The Retelling of Faith

Torah Portion: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)
Gospel Reading: Hebrews 12:1-11
Commentary by: Chris Knight

This week we begin the book of Deuteronomy with Parshat Devarim. Deuteronomy is unique in that the generation that left Egypt has passed away. All except Moses. Now Moses is recounting all the events, challenges, failures, and victories their parents had faced before arriving here at the bank of the Jordan. Moses hopes to inspire this generation to trust in God’s faithfulness, to obey the Torah, and to not make the same mistakes that their fathers had made before them.

One of the biggest challenges the previous generation had faced was their lack of faith in being able to conquer the land of Canaan. In fact, this is the reason why they could not enter the land and had to die in the wilderness, leaving the promise to their children. When they had spied out the land, they saw the enemy as too great, too powerful, too strong for them to overcome. They looked at their own might rather than God’s faithfulness to His word. Moses hopes this new generation won’t make the same mistake and says to Joshua in chapter three,

“And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so will the Lord do to all the kingdoms through which you pass. You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.’” (Deuteronomy 3:21-22, NKJV)

We serve a great and awesome God in that He has never failed or betrayed His promises. He has the best track record when it comes to fulfilling His word and fighting on behalf of His people even when we don’t deserve it. Many of us can even look back upon our past and reflect on how God was directing our steps and protecting us even when we didn’t realize it. However, we as people quickly forget past victories. Often we let our current problems and obstacles in life shadow over the victories and successes that we’ve had in the past. We allow our current trials to dwarf God’s promises just as the ancient Israelites did. So what is the solution? How can we obtain greater faith? Paul tells us in Romans 10:17,

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV)

We have the benefit of scripture and testimony! Scripture encourages us by showing us the incredible ups and downs, victories and failures, struggles and successes of God’s people throughout history. We see that all the great role models of faith were just as human and flawed as we and dealt with the same temptations and sins that we face in this present age. Most importantly, we see God receiving glory in using these flawed people to accomplish His will and purposes. We gain hope that He can use us too, should we humble ourselves to be used by Him. We have hope in His greatness and power rather than our own. We trust that even if we should face the greatest of trials like many of our predecessors did, that we have the greatest of prizes awaiting us, the Kingdom of God. The author of Hebrews writes,

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

When we look to scripture, reflect on God’s faithfulness, and praise Him for the great testimonies both past and present, our faith is strengthened. We must be able to look at God as greater, bigger, and stronger than any of the challenges that we are up against. We are not alone. We are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” These aren’t spectators, like at a sporting event, who have never endured the pain of those on the field. These are the saints who have gone before us and completed the race. Greatest of all, Christ, Who set aside His glory beside the Father to come in the flesh and endure the same testings we all endure. The author of Hebrews continues writing about Christ, saying,

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7-11 NKJV)

We are not alone. The God of Israel is on our side and fights on behalf of His people! He knows our pain, our fears, our struggles and not only promises but also demonstrates victory in the person of Yeshua! So next time your enemies, obstacles, and fears appear beyond the scope of your abilities, look to Yeshua. Look to all the fathers of our faith who also endured, and often stumbled in their walk, but overcame by their faith in the most faithful One. Look to God’s faithfulness knowing that He has never failed and He most certainly won’t start now.