THE HALL OF FAITH

Hebrews 11:1-40

It was following the American War Between the States that a day was instituted as the American Memorial Day. It is a time for remembering those who have fallen. There is something good and noble about remembering. Hebrews 11 is a Christian memorial. It stands as a memorial to those who took a stand in faith.

The Christian life is a life of faith. But it is not an ethereal faith in nothing or a faith in faith. The faith to which we hold is anchored in reality. It is a faith which is rooted and centered in the person of Jesus.

Throughout the previous chapter, we have been impressed with the importance of holding on to Jesus rather than submitting to the temptation to turn away from Him. It is in this vein that the author says that we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have FAITH to the preserving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39). He now goes on to define and to illustrate that faith.

 

FAITH DEFINED

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).

In the English language, we have several different yet related words in the terms: "Faith", "Trust" and "Belief." The Greek language sums up all three of these concepts in the simple word pistiV (pistis). That term is now defined in two ways:

1. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.

Faith is not a wistful longing or merely a hope that something good might happen tomorrow. It is a firm certainty in the future.

The word translated "assurance" is the Greek word upostasiV (hupostasis). It is a compound word made up of the joining of two Greek words:

(a) upo - under

(b) stasiV - to stand.

It describes a foundation upon which you stand - hence, an assurance. It is translated as "confidence" or "assurance" in 2 Corinthians 9:4; 11:17 and Hebrews 3:14.

This is a good definition of faith. It is a confident assurance that we shall one day possess those things for which today we can only hope. This brings us to the second point of this definition.

2. Faith is... the conviction of things not seen.

There is an unseen quality about faith. You donít use faith when you can use your senses. If I hear your voice behind me, I am not exercising faith when I come to the conclusion that you are there.

Remember the case of Thomas? He had been away picking up hamburgers when Jesus made His first appearance to the disciples following the resurrection. Thomas had come back to find the other disciples excited about having seen Jesus. But he did not believe. He was more sophisticated than that. He would not be swayed by an optical illusion. He would not believe unless he felt the nail holes and the wound in the side of Jesus.

And then, a week later, Jesus was standing there. And Thomas saw. And Thomas believed. But was it real faith? Not in the sense that we have described here.

Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:29).

Once you have seen, it is easy to believe. Real faith is believing without seeing. It is the conviction of things not seen. And it is living on the basis of that conviction. That is going to be the message which we shall see throughout this chapter. Christians believe God to the point of banking their lives upon His promises.

 

FAITH APPROVED

For by it the men of old gained approval. (Hebrews 11:2).

The reference to men of old (oi presbuteroi) is literally "the elders." It refers here to the believers of the Old Testament and more specifically to the forefathers, both physically as well as spiritually, of those to whom this is addressed.

At first glance, we might be inclined to think that this is saying that the Old Testament believers found approval in the eyes of God by means of their faith. However, that is not what is being described. The phrase gained approval is an unfortunate translation.

Emarturhqhsan is the aorist passive indicative of mapturew, "to witness." The idea here is that the actions of the Old Testament saints bore witness of their faith in God. Here is the principle: Real faith will always produce a resulting faithfulness.

 

FAITH AND CREATION

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3).

We believe that God created the heavens and the earth. Why do we believe such a thing? It is not because we were eyewitnesses to such an action. It is a matter of faith. It is a matter of believing that which we have not seen.

There are two views regarding the existence of the universe. The first view states that it was created by God. The second view states that it came about in some other manner. There is no third view.

What is the difference between a creationist versus an evolutionist? It is simply this. The difference is a matter of faith. The evolutionist would rather believe in a humanistic and artificial philosophy than to believe in God.

It doesnít take a lot of faith to believe that God created the heavens and the earth. And that is the point being made. Nearly everyone has a certain measure of faith. Most people believe that there is someone who is bigger than them who made the heavens and the earth.

But that is not saving faith. That is not life-changing faith. And that is only the first step toward the faith which is described in this chapter. If you believe that God exists and that He created the heavens and the earth, you do well. But you are in the company of the devil and his demons - they also believe that. There is a higher faith to which you are called.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF ABEL

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4).

Beginning here in verse 4 and throughout the rest of the chapter, we will be treated to examples of Old Testament believers who exhibited faith. It is a virtual Hall of Faith. Notice that all of these examples have one thing in common. In each case, faith led to a resulting ACTION.

And he lived as an alien (11:9).

Moses chose to endure ill-treatment with the people of God (11:24-25).

And he left Egypt (11:27).

And he kept the Passover (11:28).

In each of these instances, the person or persons who had the faith demonstrated that faith by means of a corresponding action. Here is the principle. Faith always produces a resulting ACTION.

Take the case of Abel. He had faith in God. How do we know this? Because of the action that he took in offering a better sacrifice than Cain.

You remember the story. Cain and Abel both come to worship the Lord. They both offer a sacrifice to God.

  1. Cain offers the fruit of the ground. This is only natural, since his chosen profession is that of a farmer.
  2. Abel offers the firstlings of his flock. He is a shepherd and when the first lambs are born among his flock, he takes them and offers them as a sacrifice to the Lord.

We read in Genesis 4:4-5 that the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offeringí but for Cain and for his offering He had not regard. Why was this the case? What made the difference? There are several things that we might note:

Abelís sacrifice was a better sacrifice because of each of these reasons. It was from the best that he had, it was untarnished by his labor, and it was a perfect picture of the ultimate sacrifice which would be made by Godís Messiah, Jesus Christ.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF ENOCH

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and He was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6).

The phrase translated "taken up" is the aorist passive indicative of metatiqhmi. It can be translated "take up" (Acts 7:16) or it can also describe that which is intrinsically changed (Hebrews 7:12 - the priesthood is changed).

We are not told a lot about Enoch in the Old Testament. There are only a few verses in Genesis 5 that speak of him. But what we are told is quite extraordinary. Enoch did not die. Instead he was taken up by God.

In verse 2 we saw that it was through faith that the men of old "gained approval" - it was their faith that bore witness (marturew) to the fact that they were accepted by God.

Now we see that Enochís faith bore witness (perfect passive indicative of marturew) to the fact that he was pleasing to God.

We have a similar promise. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51 that we shall not all sleep - we shall not all die. Those who are still alive when Jesus returns in His second coming will never see death.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

I do not know when Jesus is coming back. Nobody does. It could be thousands of years in the future. Or it could be today. But those believers who are alive when He returns shall be like Enoch - they shall never see death.

Enoch did not die. The fact that he did not die is an indicator that he was pleasing to God. What was it about Enoch that made him pleasing to God? It was his FAITH. This brings us to a principle. The principle is clearly stated in verse 6.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).

Here is the principle. It is that faith is the necessary ingredient in pleasing God. That was the secret of Enochís success. His being taken up was a witness to the fact that he had lived a life that was pleasing to God. And the necessary ingredient which accomplished that was his faith. Notice that there are two parts to such a faith:

1. He who comes to God must believe that He is.

This is more than a general belief in the existence of a supreme being. Neither is it a belief in the God of Islam or of Buddha or some other religious system. This is a belief in the God of the Scriptures.

Rabbi David Kerstner wrote the popular work, "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" He postulated that because bad things happen to good people, then God must either be all-powerful or else He must be all-good, but that He cannot be both. Kerstner chose to believe in a good God that is not all-powerful and who is not able to stop bad things from happening to good people. But this is not the God of the Bible. Such a belief is not in the God who is.

2. He who comes to God must believe that... He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

What is the reward of those who seek God? It is that they find Him. But that is not all. When you find God, you find that you have found a lot more beside. Jesus said this on His sermon on the mount: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

Manís problem is not that he has sought for God and has been unable to find Him. Manís problem is that he has not really sought for God.

This brings us to a question. If faith is so important, then how do you get it? You donít get it by wishing for it. If you are going to get faith, then you have to get it from someone else because it is not something that you have intrinsically. When you see a turtle on a gatepost, you know that he didnít get there by himself. And when you see the kind of faith described in this chapter, you can know that it was not generated through self-effort. Faith is a gift from God. It is bestowed by grace.

There are people in this chapter who are undeserving. There are prostitutes and murderers and liars in this chapter. There are real sinners who committed real sins. They didnít get faith by being good. They became good because of faith. And they received that faith from the hands of a faithful God.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF NOAH

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7).

In the opening verse of this chapter, we saw that faith is the conviction of things not seen. Now we read that Noah was warned of things which had not yet been seen. Of what was Noah warned? He was warned that it would rain and that it would result in a world-wide flood.

The implication of the Scriptures is that there was no rain upon the earth in the days of Noah. Genesis 2:5 says that the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and it is possible that this situation continued until the coming of the Flood. If this is the case, then Noah was promised something that had never before taken place - RAIN!

  1. Noahís Ark was an Evidence of Faith: By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark.
  2. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Noah? He receives the warning from God and he begins to build this giant structure in his back yard, miles away from the ocean. It is not long before his neighbors begin to comment and then to join in open mockery. "Noahís folly," gains notoriety throughout the land and people laugh at the mad prophet. And it doesnít stop. For 120 years Noah labors and the people laugh. What kept him going? It was his FAITH.

  3. Noahís Ark was an Example of Endurance.
  4. It is one thing to have faith for a day or a week or even a month or a year. But the promise of the Flood was given 120 years prior to its coming. Noah had to spend these years in preparation without seeing a single drop of rain.

    The subject of faith was introduced in the last chapter when the writer stated to his readers: "You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (Hebrews 10:36).

    When we come to chapter 12, it will be this same quality of endurance which will be highlighted. In light of all those Old Testament believers who endured, we are also called to run with endurance as we fix our eyes on the One who endured the cross on our behalf.

  5. Noahís Ark was an Exercise of Reverence: Noah... in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.
  6. The word translated reverence is the aorist passive participle of eulabeomai. It can be translated as either "fear" (Acts 23:10) or "devotion, piety or reverence" (Hebrews 5:7 and 12:28 translate eulabeia in this manner).

    The Bible has a great deal to say about a proper fear of the Lord. More than a mere healthy respect, when we realize just how big God really is, our natural reaction will be a good healthy dose of fear.

    But this particular term seems to place more of an emphasis upon the quality of reverence toward God. And that tells me something significant about Moses. It tells me that the construction of the Ark was viewed as an act of WORSHIP.

    Here is the principle. Real faith will lead to real worship.

  7. Noahís Ark was an Edict of Condemnation: Noah... prepared an ark... by which he condemned the world.

2 Peter 2:5 says that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. What kind of sermon did Noah preach? The answer is given here in this passage. Noahís sermon was an ark. Every time anyone looked at that great, ungainly craft, they were reminded that it was a symbol of Godís promised judgment against the world.

There is a lesson here. Your life is a sermon to others. This is especially true of those with whom you have daily contact. In his first epistle, Peter gives instructions to wives who are married to unbelieving husbands.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives; 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Do you see it? You are called to preach a sermon - not with words, but with your life. I love the quote attributed to Anselm: "Always preach the gospel; and when necessary, use words." That is what Noah did. His very actions were a sermon of condemnation to the world around him. And your very actions ought to be the same sort of sermon, calling people everywhere to turn to the Lord.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Abraham was the father of many nations. The Israelites, the Edomites and the Arabs all look to him as their ancestor. He was the father of a multitude. But he didnít start that way. He started as a man without a son who was called by God to move to an unknown land. Verse 8 says that he went out, not knowing where he was going. That is a step of faith. Iíve done a lot of traveling and Iíve even been lost, but I always knew where I was going.

As hard as it was to go to an unknown place, I believe that there was something Abraham did that was even harder. When he got there, he was told to WAIT. He left his home in Ur to go to the land that God had promised him and when he got there, it was to find that others had gotten there before him. Instead of settling down, Abraham became a nomad, waiting in the land that God had promised him. And he had to wait a very long time. It would not be given to him in his lifetime. Or in his sonís lifetime. Or in his sonís sonís lifetime. Four hundred years would go by and still the promise would not yet be fulfilled. That is a long time to wait.

I hate waiting. I am one of those people who look to see which checkout line in the grocery store is likely to move faster. I avoid rush hour traffic. I fret when I have to stand in line for any length of time. My pet peeve is waiting in a doctorís or dentistís office. I hate waiting. But there are times when God calls us to stop and to be still and to WAIT.

My soul, wait in silence for God only,

For my hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5).

Though youths grow weary and tired,

And vigorous young men stumble badly,

Yet those who wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 41:30-31).

Waiting is hard work. Our nature is usually made up so that we want to DO something now. There is a popular quip that say, "Manís greatest instinct is to sit down and stay seated." But it isnít so. Man was made for work and he wants to be about his business - even when he is busily engaged in frolic or the pursuit of pleasure.

The only portion of the promised land that Abraham ever actually owned was the small parcel on which he and Sarah were buried (Genesis 23).

Abraham was called to wait. In the interim, he and his son and his grandson were nomads, living in tents. It wasnít that they did not know how to build a city. It is that they were waiting for God to build a city for them.

What city was this for which they were waiting? You might be tempted to answer, "Jerusalem." After all, this was the city of David and the location of the temple. But you would be wrong. Jerusalem was not built by God. It was a Canaanite city. It was originally built by Canaanites.

The city for which Abraham and his descendants were looking was not an earthly city in an earthly country. Verse 16 says that they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. And it is in such a country that the Lord has prepared for them a city. It is a city which is yet to come.

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (Hebrews 13:14).

We continue to look for a city. It is a city in which we hold our citizenship (Philippians 3:20). We are nomads living in a foreign country. Our citizenship is in heaven. And on this earth, we are ambassadors for Christ.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF SARAH

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11-12).

Sarah is not normally known for her great faith. Indeed, the first time that she was told she would bear a son, her reaction was to laugh. But God set out to have the last laugh and her son was named Isaac - literally, "laughter." Sarah may not have believed at first, but she came to have faith.

There is an interesting translational issue in Hebrews 11:11.

KJV

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

NAS

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

A footnote indicates that a more literal translation reads: "she received power for the laying down of seed."

NIV

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.

Once again, a footnote indicate the proper reading being: "By faith even Sarah, who was past age, was enabled to bear children..."

Why did the translators change the text and add Abrahamís name to Sarahís as those who were faithful? Probably because of the word kai (which can be translated "and" or "even" seems to indicate that the passage is not speaking ONLY of the faith of Sarah but of Sarah and someone else - the context makes it plain that this "someone else" is Abraham.

Thus, while the NIV does not giving us a word-for-word translation (it doesnít claim to), it DOES have textual support for the reading that it gives.

Abraham and Sarah both exhibited a faith, not in their own bodies which were old and feeble and well past the point of fruitfulness, but in the Lord who is able to bring life where there is lifelessness.

 

THE QUEST FOR A COUNTRY

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.

16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Abraham and Sarah and the other Patriarchs never saw the fulfillment of the promise which God had given - the promise of a land and a country and a nation. But it was no earthly country that they were seeking. Otherwise, the could have always retraced their steps to the land of their origin. It is not merely a different country that they were seeking - it was a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

Remember to whom this epistle is written. It is written to Hebrews. That is why it is called the epistle to the Hebrews. These Jewish people view Israel as their home country. They are people of the land. But they need to be reminded that the country for which Abraham and the other patriarchs were waiting was no earthly country like Israel or Judea, but rather a heavenly country.

Here is the point. They were so used to the visible elements of their religion - the rituals of circumcision, the sacrifices in the temple, the ceremonies - that when they came to know the One to whom all of those visual elements pointed, they were tempted to leave Him and to return to the earthly ceremonies. When it came time to choose between the rituals that pointed to Jesus versus choosing Jesus Himself, they were tempted to chose the rituals. If offered a heavenly kingdom versus an earthly kingdom, they were inclined to choose the earthly.

But Godís kingdom is not of this world. Jesus made that very clear when He stood before Pilate. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

What does this mean for us? It means that we should not be nearly so concerned with building our own little earthly kingdoms. There is nothing in this life that will not end up on a garbage heap.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21).

We could perhaps paraphrase this last verse to say: "For where your treasure is, there will your FAITH be also." Are you having trouble with your faith? Is it harder to believe that it used to be? Take a look at those things to which you are holding. If they are things of this world, then they will only tend to get in the way of your hope for the future.

The result of a life of faith is that God is not ashamed to be called their God. Throughout the Bible, the Lord is known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is your God, too, if you have believed in Him.

 

THE TESTING OF ABRAHAMíS FAITH

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, "In Isaac your descendants shall be called."

He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Isaac is called Abrahamís "only begotten" son. The Greek word monogenh has the idea of being "pre-eminent" or "unique." This is seen in that Isaac was not Abrahamís only son. He had already given birth to Ishmael.

The ultimate testing of Abrahamís faith came when he was called by God to offer up his only son as a sacrifice. This was the son for whom he had so long awaited. This was the son of promise.

You remember the story. Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac and they travel together to Mount Moriah. Leaving the servants at the bottom of the mountain, they go up together to the peak. There they build an altar and lay wood on it. Then Abraham binds Isaac and lays him upon the altar and prepares to take his life. Only then does an angel stop Abraham and allow him to substitute for his son a ram that is caught in a nearby thicket.

Now we learn something new about Abrahamís faith. It is found in the words of Abraham to his servants as he and Isaac departed to climb to the top of Mount Moriah.

And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." (Genesis 22:5).

Do you see it? Abraham says, "WE will worship and WE will return." Abraham was going up this mountain with the full intention of sacrificing his son, but he also believed that both he and his son would end up coming back down the mountain. He believed this because He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead - He believed that he would sacrifice Isaac and that God would then raise him from the dead.

When Abraham received him back as a type, this points to the parallel between the manner in which Isaac delivered versus the way in which we are saved.

Isaac - The Type

Believers - The Fulfillment

Isaac was bound on the altar.

We were bound in sin.

Isaac was to be put to death.

We were under penalty of death.

Isaac was released and a ram was put to death in his place.

We were redeemed through the substitutionary death of Christ.

But that is not all. There is also a parallel between Isaac and Jesus Christ.

Isaac

Jesus Christ

Offered as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Offered as a sacrifice for the sins of men.

Taken to Mount Moriah outside of Jerusalem.

Taken to Golgotha outside of Jerusalem.

Carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain.

Carried the corss for his crucifixion out to Golgotha.

Bound and placed on the altar.

Nailed to the cross.

It took three days to get to Moriah, the place of death.

Three days after his crucifixion, He rose from the dead.

 

ISAAC & THE BLESSING OF JACOB & ESAU

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. (Hebrews 11:20).

It was when he was in his old age that Isaac called his sons to him to bless them. It was here that Jacob tricked his father and cheated his brother in order to obtain the blessing. He is not commended for that action. But Isaac is commended because of his faith. It was through that faith that he was able to prophesy of things to come.

Blessing Given to Jacob

Blessing Given to Esau

Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,

And of the fatness of the earth,

And an abundance of grain and new wine;

May peoples serve you,

And nations bow down to you;

Be master of your brothers,

And may your motherís sons bow down to you.

Cursed be those who curse you,

And blessed be those who bless you. (Genesis 27:28-29).

Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,

And away from the dew of heaven above.

And by your sword shall you live,

And your brother you shall serve;

But it shall come about when you become restless,

That you shall break his yoke from your neck. (Genesis 27:39-41).

 

JACOB AND THE BLESSING OF JOSEPHíS SONS

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

In the same way that Isaac had blessed Jacob and Esau, so also as he was dying, Jacob called to himself the sons of Jospeh to be blessed by him. Joseph had two sons.

a. Manasseh was the eldest.

b. Ephraim was the youngest.

Joseph brought his sons and arranged them so that the eldest was by Jacobís right hand and the youngest was by Jacobís left hand. The right hand was considered the place of honor and Joseph wanted the best for Manasseh, his firstborn.

But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was younger, and his left hand on Manassehís head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born. (Genesis 48:14).

Joseph was not pleased by this arrangement and he tried to intervene, but Jacob was adamant, insisting that Ephraim would be the greater of the two. Indeed, in later history the name Ephraim came to be synonymous with all of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

The examples of these blessings given at the hands of Isaac and Jacob have one thing in common. In both cases, the one giving the blessing acted contrary to the established custom of doing things. In both cases the younger son received the greater blessing. And it both cases, this was brought about by faith.

It might be argued that Isaac was tricked into giving the blessing to Jacob. This is true. But once given, Isaac refused to retract the blessing and saw these circumstances as something that had been planned by the Lord.

 

THE PROMISE OF JOSEPH

By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:22).

At the end of his life, Joseph called all of the Israelites together and prophesied that God would ultimately deliver them from Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land. Accordingly, he solicited from them a promise that they would carry his bones with them to be buried in Canaan. For the next 400 years, the bones of Jseoph served as a reminder that they would one day be delivered from Egypt and brought to the Promised Land.

 

THE EXAMPLE THE PARENTS OF MOSES

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

Moses was born at a time when there was a death penalty over all Hebrew male children. The Phraraoh of Egypt had instituted an "at-birth-abortion" policy. The policy dictated that the midwives serving the Hebrew mothers were to put all Hebrew male children to death.

The parents of Moses determined to save his life and they risked their own lives by hiding him for three months. It was only after this time that they hid him on the banks of the Nile River. By doing this, they were abiding by the letter of the Egyptian Law - Pharaohís decree had been that all male infants were to be cast into the Nile River. They merely took care not to cast him very far and then they set his sister Miriam to watch over him. When he was found by the Pharaohís daughter, events worked out that instead of being put to death, the baby was taken and raised as her own son.

 

THE EXAMPLE OF MOSES

Moses was one of the heros of the Jewish faith. If Abraham was the father of the Jews, then Moses was their deliverer and law-giver.

1. The Decision of Moses.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaohís daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26).

The Lordís providence had delivered Moses from the decree of death and placed him into the house of Pharaoh where he received all the benefits of being the adopted son of the most powerful monarch on earth. And then Moses gave it all up, not on a whim, but by faith in that same God who had previously delivered him. There came a time in his life when he had to choose between being an Egyptian versus being an Israelite. One brought high rank and privilege, the other brought servitude and suffering. Moses chose to allign himself with Godís people. This was a step of faith.

There is no mention of the slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster. This act of murder is never condoned in the Scriptures. What IS commended is the faith of Moses that brought a determination to stand up for the people of God.

2. The Departure of Moses.

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. (Hebrews 11:27).

This passage brings up a problem. Exodus 2:14 says that Moses WAS afraid upon learning that his murder of the Egyptian taskmaster was public knowledge. It was this event that led him to flee the presence of pharaoh and to dwell in Midian.

What shall we say in answer to this? Some have suggested that this leaving of Egypt refers to the later exodus from Egypt. But this does not seem to be the case in light of the fact that the Passover is mentioned in the next verse and that would put these two events out of chronological order. A better answer might be to understand that while Moses felt an initial fear over the discovery of his deed, he left his fear behind and he acted by faith as he departed into Midian.

3. The Demonstration of Moses.

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. (Hebrews 11:28).

The word translated "kept" is the Greek word pepoihken, the perfect active indicative of poiew, "to do." Because of the perfect tense, it has the idea of that which has continuing results and perhaps we can translate this as, "By faith he INSTITUTED the Passover."

The story of the Passover is a vivid illustration of the cross. The Lord had decreed that all firstborn were under the sentence of death. It did not matter whether they were Egyptian or Israelite, man or animal. All were going to die. There was only one way of salvation. That would be for a lamb to be slain and its blood sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintel of the house in which they resided.

Jesus is our passover lamb. When all mankind was under sentence of death, He gave His life that when His blood is applied through faith to the doorposts of our hearts, we are delivered from the condemnation of death and are given His own eternal life.

4. The Deliverance of Moses.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29).

It took faith to leave Egypt. The Pharaoh had not been in favor of the Exodus and he soon sent his armies to recapture the fleeing Israelite slaves. When the Lord parted the waters of the Red Sea, it took faith for the Israelites to cross.

Notice that the Egyptians had as much courage as did the Israelites. They also attempted the crossing. But they failed. They had courage, but they had no faith.

 

FAITH AND THE WALLS OF JERICHO

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30).

We find ourselves skipping over the generation who wandered in the wilderness. We have already seen them portrayed as an example of unbelief. Instead we move forward to the walls of Jericho. It took faith to march around and around this city, waiting for the Lord to bring down the walls.

There is a lesson here. It is that faith works. The Israelites did not say, "Weíll stay back in camp and give us a call when the walls have come down." No, they obeyed the command of the Lord to march around the city, no matter how furtile such a command may have seemed. Real faith always produces a corresponding action on the part of the one who demonstrates it.

 

THE FAITH OF RAHAB

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:31).

It is striking that the last person of faith to be described in any detail is both a Gentile and a woman. This epistle is written to Hebrews. And yet one who stands out for great faith in the Hebrew Scriptures was a Gentile prostitute named Rahab.

It is interesting to see to what great lengths commentaries have gone to try to explain this away. Some have tried to soften the description of Rahab and have understood her to be a hostess or an innkeeper. But the word here is very explicit. The Greek word describes a prostitute - it is from this word that we derive our term "pornography."

Furthermore, the writer does not see fit to further elaborate of Rahabís background. It is likely that she repented of her past lifestyle and gave herself over to a life of holiness. But there is no passage of the Bible that makes such a claim. The thing for which she is commended is her FAITH.

 

OTHER GREAT DEEDS OF FAITH

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-39).

The writer continues to relate account after account of acts of faith from Israelís past. Most of these are found in the pages of the Bible. Some are not and at least one might be of an incident recorded in one of the books of Maccabbees. That is not the issue. The point is that faith has been seen all throughout the history of Godís people.

The summary statement brings us to the conclusion. It is that all of these examples of faith are examples of people who were waiting for a promise. It was a promise for which they never saw the fulfillment - until now. The fulfillment is Christ. And together we enter into that which God has provided.