Perhaps you remember Tevia singing “To Life! To Life! L’Chaim! L’Chaim, L’Chaim, To Life! from Fiddler On The Roof.
Indeed Chai is the Hebrew word for life! Due to working on the Kingdom Math series mentioned in the previous post, I have been thinking a lot about this journey called life. We hold onto God’s promises, but perhaps never consider that many may not be completed in our lifetimes. In fact, as part of the Kingdom Math study, I have read through Hebrews chapter 11 several times over the last several weeks. Many of the people of great faith listed in this Hall of Faith chapter did not live to see God’s promises to them fulfilled. And yet, that fact did not seem to shake their faith. It becomes apparent that their faith was not based upon their seeing the result! They evidently did not require “proof.”
In fact, we find this statement in Heb 11:13
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Heb 11:13
They did far better than simply believing in God (which even the demons do). They BELIEVED God!
And this next verse has become one of my favorites in this passage because of the backstory.
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
You see, Joseph was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. So, Joseph’s great grandfather, Abraham, had received a promise from God (mannnnnny moons previous). The promise stated that God would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars of the heavens or the sands on the seashore, so that they could not be numbered. God also told Abraham that these descendants would be taken into captivity for 400 years but would then emerge and would be drawn back together as a nation. Alas, I am convinced that if God had told me that He would give me children who would go into captivity, I would have said ‘no thank you, Sir! No descendants for me then, if you please’.
But not Abraham. Abraham was looking to a kingdom not of this earth. He knew that anything his children suffered would fade into nothingness in the face of eternity. He knew the character of God and that God does nothing without great purpose. He had complete confidence that He would continue to do all things well. Wow! That’s the kind of faith I would like!
So, when Joseph was on his deathbed, his father Jacob and grandfather Isaac, as well as his great-grandfather, Abraham, were long in their graves. They had died without seeing the fulfillment of the promise. I don’t know about you, but I fear that if I were Joseph, the fourth generation from the promise, I would have given up on the dream by now. On my death bed, I don’t think I would be encouraging my family to keep up the charade!
And yet, the 70 descendants of Abraham (not exactly “too numerous to count”) who had come down to Egypt to escape the famine, would one day march out of Egypt behind Moses as a nation of millions! Joseph was so confident that this event was chiseled in stone, that he told those around his deathbed that when the exodus DID occur, they should take his bones with them. I think that is amazing! He was so convinced, that he wanted to make certain that his final wishes in this regard would be quite literally “carried out.”
Faith of this sort is so foreign to us. In this microwave world in which we live, we expect (and indeed demand) immediate (or sooner) gratification. If we do not receive it, we become frustrated and move on to something that promises quicker results. Above all else, we want to avoid any struggle, effort, or inconvenience. And because this type of avoidance has been our goal, we have also inadvertently undermined the very purpose for our protracted journey in the first place! We avoided the struggle that would have made us stronger. We sidestepped the challenges that would have purified us. We skipped altogether the time plus adversity that would have given us the opportunity to question our faith and our God. And any honest and genuine faith struggle would have eventually lead us to the Truth. And the Truth is designed to set us free! The end result would have been a faith based solely upon the nature and character of God and not upon what our eyes see or our ears hear, or upon any situation in which we might find ourselves Ahhhh, now THAT’S L’Chayim b’emet (to life, for real) !
The journey is long, but well worth it. The struggle is real, and builds spiritual strength. The pain is unquestionable, but the end result is strength, endurance, assurance, steadfastness, pure FAITH, and freedom!
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Samuel, Daniel, Samson, and many others went through trials far more difficult than you or I have ever faced or will ever face. And yet, it seems that they had a deep understanding of something that we often seem to miss. Because the promise doesn’t come to fruition during our lifetimes, does not mean that it will not come to fruition! Fortunately, the old adage “when it’s over, it’s over” does not hold true for the believer! Sometimes, like the ancients mentioned in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, we see the promises from afar off.
And now, as evidence of the fidelity of God’s promise to Abraham, here we are some 3500 years after the exodus, and Israel still exists. This, in itself, is a miracle when you consider how many nations have stated their intent to push Israel into the sea. Perhaps these nations should first read the book of Exodus. Pushing Israel into the sea results in dry land for Israel, and a watery grave for their enemies.
Later this week, we will celebrate another Holocaust Remembrance Day. Throughout Israel, sirens will sound, traffic will come to a standstill and people will exit their cars, standing in silence. Ceremonies will be held, old and young alike will sing songs, and prayers of thanksgiving will be offered up – all commemorating the People of Promise.
Yes, our journey, like theirs, is long but fruitful. By design, events do not unfold in an instant in order to allow us the time to struggle through doubts and fears and emerge with a more authentic faith.
I pray that my faith will begin to look more and more like that of Joseph. May I be so confident in the character of my God that I, too, would leave instructions for what to do WHEN the promise DOES come to pass.
Below, I am sharing a link which touched my heart. As you watch hundreds of holocaust survivors and their descendants singing I Am Alive, you will be witnessing something Joseph never did, nor did he need to; the proof. Proof of the fulfillment of an ancient promise! Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph did not see it this side of eternity. But you are about to! Amazing! It causes me to cry out….
Mi kamocha B’alim Adonai (Who is like You, O Lord among the gods!