AUSTRALIAN PRESBYTERIAN BIBLE CHURCH
August 15, 2004
TAKE THE FLIGHT OF FAITH TO ITS DESTINATION … Hebrews 11:32-33A
From Hebrews 11:1 we have been pursuing the illustrations of faith. At first, we learned that
“Faith is the foundational assurance of things hoped for, the concurrent evidencing and evidence-based conviction of things not seen.”
We have surveyed the creation and the wonders of the leaders God sent as history developed towards the Messiah. Now we have further illustrations.
“And what more shall I say ? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthath also of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises…”
I Barak – Judges 4
III Gideon – Judges 6
II Jephthah – Judges 11
IV Samson – Judges 13-16
I First comes Barak.
Israel, now in their promised land, acted in a most unpromising manner. As a result of their evils, God allowed Jabin of Canaan to rule over them. Deborah was a Hebrew prophetess whom God anointed, and she challenged Barak to lead the armed forces in revolt against this oppressive intruder from among the very people, long active in entire corruption, whom they were sent to displace. “If you will go with me, then I will go …” was the reply she gained from Barak. She agreed but insisted, There will be no glory for you! Needing a woman in war was not deemed apt for the man on the plane: nevertheless, if needed, she would go, and she went with him.
In a great victory, where Barak led well, they pursued the enemy, but according to the word of Deborah, it was a matronly lady, Jael, who killed the enemy king who, seeking refuge in her tent, was given food, but then literally nailed to death in his sleep. Despite Barak’s need for company, he won, and despite the difficulty for Deborah, the nation prevailed; and it was all by faith, the challenge to Israel from the first, now in more measure being met. Deborah’s song is in Judges 5.
With us, it is not a people to be removed but a sin to be denied, and it is not a victory over flesh and blood enemies, but over spiritual lack of vision, vigour or confidence. On this, read Psalm 27.
II Next example is that of GIDEON.
In Judges 6 we find another nation ruling over Israel, the Midianites. In this chapter, you note first the intensity of Gideon when the Angel of the Lord called him to work to deliver Israel (6:11-16). Then to be noted is his sense of reality (6:17-18), for he called for evidence of the Lord’s commission to him. He asked the Lord to wait for his sacrifice, and the Lord did (ask and receive!), and then brought fire from heaven to consume it: there was the sign! How often our duty is simple: do what God says, ask in faith and wait for HIM to make the move! Notice in 6:22 that Gideon REALISED with whom he was dealing, and so could act with assurance in the trial to come.
In 6:25-28, the PLAN comes, and having destroyed his father’s idol, he is then amazingly supported by his parent when the people demand death for him! “If he is a god, let him plead for himself!” said the father, of the idol, ‘Baal’ (an imaginary god). Gods should have power!
Gideon then summoned Israel to come to fight their oppressors. Since God can act, Gideon asked for a further test. He would put out a fleece, and if this were wet, but not the ground on night one, well; but if it were a second time put out, and this time, the fleece was dry, but the ground wet, he would believe (it reminds one of Thomas as in John 20:14ff.!).
Men ready to fight came to Gideon’s call in such numbers that a selection was called for by God, to show that it was HIS power that counted. Fears ? then go home. In this way only a few remained, but still too many. The famous test for the Army: lap or kneel and drink direct from the river, was given to Gideon by God, and choosing the latter group, those using hands, he had only 300 men left (Judges 7). Following the plan of God, he checked the feeling of the enemy camp by a secret visit, and then using hollow jugs and lighted flares, and trumpets, he made a vast concerned sound and motion down to the Midianite camp at night; and they fled. He lived long after that triumph and his case focusses METHOD and PLAN.
III A later example is that of JEPHTHAH (Judges 11).
The son of a harlot (remember, at the fall of Jericho, Rahab WAS one before her conversion), he was ostracised and left his family, when young, only to be recalled to act in valour as commander of Israel’s forces against Ammon, who had decided to make war on the nation. Finding agreement that if he led and won he would be king, Jephthah had dialogue with Ammon, pointing out that their claim was historically false (any territory of theirs was first taken by Canaan, and only then as of Canaan, taken by Israel, but despite bad treatment, Israel had NOT taken from Ammon). LET THE LORD JUDGE BETWEEN US! he cried. The battle was won.
A fascinating aspect was the RASH VOW that Jephthah made – which appears to mean in the culture of the day, that if he were given victory, the first person whom he saw coming out of his house, after it, would be devoted entirely to the Lord. His daughter was that one, and it seems she therefore did not marry but became a religious worker. This counsels us to leave power to God and not to put in merely human concepts to induce Him: TRUST is the way!
IV SAMSON Judges 13-15 Here is strength.
Called by the Lord, his parents brought him up in a holy way, called that of Nazirite. His hair would not be cut, nor liquor come to his lips. In time a series of challenges and involvement with the Philistines arose in which Samson’s prodigious strength even led at one point to his LIFTING BOTH THE DOORS OF THE GATES AND THE GATEPOSTS as he thus made exit and escaped, carrying the whole contraption to the top of the hill. In another case, he was seen killing thousands with the jaw-bone of an ass, possibly inset with a blade. He struck terror in hearts and could almost act as he pleased; but in some things he did not please God, alerting us to the fact that FAITH must be PURE and in GOD, not merely an active observer of divine strength. Foolishly, Samson sought a bad woman of the Philistines, and foolish about her, was asked time and again where his strength lay. He lied, but she persisted until one night, he told her, so that his hair, symbol of sanctity and calling, was cut.
It was not so much the breach of the symbol, but all that went before which this simply summed u,p which led to his downfall, and having him now in their power, they put out his eyes, and made him an object of mirth, pulling weights around like an animal.
Faith enters when Samson, agonised and abased, at last, his hair grown, looked to the Lord and asked for the power with which to pull down two pillars under a large sporting structure where Philistines were having fun: gaining it he of course killed himself under the collapsing structure, but some 5000 of them as well, thus by death bringing more life to Israel, and so entering the heroic list. He teaches us also that faith must actually ASK and EXPECT from the Lord, as well as REST in His power and be purified by His mercy, love and Spirit, covered by sacrifice, and led in heart. So, despite considerable faults, did faith by grace have results. Therefore be strong in faith! and despair not at all. With God, NOTHING shall be called impossible! (Luke 1:37).