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Hebrews 11:29-31

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 2, 2018


The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers.

The author expects the readers to be well acquainted with Levitical worship and sacrifice.

He will constantly quote the Old Testament in a way that expects that the reader understands what he’s talking about.

We also know that these believers were encountering very strong persecution.

Times were so bad that some were beginning to wonder if they shouldn’t quit following Jesus.

We will see three elements woven throughout this letter to the Hebrews.

1. Both Testaments

Even though the Old Testament has become “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), the entire book of Hebrews is built upon the clear foundation of the Old Testament.
(Hebrews 8:13 NKJV) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
You aren’t going to understand Hebrews, or even the New Testament correctly unless you learn the Old Testament.

2. Jesus is superior

He’s superior to angels, Moses, and the Torah.
He’s superior to the Levitical priests and their sacrifices.

3. Don’t quit

The ultimate goal of the book is to encourage those who are struggling with difficult times, and help them to endure.

We’ve seen that their survival is going to require faith.

Definition: Faith is trusting something you don’t see.

Faith is trusting when you don’t understand what’s going on.
We talked about other words for “faith” being “belief”, “trust”, or even “counting on”.

Our author has been showing how the great men and women of the Old Testament survived their difficulties because of their “faith”.

Last week we looked at a few of Moses’ opportunities to live by “faith”.

11:29 The Red Sea

:29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

passed throughdiabaino – to pass through, cross over; step across

Aorist active indicative

Rederuthros – red

dryxeros – dry; of the land in distinction from the water

attemptingpeira – a trial, experience, attempt; to attempt a thing, to make trial of a thing or of a person; to have a trial of a thing; to experience, learn to know by experience

were drownedkatapino – to drink down, swallow down; to devour; to swallow up, destroy

:29 they passed through the Red Sea

I see the event at the Red Sea as a picture of the kinds of things we will face in our lives where we are caught in an impossible place with nowhere to go.

Video:  Map to Pi Hahiroth
The Israelites had been led by God through the Sinai Peninsula to Etham, and then down a winding gorge that emptied out on a beach on the Red Sea (10 miles across to Saudi Arabia)
The Egyptian army was closing in behind them, leaving then pinned with their backs against the Sea.
As the Israelites saw the Egyptians closing in, some of them began to complain:
(Exodus 14:11 NKJV) Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?

At this place where there seemed no escape from certain death, God brought about the most amazing deliverance in the history of mankind.

Video: Ten Commandments – Red Sea parted

The Red Sea was not just a place were Israel was saved, it was also a place where the unbelieving Egyptians were destroyed.

Video: Ten Commandments – Egyptians die in Red Sea

Some of you are backed up against a “Red Sea” in your life right now.

It might be a major health issue, and you are worried about how it’s all going to work out.
Some of you may be facing financial issues. You’re not sure how you’re going to pay the bills. You’re not sure if you will be able to find a job in time.
For some of you it’s relationships. These are some of the hardest areas in life to deal with. It might be a marriage that’s falling apart, kids that have gone off the rail, or friendships that have turned sour.
And even if you’re not facing a “Red Sea” today, there will be various times through your life when you will.
How do you get through the Red Sea?  By faith.


Faith to stand

(Exodus 14:13–14 NKJV) —13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
Sometimes you don’t even need to go anywhere.  You just need to stand.
You don’t need to be knocked over.
You don’t need to lie down and quit.
You just need to stand.
God is on our side.
(Romans 8:31 NKJV) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God does not want us swept away by our fears, God wants us to stand, trust Him, and see what He will do.
(Ephesians 6:13 NKJV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Some time ago an article appeared in the Reader’s Digest telling about an unusual tree called the “Bristlecone Pine.” Growing in the western mountain regions, sometimes as high as two or more miles above sea level, these evergreens may live for thousands of years. The older specimens often have only one thin layer of bark on their trunks. Considering the habitat of these trees, such as rocky areas where the soil is poor and precipitation is slight, it seems almost incredible that they should live so long or even survive at all. The environmental “adversities,” however, actually contribute to their longevity. Cells that are produced as a result of these perverse conditions are densely arranged, and many resin canals are formed within the plant. Wood that is so structured continues to live for an extremely long period of time. The author Darwin Lambert says in his article, “Bristlecone Pines in richer conditions grow faster, but die earlier and soon decay.” The harshness of their surroundings, then, is a vital factor in making them strong and sturdy.
Something written by a country farmer…
A stranger came by the other day with an offer that set me to thinking. He wanted to buy the old barn that sits out by the highway. I told him right off he was crazy. He was a city type, you could tell by his clothes, his car, his hands, and the way he talked. He said he was driving by and saw that beautiful barn sitting out in the tall grass and wanted to know if it was for sale. I told him he had a funny idea of beauty.
Sure, it was a handsome building in its day. But then, there’s been a lot of winters pass with their snow and ice and howling wind. The summer sun’s beat down on that old barn till all the paint’s gone, and the wood has turned silver gray. Now the old building leans a good deal, looking kind of tired. Yet, that fellow called it beautiful.
That set me to thinking. I walked out to the field and just stood there, gazing at that old barn. The stranger said he planned to use the lumber to line the walls of his den in a new country home he’s building down the road. He said you couldn’t get paint that beautiful. Only years of standing in the weather, bearing the storms and scorching sun, only that can produce beautiful barn wood.
There is a great beauty that develops in a man or woman who has made the choice to continue standing, even when things get tough.
It may make us a little greyer, but one day we will adorn Our Father’s House in heaven.


Faith to go

The Israelites didn’t make it through their Red Sea experience by just standing.
At some point they had to get up and move forward.
(Exodus 14:15–16 NKJV) —15 And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
There may be times in our lives when God asks us to just “stand”, but you will find that there are also plenty of times when He’s trying to say to us, “What are you just standing there for?  Get up and get moving!”
Some of us may be a little slower than others, but at least we get up and go.
The Israelites didn’t see their full deliverance from Egypt until they got up and did something that had never been done before – they crossed the Sea on dry land with a wall of water on either side.  They did something.

The walls held up as they went to the other side.

There may be some of you being challenged by God to do something that just doesn’t make sense.
You wonder how you could ever pull this thing off.
And you might be right.

If you attempt the impossible and God has not asked you, you’re going to find yourself in trouble.

Yet if God has asked you to “go” and you don’t, you are going to be missing out on one of the most exciting things you’ll ever see – you will see God pull off a miracle.
“The capacity for knowing God enlarges as we are brought by Him into circumstances which oblige us to exercise faith; so, when difficulties beset our path let us thank God that He is taking trouble with us and lean hard upon Him.”

From “Streams in the Desert”, Nov. 3

11:30-31 Jericho

:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.

wallsteichos – the wall around a city, town wall

fell downpipto – to descend from a higher place to a lower; to fall (either from or upon)

encircledkukloo – to go around, lead around; to surround, encircle, encompass

Aorist passive participle

:30 the walls of Jericho fell down after … seven days

After crossing the Red Sea, Israel would wander for forty years in the desert before they were ready to cross the Jordan River and conquer the land that God had promised them under the leadership of Moses’ servant Joshua.

The first city they had to conquer was the city of Jericho, located just west of the Jordan River.
Jericho was an oasis in the desert protected by high walls.

God had a pretty unconventional plan for conquering the city of Jericho (Josh. 6).

Joshua was to have the Israelite army carry the Ark of the Covenant and march around the city once each day for six days.
On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times, blow their trumpets, and give a great shout.
God promised that the walls of the city would fall down, and they would be able to conquer the city.
And that’s exactly what happened.

Over the years I’ve seen people take this story and apply it in some interesting ways.

I’ve seen people march around houses they want to buy.
I’ve known churches who would hold “Jericho marches” around city hall.
But to be honest, I don’t think God was setting up a formula to copy when it comes to conquering something.  This is the only time in the Bible someone held a “Jericho march”.

I do wonder if God wasn’t at least painting a picture for us of a principle He’d like us to learn.


Persevering Faith

Our writer has reminded us that faith was involved in the bringing down of Jericho’s walls.
God had told them to march around the city.
God promised to bring down the walls.
So because they trusted, they kept marching.
They didn’t just march around the city once and quit.
They marched around the city for six days without seeing anything change.
On the seventh day they marched around the city seven more times, with still no change.
It wasn’t until they finished their marching, blew the trumpets and let out their shout that the walls came down.
Yesterday at the Men’s Breakfast Lyle Burley gave a message about becoming useful to God.
His message was based on:
(2 Peter 1:5–8 NKJV) —5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Learning to cultivate these qualities in our lives is what makes us useful to God.
Lyle shared about his hobby of making board games by hand out of wood.  He showed us a couple of small blocks of wood that he intends to carve into game pieces.  The pieces aren’t useful at the moment because they haven’t been shaped or painted.  You can’t tell if a piece is a pawn or a King.
You and I become more useful to God if we allow Him to shape us.  Sometimes that means some of our rough edges have to be knocked off.
Peter was telling us in 2Pet. 1:6 that two things that help knock off those rough edges and make us more useful are “self-control” and “perseverance”.

Self-control is learning to march around the city of Jericho when you need to … once.

Perseverance is marching around it day after day.

Are you struggling with things in your life that need to be “conquered”?
Is there a sin in your life that you need to do better at dealing with? Bad habits?
I’ll bet God has already given you some commands about conquering those things.

It might be simple commands like:

(2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV) Flee also youthful lusts…

(Romans 6:13 NKJV) And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

(1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV) Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

(Psalm 101:3 NKJV) I will set nothing wicked before my eyes…

(Galatians 6:7–8 NKJV) —7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

It might be facing the reality that you need some counseling in your life about issues you’ve been reluctant to deal with.

It might be some of those “steps” in the twelve step program you’re a part of.  Or maybe you need to start a twelve step program.

Practice doing those things.  Keep marching around those walls.
Watch God take useless blocks of wood and carve something useful with them.

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

RahabRhaab Ῥαάβ

Her name is also translated into Greek as:

RahabRhachab Ῥαχάβ

the harlotπόρνη – a woman who sells her body for sexual uses; a prostitute, a harlot

perish withsunapollumi – to destroy together; to perish together (to be slain along with)

Aorist middle indicative

those who did not believeapeitheo – not to allow one’s self to be persuaded; to refuse or withhold belief; to refuse belief and obedience; not to comply with

Aorist active participle

had receiveddechomai – to take with the hand; to take up, receive

Aorist middle participle

spieskataskopos – an inspector, a spy

Some want to make Rahab out to be a fine upstanding business woman who simply ran an “motel”.

And the word translated “harlot” in the Hebrew is ishah, which simply means “woman” or “wife”

But the word used in the New Testament is clearly a “harlot”, a prostitute.

:31 the harlot Rahab did not perish

Rahab’s story takes place a few chapters before the fall of Jericho (Josh. 2).

Before Israel crossed the Jordan River to conquer Jericho, Joshua sent two spies to check out the city and give him a report back.

When the spies came into the city, they stopped at the house of a harlot named Rahab and planned on staying the night there.
The king of Jericho heard about the spies at Rahab’s house and sent messengers demanding that she turn them over.  She lied to the messengers and said they had already left.
As she hid the spies that night, she told them that all the people had heard about the Red Sea parting and the Israelites conquering the Amorites.
(Joshua 2:11 NKJV) And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

She knew the Israelites were bringing judgment and she asked that she and her family be spared.

Rahab had a couple of strikes against her when it came to surviving the coming judgment of God.

She was a prostitute.
Some people want to try and say she was just the manager of a local Motel Six, but the Greek word in our text is πόρνη, which is a woman who sells her body for sexual uses.
She was a Canaanite.
She was a part of a culture that had become so corrupt and degenerate that God had decided their time was up and judgment was coming.
She was a part of a people whom God forbade His people to have anything to do with.

We can sometimes think that there’s no escaping the penalty to our sins.

Video:  Karma comes back to you

Going against “karma”, Rahab would not only survive the initial destruction of Jericho, she and her family would be welcomed into the community of the nation of Israel. She would marry an Israelite named Salmon and become the mother of Boaz, from whose line was King David and ultimately Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 1:5).

(Matthew 1:5 NKJV) Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,
Our author simply tells us she “did not perish”.


Jesus saves sinners

Rahab was a prostitute.  She was a sinner.  She was saved by the God of Israel.
She was saved because she had “faith”.

She heard about what God had done for Israel.

She wanted to be a part of what God was doing.

James tells us that her faith was the real thing.  She didn’t just have “sit on the couch” faith, she had “get up and serve Jesus” faith.
(James 2:25 NKJV) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

Her faith led to a lifetime of following God’s ways, starting with the protection of the spies that Joshua had sent.

Jesus has a history with sinners.
When Jesus was eating dinner with some Pharisees, a “sinner” woman came into the room (Luke 7:47), began weeping, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.

While the Pharisees were aghast that Jesus was allowing a “sinner” to even touch Him, Jesus responded by forgiving the woman.

The paralytic was lowered down through the roof by his four friends to Jesus.  They thought his greatest need was healing.

(Mark 2:5 NKJV) When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

Jesus knew the man’s greatest need was forgiveness. And then He healed him.

When the man who had been blind from birth (John 9) was brought to Jesus, the disciples wondered whose sin had caused the blindness.  Jesus replied that it was no one’s sin that had caused it.  And then he healed the man.
And then there was the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery (John 8)

This is from the 1977 move, “Jesus of Nazareth”

Video:  Jesus of Nazareth – Woman caught in adultery

Paul was a man who had made it his life’s ambition to wipe out Christianity.

And then he found Jesus.
In his later years, Paul would write,
(1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV) This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
Paul also wrote about how Jesus is able to forgive sins.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT) For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

You might think you’re beyond help, but I’m here to tell you today that God wants to save you from the judgment to come.

Rahab herself would tell you that it’s true.