“…all commended for their faith…” Hebrews 11:39 NIV
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often referred to as, “The Hall of Faith” for Christianity. Within its forty verses, the writers take the first century Jewish Christians through an extensive history lesson on God’s ‘system’ of faith:
- By faith we understand that everything was created by God’s spoken command.
- By faith Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than his brother Cain.
- By faith Enoch was translated to heaven without experiencing mortal death.
- By faith Noah, after being warned by God, built the ark in preparation for the flood.
- By faith Abraham journeyed to a promised land totally unknown to him.
- By faith Sarah conceived a child, though far past child bearing age.
- By faith Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, believing God could and would resurrect him.
- By faith Isaac spoke blessings over both of his sons.
- By faith Jacob, on his deathbed, spoke blessings to Josephs sons.
- By faith Joseph prophesied the great exodus, and for his bones to go with them.
- By faith the parents of Moses hid their baby for three months, disobeying the ruler’s edict.
- ·By faith Moses chose mistreatment rather than the prestige of a royal connection.
- ·By faith Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt at God’s leading through a column of fire or a column of a cloud.
- ·By faith Moses Instructed all of Israel to keep the Passover so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not harm any from their nation.
- By faith the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
- By faith Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho and witnessed the collapse of its walls.
- By faith Rahab did not perish in the destruction of Jericho, and was spared for her kind treatment of the spies who assessed the city’s strengths.
Then the writers provide still more evidence of those who served God in faith: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Evidently, there was not enough room to provide further descriptions of others, who because of their faith, shut the mouths of lions, suffered mocking, floggings, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in-two, killed with the sword, wore skins of sheep and goats, were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated, forced to wander in deserts and mountains, and dens and caves of the earth. The writers described these unnamed founders of The Faith as those whom the world was not worthy to be honored by their continued presence. Though not specifically named, they were certainly known to the first century Jewish Christians: Daniel, who survived an entire night in a den of hungry encaged lions; John the Baptist, who wore animal skins and ate locusts, and was later beheaded; Stephen, who was stoned to death; and Paul, who suffered floggings, chains, imprisonment, and stoning.
In describing faith, the writers assert faith as “being sure of what we hope for” and “certain of what we do not see”. (v.1) How could the writers develop such a radical description of faith? It is an acclamation that originates in both experience and education. They were certainly familiar with the stories from the sacred text detailing the lives of those who walked by faith. A life lived in dependence upon God’s watchcare and provision has no qualms in being certain of the unknown. In fact, the writers press the point further by stating, “…without faith it is impossible to please God…” (v.6a). One must believe God exists to approach Him in prayer, knowing, “He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (v.6c)
God’s system of faith is a system of rewards. The rewards are seen with an eternal perspective. Verses thirteen through sixteen describe how Believers see themselves as “…aliens and strangers on earth.” (v.13) Like Abraham, Christians are those who have been ‘called out’, set apart from the world’s system and called into the eternal system and perspective of heaven. (Read Dt. 14:2; Ps. 4:3; 2 Co. 6:17; 1 Pt. 2:9; 1 Jn. 4:4-5; Re. 18:4)
Being set apart transforms our thinking. For some, like me, it takes a lifetime. One disciplines the mind to a new way of thinking. (Read Mt. 6:24; Ro. 6:5-6, 12:2; 2 Co. 5:17; Ga. 2:20; Co. 3:1-10; 1 Jn. 2:15-16) This discipline requires time spent in God’s Word, which will feed one’s faith and trust in God, Who is working out His good purposes for each one’s life.
Walk in faith...