I’m so grateful we can be together this morning (both here onsite and for those of you joining us in our Online Campus).
Today we’re continuing our summer series called, Believing God, as we walk through the Heroes of Faith described in Hebrews 11.
--Now, they’re not heroes because they were perfect.
--They’re not heroes because they always did the right thing.
--They’re recorded as heroes because at key moments in their life, the obeyed and trusted God.
That’s been true for every person we’ve looked at from Abel to Moses, but today we focus on a group of people:
The nation of Israel.
The title of today’s message is called “The Possibility of Faith.”
Not whether faith itself is possible, but rather, what becomes possible when you live a life of faith.
Now, if you know anything about the history of Israel, it may be surprising that they made the list, because they failed over and over again.
Sometimes they struggled with their faith and other times they completely abandoned it.
They don’t really sound like heroes of faith, do they?
Yet they’re listed here (as a community) because when they DID move forward in faith together, incredible, impossible things happened.
And when we struggle in our faith, we should remember that God wants to do impossible things in our lives too.
Write this in your message outline or notes:
>> Faith sees the IMPOSSIBLE become POSSIBLE.
Do you want to see God do incredible, impossible things in your life?
Do we want to see God do incredible, impossible things through us as a church?
Then we must seek a life of faith together, pursuing Christ and God’s purpose for us as a community of believers.
B. MAIN MESSAGE
Let’s jump into our text. We’re in Hebrews 11, verse 29. (Pg. 972 in the BAB or Bible tab in our online campus)
It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned. It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
Hebrews 11:29–30 (NLT)
So, the author of Hebrews points out two major events in the history of Israel:
--The crossing of the Red Sea as they left Egypt, and
--The capture of Jericho when they entered Promised Land—two circumstances where faith saw the impossible become possible.
Let’s look at each one.
The first impossibility that faith offers is this:
B. Through faith, we experience…
1. Impossible RESCUE.
It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
Hebrews 11:29 (NLT)
Now, I don’t want you to miss the importance of this being included here.
Remember, the author of Hebrews is writing to Jewish believers who have accepted Christ as the Messiah.
He’s taking lessons of faith from the most revered men and women in the Jewish Torah (or what we call the first five books of the Old Testament) and applying those lessons to their new faith in Christ as Jews.
When we read about the parting of the Red Sea, we think it’s miraculous.
But try to grasp what the original Jewish readers would have felt when they came to this sentence in the letter.
This is the most important event in Jewish Scripture.
The parting of the Red Sea is as precious to the Jews as the Resurrection is to us.
So, when the author of Hebrews ties the miracle of the Red Sea to our faith in Christ, it is an invitation to the most profound intimacy with God.
It would have been emotional and powerful to them to read.
Let’s honor that in our own hearts as we walk through this.
Last week, when J.C. talked about Moses, he described the final plague God sent to Egypt and that led Pharaoh to let the people of God go.
The descendants of Abraham had been enslaved for 400 years, and now they’re leaving Egypt.
But Pharaoh had a habit of changing his mind. So, in Exodus 14, that’s exactly what happens.
I wish we had time to read the whole chapter (and I encourage you to do that this week) but let me highlight a couple things.
The Israelites have packed up and started their journey, but Pharaoh and his officials decide to take every available chariot, horse and soldier in the most powerful nation on Earth to chase down their slaves and bring them back.
So, God leads the Israelites to a very specific place on the edge of the Red Sea where they seem trapped.
They’re trapped with the Red Sea in front of them, mountains on both sides, and a fast-approaching army behind them.
The rebel Israelites are like, “It’s a Trap!” and Pharaoh is bearing down on them like Darth Vader saying, “I have you now!” right?!
This is an impossible situation and the Israelites begin to complain to Moses, “Why did you bring us here to die?!”
But even in their fear and in their complaining, the Israelites did one thing right...
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD …
Exodus 14:10 (NLT)
They cried out to God.
--And even though they were frightened,
--Even though they were yelling at Moses…
--God responded to the glimmer of faith they showed in calling out to Him.
… Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Exodus 14:13–14 (NLT)
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt paralyzed by your circumstances?
Have you ever felt like there was nowhere to go?
Do you feel like your trapped on all sides with your circumstances bearing down on you?
In the panic of your impossibilities, don’t forget that the Lord Himself will fight for you.
Look what God says to Moses:
… “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.
Exodus 14:15–16 (NLT)
I love that God basically tells them to stop whining and start moving.
(We can each decide if there’s an application for our own lives there.)
And then, the Angel of the Lord moved from the front of the Israelite camp and as night fell, The Lord appeared as a pillar of fire between the Israel and Egyptian camps.
And when Moses raised his hand, an East wind blew all night, parting the Red Sea.
And then the Israelites began to cross the dry seabed with water towering over them on each side.
And you might say, how is that faith?
They had nowhere else to go and they were complaining the whole time.
But do you know when my faith became real? When I had nowhere else to go.
Remember, the only assurance they had that the water wasn’t going to come crashing down on them half-way across was God’s promise.
Sometimes, faith means moving forward in God’s promise even when you’re afraid.
God had been working on their behalf all along, but it wasn’t until they started moving forward in faith that they saw how God was fighting for them.
--The Lord confuses the Egyptian army.
--He twists their chariot wheels.
--He prevents them from catching up to the Israelites.
And we all know that once the Israelites safely reached the other side, the waters came crashing down and the Egyptians were washed out to the sea.
The section of Hebrews we’re studying is about faith.
So, I think it’s significant that the author of Hebrews not only highlights how the Israelites crossed the red sea, but adds that:
… when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
Hebrews 11:29b (NLT)
I think the author is not only commenting on the faith of Israel, but the lack of faith in Egypt.
Look at what the Egyptians say in the middle of the miracle just before they drown.
… “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt!”
Exodus 14:25b (NLT)
And where it says “LORD,” the Egyptians were actually using the personal name of God.
The Hebrew says, “Yhwh is fighting for them”
In their final moments, they recognized the one true God! But they still rejected Him.
I wonder what might have happened if they cried out to Him instead of trying to run from Him.
Knowing who God is and having faith in Him are not the same thing.
The Israelites were fleeing evil, and God provided an impossible rescue.
They were fleeing evil… but they were also moving toward God’s promise.
And that brings us to our second impossibility.
B. Through faith, we experience…
2. Impossible RESULTS.
And in your notes, I want you to put in parenthesis next to the word “results, Victory and Triumph.
When we move toward the promises of God in faith,
we see impossible Results in our lives,
impossible victory in our battles,
and impossible triumph in our purpose.
That’s what the author of Hebrew addresses next.
It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
Hebrews 11:30 (NLT)
God had made a promise to the children of Abraham more than 500 years earlier, and this was finally the moment.
The fall of Jericho was the first stop in the fulfillment of that promise in the Promised Land.
We’ll cover this in more detail next week, but Jericho was already terrified of Israel when they arrived.
They had heard about the Red Sea, they had heard about how God was with them in the desert… so Jericho had locked themselves up behind the walls of their city.
Israel comes out of the desert,
God parts the Jordan River as they cross,
and they are prepared to go to war,
ready to claim the promise of God.
So, Israel marches in and takes the city, right? Nope.
Joshua, Chapter 5. Watch this:
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to Him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” He replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at Your command,” Joshua said. “What do You want Your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.
Joshua 5:13–15 (NLT)
Now, most Biblical scholars agree that Joshua is having a direct, physical encounter with Jesus Christ—the commander of the Lord’s army.
We know Joshua’s not talking to an angel because the man not only accepts Joshua’s worship, but commands it.
Where else do we see someone commanded to take off their sandals because they’re standing on Holy ground?
Moses at the burning bush, right?
This is the Lord Himself.
And I think there’s a real lesson in the Lord’s response to Joshua’s question here.
“Are you friend or foe?”
Other translations say:
“Are you for me or are you for my enemies?”
And the Lord says, “Neither.”
In other words, The Lord is not beholden to any earthly orders.
Joshua was essentially asking, “Whose soldier are you?” But his perspective was all wrong.
The Lord is saying, “I’m no one’s soldier. You’re My soldier”
In the battles of our lives, we must be careful how we approach God with that question.
Because sometimes, when we say “God, are You for me or against me?” what we really mean is “Are You ready to serve me?”
I love this story:
During the Civil War, when Lincoln was fighting against the sin of slavery and racism, a pastor—a pastor approached the president and said, “I hope the Lord is on our side.”
And Lincoln corrected the pastor. He said:
“I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
God fought for the Israelites at the Red Sea.
He fought for them at Jericho.
He will fight for you.
He is FOR you.
Scripture says, “If God is for you, who can ever be against you?” (Romans 8:31)
But we must be diligent in making sure we’re on His mission and not asking Him to join our own.
We must make sure we’re listening for God’s direction at the base of the wall God has told us will fall rather than demanding God conquer a wall we’ve chosen.
So, the Lord doesn’t tell Joshua to lead the armies of Israel to tear down the walls of Jericho by their own strength.
No, God will fulfill His own promise.
Joshua, Chapter 6:
Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
Joshua 6:1–5 (NLT)
That seems like a strange plan but look how it engages their faith.
First, the Lord says, “I HAVE given you Jericho.”
Past tense, it’s already done.
The outcome is decided.
Second, when are they commanded to give the victory shout?
After the walls fall?
No, Just BEFORE the wall collapses.
Faith comes before the impossible.
Because faith is not the result of miracles.
Miracles are the result of faith.
Can you start to celebrate the victory of God’s promise before the walls of your circumstances fall?
In both examples we see in Hebrews, the faith of Israel is exalted not only for their belief in the outcome, but for their obedience in God’s direction leading up to the outcome.
And so, the Israelites prepare to receive God’s victory before they can see it.
They march around the city once every day for six days with the Ark of the Covenant (and the Ark represents God’s presence with them).
On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the town! … When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.
Joshua 6:15–16, 20 (NLT)
They charged straight into the town and captured it.
Remember what the Lord told Joshua?
He said, " the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
The NLT says, “Straight into,” but in Hebrew it’s actually “each one went straight UP into the city”
That may not seem like a big difference.
But there have been several major archeological digs on Jericho staring with John Garstang’s excavation in the 1930s.
Now, there’s some debate among archeologists about the date of Jericho’s destruction, but you know what all the digs discovered?
That the evidence of Jericho’s burning and destruction match the Biblical account in every way.
And somehow, the walls around the city simply fell straight down. (All except one little section that will be important to us next week).
Look at this diagram:
--When we march toward God’s promise, we see impossible results.
But there’s an even greater impossibility we experience in faith.
It’s subtle, but I think there’s something else significant about the account of Israel’s faith in the book of Hebrews.
Let’s look at what the author of Hebrews says about Israel between the faith they showed at the Red Sea and the fall of Jericho.
Let’s look at that verse.
There’s nothing there.
There’s no Hebrews 11:29.5
And that’s significant, because do you know how much time elapses between verse 29 and verse 30?
The space between those two sentences represents 40 years.
And there’s nothing there because there were no significant acts of faith from the nation of Israel (as a community) in 40 years.
It was four decades of grumbling and disobedience.
So, here’s the question:
Are you caught between verses 29 and 30 in your faith?
Because Israel was supposed to cross the Red Sea, march across the desert, and take Jericho with Moses leading the way.
But they turned their back on God’s promise. They rejected God’s victory for fear and the promise had to wait ANOTHER 40 years.
They’d experienced the miracle of the Red Sea, but when they reached the doorstep of the Promised Land, they refused to trust God.
And because they refused to move forward with the same faith they showed at the Red Sea, the fulfillment of God’s promise was delayed another generation.
But the real significance isn’t that there’s no verse between Hebrews 11:29 and 30.
The true miracle is that there IS a verse 30 at all.
They abandoned God’s purpose for them as a people, and God could have abandoned them.
But there’s a verse 30 because…
B. Through faith, we experience…
3. Impossible RESTORATION.
God’s promise is greater than our failures.
God did not turn His back on Israel and He will not turn His back on you.
Even as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, through all their disobedience and grumbling, God still provided for them.
He protected them from enemies,
He miraculously gave them food every day,
He kept their sandals from wearing out… for forty years!
And He waited until He could fulfill His promise.
Maybe you think you’ve wandered too far.
No, God’s providing for you right now and He’s waiting for you to start walking toward His promise again.
And I think there’s a reason the Lord appears to Joshua using the same words He used with Moses at the burning bush.
I think there’s a reason that the Lord parts the Jordan River for Joshua just like He parted the Red Sea for Moses.
It’s not there to elevate Joshua.
It’s a spiritual renewal—
A reminder that the same God that led them out of Egypt is fighting for them now.
It’s a reminder that God’s covenant stands, and no matter how long we wander away from Him, He waits patiently with open arms, ready to restore and renew His promise as if we’d never fallen.
He stands ready to reset the relationship.
And Israel’s story is my story. I was called to the ministry when I was 14.
I never doubted He was God, I never doubted what I was supposed to be doing… but once I went to college, I said no. I said, “You can’t make me… I’ll do what I want”
And I chose the world over God for 13 years as I defiantly ignored everything God had offered me.
And not a single day in my wandering did I doubt what I was supposed to do, I just refused.
And when the bottom came, I thought I’d wandered too far from God to get Him back.
I shouldn’t be here.
But God’s purpose is greater than our wandering.
His promises are stronger than our lies.
And His restoration is more powerful than our disobedience.
Maybe you need a do-over with God.
Maybe you need to return to the promise He made to you years ago.
Maybe your Red Sea was so long ago that you don’t see the Jordan River He’s ready to part for you now.
And it might seem impossible. But…
>> Faith sees the impossible become possible.
Do you think your marriage is beyond repair?
Faith sees the impossible become possible.
Do you think you’ve experienced too much trauma to find healing?
Faith sees the impossible become possible.
Do you think you’ve wandered too far from God for Him to want you?
Faith sees the impossible become possible.
No matter where you are… no matter what you’ve done, God wants to restore you.
Because the greatest possibility of faith, is the never-ending hope of God’s grace.