Types in Hebrews - CHAPTER 10 - THE PATRIARCHS

IN every age men of God have been men of faith. This is the theme of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, that glorious "Westminster Abbey" of the Patriarchs. And to faith the future and the unseen become present realities. Reason testifies to the existence of God, and therefore none but fools are atheists. (Psalm 14:1) And our natural and instinctive belief in God prepares us for a revelation; for it is unthinkable that a God whose creatures we are would leave us without light and guidance. Faith may assume the phase of trust, and then it is near of kin to hope. But in its primary and simplest aspect, it declares itself by accepting the divine word, as a guileless child receives what falls from a parent’s lips. And accordingly, as the first example of faith, the chapter refers to the earliest page of Scripture, which testifies both to the fact, and to the method, of creation. "Through faith we understand that the worlds1 were framed by the word of God."2
The same principle explains how Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice. It was not that, being shrewder or more spiritual than Cain, he guessed aright what God required; but that he believed the primeval revelation which, pointing to the Great Sacrifice to come, ordained blood-shedding as the mode of approach to God. Of the fact of that revelation, the universality of sacrifice; is overwhelming proof. For outside a lunatic asylum no human brain could ever have evolved the theory that killing an ox or a sheep would appease either God or man!
Abel believed God. But how are we to account for Enoch’s faith? By faith he was translated that he should not see death. The only conceivable explanation of this is that he had a special promise. He, too, believed God. And Noah’s case is clearer still. He received a divine warning, and, believing God, "prepared an ark to the saving of his house." What signal proof is here that man is alienated from God, for Noah alone believed that warning. And through unbelief it was that "the world that then was, perished," for the warning was clear, and God gave time for repentance. Distrust of God was the cause of the creature’s fall; most fitting it is, therefore, that faith in God should be the turning-point of his repentance. As for Abraham, rightly is he called "the father of all them that believe." Divine truth can never clash with reason, but it may be entirely opposed to experience, and seemingly even to fact. So it was in his case. In regard to the promise of a son, he had nothing to rest upon but the bare word of God, unconfirmed by anything to which he could appeal. The Revisers’ reading of Romans 4:19 presents this with the greatest definiteness: "He considered his own body, now as good as dead, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb." He took account of all the facts, but, looking to the promise of God, he did not waver or doubt. Abraham believed God. Still more wonderful was his faith in obeying the divine command to offer up Isaac in sacrifice. And here again it was without wavering; for he judged that the child who had been given to him when he himself was "as good as dead," God could restore to him even from death.
Much has been said and written about these tests and trials of Abraham’s faith, but we seldom hear of his first great surrender, which led to all the rest. A prince among men, one of this world’s nobles, he was called to abandon his splendid citizenship in what was then regarded as "the leading city of the world," and to go out to live the life of a wandering Arab. It was not that his faith seized upon the promise of an inheritance in the land of Canaan, for that promise came as the reward of his faith in obeying the divine command. (Genesis 12:7) "He went out, not knowing whither he went." Nor was his leaving Ur a flight from a doomed city, like Lot’s going out of Sodom, for it was open to him to return.3 The secret of his faith is told us; "he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
"The city which hath the foundations": these words direct our thoughts to the Apocalypse - that great stock-taking book of all the outstanding promises of Holy Writ - and there we read of the city with its foundations of priceless gems, its gates of pearl and streets of gold, with the glory of God to lighten it.
The "all" of the thirteenth verse is not Abraham’s posterity, but the men of faith of ancient days, who, like Abraham, desired that heavenly country. Of these it is that the words are written, "God is not ashamed to be called their God." And this because of the response their faith returned to the promises which God had given them. The sceptic sneers at otherworldliness; and the sneer is well deserved in the case of any who, while claiming the heavenly citizenship, fail to lead the sober and righteous and godly life on earth. These old truths need to be remembered in days like these, when the fear of God is little thought of. Every Christian has a Saviour, but who among us realizes what it means to have a GOD!
If these pages were intended as a homily, much might be written about Isaac, one of the blameless characters of Scripture. Still more about Jacob, a mean and cunning schemer until God, having broken his stubborn will and won his wayward heart, linked His name with his, proclaiming Himself the God of Jacob for all time. About Joseph, too, whose lovely personality is so prominent in the story of the chosen race.
And then comes the wonderful story of Moses who, "accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter"; and thus relinquishing his chances of succeeding to the throne of the Pharaohs, chose the path of affliction with the suffering people of God. This, the crisis of his life, is almost forgotten in the endless controversy as to whether it dated from the Exodus, or from his flight to the land of Midian. The question surely could never have arisen but for the seeming conflict between the language of the Pentateuch and of Hebrews. Exodus tells us that the king "sought to slay him" for killing the Egyptian, and that he "fled from the face of Pharaoh." And this is supposed to clash with the words of the Epistle, that "he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king." But the author of Hebrews was no stranger to the Exodus story, and any one who is accustomed to deal with problems of evidence will recognize that the words that seem to conflict with that story were written with definite reference to it. The Apostle declares emphatically that, whatever his danger may have. been, the decisive element in his leaving Egypt was not his fear of the king’s wrath, but his deliberate purpose to renounce his princely rank and to throw in his lot with the people of God. Hence the words "By faith he forsook Egypt" - words that have no meaning in any other reading of the passage.
"The goodness and severity of God!" we may well exclaim in reading that life story; for this man, who had given up all for God, when provoked beyond endurance by that fickle and yet obstinate people, in a fit of petulant anger was betrayed into forgetting what was due to God, and thus forfeited in a moment the prize of his whole life’s work. If the story of his life ended with the Pentateuch we might well wish to act like that servant in the parable, who laid up his talent in a napkin, refusing the risks of service under such a master. But on the Mount of the Transfiguration we see Moses sharing in the kingdom glory of the Son of Man. His sin was flagrant and open, and the penalty was publicly enforced. But God, who is abundant in mercy, having thus proved His severity in punishing His servant’s disobedience, displayed His goodness by calling him up to "the recompense of the reward" - resurrection life, and glory.
And now let us mark yet another illustration of the wonderful ways of God. "The time would fail me," the Apostle exclaims, "to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephtha; of David also, and Samuel and the prophets." The sacred crypt is full, and these mighty heroes of faith, each one of whom might claim a special mausoleum, must rest beneath a common epitaph. And yet, beside the memorial which records the faith triumphs of him who was the greatest figure in Old Testament story, there is still a vacant space, where room can be found for one more monument, but only one. Whose name then shall be singled out for an honour so exceptional, so unique?. The thirty-first verse of the Chapter supplies the answer: "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."
Rahab the harlot! Those who seek for proofs of the divine authorship of Scripture may find one here. Was there ever an Israelite who would have thought of preferring that woman’s name to the names of David and Samuel and the prophets, and of coupling it with the name of the great apostle and prophet of the Jewish faith, "whom the Lord knew face to face," and to whom He spake "as a man speaketh unto his friend!" And what Jew would have dared to give expression to such a thought? But God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts. And He who immortalized the devotion of the widow who threw her last two mites into the Temple treasury, has decreed that the faith of Rahab who, like Moses, took sides with the people of God, shall never be forgotten.
And there are humble saints on earth today, living the Christian life, perhaps in city slums near by, or it may be in far-off heathen kraals, whose farthing gifts are as precious to the Lord as the princely offerings of men whose praise is in all the churches.