The Triumphs Of Faith
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.”
Hebrews 11:1-2 NASB1995
I love these first two verses of Hebrews 11. The first is a wonderful definition of faith, while the second verse sets up the reader for the history lesson that is about to unfold.
Nobody is really sure who wrote the Book of Hebrews. From events and people described by the author, it is thought that the book was written between 67 - 69 AD. Some believe it was Paul who wrote it originally in Hebrew with Luke translating it into Greek. However, the author describes himself early on as “one of the disciples of the apostles,” definitely not how Paul would describe himself.
Other scholars have attributed Hebrews to Barnabas (mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament), Apollos, and even Priscilla and her husband Aquilas… although the author describes himself as a man. Whoever it was, it was someone who both spoke and “thought” in Greek.
What makes Chapter 11 of Hebrews stand out is that it not only defines faith, but offers a number of examples from the Old Testament to those who may be wavering in their belief. The author starts near the beginning… writing about Abel (one of the sons of Adam), who offered a better sacrifice to God — the firstborn of his flock — than his brother Cain — who offered fruit he had picked up off of the ground — as it was sanctified by faith. God was happy with Abel’s sacrifice, although his faith wasn’t rewarded on Earth.
Next up is Enoch, referred to by some commentators as “the mystery man of the Bible”, who was so faithful to God that the Lord took him up to heaven without dying. The writer to the Hebrews doesn’t say that it’s hard to please God without faith, rather he said it’s impossible!
Other pillars of faith are described in detail: Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. All of them had steadfast faith in God; though they may have wavered from time to time (Sarah actually laughed at God’s suggestion that she would have a child in her old age!).
Even the prostitute Rahab stands out as an example of faith. She had faith in Yahweh, became a traitor to the gods of Canaan, and was rewarded for her faith by having herself and her family saved when the rest of Jericho was destroyed. As my favorite 19th century preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, said: “She was a harlot, a woman that was a sinner, and universally known to be such.” Yet her faith saved her and her family! Spurgeon, who had the gift for alliteration that many modern preachers try to emulate, described her faith as saving, singular, stable, self-denying, sympathizing, and sanctifying. Rahab is not the last of the Old Testament figures to be praised for his or her faith; the list goes on and on…
The conclusion of this uplifting chapter points out to the reader that although these historical figures demonstrated powerful faith, they could not be made complete until Jesus opened their way into the presence of God through the cross. The examples of faithfulness in Hebrews 11 make our faith easier, reminding us what faith is and that we can follow the faith of the Old Testament heroes and heroines with a bit more ease:
“It is what Christ has done that opens the way into the very presence of God for them as for us. Only the work of Christ brings those of Old Testament times and those of the new and living way alike into the presence of God.”1
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father in Heaven, please forgive me when my heart shows skepticism and I doubt You. I know that You will use the Holy Spirit to lead me back onto the path of faith and guide me to more understanding. In those times when I struggle with faith, provide me with the wisdom and vision to understand that there are examples of faith all around me. I thank You for Your faith in me, AMEN.
Morris, Leon "Hebrews: The Expositor's Bible Commentary" Volume 12 (Hebrews-Revelation) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1981)