Tony Evans - Israel: The Risk of Faith
We've introduced the title of today's message, "Israel: The Risk of Faith". The reason why we used Israel and not the name of a person is because in verse 28 there is a subtle shift in Hebrews 11. It says, "By faith he," Moses, "kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them". So, he moves from him to them. And then, in verse 29 he says, "By faith they passed through the Red Sea". Verse 30, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days". So, he moves from him to the them, from the man Moses to the congregation of the nation of Israel, so as I speak to you today I'm not merely talking to you individually, although it applies. I'm also talking to us collectively because the message is collective in nature, because it deals with the whole congregation of Israel.
In Exodus chapter 12, when God told the children of Israel that he was going to smite, verse 23 of Exodus 12, the firstborn in Israel, but if they would put the blood of a lamb on the doorpost of their home, when the death angel came he would pass over them. Verse 23, he would not allow the destroyer "to come into your homes to smite you". He then goes on and tells them in Exodus, he says, "You are to memorialize this for your children". Verse 26, "When your children say, 'What does this mean to you?' you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord who gave over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians but spared our homes.' And the people bowed and worshiped". He says, "You ought to teach this Passover thing to your kids, and you ought to keep this Passover ongoingly".
Now, why am I telling us this and why is the author of Hebrews telling us this about faith? Because the Bible says, 1 Corinthians 5:7, Jesus is our Passover. What the blood of the lamb did in the Old Testament for Israel, the blood of Jesus does for us today. If you operate under the blood of Jesus, that is if you operate in sync with Jesus Christ, his sacrifice on the cross, if you operate in sync with Jesus Christ, the blood covers you. Everybody here today on their way to heaven is only on their way to heaven 'cause they're covered by the blood. The blood did not simply deliver Egypt for eternity. The blood delivered them in history. It delivered them from the Egyptians. See, a lotta folk who've been saved by the blood for heaven do not let the blood save them on Earth.
See, the blood is good for eternity, but it's also good if you operate in sync under the rule of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. He becomes the deliverer that we've been singing about who gives freedom from this, who gives deliverance from that, who gives peace that passes understanding, joy in tribulation, who takes you through the various ups and downs of life and makes you more than a conqueror. It says all that comes through the blood, too. So, if you're only looking to the blood for heaven, you're gonna miss the power of the blood on Earth. That's why Jesus says, "If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father who is in heaven. But if you acknowledge me before men, I will acknowledge you before my Father is in heaven".
See, belief in God is not where your deliverance comes. Your deliverance comes through the blood, and that is your identification with Jesus Christ. He now goes on to the second of these three events. He says in verse 29, "By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, was drowned". Israel, they're slaves in Egypt. They're slaves in Egypt. When the Passover occurred and God slew all the firstborn of the Egyptian children, of Egyptian households, and the firstborn of the Egyptian cattle, it says in Exodus chapter 12, verse 33, "The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, 'We will all be dead.'" "We keep them here, they gonna kill everybody". "So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes and on their shoulder. Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses. They had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians".
Now, you gotta follow the story now. They're slaves. The Passover occurs. Now they're scared. They say, "Get rid of them Jews, and we'll help 'em go. Give 'em all the jewels, all the silver, and all the old". All of a sudden they went from slave to freedom and broke to living large, 'cause it says they plundered the Egyptians. They took all their gold, their silver, their money. They just robbed the bank. The folk wanted to get rid of 'em so bad, so that ought to tell you how quick God can change the situation. God can change the situation real quickly, because God turned this thing around. And so, now overnight, they've gone from slaves to a wealthy nation, so now they do what folk do in church. They getting their praise on. God has turned that thing around, so right now things are looking real good. Things are looking really, really good.
Now, according to chapter 13, verse 17, "Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, 'The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.' Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea". So, this miracle now, watch this, the miracle is gonna happen at the Red Sea, but the Red Sea is not the direct route to the Promised Land. So, they up here in Egypt, the Promised Land is here, and God takes 'em down by the Red Sea to bring 'em back up to the Promised Land. Has God ever taken you way out of the way? And as he leads them the long way around Pharaoh has second thoughts. Chapter 14, verse 5, "When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of mind," change of heart, "toward the people, and they said, 'What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?'" "We must have been ought of our mind to let all that extra help go. What were we thinking"?
So, he takes 600 chariots, verse 7, to go after them. Okay, watch this. Watch this. Stay with me, folks. Verse 8 says, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly". Watch this. It says "and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart". So, when Pharaoh said, "Go get 'em," God told Pharaoh, "Hurry up". To harden your heart means to make you do more of and make you do it faster of what you intended to do in the first place. So, he had a change of heart. His change of heart say, "Go get 'em". God hardened the heart and said, "Yeah, you ought to go get 'em. You ought to hurry up and go get 'em before they get outta here. Go get 'em now. If I was you, I wouldn't've let 'em go, either. Go get 'em," okay? God led 'em the long way around. God told evil Pharaoh, "Go get 'em". You ever feel like God is more on the enemy's side than yours? You ever feel like God is more on your unsaved employer's side than yours? You ever feel like God is more on your unsaved coworker's side than yours? You ever feel like God is more on your unsaved family member's side than yours?
You praying and you looking to God, you trusting God, and they coming after you. The problem is coming after you. The difficulty is coming after you. And watch this: and they coming after you right after you were just blessed. When the people see the army coming after them, they do what Christians do today. Verse 11, "Then they said to Moses, 'Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us outta Egypt? Is this not the word we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, "Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians"? For if we had been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die here in the wilderness.'" They did what we do on God when it doesn't look like God is working it like we expected it, but Moses said to the people, okay, so this is the congregation of Israel. It says the "they" in Hebrews. Moses is like the pastor. He says, "Do not fear". Doesn't that sound like a good pastor? "Y'all scared". The pastor mounts the pulpit and says, "Do not fear. Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord".
What else is a preacher gonna say? Congregation is scared about inflation. They're scared about crime. They're scared about this. He says, "Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord which he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see again forever". What he's basically saying is trust the Lord. Now, there is, I'm getting ready to show you, a missing verse in the Bible. There is a verse that's missing, and we're told the verse is missing. It's a verse that's supposed to be in the Bible that's not in the Bible, and we're told that it's not in the Bible even though it's supposed to be in the Bible. Let me show you the missing verse. Verse 15, "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.'" I wonder who saw the missing verse. Okay, watch this. In verse 13 and 14, Moses is the confident preacher. "Don't be afraid. God's got this. God's gonna fix this. The Egyptians, they're not gonna mess with you. Somebody say amen". No, I'm talking about Moses talking to the people.
So, Moses is confident God's got this thing, but then we read God says, "Moses, why you crying out to me"? I don't see where Moses is crying out to God. Moses hasn't said anything to God. All Moses has said is what God would do for the people, so we have a missing verse. Let me fill in the verse. "Fear not. God is going to deliver us". Missing verse: "God, you better come up here and do something, 'cause I'm up here talking all this noise to these people". How do I know that's the missing verse? 'Cause God tells him and ask him, "Why are you crying to me"? But he hasn't verbally said anything to God. He's only verbally said something to the people, so he's done like I often have to do from the pulpit, tell y'all what God said while I'm having my private conversation in the middle of my sermon.
See, see, a lotta times up here there are two sermons going on, one to you and one between me and him. I'm saying, "God, this is what I'm gonna tell the people what you can do. You better come up here and not make me look like no fool up in here". There are two sermons going on here. He says, "Why are you crying out to me"? 'Cause he was scared, too. He was preaching the truth, but preaching it with his own internal fear, because, if the truth be told, even when you wanna gamble on God, you're scared. Even when you quoting Scripture to yourself you're scared. Even when you telling yourself, you're listening to Christian radio, you're listening to a CD, you're hearing from God, but you are still scared. And the fear was not only in the congregation. It was in the preacher, so God has to even say to him, "Why are you crying out to me"? Now let me give you the translation. "Moses, there's a time to pray and there's a time not to. Stop talking to me. Stop. Don't keep repeating your fear to me. Stop talking. Why you crying out to me"?
Now look at the first phrase in 16 and the first phrase in 17. Now watch this. He says, "As for you". Somebody say, "As for you". "As for you". But look at the first phrase of verse 17, "As for me". "As for you". Then he says in 17, "As for me". "As for you, lift up the staff". "As for me, I will harden the Egyptians' heart to go after you," okay? "You do what I told you to do. You leave me to do what I'm supposed to do. Don't worry about me. I got my part, but I'm not gonna do my part till you do your part. Until you lift up the rod, you won't see what I can do". A lot of us haven't seen God move yet 'cause God hasn't seen us move yet. God says, "As for me, I got my part down. I'm just waiting for you to stop whining, crying, complaining, and talking about this and talking about that, talking smack. I'm waiting for you to shut up and do what I told you to do".
We got Christians going around saying, "Well, I'm praying about it. I'm praying about it. I'm praying about it. I'm praying about it. I prayed about it. I asked God about it". God is saying, "Oh, shut up. Why are you crying to me, telling me you're praying about it for 50 years, and you haven't done what I've told you to do yet? So, you haven't seen what I can do. As for you, you do what I told you to do. And as for me, I got my part, but my part will only move after I see you move by faith. So, Moses, you pick up your rod, and you hold it out. You do what I put in your hand to do". Many of us are waiting on God, when God is waiting on us, and God says, "I am not going to move and you will not see my hand until I see you roll the dice in my favor. And when I see that".
And then, you have a double miracle. You have a double miracle, because verse 21 says, "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land so that the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea as on the dry land". That's two miracles. Hope you know that. Says this wind came. Charlton Heston. You remember. The wind came and split the water. That's miracle number one. You got two walls of water. Now, it's gonna take faith to walk between those two walls of water because you don't have empirical evidence they won't come down while you walking through. So, it's gonna take faith to walk through, but that's only half the miracle. But I know why they could believe the first half of the miracle 'cause of what happened in the second half of the miracle. 'Cause the first half of the miracle was the splitting of the water. The second half of the miracle was dry ground.
You see, the ground shouldn't have been dry if it's at the bottom of a sea. It should be wet, muddy ground, but that wind was so strong. It not only walled the water, but it dried out the bottom of the sea so that there was no dirt, mud. They could roll their carts. The horses could travel. The mules could travel. Everybody could travel 'cause God opened up the ocean and dried up the land, and they saw, "We can walk on this". It's a double miracle. It says the angel of the Lord doubled back and blocked the Egyptians from coming until Israel walked through. Then the angel of the Lord moved out and let the Egyptians come, and they were drowned in the sea.
If you've never gambled on God and seen what he could do when only he could do it, then maybe that's why God may not be real in your life, 'cause you've never bet on him. All the little stuff maybe, the stuff you could do even if there was no God, but you've never bet on him in a crisis when he boxed you in between a rock and a hard place, when he put you out on a cliff, when he put you on a ledge, when you were in a pinch. In verse 17, "I will be honored". Verse 18, "I will be honored". He does it so that he can get what he just got, an applause from his people, so that he can be glorified, so that he alone will get the credit.
Let me conclude real quick with the last story, which is verse 30 of Hebrews 11, Jericho. You know about it. Chapter 6. Jericho. Okay, watch this now, 'cause you will miss this. Jericho. God says, "Joshua, I want you to take Jericho and here's the plan. Walk around the wall six times once a day and on the seventh day walk around the wall seven times. Blow the trumpet horns," and like any good rapper would say, "and scream," you know? "Scream". Joshua chapter 6, verse 1 says that Jericho was totally tight like a drum. In other words, everything was locked up. These walls are so big like the movie "Ben-Hur". Two chariots could go side by side on 'em, so this wasn't a wall you just climb. This was a major city, and they said it was locked up. In other words, nobody coming in, nobody coming out because Israel was on the way, and they said, "Well, we're gonna just all stay in here so they can't even get to us".
So, Joshua was out there looking and trying to figure out, "How are we gonna do this"? The angel of the Lord shows up. He bows before the angel of the Lord, takes off his shoes to submit in humility to God, standing before him and says, "Now, I'mma tell you something that's not part of your military training. I'mma tell you something that no military has ever thought of before and that is," watch this, "gonna make you look like a fool when you do it. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to walk around the wall once a day". Once it was. "Day number 2, go around. Day number 3. Day number 4. Day number 5. Day number 6. On day number 7. You go around that thing seven times, you blow the trumpet horns, and you scream, and I'll take it from there".
Now, if you were looking at a military manual to get your instruction, then you would have never taken a risk on God, 'cause that doesn't make sense. When God puts you in a position that doesn't make sense, he wants you to see he's God. He wants you to experience the fact that he alone is God. And when they screamed the walls came tumbling down, and there's nothing like seeing God knock down something you can't knock down, turn something around you can't turn around. You know, we have 65 acres at Camp Wisdom and Hampton, and, you know, I wanted that land for a master plan, you know? And this is many years ago.
And so, I took a whole bunch of folk of our congregation. Some of you may have been here when we did that. Walked on that 65 acres, and we marched around it and claimed it, claimed it for the purposes of God. So, we marched around it. We claimed it. We got in a circle, held hands. We all looked spiritual out there. We were in a circle. We were holding hands. We were praying, "Lord, give us this land for the purpose of expanding your kingdom". And we prayed, and they sold the land to somebody else. Really. True statement. Nothing irritates me more about God than when I believed him for something and he do something else with it. He worked against me. You know, I wasn't happy that day, 'cause I'm leading the congregation. I'm leading 'em. "Trust in the Lord," and they looking at me like I'm crazy. The land be sold to somebody else.
That was one of them days when I felt like Moses. "God will give it to me". "God, what you doing? You know, I'm conflicted". So, we prayed, we trusted God, and he sold it to somebody else. Lo and behold, couple years later, the folks who bought it defaulted. They came back to us and we own it, because God is weird. And, God, I said that reverently, so you know. God is weird. "My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts. As high as the heaven is above the earth," because when God is ready to move he can shake it and bake it, twist it and turn it. He can turn things around, bring things up. You never know, you don't know who you dealing with. He is a beast.
One of the most rehearsed miracles in the Bible is God opening up the Red Sea and his people Israel taking the risk of faith, walking between two walls of water on dry land and believing that the God who promised they would get through it would keep his Word. God calls us to take risk because faith deals with what you do not see in advance, but if God said it it's a risk worth taking.