Hebrews 10: 32-39 - Remember When You Walked By Faith
Call to Worship to begin the service: Psalm 87
Our text this morning is found in Hebrews 10:32-39,
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
As we begin this morning I’d like to consider Exodus 13. Exodus 13 is in the middle of two great moments in Israel’s history. In Exodus 12the Passover has occurred and now Pharaoh has been compelled to let the people go out from the land. Then in Exodus 14 the Israelites are being led across the Red Sea.
Exodus 13 is right in the middle of these two great moments. It records instructions given to them as they begin their journey out of Egypt and make their way towards the Promised Land. If I were to summarize Exodus 13 in one sentence it would be, ‘God repeatedly tells His people to remember this day of deliverance so that they will walk in faith toward the future promises that God has given to them.’
In Exodus 13:3 the people are told, “Remember this day in which you came from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And then Moses says to them in verse 5, “And when the LORD brings you into the land...which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey…”.
The people are to remember that particular day when they were delivered out of slavery in Egypt. This would not be easy for the people to do. Even while the LORD speaks to His people about these things we are told that He knows that they have a propensity towards faithlessness and towards unbelief. We see this in Exodus 13:17-18 these words, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’”
When the people wandered in the wilderness they would often look back longingly at their time in Egypt. They often remembered their time in Egypt as something good and enjoyable! As if this were not sinful enough they also sinned by not believing the great promise that God had made about bringing them into the Promised Land.
For example Numbers 14:1-4 records the peoples reaction to the report of the 10 faithless spies, “Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will become prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’” (1-4)
Passages like these, including our text today in Hebrews 10:32-39, reminds us that believers in every generation have been delivered by God’s mighty hand from slavery to Satan and to sin (Heb2:14-15). From that moment forward they are to look back upon ‘that day’ and remember God’s power of salvation with faith that expresses itself in gratitude. Then we are to walk by faith as we look forward to receiving a better kingdom and an abiding one.
Every believer, whether in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, starts this journey by faith, we continue this journey by faith and we will end this journey in faith. We also learn in Exodus 13 that God instructed His people to do certain things so that they would remember these things even after He had brought them into the Promised Land. Even then they were to look forward to something more that God had promised to do for them (Hebrews 11:39-40).
Our text this morning reminds us of these things. We are to remember the Gospel that we believed. From that day forward we are to journey as pilgrims by faith. And we are to look forward in faith to Christ’s promised return when we will receive a better and abiding promise.
I have divided our text into 3 sections to consider this morning. At the beginning of each of these points we will read the verses associated with them.
Hebrews 10:32-34 says that these believers are to ‘recall their previous endurance’.
Hebrews 10:35-36 charges them to ‘not throw away their confidence and great reward’.
Hebrews 10:37-39 exhorts them to ‘live by faith while waiting for Christ’s return’.
These Believers Are To Recall Their Previous Endurance
Look again at verses 32-34, “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
My friends, we may not be experiencing these particular trials that are mentioned here in our lives but we are nonetheless experiencing our own trials which are designed to make the Word of God unproductive in our lives.
Consider Luke 8when Jesus speaks about the Parable of the Sower. In this parable Jesus teaches that we are under a continual attack from Satan, from various trials, and from the cares, riches and even the pleasures of life. This is what Jesus says, “The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (11-12)
The author of Hebrews is writing to those who have heard the gospel and they have been enlightened. The word ‘enlightened’ can mean two things. First, this speaks of the Christian who has been enlightened to see the glory of the Gospel in Christ Jesus. Until a person is enlightened they are unable to see and respond to the Good News. The psalmist speaks of the inability of a dead person to do the things that a living person can do. His words are a description of the enlightenment and life that we all need from God. He says, “Do the departed rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (88:10-12) Those who have been enlightened praise God, they declare his steadfast love and faithfulness, they declare His works and His righteousness.
Second, an enlightened person begins to shine fourth the grace of God for others to see. As this happens they are received by other believers as brothers and sisters in Christ. However, those who are not enlightened often no longer understand them and they do not accept them. Therefore, a Christian becomes a pilgrim, a sojourner, and exile. This world is no longer their home.
This congregation had begun to live by faith but over time they struggled to continue to live by faith. This happened because of the persecution and suffering that they experienced. Because of this some were tempted to slowly drift away from Jesus. (This sort of persecution and suffering was not unusual for Christians to experience. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10; James 1:2-4; Rev. 2:9-10)
The author of Hebrews asks them to remember a time when after they had been enlightened and they had endured hard struggles and sufferings(32) Over time, however, their was the concern that they were not enduring and remaining steadfast.
We have already seen in Hebrews that Satan has suffered a decisive defeat by Christ. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we read, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (2:14-15)Christ’s victory over Satan ensures us that the devil has already lost the battle. Because of this Christ is now in heaven sitting at the right hand of the Father and He is waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool (2:5-9, 10:12-13).
Despite Jesus’ victory Satan does not give up and stop the war that he wages against God’s people. Therefore believers are warned not to drift away from the Gospel or neglect the promises that God has made that will come to pass.
The author of Hebrews describes some of the ways these Christians were suffering. We are told in Hebrews 10:32-33, “...you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.”
Christians face a continuous battle on three fronts. We battle indwelling sin, the sinful world around us, and we fight against the devil. Because of this every believer needs to display great endurance. We read in Hebrews 10:36, “You have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
We read, “...you endured a hard struggle...”. These believers had started out strong under such afflictions; however, these trials began to choke out the Word of God and hinder their faith. Therefore the author of Hebrews comes and exhorts them to continue in faith concerning God’s Promises. For example we read, “...recall when you were enlightened...do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward...you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
How did it happen that these believers had lost their joy and endurance?
Consider Psalm 77:1-2which gives us a description of how this may happen. The psalmist says, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.” (The importance of prayer for endurance: James 1:2-8; Luke 22:39-46)
The psalmist is experiencing a day of trouble so he is seeking the LORD. At night he raises his hands without wearying. And then he says, “...my soul refuses to be comforted”. I am sure that you can remember times when you pursued God with singleness of heart but then something distracted you.
Maybe you got a new job that took up the time you once had devoted to God.
Maybe you engaged in a relationship that stole away your affections from Christ.
Maybe you took on an obligation that made it harder to seek the LORD.
Maybe your prayers seemed to be answered with some temporal comfort.
King David gives us an illustration of what it looks like to seek the LORD with this sort of intensity. We find this in 2 Samuel 12. We read, “David...sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and laid on the ground all night...he would not get up, nor did he eat food (15-18). We are told that for seven days David refused any comfort from his servants.
Perhaps this is what has happened to these Christians. For a time they kept the faith while suffering. But as these trials continued they were tempted to find comfort and relief in other things.
These Believers Are Exhorted To Not Throw Away Their Confidence And Reward (35-36) Hebrews 10:35-36 says, Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
In Hebrews 2:1 that these Christians were told to pay closer attention to what they had heard lest they drift away from it. The word ‘drift away’ speaks of the fact that their grip upon the gospel was slipping. In our text today they are told that they are not to they are throw away their confidence.
There were some in this church who had abandoned Christ and the Gospel. There were others who were being tempted to walk away from the faith and distance themselves from the LORD and the church. The author of Hebrews reminds them that they once ‘knew that they had a better possession and an abiding one’ and this gave them courage to walk by faith.
From the very beginning every believer has been asked to not throw away this confidence in what God has promised. Recently I talked to someone about the gospel. They claimed that they did not believe in God because they could not image that if there was a good God that He would allow the Fall to happen which would result in all the suffering and misery that we now experience.
One of the ways that I tried to address this concern was to show that everyone, including Adam while he lived in a perfect garden, has been asked to have confidence in a future promise that would be even better than their present reality. Yes, even Adam before the fall was looking forward to receiving from God something better.
Does it surprise you that I said that even Adam in the garden before the fall had to believe such a thing?
I say this because God put Adam in the garden with countless blessings and comforts; and yet, Adam was placed there on probation. He was placed there with the promise that if he would do God’s will and not eat of the forbidden tree that he would be able to eat from the tree of life (Genesis 2:9).
Yet, Adam did sin. He ate of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, he was immediately separated from God spiritually and he began to die physically. After he ate of the fruit that was forbidden Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and they were never allowed to return and he was barred from eating of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).
Adam who was given true righteousness was to always be mindful that his obedience to the will of God in the garden would eventually give him a better possession and an abiding one. If Adam would have continued to live by faith in this promise then he would have been able to successfully repel the temptation that the devil brought against him. The God who had commanded Him not to eat of the forbidden fruit had also promised to give him access to the tree of life. If Adam doubted God’s command then he would also doubt the promise.
On that day when Adam disobeyed God he threw away his confidence in the promise and he lost the great reward. When this happened Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and they were not allowed to eat from the tree of life. When Adam sinned the curse came upon all people. Sin and suffering came into the world.
Now eternal life is only available through faith in the second Adam who was to come, Jesus Christ (Romans 5). Immediately after the fall God promised to provide a savior who would destroy Satan and overcome sin and provide eternal life to those who would look to Him for that salvation (Genesis 3:16). Since that time every believer has walked by faith while they endure suffering and wait patiently for the inheritance that God has promised (Hebrews 11).
This is why the author of Hebrews can write to these suffering believers, and every believer in any generation, saying, “Since you know that you yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Yes, there is suffering in this world and we are not promised that we can escape it. However, we are promised that we will receive a great reward if we are not faithless and shrink back. And when we walk by faith we receive the grace we need to endure. This brings us to our third point.
The Righteous Will Live By Faith(37-39)
Hebrews 10:37-39 says, “For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
Samuel Rutherford once said, “Feeling is of more credit to us than faith; sense is surer to us than the word of faith. Many weak ones believe not life eternal, because they feel it not; heaven is a thing unseen, and they find no consolation and comfort, and so, are disquieted.”
Consider those last words, “...heaven is a thing unseen, and they find no consolation and comfort, and so, are disquieted.” There was a time when these believers endured great suffering and trials because they had faith in the promise of a better possession and an abiding one. But now they had lost sight of these things. As a result, they no longer found comfort and consolation in the promise of these things.
Those who had been enlightened and endured a hard struggle had begun to shrink back. Those who once suffered public reproach and affliction with confidence had begun to pull away and neglect God’s promises. Those who once joyfully accepted the plundering of their earthly property were beginning to throw away their confidence.
In all of this we see that it is not the trials, the sufferings, the reproach and the loss of material things that took away their confidence and joy; rather, these graces were lost when they stopped walking by faith. Christian it is not the suffering, the trials, the reproach that takes away your joy; rather, it is lost when we don’t live by faith in God and His promises.
Last week in Numbers 20 we saw that Moses had a moment when he failed to respond in faith. When this happened his joy was replaced with anger. And in his anger he sinned and did not uphold the LORD as holy in the eyes of the people (Numbers 20:10-12).
May our prayer be like that of Jesus’ disciples in Luke 17:5, “Increase our faith!”
Closing Scripture: James 1:2-4
Application: As I have read through 1 and 2 Samuel lately I have appreciated how often King David had to refresh himself in the LORD. Read 1 Samuel 30 and 2 Samuel 16 and consider the conditions that David experienced and how he refreshed himself in the LORD. How can you make times for refreshing in your life each day? What spiritual disciplines will you commit to doing to be refreshed in the LORD? How will making a habit of these things help you to endure under the trials that you experience?