Lesson 1. The Great Object Lesson
Text: Numbers 13:30-33
(30) And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. (31) But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. (32) And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. (33) And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
Illustration: The power of example
One Sunday morning in 1865, a black man entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia. When Communion was served, he walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of resentment swept the congregation. How dare he! After all, believers in that church used the common cup. Suddenly a distinguished layman stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside the black man. With Robert E. Lee setting the example, the rest of the congregation soon followed his lead. Today in the Word, September, 1991, p. 15.
Illustration: Inspiring others by example
For many years Monterey, a California coast town, was a pelican's paradise. As the fishermen cleaned their fish, they flung the offal to the pelicans. The birds grew fat, lazy, and contented. Eventually, however the offal was utilized, and there were no longer snacks for the pelicans. When the change came the pelicans made no effort to fish for themselves. They waited around and grew gaunt and thin. Many starved to death. They had forgotten how to fish for themselves. The problem was solved by importing new pelicans from the south, birds accustomed to foraging for themselves. They were placed among their starving cousins, and the newcomers immediately started catching fish. Before long, the hungry pelicans followed suit, and the famine was ended. Bits & Pieces, June 23, 1994, p. 17.
Quote: Example outweighs speech
"A man's life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching."
Quote: The poor perspective of some
Sadly many in the world often look at things this way: "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."
Introduction: The foundation for the book of Hebrews comes from an illustration of an event that happened during the time of Moses in the Numbers 13:30-33. We see this truth made plain in Hebrews 3:6-19. Not only was it a important moment in Jewish history it was also an important teaching tools for new Christians. God does not want us to stagnate in our faith or fall short of the goal that he has for our life. Everything written in the Bible is for our learning and admonition. Romans 15:4 "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
- The Facts: The Historical Background
- Their past: Hebrews was written to Christians who had been converted out of Judaism. It was critical that they move forward in their Christian life and that they realize what they have in Jesus is better than what they had in their Jewish religion. The flesh wants to cling to the old system it is familiar with even when it is not wise to do so. God was building on what they knew and helping them to go forward in their faith as believers.
- Their problem: They had been saved long enough to have been expected to have grown to maturity, but they had not. Instead of teaching others, they needed to be taught themselves; and instead of being spiritual adults, they were still classified as baby Christians: Hebrews 5:12-13 (12) "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (13) For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe" This sadly is still a big problem that exists today in our modern day churches as immaturity is a big problem today and leads to many church splits, divisions and causes a lot of tension among believers. We must get back to clear teaching of the Bible and help Christians grow. It is also important that Christians are submissive to the Word of God and apply it to their life so they can grow as a Christian.
- Their persecution: These Hebrew Christians lived in a day when persecution of those belonging to the Christian faith was increasing. The writer reminded them of the suffering they had already experienced. Hebrews 10:32-34 (32) "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; (33) Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. (34) For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Also, we need to realize that opposition carne to these Jewish believers not only from the pagan Gentile world in which they found themselves at that time, but also from the unbelieving Jews. Imagine a people who loved their nation, and were proud of their heritage, being forsaken by their own people because they had trusted the Messiah!
- The Foundation: The Key Illustration was an Old Testament history of Israel.
- The story: The event that is used is the story of the nation of Israel in their journey from Egypt to the promise land of Canaan. This was something that all of these people the author was writing to would have been familiar with. This was something that he would take and apply to their current situation so they could learn from it and move forward in their life. We need to learn from things that are written in the Word of God and apply them to our life so we can grow and benefit from what we have read. Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
- The spies: When Moses and the people arrived at the Jordon River, twelve spies were sent into Canaan. Two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) encouraged the people to enter the land. Ten of the spies brought an evil report and sought to discourage the people from entering Canaan. All of the spies saw the same things in the land of Canaan, but there were two very different opinions about what should be done. Our view of God will determine what we think and how we react to things that we see in the world today.
- The submission: Praise God for the encouragement to go forward by faith and do the will of God. Numbers 13:30 "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." When we are submissive to the will of God great things will happen. God is not going to bless unbelief or rebellion.
- They saw the opportunity: The land was everything God said it was and they were excited about claiming the promise of God. Numbers 13:23 “And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.” This was proof that what God told them about the land was true and they could enjoy this on a daily basis. They felt like they had an open door from God on this. Revelation 3:8 “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” We should be excited about the opportunities that God has put before us. There has never been a greater time to be alive and serve the Lord, but sadly few believers look at it that way.
- They saw the obstacles: They saw the giants, but they never lost sight of God. Zechariah 4:6 "Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Oh that we would never lose sight of God when we face obstacles and opposition in the world today. The enemy is not going to quit because we are seeking to serve the Lord. As long as we dwell on this earth we will have opposition, but by the grace of God we can have victory by faith. I have been involved in ministry for over 30 years and there have always been obstacles each place I have been, but that never changed the promises of God or diminished his power in any way.
- They stayed optimistic: Because they had faith in God and had full confidence that God would give them the victory. Stop focusing on your circumstances and focus on the promises and power of God. The Bible will make you more optimistic than the media will covering the news no matter what the format is.
- The stubborn: We see the 10 spies did not have the same viewpoint as Joshua and Caleb. These men analyzed the situation completely differently and they said, "We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." The ten spies made the mistake of thinking that the conquest of Canaan depended on human strength, and not on divine power. They did not say, "God is not able"; what they said was "we be not able." (Numbers 13:31). This is a sad commentary on their lack of faith and how little they thought of God and what he can do. When you think things depend on you and not God then you go nowhere but in circles. There thinking was worldly and faithless. Sadly unbelief greatly hindered the work of God then and it does in many ways today. God is still the same today as he has always been, but few people are willing to trust him.
- They saw the goodness of the land: They were impressed with bounty of the land. When it took two men to carry the grapes they had on a pole they would have been amazed as well. It is probable that the men carry them were from the 10 who did not believe God. They saw every good thing that Joshua and Caleb saw. I can image they must have been amazed as they pointed things out to each other that they saw during this time.
- They saw the giants of the land: They were fearful and had no concept that God could give them the victory. What a sad way to live only thinking you can have things you get in your own strength. We must not forget that we are children of God and we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:4 "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
- They were shortsighted and missed the God of the land: They thought they had to do it in their own human strength. They had no faith in God. It is sad that they had such a rich history of seeing God's miracles, but they put that aside and refused to believe. Because of a lack of faith and fear the Jews turned back. They had such a small concept of God. Numbers 11:20 "But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?" Many Christians today fall into this same reasoning and they wonder why they are frustrated and fruitless. God never promised that our service would be easy, but he did promise us that he would be with us and help us. God is going to prove us to see if we really believe him and are willing to exercise faith. Fear of failure should never stop us from moving forward by faith. We must remember that doing nothing is not success.
- The sentence: When the Jews turned back they experienced the consequences of defeat and death. God declared that they would never be able to enter Canaan, and that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years. Sadly they would die in the wilderness and because of their sin they would never enter into the promise land that God gave Israel. Numbers 14:32-33 (32) "But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. (33) And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness." It is sad to see such wasted potential and unbelief. There are many Christians all over America and around the world who are doing nothing for God because of their unbelief and their unwillingness to follow God by faith.
- The stupidity: It was not wise the way the Jews respond to God's judgment! First, they mourned; then, they decided to enter Canaan at once, but it was too late. Moses warned the people that without God's blessing, it would be impossible to enter Canaan, but they tried anyway. The result was failure: "Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah" (Numbers 14:45). Israel was defeated and many people died. There was no way to enter Canaan without the power of God; the conquest of Canaan did not depend on the military might and skill of Israel, it depended on the wisdom and power of God. Hebrews applies this story to the Christian life. In applying this illustration the rule to follow is this: the experience of the nation as a whole illustrates principles which apply to the lives of individual Christians. Note that it is the nation as a whole, not individual Israelites, that pictures the Christian's life.
- The Figures: The Illustrative truth
- System of the world: We see in this illustration as well in other parts of the bible that Egypt is used to represent the world. Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” We should never trust the world for our needs, but to God alone. When we ignore God and embrace the world it will cloud our judgment and lead our heart away from God.
- Salvation: This is pictured by the crossing of the Red Sea. They escaped the bondage of Egypt and they trusted God as they walked through the Red Sea in the one path (way) that he provided for them. There is no other way to have your sins forgiven besides the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. ”
- Stagnation in the wilderness: Pictures those immature and worldly (carnal) Christians. It was these individuals who did not please God and would be the ones who complained the loudest when things did not go according to their expectations in the wilderness. There are many believers today who are wandering in the wilderness as they are not following Jesus. They are quick to complain about local churches, pastors and just about everything else, but they refuse to realize that they are their biggest problem. They don't have to stay in the wilderness, but sadly they choose to do so.
- Surrender to Jesus: The crossing of the Jordan River was a picture of surrender to God. Every believer ought to be surrendered to Jesus in their life, but the truth is only a small minority are. We cannot control what anyone else does, but we need to make sure we are in that minority group. I remember when I was in Bible College as senior in the dorms and one day I was speaking with a freshman roommate. There were three other people from his home church. When I graduated only about 25% that I started with finished and the rest were gone. I knew the statistics were only about 1 in 4 would graduate and I told him if that happens with the group from your church just make sure you are the one that graduates. Praise God he did graduate and went on to be very effective in the ministry.
- Successful in Canaan: We see that maturity, or the victorious Christian life is pictured by Canaan. Canaan is not a picture of heaven, but of the victorious Christian life. We win more battles that we lose as victorious Christian, but we have no battles in heaven. It should be our desire to be a victorious Christian on this earth and live for God.
- Short of the goal Israel at the Jordan River: The Christian who grows in grace for a while and becomes surrendered in many areas of his life but they stop short of completely selling out to Christ. As God demands His all, the Christian rebels, and refuses to surrender to Christ. This sadly is evident today in the modern church as many seek convenience and refuse to live by conviction. Today modern day Christianity has a long list of excuses why it cannot give all to Jesus. God is never impressed by excuses but is impressed with faith and obedience.
- The Focus: Our Christian life
- Complacent in Christian life: The tragedy in Hebrews indicates that after growing in grace, and learning much of God's truth, there is a possibility of rejecting the life of surrender. Knowledge is not synonymous with obedience. Many young people learn the facts of God's Word and it is in their mind but it never penetrates their heart. We need revival as the church as a whole has become cold and apathetic. We need God to fill our altars with repentance and tears and a renewed heart. James 1:22-25 (22) "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
- Consequences in our Christian life: Doing the same thing they did will bring the exact same consequences that the nation of Israel experienced which was defeat and death. This illustration must be kept in mind as you study the book of Hebrews. We would be wise to learn from the mistakes of others. Romans 15:4 "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
- Challenge for our Christian life: The motivation is based on love. In the first six chapters, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the work and person of Christ. It is Christ who motivates us to higher ground in our Christian experience. If we can learn to love Him more, we will learn to serve Him better. The Bible principle is this that love produces obedience. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 14:15: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" and there is no substitute for this fact.
- Comparisons to the Christian life: The first 6 chapters compare Christ to the most treasured possession the Hebrew Christians had before they were saved which was their Jewish religion. It would be wise to realize that if Hebrews had been written to the converts of our materialistic society, perhaps the writer would say that Christ is better than a fine home, new car, good job, fame and fortune. Do you remember when the wise men visited Herod looking for the newborn King? Herod inquired of the scribes and they reported that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They knew the prophecies concerning Christ, but they did not care to go and see Him. Their religion was more important to them than the Messiah. Most people today prefer their religion over the things of God. These Hebrew converts needed to realize that Christ was better than anything their own life had to offer. They were clearly exhorted to put Christ first and make him the center of their life.