Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength
February 23 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28

Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Formations lesson for March 11: Faith as a Source of Strength

By Ken Vandergriff Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28 Martin Luther stated that "faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake" ("Preface to Romans"). No Old Testament hero better exemplifies Luther's statement than Moses, to whom our attention turns today. His faith did provide him an unshakable assurance in the face of seemingly impossible tasks; yet his faith also thrust him into situations that must have seemed like a thousand deaths.

Moses' confident faith The writer of Hebrews recalls four episodes from the life of Moses which depict his faith. The first actually celebrates the faith of Moses' parents; in defiance of the pharaoh's order to drown all Hebrew boy infants, they hid the baby as an act of faith.

Second, the adult Moses chose to identify himself with the downtrodden Hebrew slaves, rather than with Pharaoh's household (vv. 24-26). We know almost nothing of Moses' upbringing. Exodus 2 is sparse with details. We are told simply that when he was an adult, he saw the forced labor of his people and, upon seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed him. He could have ignored the beating, but by that public act he rejected his Egyptian upbringing and cast his lot with the slaves. For the writer of Hebrews, that was an act of faith. According to the striking statement of v. 26, Moses considered abuse to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. What a paradoxical thing faith is!

Third, Moses left Egypt by faith, unafraid of the pharaoh. We should note how different this depiction is from that of Exodus 2:14-15. According to Exodus, Moses was afraid and fled for his life; for the writer of Hebrews, he left unafraid because he saw the invisible God. This difference of presentation is a good place for reflection. The same act is seen as a response of understandable fear (Exodus) and as an act of faith (Hebrews). For the writer of Hebrews, the one act cannot be separated from the totality of Moses' life. That's encouraging; sometimes we act out of impulse or fear, but our total life of faith casts those instances in a new and better light.

Fourth, Moses kept the Passover by faith. Can you imagine killing an animal and smearing blood on your doorpost in public view? If Moses were wrong about Passover, he would have been a public fool. But by faith he did it, trusting that God would vindicate the act.

The trials of faith The writer of Hebrews focuses on the victories of Moses' faith. We do well to consider other incidents as well. Often, his faithfulness brought problems. Faith brought him into confrontation with Pharaoh because the Egyptians considered Pharaoh to be god on earth. A simple command from Pharaoh could have brought Moses' life to an end. Because of his faith Moses became the leader of a motley group of whining, complaining, often unfaithful people (Exod. 32; Num. 14). Sometimes Moses had to lead this ragtag group in battle (Num. 21). His faith led to frustration as much as to comfort. Rarely have heroes of faith led lives of ease.

Before we leave this chapter of Hebrews, it is instructive to recognize some of the other heroes of faith mentioned. Rahab (v. 31) and Jephthah (v. 32) prompt an important question for our reflection: can persons who commit morally objectionable acts still be persons of faith? This is a timely question, since all too frequently in recent years Christians have attacked other Christians, declaring that "he cannot be a Christian if he commits that act or holds to that particular belief." Yet Rahab was a prostitute - morally objectionable; Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter - also morally objectionable. Even Moses killed a man in a fit of anger. Nevertheless, they all are considered heroes of faith.

Hebrews 11, then, gives us much to reflect upon. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for; faith is a source of strength even though faith may bring on trials; and even persons who commit morally objectionable acts may be persons of faith.

Faith is a mysteriously complex thing.

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2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , Hebrews 11:1-3, 23-28 | with 0 comments
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