We live in time and place where hostility is increasing toward those who dare to identify themselves as Christians: people who live their lives by faith in Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. Troubles that face us today not only in culture at large, have found their way inside church and family also.
“It is one thing to encounter a person on the street who says audacious, brash things about Christianity, but quite another if these perceptions broadly define the Christian faith among young people. In our national surveys we found the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity are anti-homosexual (an image held by 91 percent of young outsiders), judgmental (87 percent), and hypocritical (85 percent). These “big three” are followed by the following negative perceptions, embraced by a majority of young adults: old-fashioned, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, insensitive to others, boring, not accepting of other faiths, and confusing. When they think of the Christian faith, these are the images that come to mind. This is what a new generation really thinks about Christianity.” Kinnaman, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters
If research is true indicator to any extent, something of vital importance is not happening: we are not communicating the essentials of our faith effectively to the next generation. I’m not talking now about the next generation’s embrace of biblical faith – that’s different subject. What does it look like to have living faith: faith that characterizes our words / thoughts / actions in every sort of situation? And how does someone with that kind of faith influence the future?
“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation.” (James Freeman Clarke, Unitarian, 1810-1888) In the church, need fewer who think about the next issue and more who think about the next generation. We need those who will “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) Just as important that we clearly communicate that faith to next generation.
Have four examples God has given us in his word the Bible: Isaac who possessed a grudging faith; Jacob, demonstrating faith through brokenness; Joseph, living by faith in exile; and Moses’ parents Amram and Jochebed, showing their faith under fire.
A. Isaac – grudging faith v.20
ever been in situation where pretty sure know what God wants? and you want something different? a real struggle for you – get in line with Isaac, he could relate
was a family marked by conflict
even before birth: Gen 25:21-22Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.But the children struggled inside her, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!”
continued after their birth: Gen. 25:25-26 The first came out reddish all over, like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau.When his brother came out with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob.
and parents contributed to it – playing favorites: Esau was Isaac’s favorite, Jacob his mother’s; that in itself source of real trouble
but there was more to story, known to Isaac and Rebekah from the beginning – God had his plan for that set of twins!
God’s plan, Isaac’s later preferences in direct conflict – while still pregnant: Gen. 25:23 the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
all the while growing up, Isaac & Rebekah developed loyalties and emotional bonds with sons; Isaac doted on Esau
knew before he died, must pass on patriarchal blessing – promise from God to Abraham, then granted by Abraham to Isaac
didn’t want to accept God’s direction for future – resisted pronouncing blessing on Jacob rather than favored one, Esau
tried to overrule God, relied on senses even when they conflicted – smelled right, felt right, didn’t sound right, went with it anyway and blessed his son… Jacob
yet Isaac held back, only covered 2 out of 3 from Abrahamic blessing: temporal blessing of prosperity, dominion over nations
only later, leaving so Esau wouldn’t kill him (Gen. 28:1-4), Isaac blessed Jacob in way pleasing to God, finally acted in faith
Isaac resisted God’s purpose, reluctantly did what he thought he could get away with, only acted in true faith after deceptions were uncovered – in spite of all that, God’s purpose was achieved: the right son was blessed
B. Jacob – faith through brokenness v.21
broken family – growing up, then his own; broken heart… repeatedly
favorite wife Rachel childless (Gen. 29:31); bad blood between sisters, Jacob’s wives (Gen. 30:1); finally a son for Rachel, Joseph (Gen. 30:24), later another, Benjamin (Gen. 35:18-19), died in childbirth
one by one, losing sons: first Joseph (Gen. 37:35); then Simeon, demand for Benjamin – Gen. 42:36And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”
before eventually moving to Egypt to live out days with Joseph, Jacob buried both parents and both wives in family plot
early life a series of choices and actions that caused conflict, harm between brothers; later between sisters, his wives; did nothing to diminish conflict between parents
night of his wrestling match, finally did come clean: Gen. 32:26-27 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
this time, told the truth, gave his right name; notice, God did not magically set everything to rights, Jacob and his family continued to experience hardship, brokenness
even for all the love Jacob had for Rachel, not clear from Bible what she believed! Gen 31:19; 35:2 true for others in Jacob’s household, also
when leaving Laban, Rachel stole his household gods; still worshiping false gods shortly before birth of Benjamin – further evidence of brokenness and conflict
Jacob limped for rest of life, endured all the stuff with loss of relationships, livelihood through famine, independence
one thing persevered throughout all – Jacob’s faith in God, determination to pass God’s blessing along to next generation… beyond
Gen. 49:28 “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.” – prophesying destiny not only of sons, but future of their tribes
calls down God’s blessing on Joseph’s sons, his grandsons: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads;” Gen. 48:15-16a
this time, Jacob purposely gave greater (right-hand) blessing to Ephraim, the younger, trusting God to sovereignly direct future
C. Joseph – faith in exile v.22
had it all but still looking for the exodus – had power, position, prosperity, everything Egypt and its government could offer
Gen. 50:24-26And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
what did Joseph have in mind when he said that? Gen. 15:13-14 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
Joseph had confidence in God that he did not have in anything Pharaoh could offer – so confident of God, in effect said “wait until you guys get home before you bury me”
for four hundred years, every time somebody walked by box with Joseph’s bones, a reminder of God’s promise and Joseph’s faith
you and I sojourners in a land that is not ours, are servants here, are afflicted, and all our land and its government offers cannot hold candle to “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God”
what did Jesus promise: John 14.1 “I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
btw, they kept promise to Joseph – Ex. 13:19 “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him”; Josh. 24:32 “The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem”
D. Moses’ parents – faith under fire v.23
a case of civil disobedience that pleased God – situation where obedience to civil authority would equal disobedience of God
was the next step beyond where we are presently – killing babies is permitted but not yet mandated; same for the old or infirm
if government here takes that next step, may it please God to give us faith like that of Amram and Jochebed, and Miriam too!
notice what is stated… and implied: “they were not afraid of the king’s command”, meaning they were afraid of disobeying God
they understood two things – who ranked higher in authority, who deserved their obedience; showed by actions they preferred consequences of Pharaoh’s displeasure to displeasing God
also showed by actions that they believed God could and likely would overrule abhorrent mandate given by Pharaoh
perhaps like Daniel they had done the math, knew that end of 400-year exile was approaching, believed God would win
important how Moses’ parents went about obeying God – kept it low-key, unobtrusive, quietly doing right, not making lot of noise against all that was wrong with Pharaoh’s edict
if at least secondary goal was bringing about change of policy, what would be most persuasive way to achieve that? daddy’s girl
played on natural compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter – would be most likely to save Moses’ life, also most likely to change Pharaoh’s mind and edict
wasn’t simply their human wisdom that led to that action – was faith in God and his promises that gave courage to take risks
Moses’ parents did have confirmation that their faith was well-placed: Ex. 1:12 “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”
lesson there for the church, too: we do our utmost to avoid affliction, persecution, having to “serve with rigor”; but that was when God multiplied them, will multiply his church
church grows soft when life is easy, grows strong in face of persecution and hardship – why? is the bad stuff that reminds us we live in broken world that is not final home, encourages our faith in God and his promises
Do we have, like faith of our fathers, forward-looking faith? We need faith that looks to promises of next life, living faith that inspires our children and grandchildren and beyond.