We've been talking about the people of Jericho and how they believed for forty years that God was going to lead His people into their land, and then we talked about the people of Israel, who believed not once, but twice, for four hundred years each time that God was going to fulfill His promise to them. And then, we fast forward to today, and we have a whole bunch of pseudo-preachers out there claiming that the Old Testament has nothing to teach us about our faith any more.
Let me be clear: the faith demonstrated in the Old Testament, by the people of God and by those around them, puts my faith to shame.
I don't know how you keep believing for forty years when absolutely all of the evidence points to the contrary. Did you know it's likely that the people of Jericho saw the people of Israel approaching? Maybe even more than once. Only to watch them turn around and go back into the desert to wander some more.
Even if you still believe that God is going to bring them into your land at some point, this back and forth is enough to break anyone's confidence. Here they come...no, never mind....no, they're coming...no, never mind; they turned around again...but here they come....
None of us can live like that. We might try for awhile, but that tug of war in our hearts and souls is intolerable in the long run. We simply can't persist in it for very long at all or it becomes absolutely agonizing.
But here we are with a people of Jericho who apparently never stopped living in that agony. They still believed, forty years later, after who knows how many close calls, that it was happening. Man, that's faith.
Or think about Israel.
They had to hold that promise of a Messiah across a ton of generations. Dozens of generations. We were well at the point, by the time Jesus was born, that anyone who was around to witness it had only probably eighth-hand knowledge, at best, of the last prophet who ever spoke of it. This generation didn't know Isaiah. They didn't know Jeremiah. They didn't know Ezekiel. These were stories that their parents told them because their parents told them and their parents told them.
Sometimes, the stories your grandparents or great-grandparents tell you are cool. But sometimes, over time, when you don't see any evidence of them whatsoever, it's easy to think that grandma's starting to get dementia. That grandpa doesn't know what he's talking about. That these old folks are, decidedly, off their rockers.
But Israel didn't think their ancestors were crazy. They didn't think their old age must be making them delirious. No. Generation upon generation upon generation of Israelites clang to the promise of God, believed it wholeheartedly, and shared it so convincingly with their children that when a baby was born in Bethlehem, a whole generation who had never heard a prophet speak it started to whisper, Could this be Him?
Does the Old Testament have anything to teach us? I think it does. It teaches me something every time I read it again. It teaches me, among other things, that my faith is not as strong as sometimes I think it is.
Because I'm just not sure that I could keep believing for forty years. Let alone four hundred.