Today we learn about ‘blue-sky thinking’! Hebrews 11 is one of the most critical chapters in the whole Bible. We read in 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf”. Yesterday’s chapter ended with the confident words: “We…belong…to those who have faith and are saved” (10:39). The obvious topic to dig deeper into is ‘Faith’, therefore.
If hope is our anchor, then faith is the chain that connects us to it! Hebrews 11 attempts to define and model how faith works. The first verse is the key to it all, and it reads best in the Amplified Version: “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].”
The two main things in life that people are perhaps most afraid of are ‘the future’ and ‘the unseen’. Faith deals with them both: it brings future blessings into the present day, and it makes the invisible visible.
Firstly, then, look at our world (11:3). The universe did not come into existence by accident or random chance (indeed one of the few things that God cannot create is randomness!) and life did not slowly form by a metamorphosis from some kind of primeval ‘soup’. The universe was conceived by the Father’s design and birthed at his command – out of nothing. Science will not help you prove this fact – and indeed, some scientists have a vested interest in proving the very opposite – but faith decides to place its trust in the statements of God in the scriptures.
Enoch lived only 365 years! He ‘died’ young, compared with his father Jared who lived 962, and his son Methuselah at 969. You might imagine that he had been punished for living a wicked life. But ‘no’, it was the very opposite: He was taken straight into heaven by God since he had pleased him so much by his faith. In fact, if you want to please God, you must have faith; your starting point is to believe that he is – His identity as Creator God and Lord (before you can go any further) – and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).
Noah has never seen rain in his life. But he believed God’s warning of the flood, built the ark, and so was saved. It is interesting that Hebrews 11:7 adds that he condemned the world by his faith, and he himself inherited righteousness by that faith.
Abraham left all home comforts and became a nomad in order to find God’s Promised Land. He looked for even more: a better city and a new country, down from heaven, whose architect and builder is God himself. He believed that he and Sarah would bear a son, and therefore they did, ultimately birthing an entire nation. Later, he did not hesitate to start to sacrifice his son, since he knew that God’s sworn promise was more certain than death itself.
Moses’ parents were not afraid of the future because of their faith in the One who commands it. Therefore, they obeyed God rather than Pharaoh. Moses himself, as a forty-year-old man, by faith left his comfortable life in the royal household and risked Pharaoh’s anger, because his faith saw Him who is invisible.
In the great list of men of faith (11:32-40), there are times of great power, success, victory, miracles, and wisdom; but there are also rejections, mocking, persecutions, torture, imprisonment, and numerous agonizing deaths. “The world was not worthy of these people”. We must be warned that faith does not always give us a smooth ride in this life – it’s not a kind of spiritual ‘hovercraft’ skimming above the bumps and potholes of life – but rather it enables us to bear all life’s trials and to emerge victorious in Christ, whatever their outcome. “In all things, we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us…” (Romans 8:37-39). Faith produces that.
The final point made by chapter 11 is that faith needs patience to work effectively. Even those great men and women of God who lived millennia ago needed to wait for what was promised to them. That inheritance was actually the Messiah. We and they together will be made perfect in Him and inherit all He has and all He is.
EZEKIEL 22 and 23
Sex. Adultery. Prostitution. If the Prophet Ezekiel wanted to grab his readers’ attention, then he probably succeeded beyond his wildest dreams! This kind of stuff sells newspapers, didn’t he know!
In fact, the author of Ezekiel chapter 23 was, of course, the Lord himself. It is one of the more ‘graphic’ passages of scripture and is a kind of extended allegory that lists the sins and sinfulness of Israel – the Northern Kingdom – and Judah without pulling any punches.
Prostitution and adultery represent the idolatry that the nations engaged in – which in God’s book is spiritual adultery. The difference between adultery and prostitution – both of which break the marriage vows – is that the first is done for lust and the second for loot! But the actions are one and the same. God’s “wives” were promiscuous in the extreme – first with the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, then the Babylonians – it was never-ending!
The key to understanding this chapter is to understand the emotions of God as a cuckolded husband who has discovered his wife having a sordid affair with another man, whom she finds either more attractive or wealthier than her true husband. For some reason (not having experienced these emotions myself!) the distraught husband feels the need to go over every single detail of the adulterous affair: dates, times, places, what happened exactly, who did what… etc. And the Lord seems no different in his grief and in his anger. (You can read the passage for yourselves.)
God took the nation out of Egypt, away from their obsession with Egyptian ‘gods’, and for a while, all was ‘happy families’. But then the entire nation, particularly the ten Northern tribes, became obsessed with Assyrian idol-gods, rejecting the Lord and his temple in Jerusalem. So, in the end, these tribes were ‘divorced’, and given into the hands of their ‘wonderful’ Assyrian lovers, who not surprisingly did not treat them well. Most of the attraction of lust is the un-attainable, and it soon dissipates when the object of that lust becomes readily available. Assyria took Israel into exile, and she was never seen again.
Her ‘sister’, Judah, failed to learn her lesson and soon became inflamed with the gods of Babylon, with whom she committed adultery, by devoting herself to Babylon’s idols – rejecting the Lord again in the process. More graphic descriptions follow.
God has had enough; he has decided to “put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution” that Judah began in Egypt. Therefore, he gives Judah the same punishment that he gave Israel – handing her over to her lovers, divorcing her, and letting them do their worst. The New Testament scriptures tell us that sexual immorality still brings God’s punishment upon mankind (even Christians! – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). God was certainly not permitting Judah to get away with spiritual adultery any longer. The punishment in the Law for a human adultery was ‘stoning by the mob’; in keeping with this, the Lord brought the mob (Babylonia) to Jerusalem to punish Judah finally for their infidelity.
He ends: “Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord” (23:49).