THE MEN WHO COULD SEE THE FUTURE
Hebrews 11:20-22 (CSB)
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones.”
We have examined the lives of five heroes of faith so far in our study: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah.
• Abel had a short life, but God enabled him to not allow that limit to keep him from using his one shot at a life of faith.
• Enoch lived in a corrupt generation, but God enabled Enoch to walk in fellowship with him in spite of the failures of his world.
• Noah also lived in a corrupt generation, so corrupt that God had to destroy it. But God preserved Noah and his family from that judgment.
• Abraham came from a pagan people, but God called Abraham to himself and taught him how to put trust him implicitly.
• Sarah learned to look beyond her own limits and focus on God’s ability and his faithfulness.
Today we add three more men to the list. The author of Hebrews lumps these three men together because he is highlighting a particular aspect of their lives. They each expressed their faith by something they did at the end of their lives. These three men are a son, grandson, and great-grandson of Abraham. They are Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
To help us see what these three men had in common, let’s go back to the first two verses of Hebrews 11.
• “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God’s approval.”
Something that is hoped for has not yet happened. Something that is not seen is only ours potentially. It is a future possibility. Faith is trusting in the reality of what you hope for. It is confidence in something you do not yet see.
These three descendants of Abraham manifested the faith of Abraham. The author of Hebrews highlights how each of these men demonstrated faith inspired confidence in their future.. Each story tells us what faith inspired confidence can do in our own lives.
Faith inspired confidence enables us to influence the next generation (20).
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”
Let me remind you of the story behind those words, in case you were sleeping during Sunday School. Isaac was an old man by this time, and he planned on blessing Esau, because he was the oldest. Isaac “was old and his eyes were so weak that he could not see” (Genesis 27:1). He was blind to the present but he believed that he could see the future. He had faith inspired confidence that he could influence the next generation.
So, he called Esau and told him to go hunting for some game, and make him a nice meal. He planned to bestow a blessing on Esau that would change his future.
Meanwhile, his wife Rebekah had overheard this conversation. She tells Jacob to go get a couple of goats. She proceeded to cook up a nice stew, and dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothing. She even put some of the goat skin on Jacob’s hands and neck so Isaac would be fooled into thinking he was hairy Esau instead of smooth Jacob.
Consequently, Isaac wound up blessing Jacob instead of Esau with this blessing:
• “May God give to you – from the dew of the sky and from the richness of the land – an abundance of grain and new wine. May peoples serve you and nations bow in worship to you. Be master over your relatives; may your mother’s sons bow in worship to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed” (Genesis 27:28-29).
By the time the smoke cleared and he realized that he had been deceived, Isaac had only these words as a blessing for Esau:
• “Look, your dwelling place will be away from the richness of the land, away from the dew of the sky above. You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you rebel, you will break his yoke from your neck” (Genesis 27:39-40).
Now, when we tell this story in Sunday School, we usually focus on how bad it was for Rebekah and Jacob to deceive their poor blind father. But the author of Hebrews finds a different moral in the story. He focuses on the fact that in spite of the circumstances behind the blessing, what Isaac said to Jacob and Esau influenced their lives and determined their destiny.
Faith inspired confidence ensures the impact of our testimony (21).
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”
When Jacob was old, he had poor eyesight like his father did. So, when it came time for him to bless his grandsons – the sons of Joseph, he reached out his hands and placed them on the heads of the two boys. It was a blessing but it was also a testimony.
• He said “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm – may he bless these boys. And may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they grow to be numerous within the land” (Genesis 48:15-16).
But Jacob had crossed his hands so that the greater blessing went to Ephraim instead of Manasseh. Joseph tried to correct him, but he said to Joseph …
• “I know, my son, I know! He too will become a tribe, and he too will be great; nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his offspring will become a populous nation” (Genesis 48:19).
The author of Hebrews adds that Jacob “worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.” That staff was necessary because Jacob had acquired a limp because of a bad hip from wrestling with a certain someone and was blessed because of it. His defect was a sign of his blessing, and it became part of his testimony. His faith inspired confidence ensured the impact of his testimony on his family.
Faith inspired confidence gives us glimpses of a life after death (22).
“By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones.”
Joseph was in Egypt at the time. The Bible records that he “said to his brothers…
• “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid and bring you up from this land to the land he swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”” (Genesis 50:24).
Joseph knew this because God had told Abraham that his…
• “offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14).
Now, Joseph realizes that this exodus was going to happen after his death, so he “gave instructions concerning his bones.” What were the instructions?
• “When God comes to your aid, you are to carry my bones up from here” (Genesis 50:25).
What Joseph did is he took the promises of God concerning the future, and he shared those promises with faith inspired confidence. He knew what life was going to be like for his people after his death.
You and I have much more information from Scripture about our future than Joseph did. We know that Jesus will return, raise the dead in Christ, transform the living into immortal bodies, celebrate with us at the marriage feast, reign with us, reward us, and give us permanent life.
Given all the things that we know, shouldn’t we be sharing faith inspired confidence about the future with the world?
Today we learned about three men who had something in common. They had the opportunity to express their faith inspired confidence about the future, even as they faced their own deaths. These men died. Their confidence was not the ridiculous notion that death is an illusion. No, their confidence was that death is not the end. It is a comma, not a period. They could see the future, and they could remain confident, because God would be there.