Faith v.s. Faith (Hebrew Bible)

When we speak of faith, a lot of things can come to mind. Certain traits may come to mind or even certain people who we believe had great faith may come to mind as well. In this study, I want us to better understand what faith looks like when life happens to godly people. What is our faith supposed to do for us? How does real faith change us?

We are going to discover that just because one might have faith, doesn’t mean they are faithful. We are going to look at a few examples of people with faith. What type of faith will these people have? Let’s discover for ourselves. 

The people of Israel were a rebellious group of teenagers. At least, they seem to act as such over and over again throughout the Hebrew Bible. The first time Israel starts to complain and rebel is just three days after the miracle of the Red Sea. Just three days after God provides the biggest miracle in their nation’s history, they start to complain and wonder if they are going to die without water. Exodus 15:24, “Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded”. They have little faith that God will take care of their problems even after the miracle they just witnessed. We often have this same experience in life. We lack trust in God even though he has proved over and over again that He can take care of us. 

This isn’t the last time Israel complains either. The book of Numbers has seven more examples of Israel complaining or rebelling against God. Seven times the nation forgets about what God has done even though He provides whatever it is they want whether it be food or water or safety from other nations. God provides manna in the wilderness when they have nothing to eat. Even that is not good enough for the people so God sends Quail down in Numbers 11 when they are tired of eating the thing God gave them to keep them alive. He provides water in Numbers 20 when they are thirsty. These acts are things a loving and overwhelmingly merciful God does for His people. Why would we not have faith in a God like this who provides even when we don’t deserve it?

This type of wavering and faulty faith isn’t the only type of faith humans are bound to. There are other examples of faith in Scripture that are quite the opposite. I love to use the example that lies in 1 Kings. Elijah was a prophet of Yahweh during a time when Israel served other gods, specifically Baal. Baal had 450 prophets and only Elijah served Yahweh and Elijah challenges the other prophets to a duel, a battle of the gods, if you will. They built altars with slaughtered bulls on top and the god who answered by fire was the true God. How much faith does Elijah have to have here? He’s the only one serving Yahweh and what if He doesn’t answer by fire? Then he becomes the laughing stock of the whole community as he probably was already. As the duel goes on, Baal doesn’t answer. So now it is Elijah’s turn. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah prays to God that he will answer him so that others will know He is God. In other words, he wants them to have as much faith as him. God delivers and burns up everything and the people cry out that Yahweh is God. 

This is definitely a feel good story, but would we be able to have that kind of faith? When the odds are against us in life, do we have the faith to know that God will deliver? Are we able to stand with confidence that since Yahweh is our God anything is possible? Well, let’s face reality for a moment. Sometimes in life, things don’t go as we had hoped and sometimes prayers aren’t answered. The close family or friend who is sick, doesn’t get healed like we had prayed for. The job we wanted doesn’t come our way and goes to someone else. These things can happen even if we have faith in God. So what are we to do? What kind of faith are we to have? Well, there are three men in the Bible who show us how to think. 

The Babylonian empire is reigning what feels like the world. Daniel served under King Nebuchadnezzar. He had an image of gold made and wanted his kingdom to bow down to it. This creates a bit of a problem for three Hebrew men who serve Yahweh. Everyone bows down, except these men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The King is furious and tells them if they don’t bow down, they will be thrown into a blazing furnace. In other words, a death sentence immediately. Look at their reply in Daniel 3:16-18,

 “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up”. 

This response is nothing but amazing. They tell the king that God is able to deliver them. They know he is able to save them. They have that faith. But did you catch what they said after? “But if he does not…”. God can save them, but if he decides not to, they will never serve his gods anyway. They have so much faith that God can save them, and even if he decides not to save them, for whatever reason, they will still be faithful to Yahweh. That right there, is an example of pure faith in God. Knowing that God can do something and still believing if he doesn’t is faith because we trust that God’s ways are higher and better than ours. 

Of course we want God to answer our prayers and he can, that’s step one in having faith, knowing that God can. The harder part is accepting that sometimes he doesn’t answer them, and that His will is better than ours even when we don’t think it is. Only when we understand and accept this, can we have powerful faith in God. 

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