The Twentieth in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
You would think that if God were going to raise up someone to lead his people to freedom from their bondage under the Pharaoh of Egypt, he would choose someone other than Moses–a man who didn’t speak well in public, and who killed an Egyptian before fleeing across the Red Sea to the Sinai peninsula to go into hiding and remaining there until God summoned him back to Egypt. You would also think that if you were going to list those people most closely associated with the Exodus and conquest of Canaan whose faith stands out as an example for us to follow, you would probably mention Joshua or Caleb. Instead, the only name which appears in Hebrews 11 in connection to the Conquest is that of Rahab, a woman who owned a brothel in the city of Jericho. God does indeed move in mysterious ways, and to accomplish his purposes, he often uses people whom we would never chose nor ever expect him to use.
When we left-off in our series on Hebrews, we were working our way through Hebrews 11, often described as the “hall of faith.” The chapter has been given this label because, as is often taught, the author lists a number of the great saints from the Old Testament and their exploits so that we might emulate their example. “Have faith like Abraham had and do what Abraham did.” But as I have been arguing throughout our time in this chapter, the example these people set for us is secondary to the author’s primary purpose. As I see it, the author’s emphasis falls not so much on the faith of the individuals mentioned here, but on the continuity of God’s covenant promise which progressively unfolds throughout redemptive history as seen by the presence of believers throughout the whole of biblical history. These people believed (or trusted) the same thing–God’s gracious covenant promise. Therefore, the importance of this famous passage is not to be found so much in the example set for us by those listed here, but in the continuity of God’s promise across the ages. And this means that the same gospel was found throughout the Old Testament which has been revealed by Jesus and taught us by the apostles in the New, which is the primary point of Hebrews 11.
As we take up the last part of this chapter (verses 29-40), it is apparent that the author begins to pick up the pace of his discussion, as though he realizes that his exposition of God’s promise throughout the Old Testament could go on and on for an extended number of pages. The author’s concern in presenting this survey of those who believed God’s promise is to remind those in the original audience of the consequence of returning to Judaism after having made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is why his readers/hearers need to be very clear about the fact that God’s covenant promise, which unfolds throughout the pages of the Old Testament, is fulfilled through the person and work of Jesus Christ. There has only been one promise. The Old Testament saints believed it. And those receiving this letter we know as the Book of Hebrews must hold fast to it. It is the same covenant promise after all, now fulfilled in the doing and dying of Jesus.
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