Lesson Thirteen—Hebrews 11:23-40 The Sufferers… Superior to the Great

The Church on its way to glory treasures the memory of the death of a greater than Joseph, and looks for a brighter inheritance. We sing:

Till Thou shalt come in glory and call us hence away,
To rest in all the brightness of that unclouded day,
We show Thy death, Lord Jesus, and here would seek to be
More to Thy death conformed whilst we remember Thee.

1. Faith for the Salvation of the Child (v. 23)

Pharaoh’s commandment was like a dark cloud overshadowing Israel in Egypt. It was intended to darken the hope in Israel of God’s intervention on their behalf, and it spread gloom in the hearts of all the people. But Moses’ parents saw the rainbow in the cloud, their eyes were on the purposes of God that can never fail. Their faith discerned in the baby boy Moses that which was “beautiful for God.” Therefore they were determined to keep him for God, nor would they give him over to the hand of the foe. Oh, that in every home of the children of God there were like-faith and like-determination!

2. Faith’s Choice in Giving Up the World (v. 24)

Providence brought Moses to the threshold of Egypt’s glories, faith led him to refuse them all. Moses turned from the glory of Egypt’s throne, the pleasures of its civilized system and the wealth of its treasuries. What was it that led him to turn his eye from it all? Faith, the eye on God. In the reproach of Christ he saw greater riches than Egypt’s; in the fellowship of God’s afflicted people, better pleasure; and in the recompense of the reward, brighter glory. Faith’s prospects were far better than anything Egypt could promise.

3. Faith’s Action in Leaving the World (v. 27)

After the world’s allurements, Moses had to face its wrath. Faith delivered him from its pleasures; faith enabled him to brave its wrath. The combined power of its mighty hosts led by the great Pharaoh, were matched against a simple shepherd with nothing but a rod. But Moses saw what Pharaoh did not see—the invisible God—and so he endured.

4. Faith’s Shelter from the World’s Judgment (v. 28)

From the wrath of God there is no refuge but in the shed blood of the Lamb. Every blood-stained lintel in Egypt, that fateful night, spoke eloquently of faith’s security and faith’s rest. The blood on the outside was for salvation, the roast lamb on the table inside was for satisfaction, and the word of Jehovah was faith’s resting place; it gave assurance.

5. Faith’s Obedience to the Will and Word of God (v. 29)

The children of Israel were in dire straits at the Red Sea. They encountered difficulties immediately when they started on their journey out of Egypt. Pharaoh, repenting of having let them go, hurled all his hosts on their track. Before them rolled the waters of death. But God said, “Go forward.” Faith, acting upon the word of God, found an open way through death to life, light and liberty.

6. Faith’s Triumph, Victory Over the World (v. 30)

The world’s stronghold crumbles into dust before the marching hosts of the people of God. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” No one! Faith knows that this world is doomed; its bulwarks will crash soon. Meanwhile we seek to blow faithfully on our ram’s horn trumpet, displaying the Ark—Christ—to the doomed and perishing multitudes.

7. Faith’s Reception into Another Relationship than that of the World (v. 31)

Faith raised Rahab from the place of degradation that was hers, among a doomed race, and gave her a place among the people of God. The scarlet line not only marked her safety, it bound her to the people who were to possess the land. She possessed with them, marrying one of the princes in Israel.

Thus, in all these instances, faith is seen to shine the brightest when the times are darkest; gain its greatest victories when the foe is strongest; obtain its best blessings when all fails but God.

The next list presents a “Milky Way” of worthies that shine out in times of declension. We can only mention them briefly. Again we notice a sevenfold summing up (verse 32).

    1. Gideon, whose faith found God’s strength sufficient in weakness.

    2. Barak, whose faith, though faltering, found help in the fellowship of another.

    3. Samson, whose faith was seen in Nazariteship; in separation he realized God’s power.

    4. Jephthah, whose faith trusted God to keep His word, and he kept his.

    5. David, whose faith waited God’s time with patience.

    6. Samuel, whose faith was seen in dependence on God. Above all else he was a man of prayer.

    7. The Prophets, whose faith could pierce the present darkness and hail the coming day of God’s deliverance and glory.

Two distinct companies complete the lists. One a group of those whose faith triumphed (vv. 33-35), “and others” whose faith suffered and bore. Of these last it would be said, “Of whom the world was not worthy,” for the faith that endures is greater than the faith that conquers. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Gathered Gleanings

V. 1. This is not a definition of faith, but a description of its effects. Perfect certainty of realization is the effect of faith. The definition of faith is that it “sets to its seal that God is true.”

The thing that produces faith is the Spirit of God bringing home the word with power.

V. 3. Faith here is spoken of in connection with creation. Creation is absolutely unknown by reason. Darwin in his Origin of Species never gets to the origin, and owns he cannot prove that any species ever did originate after the fashion he decrees.

Vv. 3, 4. Adam was a worshipper in the garden by faith. Now some say that they can still worship God in nature; but when we left innocency we left creation as a temple, and we cannot go back there. Nature was a temple to Adam but if I go back there I go back to Cain. Worship is on the basis of redemption. We come to Abel and to revelation. We are sinners and revelation which unfolds redemption must build us a temple.

V. 24. Providence is no guide for faith. Moses saw in his brethren (though a feeble people) the people of God and he identified them as such with the glory of God.

The same faith that saw glory at the end of the path, saw God for him all the way. Called to glory, faith forsakes Egypt. God had not placed the glory there.

Faith brings the unseen world very near and makes it very real.