Great Examples of Faith.
What is Faith? 11:1, 2.
This is the great chapter of faith. The writer of Hebrews has concluded the previous chapter that, faith is the dynamic by which the just shall live (Heb: 10:38). But faith is a misunderstood word. Many people think it is believing something we cannot prove. Biblical faith is the assurance that what God has promised, He will fulfill. Also faith is the assurance upon which all Christian hopes are based. Faith is not a leap into something unknown or a crutch for the weakling. It is the confident assurance that what God has promised is going to happen. It is the conviction of things not seen (11:1). As Christians, we are saved by faith. Also we live by faith (Gal 2:20). Many people think we need a lot of faith. But what matters is the object of our faith and how trustworthy he is. The writer explains what faith does than what it is. This confidence and conviction are based on the divine revelation. True faith is produced by God. It is taking God at His word. The Old Testament fathers received God's approval because of their faith. So the author encourages his readers to endure in their faith to inherit the future promises. Faith and hope always go together. "The whole Bible is primarily a message of faith and hope. Hope strengthens the church the harmonious, worshipful and welcoming community"
What faith does?
The author is writing to the Hebrew Christians who are under the treat of persecution. He wants them to endure it knowing that they will obtain God's unseen blessing one day. He wants them to become imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited the promises. It is impossible to please God unless we set our faith and hope in god (11:6). Now the writer illustrates lives of the Old Testament leader to show, what faith does and how it enabled them to have a right relationship to God. Abel, Enoch and Noah were heroes of faith lived before the days of Abraham. Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Abel is the picture of true worship. God revealed to Abel that there is a right and there is a wrong way to approach God. He offered his sacrifice by faith and it was more acceptable than what Cain offered. He received from God the testimony that he was righteous. Christ is the new and living way to approach God. He is the lamb that was slain. We cannot devise our own way to worship God. We are exhorted to offer the sacrifices of praise to God continually through Jesus Christ (13:15).
By Faith we understand that the Universe was Created by the Word of God: 11:3.
This visible universe points to an invisible Creator. There are many views about creation account. The material science cannot explain the origin of the universe. it is not a random event. The theory of evolution has no satisfactory answer for the origin. This theory is keeping changing. These theories of origin have never proven and still remain as only theories. But the Bible starts with the statement that "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth". No one witnessed the act of creation, yet by faith we know that the worlds were framed by the Word of God (Psalms 33:6, 9). Someone has said "The evolutionists must have more faith than Christians to prove their theory.
The Worship of Faith: 11:4.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Abel had some knowledge of what God has done to parents. They were restored to God's fellowship with the skin of animals (Gen 3:21). Abel had the revelation that sinful man can approach God only through blood sacrifice. Cain's sacrifice was blood less. He pictures man's futile attempt to save himself by good works. Abel cast himself to God's mercy and grace. He pictures true worship. God revealed to Abel that there is a right and there is a wrong way to approach God. He offered his sacrifice by faith and it was acceptable to to God. God is not indifferent toward the object and the manner of worship. Though Abel died, he still speaks.
The walk of faith:11:5-6.
By faith Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying. He walked with God in a time of wickedness. At the age of 65, Enoch started walking with God along with his family (Gen 5:21-24). He believed that God's judgment can happen any time. Walking implies living in Faith and fellowship with God. Before he was translated at the age 365, Enoch had received the testimony that he pleased God. It is impossible to please God without faith. He that comes to God must believe that God exists and and that he rewards those who seek him (11:6). They will finally enter His presence either by the way of death or by rapture. When Christ returns, those who are in Christ will be caught up in the clouds to meet Lord in the air (1 Theses 4:16, 17). Do you have this blessed hope?
The work of faith: 11:7.
By faith Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. With no sign of a flood or knowledge of rain, Noah built the ark. He took God's word for sure. It shows his conviction of things not seen. Faith enabled Noah to become a witness for God. He was a preacher of righteousness. By his act of faith he condemned the unbelieving world. Through faith Noah became heir of the righteousness. Through faith Abel obtain the witness that he was righteous. Through faith Enoch pleased God. Faith is our response to God's revelation. Without faith it is impossible to please God. May God help us to follow the example of Abel, Enoch and Noah?
The obedience of faith: 11:8-16.
Faith is the response to the promises of God. Among the heroes of faith, Abraham has a prominent place. He is known as the "Father of the faithful”. Abraham’s faith had three stages. First His faith was awakened by God. Secondly Abraham's faith was disciplined. Thirdly his faith was perfected. Abraham's faith was also associated with those of Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Abraham was an idol worshiper before God appeared to him (Joshua 24:2). By faith Abraham obeyed when God called him (11:8). He went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he lived in the Promised Land as a foreigner (11:9). He looked for the city which has the foundation whose builder and maker is God. He hoped for God's kingdom. God's kingdom is “God’s people, living in God's place, under God's rule, enjoying God's blessings". He lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob as a stranger and pilgrim. Abraham's heart was set upon the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. Christ said Abraham rejoiced to see my day (John 8:56). So God was not ashamed to be called, the God of Abraham (Exodus 3:6).
The test of faith:11:17-22.
When Abraham and Sarah were united in faith, they receive the promised son Isaac. How Abraham's faith was tested is explained in Genesis chapter 22. God promised Abraham that all nations will be blessed through his son Isaac. Later God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham believed that God is faithful to raise Isaac from the dead. Figuratively, Abraham did receive back his son from the dead (11:19). Abraham loved God more than his son Isaac (Genesis 22:12, 16-18). His faith was made complete by his obedience (James 2:22). Abraham learned that God loves those who trust Him and that He is a God of providence (Genesis 22:14). He recognized, God as the righteous judge of all earth (Genesis 18:25). Abraham is called the prophet and the friend of God (Genesis 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Salvation is by faith, but faith finds its channel of expression through works. Someone has said "Faith alone will save but the faith that saves will not be alone". Abraham's experience teaches that trials are there to prove the reality of our faith in God.
The writer associates the faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph with Abraham's faith. All these faithful men died without receiving what God had promised them, but saw it afar off. Isaac, old and blind, saw the future of his children. It was by faith that he blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph, believing that God would fulfill His promise to them. He worshiped God for His faithfulness, by leaning on his staff. By faith Joseph spoke about Israel’s departure from Egypt and commanded them to carry his bones with them when they depart. So faith looks from a distance and rejoices in the future blessings. Pray God to give you great anticipation of the better, heavenly country that is to come (11:16).
The choice of faith:11:23-29.
Moses' faith is mentioned with the faith of his parents. Great heroes of faith usually come from godly home. By faith Moses' parents hid the child believing that God's promise would be fulfilled through him (Genesis 15:13, 14). By faith Moses rejected the Egyptian way of life and refused to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. By faith Moses saw that the riches of Christ are far greater than the riches of Egypt. By faith he forsook Egypt. By faith Moses kept the Passover, in obedience to the command of God and Israel was delivered from Egyptian slavery. By faith Israel went right through the red sea to safety. By Faith the wall of Jericho fell. By faith Rehab the harlot was saved from destruction. Those who choose the challenging path of following Christ will have far greater wealth than what this world can offer.
The deliverance of Faith:11:30-38.
Now the writer summarizes the faith of many who deserve recognition. By faith Daniel stopped the mouth of the lion and his three friends were delivered from the flaming fire. David escaped the javelin of Soul and Elijah was delivered from Jezebel. By faith, women received their dead by resurrection (1 King 17:17-24; 2 King 4:32-37). Many of them were treated as though, they don't deserve to live in this world. Some were slain with the sword (Jeremiah 26:23). Many were tempted to forsake their faith in God. They preferred to die than to become apostates. Isaiah was sawed in half. Zechariah was stoned (2 Chronicles 24:20, 21). Elijah wandered destitute , afflicted and mistreated of whom the world was not worthy (11:38).
They were all examples of faith:11:39-40.
All these people persisted in their faith even though received not the promises but they have received God's approval (11:39). True faith in Christ will endure until the end. The author shows the superiority of the new covenant. "For God had planned something better for us so that only together with us, they would be made perfect" 11:40). It does not mean that the blessing of Old Testament saints is dependent upon our blessing. It simply means that without us, the heroes of the Old Testament could not enter into the blessing of the new covenant which Christ has fulfilled. The writer encourages the readers to endure the trials and remain faithful to the end. The Old testament saints looked forward to the salvation accomplished by Christ and Christians now enjoy its fruit by God's grace. May God help us to follow the example of the heroes of Faith!