Gospel Faith in the Old Testament
The Patriarchs and Joseph
My mission, as we turn back toward Hebrews 11 and Gospel Faith in the Old Testament, is to encourage you to persevere in faithfulness to Father, Son and Spirit and hold the Gospel high in spite of circumstances you may perceive to be gigantic.
I don’t have 3 easy steps for you to take in order to make some magic happen for you today.
What I do offer you is the reality of the providence of Father, Son and Spirit that guides his people and promises that he will work for his glory and our good come what may.
He will never sacrifice his glory for my good and he will never sacrifice my good for his glory. Father is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
So, I offer you not a pragmatic solution to todays challenge. But I do offer you a glimpse at the working of the King of the universe in order that you may be encouraged to run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the found and perfecter of our faith.
Faith is not dependent on the recipient of the faith nor does the recipient of the faith create their faith. Rather, in the providence of God, faith is given, sustained and enacted to accomplish divine ends so that our days can be filled with transcendent purpose and complete joy. – Jolly
God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that (1) he keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them (2) he cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do (3) he directs them to fulfill his purposes. – Wayne Grudem
The writer of Hebrews did not write this letter to the struggling Hebrew Christians under severe persecution in order to exhort them to conjure up some fake optimism that would give solace to their tortured souls. Nor did he write this letter to tell them to buck up and get it done.
The writer of Hebrews wrote to haggard people who have had their property plundered and some had been thrown into prison because they had believed the Gospel.
The writer of Hebrews wrote to the Lord’s people in order to encourage them that Jesus is better than life and that to turn back from following Jesus, even to death, was catastrophic for them because it was destructive to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. By turning back they communicated something to the unbelieving eyes that wondered.
The writer of Hebrews writes to encourage the Christians to persevere in following Jesus as their great God and high priest and he gives them examples of fallen men and women who have been known for their flaws and their obedience to the Lord.
It is vital to understand Hebrews 11 and the faithful mentioned in the full light of Hebrews 12:1-2.
1. These faithful are witnesses to the saving power of the Gospel because they trusted in Jesus.
2. These faithful remind us that we must throw aside all things that weigh us down and run toward Jesus imitating Jesus.
We understand that there are things that will seek to weigh us down and we will be weighed down at times. It’s normal. We are fallen creatures. We must, by God’s grace, repent and run after Jesus.
3. These faithful remind us that Jesus saves flawed people who don’t see the big picture in focus. They just obey as best they can what is in front of them, and Father uses those flawed people for his glory and their great joy.
Remember, Jesus didn’t save you because you were good to make you a better you. Jesus saved you because you were dead and he had mercy on you to pluck you up from a torrent of destruction caused by the fall and he set you on the solid ground of the Gospel in love. Greater things than these you will do now because Jesus has gone to the Father and sent the Spirit to dwell in you. It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. Not of works so that no one will boast.
4. These faithful remind us that we are to imitate who they were imitating, namely, Jesus.
5. These faithful remind us that Father will transform and give purpose anyone who will believe, trust and obey.
6. These faithful remind us that this room is full of people whose lives are full of eternal significance in the Gospel.
You were made to glory in Father, Son and Spirit, and your life is bigger than your current challenge or struggle or success. You were made for Gospel purpose.
Jerry Bridges used the illustration of a tapestry large and ornate as the life of a Christian. The front of the tapestry, full of detail and brilliant design, is the redeemed life completed in Christ. The back of the tapestry, confusing and jumbled and lacking any sort of obvious order, is the process of making us like Christ. Although the daily existence of following the Lord may seem confusing and having no sense the reality is that Father is weaving your existence together for grand Gospel purposes far beyond what you can imagine in eternal Gospel purposes.
So, don’t be discouraged with the apparent set backs and inability to see the end just yet.
Be encouraged. Repent of sin. Obey in the moment. He will work for his glory and your good.
Let’s take a look at how four flawed men obeyed and were counted faithful and how Father worked for his glory and their good.
Abraham offered up Isaac, the promised son, because he believed that Father could raise the dead. Abraham, in faith, served as a type of what was to come in Father sending Son so that Father could kill Son for Abraham’s sake and raise him from the dead. Abraham, in faith, served us in pointing us to the reality of the Gospel.
Did Abraham know the full magnitude of what was happening around him in redemptive history? Did Abraham know fully what was swirling around him in world history? Abraham probably had no clue.
What Abraham did know was that he was led to this place by Father and that he was compelled to obey Father as Father was working something better for him and us (Hebrews 11:39-40).
Isaac spoke prophetic blessing on his children as an instrument of Father’s good and sovereign decision-making.
Did Isaac decide that the older would serve the younger?
“And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—“ (Romans 9:10; Romans 9:11 ESV)
Did Isaac know that there was a proclamation going out to the whole world about the divine prerogative of Father in redeeming his fallen world and bringing justice to the world in order to show the magnitude and grandeur of who Father, Son and Spirit is to all of creation so that Father, Son and Spirit would be all in all?
Isaac probably did not get the magnitude of what he was involved in. What Isaac did know is that he was brought to this place, even through trickery at the hands of Jacob, so that Isaac would obey and trust Father was working something better for him and us (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Jacob blessed his sons as he bowed on his staff in worship before he died. Jacob spoke prophetically, as did Isaac, about the coming of one from whose hand the “scepter” would not depart. Jacob spoke of the coming Messiah who would rule all of Israel (all those of the faith of Abraham from all nations) well.
Did Jacob know the grandeur of the Kingdom he spoke of? Jacob probably did not fully comprehend the magnitude of what he was involved in.
What Jacob did know was that he was worshiping his deliverer and King in trust that Father had a plan for his boys in preserving them through the famine by the hand of his supposed lost son Joseph that the Lord had sent to Egypt to prepare a place of salvation for them.
Joseph, at the end of his days, spoke in faith about the coming time when the Lord would deliver his people from a slavery they did not know they were going to be in through a magnificent even he could not even fathom and gave instructions that, though in bones only, should be part of the event so that even in death there would be a win for God, for him and God’s people.
Did Joseph know the magnitude of the Gospel event he spoke about? He probably did not have a clue to the grandeur of the event he spoke about in faith. What Joseph did know is that Father was faithful and wasted no hurt and no event and that the Lord was faithful and completely able to rescue his people through means larger than life itself.
1. If you have believed the Gospel, Father is a work in your life in ways you can’t even begin to imagine for supreme good in spite of what you perceive and know.
“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust him for his grace. Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.” – William Cowper, God Moves in a Mysterious Way
2. The saints mentioned in Scripture are not our role models, rather, they are fellow aliens and strangers in this world who have sought to imitate Jesus and failed because they are flawed and have been sustained anyway because of Father’s grace and the glory of Father at stake in their salvation.
3. We imitate these saints only to the extent that they imitate Father, Son and Spirit well and we learn from their failures what NOT to do.
4. We learn that the success of the mission of God is not dependent on his saints; rather, we learn that the success of the mission is a forgone conclusion and our participation in that mission is grace, kindness and a great journey of joy in spite of difficulty.
Are you not glad that the future of our nation and advance of the Gospel is not dependent on your vote in November?
This is not a fatalist position. Father is at work in you and in cooperation with you but he is not wringing his hands with the hope of the world leaning in you and I. We have a part, but our part is not determining the outcome of redemptive history. The end is never in question.
Even if we disobey and rebel, Father will get the end done and we will miss the joy and knowledge of Father working in and through us.
5. We learn that Father does not operate by the fallen means of this present world, rather, Father operates by his chosen ends and means and often our behavior will baffle the casual observer of our lives.
A. Liberal givers of resources rather than hoarders of resources
B. People willing to die for the Gospel rather than people scattering to preserve their lives
C. People willing to submit to cruel authority over us so that they may hear the Gospel
6. We learn that the life of faith is one that looks forward to the success of the mission and lives life now based on the mission’s success not our personal success.
7. We learn that the life of faith is not individual only, rather, the life of faith is one that is linked to each other in the Gospel and together we are made holy.
These people’s lives were linked together in the Gospel and Father is building his church through them and us to the completion of the Great Commission and the coming of the Kingdom.
Be encouraged. Repent of sin. Obey in the moment. He will work for his glory and your good.