More than any other book in the New Testament, Hebrews makes its point through biography. The preacher illustrates warnings about drifting away from God’s promises through the exodus generation of Israelites who–at the doorstep of the Promise Land–refused to believe God’s promises and died in the wilderness. He explains the call to walk by faith by more than a dozen biographical sketches in Hebrews 11, stories of faithful Israelites the audience knew from childhood. Indeed, the theme of Hebrews–“Faith Fixed on Jesus”–calls God’s people not only to trust in Jesus as Savior, sacrifice, and High Priest, but also to look to him as a model of faithful endurance through trials (Hebrews 3:1-6, 12:1-4).
The way the preacher of Hebrews employs these stories should inform how we tell them to others, whether at the church, the office, or the children’s bedside. We have a tendency of reducing these biographical nuggets to morality tales that become a new law with no gospel. I must be persistent like Moses, brave like David, and wise like Solomon. While this may be true, the way we are called to exhibit these traits is not by emulating the behavior of these historical figures but rather by exercising the same trust toward God that they did. Thus Hebrews 11 prefaces all of the biographies with the phrase, “By faith…” Their stories are told not so I can gauge how I would speak to Pharaoh or stare down Goliath, but to challenge my trust in God’s wisdom, power, and supremacy in my present circumstances. The “By faith” stories from ancient Canaan, Egypt, and Israel can inspire my “By faith” story that is being written with the challenging job situation, the gospel-resistant neighbor, or the health disorder.
With this in mind, we are going to supplement our series through Hebrews with an extended time of hearing the story of one of the most extraordinary heroes of persevering faith: Joseph. Betrayed by his brothers, falsely accused by his employer’s wife, and forgotten by those he helped, Joseph experienced more trials in his lifetime than many of us combined. Yet he somehow exercised an unwavering faith in the God of his father Jacob, grandfather Isaac, and great-grandfather Abraham. “By faith” Joseph modeled what it meant to experience the presence of God and be a blessing to others whether in prison or the palace. His story will challenge our “By faith” story whether we face great trials or hold great power.
God willing, we will begin our 12-week study through Joseph’s life on March 16th during the Training Hour. Please plan to join us in the Fireside Room each Sunday from 9:30 – 10:30 AM as we hear this story and receive from it the strength to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).