‘We live by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). Ask God to open the eyes of your mind and heart to receive his truths and insights.
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.’ 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 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.’ 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 worshipped 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.
Previously, the author quoted from Habakkuk: ‘My righteous one will live by faith’ (Hebrews 10:38a). Now he defines faith (v 1) and then describes what living by faith looks like in the lives of real people in real-life situations (vs 3–40).
‘The man who has true faith possesses the title-deeds of eternal realities.’* The essence of faith is an assurance about unseen and unrealised realities (v 1), a confidence that manifests itself in courageous choices – like Abraham abandoning the comfortable familiarity of home, living as a stranger in a foreign land, and preparing to sacrifice his beloved son (vs 8,9,17–19).
This doesn’t mean that events will always unfold as expected or desired. At the end of his life, the only title-deed Abraham possessed was for Sarah’s burial plot (Genesis 23:17–20) and the sum-total of his descendants was closer to the number of planets than the stars in the sky! Although he didn’t ‘receive the things promised’, Abraham was one of those who ‘saw them and welcomed them from a distance’ (v 13). ‘Faith, indeed, has a way of making the future present and the unseen visible.’**
*Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Eerdmans, 1979, p171
**Donald A Hagner, Encountering the Book of Hebrews, Baker Academic, 2006, p142
Seek God’s grace to live not by a knowing that’s grasped by your senses, but by an assurance that’s sensed deep within your spirit.
Deeper Bible study
I call to mind a person of strong faith, dead or alive, whose story has been an encouragement to me, and I 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.1 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.2 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 generalisations about faith in verses 1,6 and 13–16. and one verse (v 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. I spend some time observing closely the verbs (the action words) of which these persons were the subjects (what they did) and of which they were the objects (what was done to them; what happened to them). Are there some surprises, some questions here for me? Abel and Enoch ‘were commended’ (see vs 4,5); Noah ‘condemned the world’ (v 7); ‘foreigners and strangers’ (v 13) – in what sense? ‘Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead’ (v 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 neighbours today.
1Heb 10:39, TNIV 2 AW Pink spent over one third of his 1300-page commentary on Hebrews on these amazing chapters!
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 1 Kings 14,15; 1 Corinthians 15
Pray for Scripture Union
The Impact community mission week would start in Romford today, with children and young people doing community outreach through a holiday club, family fun day, sports mission and more. Pray that they’ll find ways to outreach to their community anyway, so that people in the area will see the love of Jesus and that those who take part will grow in faith.