It is thought that Aesop lived about 600 years before Christ. Many sayings, mainly fables and proverbs, are attributed to him. One saying, whether he originated it or not, has come down to us and exists today as an American Proverb. It goes roughly as follows: “After all is said and done, a lot more is usually said than done.” We will consider this proverb in the light of what many say and believe about biblical faith.
Hebrews 11 is sometimes referred to tongue-in-cheek as the biblical “Hall of Faith.” Our focus today will be on the type of faith that is involved in pleasing God. First we want to establish the fact that faith is, in fact, involved in pleasing to God. The writer of this great chapter stated, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11.6). God may be pleased, but not without faith; faith is an essential if God is to be pleased!
The “type” of faith that pleases God is faith that obeys. No passage is more explicit in this fact than today's focus text. Note carefully this passage: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.” (Hebrews 11.30). The objective of faith, in this case, was for the Israelites to bring down the seemingly impenetrable walls of the great ancient city. In order to achieve their objective, they needed God's help. Before anything had been done to take the city, God told Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.” (Joshua 6.2). The only thing that stood between the Israelites and victory were the mighty walls of Jericho.
God told Joshua how they could take the prize that had already been given to them. It was theirs, but they had to believe it and take it! God's instructions were clear. “March around the city one time for six consecutive days in the manner I have told you. On the seventh day, march around it seven times in the same manner and then give out with a shout.” (Paraphrased from Joshua 6). Now notice the focus text once again. Note when the walls of Jericho fell; there can be no doubt about it. They fell “after they were encircled for seven days.” Might I suggest that the faith of the Israelites was no different on the seventh day than it was on the first day (unless, if anything, it had waned over time). They certainly had as much faith on the first day, if not more, than they did on the seventh day. So, the intensity of their faith was not the deciding factor in bringing down the walls.
When did the walls fall? Answer: “After they were encircled for seven days.” Why didn't they fall sooner? Answer: Because the faith of the Israelites had not been united with and made perfect by obedience. Was it the Israelites' works that caused the walls of Jericho to fall? Answer: No! It was their faith. What type of faith brought the wall crashing down? Answer: The type of faith that obeyed God with a view toward the promised result.
Now look back at every verse in Hebrews 11. Note when and how God was pleased with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the rest. In every case, their faith pleased God when it obeyed. Abel offered a sacrifice. Enoch walked with God. Noah moved with fear and built an ark Abraham listened to God and journeyed toward an unknown land. The same is true for every faithful worthy mentioned in the chapter. They acted upon their faith and God was pleased. Was God pleased by their works? Answer: No. He was pleased by their faith. That is the type of faith that pleased God then and it is the type of faith that pleases God now. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.
1. Can one biblically act “by faith” in doing that which God has not commanded? Why or why not?
2. In order for a person to act by faith, must he/she do what God says? Must his/her motives be consistent with God's commands?
3. Why did the walls of Jericho fall? What did marching around them have to do with their falling?
4. How valid is an argument that claims faith without works (see James 2.14-26)?
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