Lord, our faith is our evidence.
Read HEBREWS 11:1–22
Faith in Action
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 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.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
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.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 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.
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 is in keeping with faith.
8 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. 9 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. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 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.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Call to mind a person of strong faith, dead or alive, whose story has been encouraging, and give thanks.
‘We are not of those who shrink back … but of those who believe’, our author has written as he concludes his long exposition of who Jesus is and what He has done (Heb 10:39, TNIV). Now, in the last three chapters of his letter, he sets out what trusting God (‘faith’) means in practical, day-to-day, long-continued terms (AW Pink spent over one third of his 1300-page commentary on Hebrews on these amazing chapters!) There are some sentences here which read like definitions, but the greater part of these chapters is about demonstrations of faith, embedded in stories. This is the visibility of faith – the difference it makes in words, deeds, life!
There are some generalizations about faith in verses 1,6 and 13–16. and one verse (3) on the creation of the universe (itself full of wonders which could take a whole lifetime to explore!), but the rest of today’s reading is taken up with eight believers in the book of Genesis – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Spend some time observing closely the verbs (the action words) of which these persons are the subjects (what they did) and of which they are the objects (what was done to them; what happened to them). Are there some surprises, some questions here for us? Abel and Enoch ‘were commended’ (see 4,5); Noah ‘condemned the world’ (7); ‘foreigners and strangers’ (13) – in what sense? ‘Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead’ (19). The selectivity of these vignettes is instructive; if we actually read the stories of these persons in Genesis, especially Abraham, who is given the greatest exposure here, we find that they are flawed individuals, not perfect, not alabaster models! I take courage from this, knowing my own stuttering pilgrimage; and also with respect to Christians whose company I share who are not faultless. I pray for myself and for them, for fresh steadiness and perseverance.
Lord, help me to live simply, as a foreigner and stranger, with my eyes fixed on the heavenly country. Fill me with practical love for my neighbors today.
Lord, we read that without faith we cannot please You. We believe what Your Word says about You and long for an ever deepening experience.