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Hebrews 11:1-40 (web)

Plea for Preserving Faith II

11:1 Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.
11:2 For by this, the elders obtained testimony.
11:3 By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God,
so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible.

11:4 By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks. (Gen 4:4)

11:5 By faith, Enoch was taken away, so that he wouldn't see death, and he was not found, because God translated him. For he has had testimony given to him that before his translation he had been well pleasing to God. (Gen 5:24)

11:6 Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.
11:7 By faith, Noah, being warned about things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house, through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Gen 6:22)

11:8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called,
obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance.
He went out, not knowing where he went.
11:9 By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own,
dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.
11:10 For he looked for the city which has the foundations,
whose builder and maker is God. (Gen 12:1)

11:11 By faith, even Sarah herself received power to conceive,
and she bore a child when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised.
11:12 Therefore as many as the stars of the sky in multitude,
and as innumerable as the sand which is by the sea shore,
were fathered by one man, and him as good as dead. (Gen 21:2)

11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises,
but having seen {TR adds "and being convinced of"} them and embraced them from afar,
and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
11:14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking after a country of their own.
11:15 If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out,
they would have had enough time to return.
11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.
11:17 By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac.
Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son;
11:18 even he to whom it was said, "In Isaac will your seed be called;"
11:19 accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead.
Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead. (Gen 22:2)

11:20 By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come. (Gen 27)

11:21 By faith, Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph,
and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. (Gen 49)

11:22 By faith, Joseph, when his end was near,
made mention of the departure of the children of Israel;
and gave instructions concerning his bones. (Gen 50:25)

11:23 By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. (Ex 2)

11:24 By faith, Moses, when he had grown up,
refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
11:25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God's people,
than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time;
11:26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt;
for he looked to the reward.
11:27 By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king;
for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
11:28 By faith, he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood,
that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them. (Ex 2,12)

11:29 By faith, they passed through the Red sea as on dry land.
When the Egyptians tried to do so, they were swallowed up. (Ex 14)
11:30 By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down,
after they had been encircled for seven days. (Josh 6)

11:31 By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn't perish with those who were disobedient,
having received the spies in peace. (Josh 2)

11:32 What more shall I say? For the time would fail me if I told of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets;

11:33 who, through faith subdued kingdoms,
worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
11:34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
from weakness were made strong, grew mighty in war,
and turned to flight armies of aliens.
11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection.
Others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance,
that they might obtain a better resurrection.

11:36 Others were tried by mocking and scourging, yes, moreover by bonds and imprisonment.
11:37 They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted.
They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins;
being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
11:38 (of whom the world was not worthy),
wandering in deserts, mountains, caves, and the holes of the earth.

11:39 These all, having had testimony given to them through their faith, didn't receive the promise,

11:40 God having provided some better thing concerning us,
so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Discussion Questions

vs 1 What future expectation are you completely certain about, but which haven't yet experience?
To be effective, must a Christian's faith be a sure, unwavering conviction, or can it be a sort of an experimental ("let me try this out and see what happens") type of faith?
If your name was added to the above list, how might it read:
"by faith (your name) ...."
Or considering the applications of faith listed above, what are some equivalent things in each of these examples that Christians do by faith? (see below)
vs 4 Why was Abel's sacrifice better than Cain's, and how did this involve faith?
(Gen 3:7,21)
vs 17-19 What contradiction was evident to Abraham when God told him to kill Isaac?
What did he believe God would do to resolve this contradiction?
Was Abraham correct? Did it matter?
vs 25 What sort of passing pleasures of sin should Christians avoid?


Consider the list above of applications of faith, 
what are some equivalent things that Christians do by faith?

Blind Faith?

vs 1 Faith is having a future expectation of something which has not been seen.
This is not to say that the basis of the faith is without substance, without physical evidence. But having obtained sufficient evidence, the belief should turn into an unwavering conviction, fully assured and without doubt, despite the fact that we can't know anything in an absolute sense, as we are limited in our senses
This is a common theme in the scriptures. However, it seems common Christian community for many to seek after some kind of experience or feeling to affirm their faith. Some even go so far to say that if you don't have a certain experience (as with some charismatics with their particular form of "Baptism in the Spirit" and "speaking in tongues"), then you have not been born of God. I suspect many prayers for miracles are often not to provide for a practical need, but to provide a basis for belief. However if one is still looking for some basis for belief, then has such a person yet logically come to believe? It seems rather that those who put such emphasis on experience may themselves lack the quality of faith that God expects.

This is not say that miracles are not a basis for faith. When Moses asked God how Pharoah and the people of Israel would know that he had a word from God, God gave him miracles to do. In the Law, God says that the way one knows a prophet is from God is if what he says always come true (as well as being consistent with what he already said). Jesus himself said.

However, it appears that once having sufficient evidence one should no longer be seeking miracles to affirm one's faith. The miracles Jesus performed in the Bible should be sufficient of themselves for anyone to believe.

vs 1 The Quality of Saving Faith

vs 2 Faith is what is commendable to God. Faith which is demonstrated by our works.

vs 3 By faith we understand. People without faith cannot understand.

vs 4 By faith Abel is commended as a righteous man, in that he inferred from the fact that when God clothed Adam and Eve to hide their shame, He gave them animal skins, having killed the animals. So Abel also made an animal sacrifice to hide his sin.

vs 5 Because of faith, we may have opportunity to partake of the rapture. Also, when a person becomes a Christian often he loses old non-Christian relationships to establish relationships with Christians and spending time in the Bible and ministry. They look for him, but can't find him.

vs 6 We cannot please God if we don't have a faith which is certain, a faith which is application-oriented, and a faith that is persevering. We need to treat God as real, alive and active. But an aspect of Biblical faith that seems too selfish to mention is that it seeks personal rewards from God. Much as it is virtuous to obey God just because He is God, the Bible and Jesus in particular does not discourage people from coming to Him with an expectation of reward for doing so, but rather encourage them to do so.

vs 7 In line with this "selfish" aspect of Biblical faith, it is concerned with the salvation of one's own, while condemning others who refuse the message. Even God demonstrated this in the gospel message. God could have made salvation unconditional, but rather he required faith in Christ. Thus giving people choice was more important than actually saving people. But once a person puts faith in Christ, he is considered God's and it is then God's responsibility to save him.

vs 8-10 Biblical Faith looks beyond this life. There are Christians who are overly concerned about what they can get out of it now. Will their faith make them healthy and wealthy? Will they have a great job and family life? If one has false expectations about things God has not promised, it is easy to become bitter at God when they don't occur. It would have been easy enough for Abraham to have been presumptuous about the "promise land." And he could have had his heart focused on material things like a piece of property. But he was looking beyond the grave. He looked beyond the physical and saw something spiritual and eternal - a home in heaven. Abraham's perspective is in contrast to the Jews who left Egypt who were obsessed with materialism and so never entered the promise land.

vs 11-12 Biblical Faith considers God faithful to His promise.

But God often waits till the situation is unlikely before fulfilling his promise. So also skeptics complain that Christ has not returned in the last 2000 years and conclude that God is unfaithful or dead. In fact I suspect that Jesus may not return in the very near future, as there is too much expectation and Jesus said he would return when people don't expect it.

Don't be surprised if after years of apparent fruitless ministry, you end up becoming very fruitful. The disciples were surprised when Jesus fed a multitude starting with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

vs 13-16 On the other hand, you may not see such fruitfulness in this lifetime. Abraham only saw his one son, but no other descendants. Yet in Isaac he reckoned God's promise fulfilled.

Christians are like alien creatures on the earth, visitors from the heavens. Jesus said of his disciples, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Joh 17:16 The world's perspective is not our perspective. The world's values are not our values. The world's morality is not our morality. The world's expectations are not our expectations.

vs 17-19 Biblical faith reasons. It is not blind and irrational. When God told Abraham to kill Isaac, Abraham did not view this as contradicting God's love, but rather contradicting his promise that Isaac will have children. But reckoning God to be faithful, Abraham continued to believe the promise and reckoned the God would raise Isaac from the dead. He was incorrect about the particular way in which God would fulfill His promise, but that wasn't important. What was important was that he applied his faith.

One is reminded of the centurion who asked Jesus to healed his servant, but inferred from his concept of "Lordship" that Jesus didn't have to be present to do so.

vs 20-22 Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph - what is pointed out is that they had a hope in an unseen future.

vs 23 What did the parents see in Moses as a baby? They saw potential. Biblical faith is also fearless. In fact of the list of people who will go to hell according to Rev 21:8, the first will be cowards.

vs 24-28 Moses went through what is symbolic of the conversion process of many a Christian. He identified with the people of God, rejecting sinful lusts. He suffered persecution joyfully, looking forward to the reward. He fearlessly persevered in the faith. And was saved from God's wrath by the blood of Christ.

vs 29 Flood waters often represent God's wrath. We saw this with Noah. But when the people crossed the Red Sea they didn't get wet. For they were spared from God's wrath, while the Egyptians were destroyed.

vs 30-38 Notice that Biblical faith is application oriented.

vs 39 "none of them received what had been promised." This was not referring to any immediate promise, but rather the underlying promise of the Kingdom of God.

vs 40 What is better about the Christians situation is that we receive the Holy Spirit in a permanent way which inevitably affects our behavior, according to the New Covenant promise:

And of course this comes along with the permanent forgiveness of sins. In the Old Testament, men like Abraham were also justified by faith, but there was no explicit covenant concerning this fact and no guarantee that such forgiveness was permanent and the Holy Spirit was not given as it is to Christians after Jesus had been glorified.

What is Faith?

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

This is not to say that such faith is blind faith - having no basis but faith itself. Christian faith has its basis in the forensic evidence of the eyewitness accounts of Christ's miracles and his resurrection from the dead, though the object of faith is that which is not seen. For example while we today have not seen Jesus. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" 1Peter 1:8 Yet the Bible teaches us to believe in him based upon the eyewitness testimony to his miracles and in particular to his resurrection from the dead.  Peter writes, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." 2Peter 1:16 and he preached, "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." Acts 2:22 Likewise Paul preached, "God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:31

Furthermore concerning the fulfillment of our Christian hope it says, "we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Rom 8:23-25

The subtle difference between faith and hope is that hope is a feeling of anticipation of that which one believes will happen.

Faith Infers the Creator

Heb 11:2,3 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.

Much of this chapter is a validation of his comment in verse 2. And if it's faith that is commendable, and indeed the very thing upon which our salvation is contingent then it is would seem rather important for each individual to evaluate their faith. Would your faith be commendable? Could you put yourself into this chapter?

We read in the Bible that the world was formed at God's command. It's neither provable nor disprovable of itself. But the testimony is validated by those who have proven themselves prophets by the miracles they performed.

But in fact one needs not the testimony of the Bible to tell us of a Creator. "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities— his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Rom 1:20 That is, the fact of there being a Creator can be inferred from nature itself. Conversely, "the fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Ps 14:1a

Though even among unbelievers today it's not difficult to grasp the idea of visible things being made from that which was invisible. (i.e. E=MC^2) While most people in the world believe in a Creator, the few who do not believe reject the idea of a Creator not on the basis of evidence but because of the moral implications. For if we were created then our purpose and meaning in life is defined by God not by us. What constitutes moral and right behavior is determined by God to whom we much give an account on the day of judgement. Thus Ps 14:1 goes on to say of the atheist, "They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." Ps 14:1b

In fact much of this chapter indicates that faith involves applying the implications of one's faith to one's life. If you believe God created you and God created the universe, then what are the implications of that fact which you are applying to your life? Or is your life a denial of that which you claim to believe?

Faith Offers a Better Sacrifice

Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

We are told, "In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor." Gen 4:3-5

Both offered sacrifices to God. Just being religious - being involved in religious ceremonies - does not mean one's faith is commendable. Was it not the religious elite who had Jesus Christ crucified? Here it speaks of Abel offering of the firstborn of his flock, but of Cain it does not say that he offered of the first fruits of his fields.

Faith in God means giving God our best. The first commandment is to put God first. We do not honor God by putting other things before him, like our own desires, our families, career, or the like. We are to give God the first fruits. "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Pr 3:9,10 "Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God." Ex 23:19

By putting our faith into practice we gain a legacy influencing future generations.

Faith Pleases God

Heb 11:5 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.

Not much is written of Enoch but this, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." Gen 5:24 Enoch is one of the two people in the Bible who have yet to die, and as it says, "Everyone much die once" Heb 9:27a, we may expect to see him again.  He may turn out to be one of the two witnesses yet to come mentioned in Rev 11:3. But here his faith was commended. Walk in faith and God will commend you.
"We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." 2Cor 5:6-9

Faith Earnestly Seeks God

Heb 11:6 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.

A person who does not believe in God cannot please God. For to please God a person must first come to him. And to come to him one must first seek him.

"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon." Is 55:6,7

"Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger." Zep 2:3

Such seeking must be in earnest.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jer 29:13 

There are those who seek him falsely, those who pray to get whatever they want, not intending to do what he commands. Indeed may claim to believe in Jesus without actually intending to do what he said.

When you seek God earnest, what you may find is different than what you expected. To enter into a relationship with God one must first deal with sin. For "those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Rom 8:8  "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Is 59:1,2

A lifestyle built upon application oriented faith pleases God. "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more." 1Th 4:1

Faith Condemns the World

Heb 11:7 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 comes by faith.

Much as faith alone saves, the faith that saves is the faith that works, which is to say it is application oriented. While one is not to put faith in the applications or outworkings of one's faith, yet one's works will reflect one's faith. Thus Noah's faith was visible by his building of the Ark.

Normally Noah is portrayed as simply the builder of the ark, but in fact he was more than that. Peter writes of Noah saying, "Noah, a preacher of righteousness". 2Peter 2:5b Noah preached about righteous living. We live in an age where Christians not only tolerate the sinfulness of the world, but embrace it, and condemn those who don't tolerate it.  If you have saving faith then not only will you abhor sin, you will also preach against it and you will be active and vocal in the propagation of the gospel message. Jesus said of his unbelieving brothers, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil" John 7:7

What actions have you taken "by faith"?

Faith Obeys God's Directions

Heb 11:8-10 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.

In characterizing Christian faith we find in Romans chapter 4 that Paul used two examples - David and Abraham. The faith that saves is the faith that listens and obeys. The Bible is full of this principle. Even earlier in Hebrews we noted concerning Israel, "And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." Heb 3:18,19

By faith, when called he went
By faith, he lived as a stranger in this world in anticipation of the kingdom to come

Might this be your epitaph?

Faith Overlooks Circumstances

Heb 11:11,12 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age— and Sarah herself was barren— was enabled to become a father because he 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.

The faith that saves is the faith that perseveres through difficult circumstances. But faith is not presumptuous about what God has not promised. Many Christians will claim to believe many things of which God has not promised. They may claim that God has called them to do one thing, whereas God may not have called them to do that. They may claim the God has promised them something whereas in fact the Bible may have made no such promise.

But in Abraham's case, God spoke to him directly and promised him what was going to take place. Consequently his faith in God was tied up in his faith in the promise of God. While for a time there was some confusion about the method God would use or the way God would bring this about, "against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old— and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.'" Rom 4:18-22

Faith Sets its Hope Beyond the Grave

Heb 11:13-16 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. And they admitted that they were aliens 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.

"We live by faith, not by sight." 2Cor 5:7 What characterizes a lifestyle of faith? It's what you say and what you do.

Paul says of the Thessalonians, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you" 1Th 1:4 Why?
1Peter 2:11,12 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Faith Reasons Through Paradoxes

Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received 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 raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

Saving faith says of God, "not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42b Like obedience, faith is revealed when it's application costs you. But what is of particular note in this case is not just the value of the sacrifice God commanded. It was not simply that God commanded Abraham to kill his one and only son which was at issue. More at issue here is the fact that the promise and the command would seem contradictory. It's paradoxical. For in one case he promised that Isaac would have children, but he commanded for Abraham to kill Isaac before he had children.

Biblical paradoxes don't dissuade the believer. Rather, we reason out a resolution. Notice in this case "Abraham reasoned". While the resolution he came up with - namely that God would raise Isaac from the dead, was incorrect from a literal standpoint, through figuratively correct, the fact that he persevered in his faith by reasoning through a paradox was commendable.

Christian faith reasons. It has answers for the skeptic. It infers applications and reasons out paradoxes. In fact I think that the Bible often says difficult things ("This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" John 6:60b) in order to weed out the nominal.

This is important today because culturally we live in an age of non-reason, which has largely infiltrated the Christian community. Consequently reasoning has been discouraged among Christians, having been replaced by feelings and experiences. But if the measure of God's will is merely your feelings, you'll never get to the point where you can say to God, "Not my will but yours be done".

Faith Foresees Outcomes

Heb 11:20,21 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

Isaac prophecied concerning the future of his sons.

Blessing to Jacob
Gen 27:28,29 "May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed."

Bessing to Esau
Gen 27:39,40
"Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck."

In doing so he may have made an inference from his own history. "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman." Gal 4:22 And "At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit." Gal 4:29 So also with regards to Jacob and Esau. Concerning Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, and he of whom the Muslims claim their origin, it says, "He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." Gen 16:12 In fact Esau married into the line of Ishmael. (Gen 28:9)

Jacob blessed his sons in Genesis 49, though less of what we may consider a blessing today and more of a prophecy. It's interesting concerning Judah he prophecies, "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his." Gen 49:10 Jacob anticipated the coming of Christ.

What will you have on your Tombstone?

Heb 11:22  By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

It was just about 400 years between Joseph and the Exodus. But this prophecy didn't originate with Joseph but with his great grandfather Abraham. The LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions." Gen 15:13-14 Likewise Christian hope is based upon what God has already said as recorded in the Bible. Much of that hope is not about this life. Our resurrection from the dead may be long in coming, but it is certain and inevitable. And so by faith we speak confidently of what God has promised.

Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." Gen 50:24,25

This is much like Jeremiah's prophecy who foresaw not only the Babylonian captivity coming, but also the return of the Jews from captivity and so he brought a piece of property symbolizing his faith in God's promise of a return.

What might you do to show your faith in what God has promised?

Faith and Civil Disobedience

Heb 11:23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

We might view this in contrast to today where women murder their own babies simply because they fear raising them would be an inconvenience. Also to be commended because of their faith in God were the pro-life Hebrew mid-wives Shiphrah and Puah. The king of Egypt commanded them, "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Ex 1:15-17 Consequently, "God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own." Ex 1:20,21

The faith that saves is the faith that saves. The faith that saves is the faith that takes risks for God, doing what is right regardless of the circumstances.

Interesting to note also that while Moses' mother managed to get him into the hands of Pharaoh's daughter, she got him back by taking initiative in volunteering to be his nurse maid. There's a principle here. "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." Ecc 11:1 Quite literally true in Moses' case. Give to God and he'll give back to you one way or another.

Faith Chooses What's Right Over What's Pleasant

Heb 11:24-27 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Moses had been adopted by Pharaoh's daught. Concerning Moses first leaving Egypt it says:

"One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known." When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Ex 2:11-15

What Moses had committed was an act of vigilanteism. It was wrong, and he knew it. For he did it in secret and was afraid of being found out. "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Eph 5:11 And he had made no attempt to appeal to Pharoah in this matter prior to doing this. While he had good intentions, "Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." Acts 7:25, yet his fear was indicative that his conscience bothered him. Much like an Islamic terrorist he had taken matters into his own hand and in the name of God committed murder.

A better model is Daniel who showed proper respect to the king. He appealed to authorities and showed proper respect, doing things opently. Even when he defied the law he did so openly and willingly and fearlessly went into the lions den. Moses did not have this kind of faith at this point. Perhaps if he did the people of Israel would have left Egypt 40 years earlier.

But I don't think this event is what the author is referring to. Moses hadn't grown up yet. His faith was immature. He had not yet "seen" God in the burning bush of Exodus 3. In fact at this point he chose to flee Egypt rather than be mistreated along with the people of God. But 40 years later he saw him who is invisible. When he returned to Egypt he did not invoke his sonship to Pharaoh's daughter, but rather came in the name of the Lord. In was in his return to Egypt that he chose to be mistreated with the people of God. He did so for Christ's sake.

Interesting to note also is that God had him do what he should have done in the first place. Often when we screw up God brings us back to that very place to get it right. For rather than appeal to the king Moses murdered the Egyptian. Now God brings him back to appeal to the king. Legitimate authority is to be respected. Their abusing of their authority does not justify taking matters into one's own hands.

What do we learn is indicative of faith?

1. Faith makes little of titles. Moses refused the title due him as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Is there a title that you use which you should perhaps give up? The proud love titles, as Jesus noted in Matt 23. "they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" Whether it's Dr. so and so or Pastor so and so, better to go without the title.

2. Faith chooses mistreatment and identification with God's people over the passing pleasures of sin.

3. Faith values disgrace for Christ over what the world values.

4. Faith is courageous, and not influence by the fears of men. Pr 29:25 "The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe."

Passover Faith

Heb 11:28  By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The passover was associate with the last of the 10 plagues on Egypt as incentive to get the king to let the Israelites go. Likewise the Passover is a shadow of the event in which God gave up his son to die for the sins of the world so that those who believe will be set free from sin and its consequences. "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." 1Cor 5:7b In fact the Lord established the ceremony of Communion as a remembrance of his death ("This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 1Cor 11:25b), just like under the Law of Moses God established the festival of the Passover week as a remembrance of the the Exodus from Egypt.

What the first Passover incorporated was staying in one's house, sacrificing a lamb and sprinkling its blood on the doorposts of one's house. They are then to cook and eat the lamb standing up dressed for travel, eating it in haste. The destroyer passed over such houses and went on to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians. This is the attitude with which one should receive Christ, believing that God's wrath is coming on the world, but that we are saved by his blood, taking in Christ being ready for action, ready to leave the world behind, ready for the journey of faith. Are you ready?

Silent and Active Faith

Heb 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

With his back against the water, the Pharaoh's army approaching, by faith Moses encouraged the people saying,  "The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent." Ex 14:14 Sometimes inaction is itself an act of faith. Despite impending doom, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Php 4:6,7

But faith should not remain inactive. For God opens a door where there formerly was no door, faith compels us to go through. Then it's time stop praying and start acting as the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward." Ex 14:15

But when those who are not at peace with God try such things, their experience might be like the Egyptians, or like the seven sons of Sceva, unbelievers who tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus, One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. Acts 19:15,16

So make sure first that you belong to Christ before you take action. For Christian faith is not mere experimental faith.

Faith and Fear

Heb 11:30,31 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Much as trust was involved, the Israelites were not presumptuous about the battle plan for Jericho. While Jericho was the first city they were to conquer in the promise land, it was not the first miracle they had witnessed. In fact just prior to this God split the Jordan river as they entered Canaan, just as had done so previously when they had left Egypt, and God had been with them for 40 years maintaining them in the desert. They were not acting upon blind faith, but a faith which had developed over time as they learned to trust God.

But not only the Israelites were aware of God's power. When the Rahab hid the spies she did so saying, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." Josh 2:9-11

Now much as God told Jonah to give the Ninevites 40 days before judgment was cast so I think God gave Jericho 7 days. For the Ninevites repented and God spared his wrath and I believe God would have done so for Jericho had they repented in time. And in fact God did spare the one and her family who aligned herself with God.

It's interesting that the people of Jericho had a great fear of God. They believed the reports of the miracles that were done. And yet they didn't repent. They didn't surrender to God as Rahab had done. Likewise there are many people today - be they Muslims, Jews, and even those among the Christian community - who fear God and yet refuse to submit to him. In fact of the Israelites who entered the promise land, almost every one of their parents had died in the desert because of disobedience.

The faith that saves is the faith that works, Rahab being an example of application oriented faith. If a person's faith does not lead to actions, such is not the kind of faith which qualifies one to be justified.

Rahab seems like an anomaly, an enigma. For here is a Gentile living a sinful lifestyle and she comes to faith while the religious Jews, those called the people of God, descendants of Abraham, heirs to the promise, under a covenant with God, who directly saw and experience his miraculous power were nonetheless said to have been unbelievers. But in fact this may be more the rule than the exception. For while largely being rejected by the Jews, the LORD Jesus was largely accepted among the Gentiles. In fact Jesus was descended from Rahab, as was King David. For she is mentioned in his genealogy in Mat 1:5 God is not prejudice. "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:12,13

Men of Faith

Heb 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,

Just to remind you of some of the more obscure characters, Gideon had sort of a "doubting Thomas" faith. Yet nonetheless is mentioned here. He wanted forensic evidence to confirm that God had spoken. God does provide forensic evidence. He doesn't expect us to have blind faith. But he may only go so far before requests for evidence are reckoned unbelieving cynicism. In comparison to someone like David, Gideon was rather timid in applying his faith. So these lists are not to be taken as people of equal degree of faith, but that they did exercise faith to some degree.

Barak is another example of a timid - even cowardly, effeminate man. In fact such was the culture of Israel at the time that God shamed them by assigning a woman prophetess to speak to him. Yet even she recognized that it was shameful for a woman to take the lead, and it was shameful for him to depend on a woman. Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go." "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman." Jud 4:8,9 It's dishonorable for men to depend on women to defend them, especially in a military sense. But today we likewise live in a feminist society where men have largely been marginalized. Yet Barak's cowardly faith was nonetheless worthy of mention here.

Jephthah is another many are not familiar with. "Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute." Jud 11:1 He was despised by his own family. His step brothers drove him out, taking his inheritance. But he formed a gang. And the elders of Gilead called on him to be their military commander. Much as is the Arab/Israeli conflict today, the dispute with the enemy was over territory. Jephthah pointed out that God had given them the territory. However in going to war he made a stupid vow.  Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." Jude 11:30,31 Perhaps he assumed his dog (or perhaps his wife or his mother-in-law) would come out to greet him. But it was his daughter. He carried out his vow reluctantly, though he felt obligated to do so as the Law said, "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin." De 23:21 But just as Jephthah was careless in vowing so he was careless in interpreting the Law. For it also says, "Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil— in any matter one might carelessly swear about— even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.’When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin." Lev 5:4-6 His vow itself, done rashly and ultimately evil, was sinful and as such invalid. All these men, while they had faith, they also had flaws.

Faith Turns Weakness to Strength

Heb 11:33,34 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

It's interesting that the grammar here would lead one to think that it was not God but them who did such things. Take for example Daniel. Did Daniel shut the lions mouths, or did God. Here it literally says that Daniel did so by faith. Yet Daniel himself says, "My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions." Dan 6:22, which is to say that not everything the Bible says is meant to be taken literally. The sense is that the outcome in each case was a function of their cooperation with God by exercising their faith. Thus while God was the direct cause, the outcome was also dependent upon them and their faith.

Likewise even today. God saves people, but their salvation is also dependent upon his people exercising faith by telling them the gospel. Thus the outcome, people's fate, is partly dependent upon our faith. This as opposed to the purely fatalistic (need I say "Calvinistic") idea that we are mere puppets having no control of outcome of events.

Now also mentioned here is "whose weakness was turned to strength" The apostle Paul gives a clear example of this. He was given great revelations from God, but God was concerned that such would make him proud of himself. So Paul says, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." God refuse to release him from the pain, but Paul took comfort in this fact.  God said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Cor 12:9,10 It is often not the case the areas of weakness in our lives stop being weaknesses, but rather that in being weaknesses they invoke strength as a byproduct. In Paul's case physical pain invoked humility, perhaps among other things.

Another valid interpretation is that their faith started out weak but became strong, though again this process usually occurs in the midst of trials that play upon our weaknesses. Take Abraham for example, "Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old— and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." Rom 4:19-21

A Better Resurrection

Heb 11:35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

Contrary to the hedonistic health and wealth gospel which proposed that only good things will happen if we are faithful, in fact sometimes good things happen. The dead are raised to life. And sometimes God allows his people to be tortured to death.

One is reminded of  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who said, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Dan 3:17,18 God expects that kind of faith. So be prepared to suffer for your faith. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." 2Tim 3:12,13 In fact in the previous chapter of Hebrews we read, "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." Heb 10:34

As for raising the dead, God did raise the dead. Take Lazarus for example. And take the example of the Shunammite whose son Elisha raised from the dead. These died again. Yet there is a better resurrection reserved for the righteous. It's more important to endure through hardship by faith than pray that good things happen to us.

Faith Endures Trials

Heb 11:36,37 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—

The faith that saves is the faith that endures through trials. Such trials may involve enduring insults and slander. It may involve enduring torture, restrictions and limitations on one's life. It make involve losing one's job, poverty and being mistreated. Jesus says of the faith that doesn't save, shallow faith, that "when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Mt 13:21 That is, "They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." Luke 8:13 Many Christians in Western society are free from the kind of sufferings and trials mentioned here. And consequently there no doubt many who would quickly fall away if such trouble came upon them because of the word. But imagine a Muslim converting to Christianity in an Islamic country. He likely would not live very long. But that is in fact the kind of faith that God expects. There's no excuse for "Christian" hiding themselves from persecution in countries which persecute Christians. Yes, you might be subject to torture and death. But that's the Christian life. Come out of hiding and boldly apply your faith.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Heb 10:35-39

Faith's Heavenly Hope

Heb 11:38-40 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

People of faith give their expectations to God. Don't expect things which God has not promised. There are many expectations we may have in life, but God often will subject us to disappointment so that our hope might be on things above and not on things of this earth. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Col 3:1-4

"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.... Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." Luke 6:22,23,26

But what is this "something better" mean? One thing it can refer to is the fact that those who are in Christ receive the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), which is a universal experience among Christians (Rom 8:9). It's even more impressive to me how those in the Old Testament endured despite not having been born-again by the Spirit. And how much more I would expect of those today who have been born again. "For everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1John 5:4

The Berean Christian Bible Study ResourcesJan 20,2022