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Examples of true faith (11:1-22)
In the previous chapter the writer asserted that people must join faith to perseverance if they are to enjoy the thing hoped for. He now supports this statement with illustrations from the Old Testament. If people have faith, it means they believe that things hoped for according to God’s promises will be achieved and that unseen powers of God are real. Those with faith look beyond what they see. They know that they cannot explain the existence of the world solely by reasoning from the things that can be seen (11:1-3).
Abel’s sacrifice, Enoch’s daily life and Noah’s obedience all pleased God because they arose out of faith. These men trusted in the unseen God and in his faithfulness to those who wholeheartedly sought him. God on his part rewarded them, but rejected those who showed no faith (4-7; cf. Genesis 4:2-1.4.7; Genesis 5:21-1.5.24; Genesis 6:8-1.6.14).
Abraham’s faith caused him to set out for a promised, yet unknown, earthly inheritance. More than that, it caused him to remain patient when he did not experience the fulfilment of the promise in his lifetime. By faith he looked beyond to a higher fulfilment of the promise (8-10; cf. Genesis 12:1-1.12.5). His wife Sarah shared his faith. They trusted God’s promise that they would have a son and through him a multitude of descendants, even though they were both past the age when they might normally expect to have children (11-12; cf. Genesis 15:5; Genesis 18:11-1.18.13). Abraham and his family did not give up and go back to Abraham’s home in Mesopotamia as soon as difficulties arose. They looked beyond death for a greater fulfilment than they could experience in their earthly lives (13-16; cf. Genesis 23:4).
When God told Abraham to offer up his son Isaac, Abraham’s faith was tested, because Isaac was the person through whom God promised to give Abraham a multitude of descendants. Abraham had faith to obey, believing that God could bring Isaac back to life. In his willingness to go ahead with the sacrifice, Abraham did, in effect, offer up Isaac, but God intervened and Abraham received his son back, so to speak, from death (17-19; cf. Genesis 22:1-1.22.18).
Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were all certain that the promise to Abraham would be fulfilled. This was why Joseph left instructions about his burial. He knew he would die in Egypt, but he instructed that his bones be buried in Canaan. In this way he declared his faith that one day his people would inherit the land God promised them (20-22; cf. Genesis 28:1-1.28.4; Genesis 47:29-1.47.31; Genesis 49:1; Genesis 50:24-1.50.25).
More examples of true faith (11:23-40)
Moses’ parents had faith to believe that God had chosen their child for a great purpose. Acting on this faith, they risked their own lives to preserve the life of the child (23; cf. Exodus 1:22; Exodus 2:1-2.2.2). As Moses grew to adulthood, he too exercised faith, in spite of the sacrifice, hardship and danger that it brought. He endured because he was confident of the future reward and he trusted in the unseen God (24-27; cf. Exodus 2:10-2.2.15).
Through faith the Israelites were protected at the time of the Passover judgment and delivered from the Egyptian army (28-29; cf. Exodus 12:1-2.12.13; Exodus 14:21-2.14.31). Through faith they entered the promised land and conquered Jericho. Likewise it was through faith that Rahab was saved when others in Jericho were killed (30-31; cf. Joshua 2:1-6.2.14; Joshua 6:15-6.6.25).
The writer finds that there are more examples of victorious and enduring faith than he can list. He selects certain people and achievements from the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings and Daniel to remind his readers of the triumphs of faith (32-34). People suffered terrible tragedies, extreme hardships and cruel tortures, but they held on in faith. They refused to give in to their persecutors or to forsake their trust in God (35-38).
These people could not receive the promised inheritance until Christ came. By his death he made complete salvation possible, so that God can accept believers as perfect in him. They will enjoy the fulfilment of their faith when believers of all eras are gathered together through Christ, and God reigns in love over all (39-40).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany