Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
In this famous chapter, persevering faith is exemplified from the Old Testament. This chapter is often referred to as: “The Faith Hall of Fame.” In this chapter, the writer puts into perspective a certain characteristic of true, saving faith; namely, endurance. We have an extreme record here of people who endured great difficulties in this life, yet who kept the eye of faith firmly fixed on the eternal rewards. They were able to look beyond the immediate inconveniences of this life and fix their hope on heaven. The point of this chapter is to encourage these Hebrews to follow in the footsteps of these great men and women of faith.
In the first two verses of this chapter, faith is given a basic definition. True faith is standing under the promises of God, rather than standing apart from them. Faith is not wishful thinking. It is convinced, assured, confident thinking, based upon God’s testimony, concerning things which have yet to be seen. This is the kind of faith these Old Testament saints exercised.
In verses 3-16, the author writes about enduring faith from creation to Sarah. The writer takes us back to the very beginning of time as we know it. He gives us a historical record to give us an example that requires faith in all of us. No one saw God create the universe. All of us have heard God’s testimony on the matter. By faith, we take God at His Word.
Then the writer moves forward in history using Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah as examples of enduring faith. Since devotions do not allow proper time to look at each of these heroes of the faith, we will focus on just one for today, Abraham. Acting upon the sole basis of God’s Word, Abraham left home and country “not knowing where he was going”. He was not wandering aimlessly; the promise of God was guiding him. He walked by faith, not by sight. He had never seen this promised land before. He took God at His Word. Abraham ended up living as an alien in the land of Canaan for 100 years. This was not easy. But God’s promise was upon the land, therefore Abraham could endure the present in light of the future reward.
All these heroes of the faith died without receiving the promises. The fulfillment of the promises often were beyond the scope of their immediate lifetime. Although they did not receive what was promised in their lifetime, they exemplified a threefold attitude of faith. They “saw” the promises clearly with eyes of faith. They “welcomed” the promises from a distance. They took them to heart. They “confessed” that they were strangers and exiles on earth. They made a life confession that was consistent with the promises of God.
These great examples of faith encourage all of us to “run with endurance the race that is set out before us”. This chapter tells us what we should be living for, regardless of our living conditions. Hebrews 11 call us to follow noble examples. It encourages us to look beyond the pleasures and problems of this life, and to “fix our eyes on the author and perfector of our faith, our High Priest Jesus!
Questions to Ponder
Considering these great examples of faith, what would have been an appropriate response from these Hebrew readers? How should we respond today? What is the most “faith-stretching” thing God has led you to do in your Christian experience? Have you accepted and confessed that you are a stranger on this earth? How would such a confession make a difference in your life? Read Philippians 3. In what ways did Paul exemplify this same kind of enduring faith?
- Praise the Lord as the lifter of our heads, as our God and Father who invites us to come to Him.
- Confess areas where you are doubting, worrying, or holding on to. Surrender them to our gracious Father.
- Pray for eyes of faith. Invite Him to speak and minister to your heart, ask Him to reveal Himself to You in those areas.
- Pray we will run the race that is marked out before us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray we remember heaven is our home, our citizenship is in heaven.
Loving and Generous Heavenly Father,
I praise You for Your unlimited patience, power, might, strength and faithful love. Thank You for being so compassionate with me and Your people. Your kindness and Leadership are perfect. God I lift up myself and our church family and I ask that You would enable us to keep our eyes on You Lord, the author and perfector of our faith, our High Priest. Help us to walk in the footsteps of faith, give us ears to hear Your voice and a heart to obey You. Be glorified in and through us and cause Your light to shine brightly for all to see. In the Name of Jesus Christ I ask, amen.