahab and her family? I want to point out something. Rahab’s home was in the wall. It had to be, or she could not have lowered the spies from her window to escape the city. When the walls began to crumble, all natural reasoning said her house must fall as well. The only protection she had was a single scarlet rope.

Often the first thing that happens as our waiting ends is that things get worse. Even if they do not, we must keep our eyes on the promise of God. Most of the time we have no idea what God is going to do. We do not know how the promise will meet our need or keep us safe. We must continue to trust God, even if things around us crumble.

I can only imagine the terror they could have felt. The walls of the city are down. The bible does not tell us if Rahab’s house remained standing when the rest of the wall fell, but I do not see how she could have survived if it did not. The scarlet rope marked the house. That is how Israel knew where to find her. The soldiers are killing everyone until they come to her house. Will they kill her and her family as well? No! She has a covenant with the God of Israel. They come and take her and her family from the city. She and all with her are safe, just as God had promised.

I do not know what you face today. You may be stuck in a time of seemingly endless waiting for God to move on your behalf. You may be at the point where things are shaking all around you. You may be seeing bad things happening to others. Stay in the place of safety. Stay in the Word of the Covenant you have through Jesus. Continue to meet the conditions even though all the voices around you may be screaming that you will not survive. You will

The last thing we see about Rahab is that she appears in the Genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5.) What a great heritage Rahab gained by continuing in faith. You will see God bring about what you need today. Nevertheless, there is more to it than that. You will see God affect others by your faith. In the end, you will see God use you to bless many because you stayed faithful like faithful Rahab.

Heroes of Faith: Rahab and Waiting Faith 3

Hebrews 11:31 (NKJV) 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

We have seen that there are two kinds of faith we must learn to walk in if we are going to be successful in our Christianity. Joshua, when he took the city of Jericho, walked in aggressive faith. He heard from God. He acted on the plan God gave him and he saw the results almost immediately. Rahab, on the other hand, acted on her faith in the God of Israel by hiding the Hebrew spies and then helping them escape from the city. For her actions she received a promise. From the time she received the promise until she was rescued by the Israelite army, she had no control over her situation.

One of the things she had to do while she waited was obey the conditions of the promise. The Israelite spies told her that she and her family would be safe if they all stayed in her house when the attack came. If any of them left her house, they would be killed, and their blood would not be on the hands of the soldiers. Most of the promises of God have conditions. For instance, the Bible tells us if we give, God will see to it that we will receive back, The implication is that if we do not give we will not receive the blessing.

Some people have a hard time with that today. They say, “God can do whatever he wants. Why does he put conditions on promises? Why doesn’t he just give us what we need? The answer to that question for us is very much the same as it was for Rahab. She lived in the midst of the enemy. If she was in the place of God protection, the soldiers would know to leave her and her family alone. If any of them left that place, they put themselves in a place of vulnerability. I believe God gives us conditions to promises for the same reason. We live in the midst of the enemy. There are many things God can do but he chooses how he will do them. Whatever he requires is for our good and protection not to hinder us or make us prove our worth.

A limited example is the security issues we face today. It can be very frustrating when a website requires yet another password change or level of security. I use a debit card all the time and I travel a lot. I hate it when I am in another area and I try to use my card, but it is declined because of security protocols. I do not like to come up with another password or call the bank, but I understand that they are not doing it to frustrate me. They are doing those things to protect me because the problem of Identity theft or fraud is so dangerous.

The conditions on the promises God has written in the bible are for the same reason. We have and enemy and until the Lord comes, we live in his territory. God sets things up so that we can access his power and the enemy cannot hinder us. The conditions represent the umbrella of God’s covenant protection just as Rahab’s house represented the covenant the spies made with her. As long as they were in that house the devil could not do anything to hinder God from protecting them. If they went out, they left the covering of the covenant promise.

We have a covenant with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible is the book of the covenant. Jesus prayed in John 17 that God would not take us out of the world but that he would protect us while we are here. The reason for that is his desire for more and more children to be saved. We cannot preach to the world if we are not in the world. The world is under the curse of Adam’s sin. We have been delivered from that curse but we are still in the world so we can rescue God’s children by preaching the gospel to them. The Bible teaches us how to live in the middle of enemy territory and still walk in the full blessing of God. We simply follow the conditions of the promises in the bible and the devil cannot stop blessing from coming to us.

Do you remember that the spies gave Rahab one more condition? She had to make sure that her house was marked by the scarlet rope she used to lower them from her house. Scarlet is the color of blood. The scarlet rope was a type of the blood of Jesus. We have been marked by that blood. When the enemy looks at us, he knows we have a covenant with God. As long as we follow the direction we find in the Bible, we will always be safe and the promises will always come to pass in our lives. If we do not keep the conditions, I believe God will still do his best to bless and protect us. However, the farther we go from the Biblical requirements, the farther we go into enemy territory. That is risky.

Rahab did her best to fulfill the conditions of the promise. She brought her family into her house as soon as she thought the attack was coming. We see, however, that her deliverance did not come right away. Israel spent many days in their camp even after they crossed Jordan. We often think the time of fulfillment has come, only to discover we must wait still longer. Stay in the place of protection and blessing. God’s promises cannot fail if we do not give up.

One day Rahab saw what she had been hoping for. Israel left the camp with their whole army. Surely this was it! I can hear Rahab calling her family to the window. “Look! Here they come. We will be free very soon now.”

I am sure her family was in awe of the sight. Thousands of soldiers marching around the city. Sometimes we think they marched in absolute silence, but the Bible tells us that the whole time they marched the trumpets played. They did not talk but it was not silent. I am sure the soldiers of Jericho got ready. Maybe they prepared pots of boiling oil to pour down on the attackers. They made ready their bows, spears and swords. They made sure gates were secured and everyone was where they belonged. They were ready for the attack.

The Israelite army marched around the whole wall of the city. I am not sure how long it took, but it was a while I am sure. Rahab and her family are ready for their deliverance. They probably lived in fear of being discovered as having helped the enemy. Jericho prepared for battle. This was it. They had heard of the power of the God of Israel, but they were going to defend their home the best they could. I see them braced for the attack as the Israelites march. Israel makes a complete circuit of the city and then…..they go back to their camp.

Rahab and her family are confused and disappointed. They thought sure this had to be the day. Why would Israel march around the city and not attack? It made no sense. After the first day they had to choose if they would continue to believe God or not. They chose to stay in Rahab’s house and trust God’s word. Nevertheless, they must have been a bit shaken.

Jericho’s defenders do not know what to think. Is that all? What was that about? Nevertheless, they are elated. Maybe what they heard about Israel’s God was all exaggeration. Maybe they had never come against anything like the defenses of Jericho. Maybe they came out to attack but had lost heart when they saw the walls. After the first day, they were still concerned but their confidence had grown. No one really understood what was happening.

Many times, we have no idea what God is doing. It seems that something might happen then nothing does. Just because we do not know what God is doing does not mean he is doing nothing. Keep trusting him. We have a covenant promise. As long as Rahab was in her home with the scarlet rope out her window, she was safe. If we are walking under our covenant with Jesus and fulfilling the conditions of the promise, nothing can touch us. We will see God keep his word.

Just like Rahab, we are going to have to wait another day to find out what happens.

Heroes of Faith: Rahab and Waiting Faith 2

Hebrews 11:31 (NKJV) 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

In our last post, we began looking at the “harlot” Rahab. She was a resident of Jericho who hid the two Hebrew spies that came to the city on a reconnaissance mission prior to Israel’s attack on the city. Even though they were certainly not advertising what they were doing, Rahab recognized them and hid them from the King of Jericho even though turning them over would have meant great favor with the ruler.

We have learned some things about Rahab. Though the Bible says she was a harlot, the Hebrew word used can mean an innkeeper. It makes more sense that two Jewish spies would have gone to an inn to rest as opposed to a brothel. We see that she had flax on the roof of her business. She may have been involved in selling the flax to those who made material, or she may have woven it herself. She was an entrepreneur who was doing what she could to support herself.

We also saw that she chose the God of Israel over the safety of her city. She knew that God had given the city to them. This was contrary to what the first spies told Moses. They said the city was too strong and that Israel was like grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants. She told the spies that everyone in the city was terrified of them. She chose God in her everyday life as opposed to choosing the flesh.

When she agrees to hide the spies, she tells them she wants something from them. She wants her and her family to be spared. We know the end of this story. We know what was going to happen. We know the walls were going to fall and that every living thing in the city would be killed. She did not. She did not really know what she was asking. All she knew was that God had given the city to Israel and she wanted their protection. What she got from the spies was a promise.

Joshua 2:14 (NKJV) 14 So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”

There was also a condition given with the promise.

Joshua 2:17-21 (NKJV) 17 So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. 19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.” 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

Most of the time our faith walk is like Rahab’s. Rahab chose the God of Israel. Hebrews 11 says she made this choice by faith. She acted on her faith by saving the spies. What she got in return was a promise. From that time until the Israelite soldiers rescued her from her house, she had no control over the situation. All she could do at that point was thank God and maintain her faith walk.

What could she do to cooperate with the promise? She could maintain her word to the spies by not telling the officials of Jericho that an attack was coming. It would have made no difference if Jericho knew about the spies. By the time Israel attacked everyone in Jericho knew they were coming. That did not matter. Rahab had given her word that she would not reveal what she knew.

The other thing she could do was let her parents know that when the time came, they had to come to her house without question. She might have told them why or she might not. I think she would not have risked telling them. Even though it would make no difference in the outcome of the battle if the king found out about her treachery, it would have probably ended in her death.

The only other thing she could do is wait. Most of the time when we go to God for help, we find a promise in the Bible that we can stand on but have no control over how God brings the result. We must wait for God to do what he said he would do. We have no idea how he is going to do it. We simply have to trust that he will. While we wait, we thank God for his Word and his faithfulness. If there is something we can do to put our selves in the right position to receive, we do those things. In the end we are at the mercy of God’s faithfulness and we must stand and believe that he will never let us down.

A great deal happened after the spies left Rahab. We know that it was three days after Joshua sent them out that Joshua went through the camp to find out if Israel was behind his leadership. After that there was the process of crossing the Jordan. I do not know how long it took, but it was more than a day.

After they crossed Jordan, God tells Joshua to circumcise all the males of Israel. This included those of fighting age. The Bible tells us that they stayed in the camp until they were healed. I do not know how long it takes for a grown man to heal from circumcision, but it was a while. As they were healing Joshua has the encounter with the Angel of the Lord and receives the battle plan for Jericho.

For all this time, Rahab must wait on God. She would have heard that Israel crossed the Jordan. The Bible tells us that the people heard how God dried up the river for them and they were even more afraid of Israel at that point.

I can see Rahab running to her family to tell them they must come to her house. If Israel has crossed Jordan the attack must be imminent. Many times, it looks like what we prayed for will happen very soon. Often it does not. Like Rahab, we are left to continue our waiting. I do not know if Rahab’s family stayed in her home until the actual attack. We do know they must have been there when the walls fell. I wonder what the conversation would have been like if they did.

I can hear her father saying, “Rahab, why are we here? You said it was important that we be in your house when Israel came. They crossed the river but they are not attacking. I want to go home!”

“Father please trust me. I know it doesn’t look like anything is happening, but I have a promise from their God. You must stay.”

“I will give it a little more time, but can’t you tell us what is going on. How do you know these things? How can you trust this foreign God and where did you get this promise?” She answers her father, “I can’t tell you how I know, I just know!”

Does any of that sound familiar? Have any of you had family or friends question you about God’s promises like Rahab’s father may have questioned her? I have. Most of the time it is not outward questions that are the problem. What would Rahab be thinking? The same as you and me I suspect.

Where is God and when will things change? How is God going to protect me? Did I really receive a promise? Can I trust the Word of the spies? In our case we must decide to continue trusting the Word of God, but the principle is the same. Much of our faith walk involves waiting. I hate to wait but it is an integral part of faith in God. Next time we will see the results of Rahab’s waiting faith.