Friday, September 23

By Faith the People of Israel

This is the fourteenth post in a series from Hebrews 11. You'll find all the posts done so far in this series listed here.

Next on the list of faithful ancients given to us in Hebrews 11 are the people of Israel. Our author lists two examples of times when they acted in faith. One example occurs right after Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and the other takes place when the Israelites are conquering the promised land.
By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if on dry ground, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were swallowed up. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after the people marched around them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:29-30 NET)

It's interesting, isn't it, that the author of Hebrews uses the people of Israel as examples of faith? I'm reading Exodus right now, and it seems from the Exodus account that they were more often fickle than faithful. Over and over again, they lost their eternal perspective and complained about things that were happening to them in the temporal realm, but in these two instances, they acted in faith.

First, the text tell us that it was by faith that they crossed the Red Sea. You'll remember that the people had just left Egypt because God had acted miraculously on their behalf. However, when the armies of the Egyptians came after them and they saw no way out , they were terrified and complained to Moses.
"Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the desert? What in the world have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Was this not what we told you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert." (Exodus 14: 11-12 NET)
To save them, God divides the waters of the Red Sea so the people can cross. And cross they did, and that took faith. In order to walk across the sea bed as if their path through the sea were dry ground, they had to trust God to keep on holding back those alarming walls of water water on each side of them. Their trusting obedience saved them from the Egyptians, who came after them and were swallowed in the sea as the walls of water came tumbling down again.

The second example of the faith of the people of Israel comes in the story of the fall of the walls of the city of Jericho, recounted for us in Joshua 6. Can you imagine how silly all that marching around the city must have seemed to anyone who was not acting in faith? But the people trusted God and followed his instructions in faith, and he acted on their behalf. On the seventh day
[t]he rams' horns sounded and when the army heard the signal, they gave a loud battle cry. The wall collapsed and the warriors charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. (Joshua 6:20 NET)
Their faith in God had been warranted, and because they obeyed him out of faith they are included in this list of faithful people here in Hebrews.
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