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it was he to
whom it was
Amplified: [With eyes of] faith Isaac, looking far into the future, invoked
blessings upon Jacob and Esau.
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
NLT: It was by faith that Isaac blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau. He
had confidence in what God was going to do in the future. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: It was by faith that Isaac gave Jacob and Esau his
blessing, for his words dealt with what should happen in the future. (Phillips:
Wuest: By faith, and that concerning things to come, Isaac
blessed Jacob and Esau. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: By faith, concerning coming things, Isaac did
bless Jacob and Esau
J Ligon Duncan
Explore the Bible
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Today in the Word
Hebrews Study Guide
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:20-22 Dying Faith
Hebrews 11 Commentary
Hebrews 11:7-12 Faith and Failure
11:1-3,6-8,13-19,24-26 Exhibit Your Faith
Hebrews 11:20-29 The Faith of
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses
How can I get to Heaven?
Hebrews 11:17-22 Promises That Inspire
Hebrews 11:23-31 The Eyes of Faith
Hebrews 11:32-40 The Story of Faith
Hebrews 11:10 Heaven
Hebrews 11:20-22 The Faith of the
Hebrews 11 The Reality of Supernatural
Hebrews 11 Saving Faith
Hebrews 11:8-19 The Faith of Abraham
Hebrews 11:20-22 Faith in the Face of
Hebrews 11 Sermons -
by Puritan writer - >1000 page Pdf!
Thru the Bible Commentary
Hebrews 11:20 Faith
Blessing the Children -p 453
Hebrews 11:24 Moses
and the Decision of Faith -p 457
Hebrews 11:27 Israel
and Redemption by Faith -p 461
Hebrews 11:32 Faith
and Its Power of Achievement -p 465
Hebrews 11:35 Faith
and Its Power of Endurance -p 469
Hebrews 11:39 Some
Better Thing for Us -p 473
Hebrews 11:17-22 The Test of
Hebrews 11 Word Pictures
Hebrews11:20-22 Faith of Isaac, Jacob and
Hebrews 11:24 The Faith Of Moses
Hebrews 11:23 Parental Faith
Letter to Hebrews -
329 page commentary
Hebrews 11 Exposition
Hebrews 11:13,14 An Inscription for the
Mausoleum of the Saints
Faith Made Visible
Hebrews 11:8-38 The
Activities of Faith
Hebrews 11:8-19 The
Faith of Abraham and Sarah
Hebrews 11:8-12:2 How Faith Works
Hebrews 11:20-22 The
Faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
Hebrews 11: Word
Hebrews Inductive Study Part 2
BY FAITH ISAAC BLESSED JACOB AND ESAU EVEN REGARDING THINGS TO COME:
Pistei kai peri mellonton (PAPMPG) eulogesen (3SAAI) Isaak ton Iakob
kai ton Esau: (Ge 27:27-40; 28:2,3)
In these next 3 verses the writer
looks at the end of the lives of the next three patriarchs after
Abraham to emphasize how their lives (albeit not perfect) were
examples of those who remained faithful. Remember the writer is
speaking primarily to Jews who are being tested and tempted to revert
to Judaism and he wants these examples of perseverance to the end to
encourage his readers (cp He 11:13-note).
The faith of these patriarchs was focused on the things above (unseen,
spiritual, cp Col 3:1-note,
the things of heaven not in things of this world (see Abraham - He
This begs the question -
What are you looking for? What are you living for? ...Today? ...This
present world (cp Gal 1:4)? ...This world which is passing away (1Jn
...What you can see with your natural eyes (2Cor 4:18-note)? ...Or what you
can see with the eyes of faith (2Cor 5:7)?
We each need to take careful
inventory of our lives so that we might (if necessary) re-order our
priorities to the unseen and the eternal and doing so not out of
legalism but out of love for God and the sure hope that the best is
yet to come! God has promised, so it will be so (cp Josh 23:14, 2Co
1:20KJV). If we believe Him, really believe Him, we will live lives
governed by that belief and we will enter into the fulness of His joy
even in this temporal world (Ps 16:11-note)!
Remember that our life is but a vapor (Jas 4:14)...don't waste your
life (Eph 5:16-note)!
And it all comes down to a matter of daily, moment by moment choices!
Choose for yourself today to serve
and not the gods of this present evil age (Joshua 24:15).
By Faith - All uses in NAS
in Heb 11 - Heb 4:2; 10:38; 11:3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 17, 20, 21, 22,
23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33.
Each example of faith in
Heb 11:3-31 is
formally introduced with this specific phrase "by faith" (pistei)
is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth
of anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief respecting
man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the
included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with
it. As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God
exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider
and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to
Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that
Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and
entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal
salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no
Maclaren writes that
Faith is the hand that
grasps. It is the means of communication, it is the channel through
which the grace which is the life, or, rather, I should say, the life
which is the grace, comes to us. It is the open door by which the
angel of God comes in with his gifts. It is like the petals of the
flowers, opening when the sunshine kisses them, and, by opening,
laying bare the depths of their calyxes to be illuminated and coloured,
and made to grow by the sunshine which itself has opened them, and
without the presence of which, within the cup, there would have been
neither life nor beauty. So faith is the basis of everything; the
first shoot from which all the others ascend...Faith works. It
is the foundation of all true work; even in the lowest sense of the
word we might almost say that. But in the Christian scheme it is
eminently the underlying requisite for all work which God does not
consider as busy idleness...
Your work of faith. There is
the whole of the thorny subject of the relation of faith and works
packed into a nutshell. It is exactly what James said and it is
exactly what a better than James said. When the Jews came to Him with
their externalism, and thought that God was to be pleased by a whole
rabble of separate good actions, and so said, ‘What shall we do that
we might work the works of God?' Jesus said, ‘Never mind about Works.
This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent,'
and out of that will come all the rest. That is the mother tincture;
everything will flow from that. So Paul says, ‘Your work of faith.'
Does your faith work? Perhaps I should ask other people rather than
you. Do men see that your faith works; that its output is different
from the output of men who are not possessors of a ‘like precious
faith'? Ask yourselves the question, and God help you to answer it.
(Read full sermon on
1 Thessalonians 1:3)
Jacob, as he
each of the
leaning on the
top of his
Amplified: [Prompted] by faith Jacob, when he was dying,
blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in prayer over the top of his
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of
Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
NLT: It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each
of Joseph's sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: It was by faith that the dying Jacob blessed each of
Joseph's sons as he bowed in prayer over his staff. (Phillips:
Wuest: By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the
sons of Joseph, and worshipped upon his staff. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: by faith Jacob dying--each of the sons of Joseph did bless, and did
bow down upon the top of his staff;
BY FAITH JACOB, AS HE WAS DYING, BLESSED EACH OF THE SONS OF JOSEPH,
AND WORSHIPED, LEANING ON THE TOP OF HIS STAFF: Pistei Iakob
apothneskon (PAPMSN) ekaston ton uion Ioseph eulogesen, (3SAAI) kai
prosekunesen (3SAAI) epi to akron tes rabdou autou: (Genesis
48:5-22) (Genesis 47:31)
Dying is a frightening thought to many because everyone knows the
truth of the aphorism "You can't take it with you!" In fact as one
sage succinctly phrased it...
At death we leave behind all we
have and take with us all we are.
Nathaniel Emmons put it this
Death stamps the characters and
conditions of men for eternity. As death finds them in this world, so
will they be in the next.
Matthew Henry wrote that...
Death strips the soul of all the
disguises wherein it appeared before men, that it may appear naked and
open before God. Our grave-clothes are night-clothes...Damned sinners
in hell shall not be allowed their light, being cast into utter
darkness; and glorified saints in heaven shall not need their light,
for God himself will be their everlasting light...Death to a godly man
is like a fair gale of wind to convey him to the heavenly country; but
to a wicked man it is an east wind, a storm, a tempest, that hurries
him away in confusion and amazement, to destruction.
Death is not a period
Bringing the sentence of life to a close
Like the spilling of a moment
Or the dissolution of an hour.
Death is a useful comma
Which punctuates, and labors
Of much to follow.
from apo =
marker of dissociation implying a rupture from a former association,
separation, departure, cessation + thnesko = die) literally
means to die off and can speak of literal physical death (Ro 6:9-note)
as in this context. It
is notable that as life was never meant to be merely existence,
death which is the antonym of life does not mean
non–existence. The important point is that to die does not mean
one is annihilated as some falsely teach. Everyone who has every been
born will continue to exist, either in the presence of God or banished
from His presence and destined to experience conscious eternal
existence in separation from God's majesty and glory and power (see
Apothnesko is used figuratively of a believer's death to sin
self, Satan, the law (Ro 7:6-note,
Gal 2:19) and the world (Col 2:20-note,
cp Gal 6:14-note
- crucified used instead of died) which was effected
when Christ was crucified and when by faith we believed in Him and in
God's reckoning (albeit a "mysterious" teaching) were crucified with
Him (Ro 6:6-note).
As John Blanchard says...
When death strikes the Christian
down, he falls into heaven.
The great Puritan writer Thomas
Brooks phrased it this way...
Death to a saint is nothing but the
taking of a sweet flower out of this wilderness, and planting of it in
the garden of paradise. (adding that) It is no credit to your heavenly
Father for you to be loath to go home.
Worshiped - What a way to
end one's life! Worshipping. The perfect preparation for entrance into
the presence of the only One Worthy of worship! Jacob's example of how
to die well sets the bar high but imminently attainable by faith.
Faith in the Father's promise of a forever future is the only way to
truly handle the prospect of death. The patriarchs trusted in God's
promised resurrection, and thus were enabled to face death with a calm
serenity. How else could you describe Jacob's worshiping God while
resting on his staff. Mark it down that the mark of genuine believer
is their approach to death with a peace that passes all human
(natural) understanding because it comes from a Supernatural Source,
God Himself! Death to a believer like Jacob is exchanging a prison for
a palace and a putting off of our worthless rages for His righteous
Jacob's attitude was a lot like D L Moody's who once
Some day you will read in the
papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you
believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am
Billy Graham's comment is also apropos to Jacob's worshiping
even though dying...
I have talked to doctors and nurses
who have held the hands of dying people, and they say that there is as
much difference between the death of a Christian and a non-Christian
as there is between heaven and hell. ("Amen" or "Oh my!")
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (What
is DEATH) quotes from the poem by Minister James Powis
Smith which expresses the triumphant attitude of Jacob (and all the
patriarchs) in the face of that last enemy death...
The pale horse stands and will not
The night has come and I must ride;
But not alone to unknown lands,
My Friend goes with me holding hands.
I’ve fought the fight; I’ve run the race,
I now shall see Him face to face,
Who called me to Him long ago
And bade me trust and follow.
The joys of life have been His gift,
My friends I’ll find when clouds shall lift;
I leave my home and all its store
To dwell with Him for evermore.
What does He give? His cup of love
Until with Him I rest above;
I’ll mount and ride, no more to roam,
The pale horse bears me to my home.
from pros = before + kuneo = kiss or
adore) means to prostrate oneself in homage before another in the full
sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy. When Jesus Christ
was born into this world, He was attended and worshipped by angels.
(Lk 2:13, 14). The word
proskuneo literally means to
kiss toward someone, to throw a kiss in token of respect or homage, to
prostrate oneself in homage, to do reverence to, to adore and so to
worship and show respect. In the ancient Oriental (especially Persia)
the mode of salutation between persons of equal rank was to kiss each
other on the lips. When the difference of rank was slight, they kissed
each other on the cheek. When one was much inferior, he fell upon his
knees touched his forehead to the ground or prostrated himself, and as
he was bowing down he would be throwing kisses toward the superior. It
is this latter mode of salutation that is intended by the Greek
writers in the use of the verb
In summary, proskuneo
represents the most common Near Eastern act of adoration and reverence
and also carries the idea of profound awe and respect. Some believe
that the root word kuneo may be related to kuon which is
the Greek word for dog and which then could be picturing a dog licking
his master's hand.
quips of Jacob...
A worshiper at last instead of a
Andrew Murray in The Holiest of All...
It is remarkable how much, both in
this chapter and through all Scripture, faith has to do with the
relationship of parents and children. In nature the life of the
parents is imparted to the children. In the spiritual world it may be
so too; the intercourse of faith with God reaches the children too;
the man of strong faith is a blessing to his children. We have seen in
Noah and Abraham and Sarah how largely their faith in God had to do
with their children. And here we find four more examples.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and
Esau. His blessing on his children was the manifestation of his faith
in the promise of God to his father and himself, and the transmission
of the blessing to them. By faith Jacob blessed each of the sons of
Joseph, giving each of them their place in the future that was coming.
By faith Joseph made mention of the departure of the children of
Israel saying, "I die, but God will surely visit you, and bring you up
out of this land." By faith Moses was hid three months by his parents,
because they saw he was a goodly child. Their faith in the destiny
they knew was waiting for the children of Israel, and in the mercy of
God watching over his people, gave them the courage not to fear the
king's commandment. In all these cases faith was the secret
inspiration of their treatment of their children, and the source of
blessing. Faith never confines itself to the person of the; believer
himself, but takes in his home and children.
And how is it that the Christian
parent can secure this longed-for blessing for his children? There is
but one answer: By faith. Our life must be all faith—that is, the
unseen things must be our life, yea, rather, the unseen God must be
our life. The blessing and the power are His; and it is as we have
more of God in our life and in our home, there will be the hidden
power resting on our children. Faith does not only mean a knowing that
there is a covenant promise for our children, and a pleading of it in
prayer. This is an exercise of faith, and has its. great value. But
the chief thing is the life; faith is the making way for God and
giving Him place in our life. And when at times the vision tarries,
and the promise appears to fail, faith understands this as only a call
to trust God more completely and more confidently. As we hold fast our
confidence firm to the end, as in patience and longsuffering we are
strong in faith, giving glory to God, we shall know for certain that
we shall inherit this promise too. I will be thy God and the God of
From the patriarchs we learn what
the atmosphere and what the soil is in which there grows such a faith
that blesses the children. They were living in the land of promise as
strangers and pilgrims, or in Egypt as strangers and pilgrims too,
longing for the return to the land. Their whole life was hope in God
and what He would do. They were men whom God had taken hold of, to
prove in their history how gloriously He would fulfil His promise. And
they had nothing to live on but God. It is a law of nature that no
body can be in two places at the same time. This is just as true of
the heart. When God took Abraham and his seed out of their country, it
was that the land of promise, the land of separation from men, of
separation unto God, might be to them the training-school of faith.
They went out from the fellowship of home and family, to live in the
fellowship of God. It was there they learned by faith to bless the
Separation from the world, a being
set apart unto God, the denial of self and its life, the imitation of
Abraham in his going out, of Christ in His self-sacrifice,—this is the
only way to the land of promise where the faith-life flourishes. To
live wholly for God, to hope alone in God, always to walk with God, in
all things to hearken to God,—this is the new and living way into the
inner sanctuary, in which Jesus our High Priest leads us. What the
land of promise was to the patriarchs, as the place for the life of
separation and obedience and faith, that the Holiest of All is to us.
That is the place of which God has said to us: Get thee out of thy
land, to a place that I will show thee, and I will bless thee,—that is
the only place where our faith can grow freely, and God can prove all
His power in us, so that we, like they, can be a display of what God
can do. And that is the place where our faith will in full measure be
a blessing to our children.
It is only by faith we can bless.
God is willing to bless us to larger circles than our own house. He is
calling for vessels, empty vessels not a few, in which He can multiply
his blessing. He is the only fountain of blessing; as our faith yields
to God, and allows Him to be all, His blessing will flow. Let the
Christian who would be a blessing be a man of faith,—that is, a man
who has nothing and is nothing in himself, and in whom God has free
scope to work, and the blessing will not be wanting. Oh that God might
have the place that belongs to Him in this His own world. And if that
may not yet be—oh that He might have that place in the hearts of His
people. And if it is as if even that will not yet be—oh let Him have
that place, my reader, in your heart and in mine. Let faith see and
consent and prove that God is all, and He will prove that He is a God
of blessing for thee and all around thee.
1. Parent, teacher, worker, the secret of blessing in the work, the
power to Influence, is—faith. Not simply the faith in some promise at
times, but the habit of a holy faith that makes God the All of our
life. Have faith In God as the God of thy life, the God who maintains
His life and presence within thee He will work through thee.
2. How blessed to be an Instrument in the hands of God, with which He
works out His purpose; to be a vessel He fills with His love.
3. Learn to regard thyself as set to be a blessing, and let faith and
love mark thy whole life.
Joseph, when he
mention of the
exodus of the
Amplified: [Actuated] by faith Joseph, when nearing the
end of his life, referred to [the promise of God for] the departure of
the Israelites out of Egypt and gave instructions concerning the
burial of his own bones.
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the
children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
NLT: And it was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die,
confidently spoke of God's bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt.
He was so sure of it that he commanded them to carry his bones with
them when they left! (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: It was by faith that Joseph on his death-bed
spoke of the exodus of the Israelites, and gave confident orders about
the disposal of his own mortal remains. (Phillips:
Wuest: By faith Joseph, when coming
near to the end of his life, remembered the exodus of the sons of
Israel and so gave a command concerning his bones. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: by faith, Joseph dying, concerning the outgoing of the sons of
Israel did make mention, and concerning his bones did give command.
BY FAITH JOSEPH, WHEN HE WAS DYING, MADE MENTION OF THE EXODUS OF THE
SONS OF ISRAEL, AND GAVE ORDERS CONCERNING HIS BONES: Pistei Ioseph
teleuton (PAPMSN) peri tes exodou ton uion Israel emnemoneusen,
(3SAAI) kai peri ton osteon autou eneteilato. (3SAMI): (Genesis
50:24,25; Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:16)
By faith - Faith is trusting
in the Word of God and the God of the Word and obeying Him implicitly,
regardless of the circumstances or consequences. Joseph even while
staring death in the face, did not suffer dimming of his spiritual
eyesight for he kept his eyes of faith firmly fixed on His faithful
Father! His body may have been dying, but not his faith. Joseph's
faith is even more remarkable because he had been sold into slavery
and out of the promised land of Canaan at age 17 (Ge 37:2) and lived
in a foreign land until his death at 110 (Ge 50:26). But despite his
time away from the promised land, his faith remained sure because it
was based on the faithful promise of God.
even to the very end of his life demonstrated an unshakable faith
(even his exalted position and prosperity did not dim his faith) and
confidence in God's prophetic promise to Abraham and his offspring
(that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan - cp God's
covenant in Ge 15:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, cp Ge 17:4, 5,
6, 7, 8) and that God would fulfill this promise in His perfect timing
which explains why he left instructions about his burial. Calvin
comments that this
sharpened the desire of the people
so that they would look more earnestly for their redemption. (Ed:
Because only their redemption from the subsequent Egyptian bondage
would allow them to fulfill this wish of Joseph).
The writer of Hebrews makes clear
that Joseph and the other patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob) died without
entering into the promise that God had made. And yet they had Heb 11:1
faith manifest by the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction
of things not seen! The witness of these patriarchs of a firm faith
and solid hope in God and His promises should stir and encourage a
similar confidence that God will do good to us in the future (which is
the definition of Biblical
(cp "looking for the blessed hope" Titus 2:13-note)
Now Joseph gave this order, not
that he thought his being buried in Egypt would either prejudice his
soul or prevent the resurrection of his body (as some of the rabbis
fancied that all the Jews who were buried out of Canaan must be
conveyed underground to Canaan before they could rise again), but to
[1.] That though he had lived and
died in Egypt, yet he did not live and die an Egyptian, but an
[2.] That he preferred a
significant burial in Canaan before a magnificent one in Egypt.
[3.] That he would go as far with
his people as he could, though he could not go as far as he would.
[4.] That he believed the
resurrection of the body, and the communion that his soul should
presently have with departed saints, as his body had with their dead
[5.] To assure them that God would
be with them in Egypt, and deliver them out of it in his own time and
Joseph's eminent position in Egypt
did not make him regard it as his home: in faith he looked to God's
promise of Canaan being fulfilled and desired that his bones should
rest there: testifying thus:
(1) that he had no doubt of his posterity obtaining the promised
(2) that he believed in the resurrection of the body, and the
enjoyment in it of the heavenly Canaan. His wish was fulfilled
When he was
dying (teleutao = to end, finish, complete) - The Greek more
literally is "coming to an end" (from telos = the goal - which
congers up the picture of one who has run the race well and crossed
the finish line! The related verb
is used in 2Ti 4:7-note
in which Paul affirmed "I have finished [teleo]
Compare (use of teleutao in)
Ge 6:17 ("shall perish"),
The verb means to finish or close, with life understood. Always in
this sense in NT See Mt 2:19; 9:18; Lk 7:2, etc. Never used by Paul.
Rendered "when near his end."
Made mention - Wuest notes
"Made mention" is the
translation of emnemoneuo "to remember." Joseph on his death-bed
remembered the promise of God to give the land of Canaan to the seed
of Abraham (Ge 12:7, 13:5, 15:7), and also the prediction that
Abraham's descendants should spend 400 years in bondage in a strange
land, and should afterward be brought out thence (Ge 15:13, 14)."
Made mention of the Exodus -
A deathbed prophecy by Joseph, a saint who persevered to the end! (cp
Then Joseph made the sons of Israel
swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall
carry my bones up from here." So Joseph died at the age of one
hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in
Egypt. (Genesis 50:25, 26)
Exodus - appears in three
places Lk 9:31 and 2Pe 1:15 referring to death and in this verse to
the literal "Exodus" of Israel out of Egypt. In the book of
Exodus we read...
Moses took the bones of Joseph
with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying,
"God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from
here with you." (Exodus 13:19)
In Joshua we read that...
Moses took the bones of Joseph with
him (How long? For 40
years!), for he had made
the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, "God will surely take care
of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you." (Josh.
24:32) (His bones were buried within the land allotted to the tribe of
Ironside comments that...
the bones of Joseph were buried at
last in the parcel of ground that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor,
the father of Shechem. There Joseph's bones rest until the morning of
the first resurrection. Joseph's faith evidently looked expectantly
toward this resurrection. This hope enabled him to maintain his
alienage in Egypt, a type of this present evil world. And so this
series ends, and in the next verse another begins. (Expository
Concerning his bones - This
is a metonymy (an expression used as substitute for something with
which it is closely associated, e.g. Washington for the US
government) which conveys the idea of his burial.
Hughes writes that...
The overall point is that all these
patriarchs ended well, for they had learned to trust God's bare word.
They were sure regarding what would happen after their deaths.
Wiersbe makes the point
We have to admire the faith of the
patriarchs. They did not have a complete Bible, and yet their faith
was strong. They handed God's promises down from one generation to
another. In spite of their failures and testings, these men and women
believed God and He bore witness to their faith. How much more faith
you and I should have!
John MacArthur has an
excellent point of application reminding us that...
All three of these men believed God
in the face of death. Their faith had sometimes wavered in life, but
it was strong and confident in death. Death is the acid test of faith.
For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, courts of law have taken a
dying man’s word at face value. The need for lying and deception is
over, and what is said on a deathbed is usually believed. So with our
testimony of faith. Not only is the need for hypocrisy and pretense
over, but it is extremely difficult to fake faith when you know you
are facing eternity. A dying man’s faith is believable because a sham
cannot stand this test.
A Christian who fears death has a
serious weakness in his faith, for to die in Christ is simply to be
ushered into the Lord’s presence. "For to me, to live is Christ," Paul
says, "and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). For those who believe, "Death
is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54).
Steven Cole's sermon...
He 11:20, 21,22
The Puritans used to emphasize the
importance of dying well. With the apostle Paul (Phil 1:20-note),
they desired that “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my
body, whether by life or by death.” Matthew Henry wrote,
Though the grace of faith is of
universal use throughout our whole lives, yet it is especially so when
we come to die. Faith has its greatest work to do at last, to help
believers to finish well, to die to the Lord, so as to honor him, by
patience, hope, and joy-so as to leave a witness behind them of the
truth of God’s word and the excellency of his ways … (Matthew Henry's
Commentary [Revell], 6:946).
When he was on his own deathbed at
age 52, Henry said to a friend “You have been used to take notice of
the sayings of dying men-this is mine: that a life spent in the
service of God and communion with Him, is the most pleasant life that
anyone can live in this world.”
Facing death is the acid test of our faith. Will it sustain us at that
time? As the author of Hebrews gives multiple examples of those who
lived and died in faith, he briefly mentions Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
He calls attention to incidents from each man’s life just before he
died. In Isaac’s case, he does not state specifically that he was near
death, but this incident happened when he was very old, feeble, and
blind. In the case of the other two men, the author states
specifically that they were dying. In each case, as they faced death,
none of God’s promises was near fulfillment. Circumstances seemed
contrary to their fulfillment. These men had lived all of their lives
hearing about and believing in God’s promises, but God had not yet
delivered. Even so, they all died with their faith and focus on things
to come, believing that God would keep His word. They teach us that…
Faith faces death trusting God to fulfill His future promises, even
when circumstances seem to contradict those promises.
While there are some different lessons to be learned from each man,
the author uses each example to drive home the same basic point. Each
one died with faith in God’s promises, even though circumstances
seemed to contradict those promises. In the cases of Isaac and Jacob,
they both had many failures in the life of faith, and yet, by God’s
grace, they crossed the finish line with a strong flourish of faith.
They illustrate what Paul wrote (Phil. 1:6-note),
For I am confident of this very
thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the
day of Christ Jesus.
If, by God’s grace, you and I have
begun the life of faith, by that same grace we will die strong in
faith, testifying to others that God’s promises are true, in spite of
1. Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and Esau shows faith in God’s
promises, even when circumstances seem to contradict those promises
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and
Esau, even regarding things to come.”
The story comes from Genesis 27.
Isaac was old and blind. He called his favorite son, Esau, and
requested that he bring back some fresh game and cook it up his
favorite way. Then he would bless Esau.
The father’s blessing involved conferring a double portion of the
family inheritance on the firstborn son, coupled with prophetic words
about his future. At the birth of the twins, God had directly told
Rebekah (Ge 25:23),
Two nations are in your womb; and
two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be
stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.
Jacob, the father of the nation
Israel, was the younger. Esau, the father of the nation Edom, was the
older. Isaac, however, had a natural liking toward Esau, whereas Jacob
was a mama’s boy.
When mama overheard that dad was about to confer the family blessing
on the older son, she went into action with a plan to secure the
blessing on her favorite son. Whether she thought that she was
rescuing God’s prophetic word from oblivion or whether she just was
running interference for her favorite son, we do not know, but the
emphasis was probably on favorite son. Isaac probably was not
deliberately going against God’s revealed word. Rather, he probably
didn’t understand the significance of that word and was just following
custom with his favorite son. But he had not exerted much effort to
inquire of God as to the meaning of the prophecy or how he should
apply it. He seems far more interested in tasting his favorite meat
than in following God’s ways.
I assume that you know the story, how Jacob dressed up in his
brother’s garments and took mama’s stew to his aged father to con him
and his brother out of the blessing. Being deceived, Isaac
inadvertently fulfilled God’s earlier prophecy to Rebekah by
conferring the blessing on Jacob.
You may wonder, “How did Isaac act by faith when he was deceived? He
didn’t even know what he was doing!” But the author doesn’t go into
such details or to the difference between the blessings on Jacob and
Esau. His emphasis is rather that by blessing his sons, Isaac was
acting in the faith that God would fulfill the prophetic aspects of
the blessing in the future. To his credit, when Isaac discovered that
he had been deceived, he did not revoke the blessing in anger. Rather,
he seemed to realize that God’s word to Rebekah at the birth of the
twins would truly come to pass. So he told Esau that he had blessed
his brother and then affirmed, “Yes, and he shall be blessed” (Ge
Just before Jacob fled to Haran, Isaac charged him not to take a wife
from the daughters of Canaan. Then he said to Jacob,
May God Almighty bless you and make
you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of
peoples. May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to
your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your
sojournings, which God gave to Abraham (Ge 28:3, 4).
Jacob didn’t even have a wife, let
alone a company of peoples descended from him! Neither Isaac nor Jacob
owned a square foot of the promised land, except for a burial cave!
But by pronouncing the blessing, Isaac demonstrated faith that God’s
promises would not fail, even though there was no indication at that
time that they ever would be fulfilled.
The story behind Hebrews 11:20 is not flattering to any of the
participants, except for Isaac’s faith regarding things to come. Isaac
seemed to be more interested in a tasty meal than in God’s prophetic
word. Esau was a profane man, who had despised his spiritual heritage
for a bowl of stew. Rebekah deliberately deceived her husband and
encouraged her son to lie. Jacob agreed to go along with the lies,
taking advantage of his blind father.
But God used the whole soap opera, with each character acting
selfishly without regard for God, to fulfill His sovereign purpose.
God had chosen Jacob and rejected Esau. His purpose according to His
choice will stand (Ro 9:11, 12, 13-note).
It does not depend on people fully understanding His purpose. Isaac
obviously did not understand it at first. It doesn’t depend on people
obeying Him, although they should obey. But He used Rebekah’s and
Jacob’s deception to fulfill His purpose. Paul relates this story and
then says that God’s purpose
does not depend on the man who
wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Ro 9:16-note).
The story of Isaac blessing his
sons is in the Bible so that we will learn to trust God, even when
circumstances seem to contradict His promises. We may look at the
sinfulness around us, even of those who claim to be His children, and
think, “There is no way that the Great Commission will ever be
fulfilled or that the church will bring glory to God’s name.”
But God has said that there will be some from every tongue and people
and nation, purchased with Jesus’ blood, gathered around His throne
He has said that the church will be a pure and spotless bride, made
ready for her husband (Eph. 5:27-note;
In spite of all of our shortcomings and failures, His purpose will be
fulfilled. That should not cause us to shrug our shoulders in apathy
or to sin that grace may abound. It ought to encourage us to be
faithful in spite of disappointments with sinful people or ominous
world events. It should cause us to be steadfast and immovable in the
Lord’s work, knowing that our work is never in vain in the Lord (1Co
2. Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons and his worship show faith in
God’s promises, even when circumstances seem to contradict those
promises (He 11:21).
There are two incidents here, in reverse chronological order.
A. Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons shows faith in God’s promises,
even when circumstances seem to contradict those promises.
This event is recorded in Genesis 48. Jacob and all of his sons and
their families had migrated to Egypt to endure the famine. Joseph
heard that his father was ill and took his two sons to visit his aged
father. Jacob recalled God’s appearance to him, when the Lord
reaffirmed the Abrahamic covenant. Then he claimed Joseph’s two sons
for himself as heirs. In effect, this meant designating Joseph as the
firstborn, who received a double portion of the inheritance. Reuben,
the natural firstborn, had forfeited his position by having relations
with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (Ge 35:22; 49:4). So now Joseph’s
two sons each receive a full portion of the inheritance.
But, when Jacob went to lay hands on the young men for the blessing,
he deliberately crossed his hands, laying his right hand on Ephraim,
the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh, the older. This troubled
Joseph, who tried to correct his father. But Jacob replied that he
knew exactly what he was doing. Jacob predicted that while both sons
would be great, the younger son’s descendants would be the greater of
the two (Ge 48:19). So he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
There are three applications of this story.
(1) God’s ways are not man’s ways; God’s ways according to His
sovereign choice, will triumph over man’s ways.
The natural order would have been for Manasseh, the first-born, to
have preeminence over his younger brother. But Jacob himself
demonstrated the same point, that God’s choice of the younger over the
elder would thwart man’s ways. In spite of human ignorance and sin to
do things man’s way, God’s way and His choice always triumph.
This applies to the way of salvation. Man’s way is according to human
choice and human merit. Good people who make the right choices are in;
bad people who make the wrong choices are out. But God’s way of
salvation is according to His choice and purpose, not according to
man’s choice (Lk 10:22; Jn 1:13; 6:65, 70; Ro 9:11-note,
Ro 9:15, 16, 17, 18-note).
As James 1:18-note
“In the exercise of His will He
brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of
first fruits among His creatures.”
Salvation rests on God’s will and
(2) As parents and grandparents, we should seek spiritual blessings
for our children above worldly success.
Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of the second most powerful man in
Egypt. They had been raised in the most luxurious conditions in the
world. No doubt they were personal friends with Pharaoh’s children.
Servants attended to their every need. They had received the best
education available at that time. They were heirs to a huge financial
estate. They easily could have succeeded in whatever careers they
chose in Egypt. In these circumstances, it would have been natural for
a grandfather to bless his grandsons by saying, “May you prosper in
Egypt even as your father has prospered. May you amass great fortunes
and enjoy the best that the world has to offer!”
But instead, Jacob, the lowly shepherd, who is a pilgrim in Egypt to
avoid starvation in the famine-stricken Canaan, adopts these two
princes as his own and confers on them the blessing of Abraham. A
worldly-minded parent could have thought, “Whoopde-do! You’re giving
them a double portion of the famine-stricken land of Canaan, but you
don’t own a square foot of it, except for your burial cave! Here in
Egypt, they’ve got everything that anyone could dream of having, and
you’re giving them a piece of dry ground that you don’t even own to
But what was Jacob really giving his grandsons? By faith in God’s yet
unfulfilled promises, he was giving the boys the spiritual blessings
of Abraham, which were far better than the worldly blessings of Egypt.
Even though there was not a shred of tangible evidence that God would
give the land to Jacob’s descendants, Jacob believed God’s promises
and handed this off to his grandsons.
It is a tragedy that many Christian parents today hope more that their
children and grandchildren will succeed materially than that they will
succeed spiritually! They would be thrilled to hear that one of their
kids got accepted into medical school or landed a fat contract with a
professional sports team. But if they heard that the kids were headed
for the mission field in a poor country, they would try to “talk some
sense into them.” They wouldn’t want them to “throw their lives away”
with nothing (materially) to show for it. Besides, they’d rather have
the grandkids nearby. That is a thoroughly worldly attitude! First and
foremost, we should want our children to walk with God, wherever that
may lead them in terms of a career or a geographic location.
(3) God is sovereign in assigning different gifts and places to His
children, both materially and spiritually.
The story of Jacob and Esau shows that God is free to distinguish
between individuals in the matter of salvation, according to His
sovereign purpose (Ro 9:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18-note).
But the story of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh shows that God is
free to give different material and spiritual blessings to those who
are His children, according to His purpose. Some are wealthy, some are
not. Some have powerful spiritual gifts, but others have lesser gifts
(1Cor 12:4, 5, 6, 7). Each of us is responsible to use what the Lord
has given us to advance His kingdom, and not to compare ourselves with
others or be envious that we had what they have been given.
B. Jacob’s worship shows faith in God’s promises, even when
circumstances seem to contradict those promises.
Jacob’s worshiping on the top of his staff happened before he blessed
Joseph’s sons (Ge 47:29, 30, 31). Joseph had heard that his father was
near death, and he visited him privately. Jacob asked Joseph to swear
that he would not bury him in Egypt, but rather in the Cave of
Machpelah with his ancestors. When Joseph swore that he would do so,
Jacob bowed in worship.
There is a discrepancy in that the Massoretic text, which lies behind
our Old Testament, says that he worshiped at the head of his bed,
whereas the LXX says that he worshiped on the top of his staf. The
Hebrew language was written with consonants only until the sixth to
eighth centuries, A.D., when Hebrew scholars added the vowel points.
The noun in question reads bed if pointed in one way, but staf if
pointed another way. Since the LXX was translated about nine centuries
before the Massoretic pointing was added, it probably best reflects
the original text, staf (Philip Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to
the Hebrews [Eerdmans], pp. 488, 489).
Either way, the point is to show an old man whose body is weak, but
whose faith is strong in God’s promises. Although all of his
descendants are now living comfortably in Egypt, he doesn’t want to
signal that that is okay. When Joseph agrees to bury him in Canaan, he
worships God because he sees in Joseph’s promise a glimmer of hope
that God will fulfill His promises. The staff may be symbolic for the
pilgrim life that Jacob had lived as an heir of the promise to
Abraham. His hope was not in this life, but in God’s promises for a
better country, namely, a heavenly one (He 11:16). So even though he
was dying as a poor man in a foreign land, he died in faith in God’s
3. Joseph’s mention of the exodus and his order about his bones
show faith in God’s promises, even when circumstances seem to
contradict those promises (He 11:22).
Both things refer to the same incident (Ge 50:24, 25). As he was
dying, Joseph told his brothers (fellow Jews) that God would bring
them back to the land which He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Then he made them swear that they would carry his bones with them when
they returned to Canaan.
Joseph demonstrated many instances of strong faith in God throughout
his lifetime. He had resisted the seductive attempts of Potiphar’s
wife. He remained true to God while imprisoned unjustly. His faith
enabled him to interpret dreams on more than one occasion. He dealt in
a godly manner with his brothers who had wronged him. He administered
the food relief program fairly, without greed. But the author of
Hebrews skips all of these examples of faith and picks out the one
about Joseph’s bones! Why?
The main reason is that it shows us a man facing death at a time when
God’s promises seemed unlikely ever to be fulfilled. God had given the
promises to Abraham more than 200 years before, but here were his
descendants living in Egypt, not in Canaan. They were doing quite well
in Egypt at this point, thanks to Joseph. Their enslavement followed
his death. It would still be over 200 years before Moses led them out
of Egypt and 40 years after that before they entered Canaan. Yet
Joseph made mention of the exodus, and ordered that they take his
bones when they left Egypt.
By so doing, he was disassociating himself from all of his success in
Egypt and associating himself with God’s people and God’s promises. He
didn’t want a grand tomb in Egypt, where future generations of
Egyptians could pay homage to the man who had saved their country from
ruin. Instead, he wanted his final resting place to be in the land of
God’s promise. His burial instructions were a strong exhortation to
his people not to be satisfied with the blessings of Egypt. They
should only be satisfied with God’s promises for the future.
The temptations of success and comfort are often much greater than the
temptations faced by those in poverty. The poor man more readily sees
his need to trust in the Lord, but the rich man can easily trust in
his riches and forget the Lord. The story of Joseph’s bones should
remind us not to put our hopes in material success, but to realize how
empty riches are when we’re on our deathbed. But how rich we truly are
if our hope is in God’s promises about eternity! What does it profit
to gain the whole world and yet to lose your soul (see Luke 9:25;
12:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)?
Many years ago, a ship known as
Empress of Ireland
went down with 130 Salvation Army officers on board, along with many
other passengers. Only 21 of the Salvation Army people survived. Of
the 109 that drowned, not one had a life preserver. Many of the
survivors told how these brave people, seeing that there were not
enough life preservers, took off their own and gave them to others,
saying, “I know Jesus, so I can die better than you can!” (In “Our
Daily Bread,” Fall, 1980.)
A young woman was about to be operated on for throat cancer. Her
chances of survival were slim. At best, she might lose the ability to
speak for the rest of her life.
“We’re going to begin now,” the surgeon told her, “so if you have
anything you’d like to say….”
For a moment or two the young woman remained silent, though her mouth
moved several times as if to speak. Finally, she said in a calm, clear
voice, “Blessed be the name of Jesus.” I don’t know the outcome of her
surgery. I do know that she trusted God’s promises, even though
circumstances seemed contradictory.
Faith faces death by trusting God to fulfill His future promises, even
when circumstances seem to contradict those promises. By so doing, we
join Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who all “died in faith, without
receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them
from a distance” (He 11:13).
Why is belief in God’s sovereign election essential for solid
assurance of salvation?
How would you answer the charge
that if God’s purpose in salvation will be accomplished, then we don’t
need to witness?
Should Christian parents leave a
large inheritance to worldly children? Why/why not?
Why must a believer’s hope be in
God’s promises for heaven, not on health and wealth in this life? (Hebrews 11:20-22 Dying Faith
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