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At the close of the preceding chapter, mention was made of "them that believe to the saving of the soul." Now follows a description of faith and an illustration of its power from the example of the ancient worthies.
Substance ; the Greek word has two distinct meanings: first, as rendered by our version, substance; the meaning will then be, that faith is that which gives to things hoped for subsistence in the views and feelings of the soul, and leads it to regard and treat them as real; secondly, confidence, as in 2 Corinthians 11:17 . According to this, faith is the firm persuasion of things hoped for.
The evidence of things not seen ; their demonstration, that which sets before the mind unseen realities as if they were seen. Faith is a glorious reality and mightily efficacious. It works powerfully, and produces effects which nothing else can. It is in the highest and best sense rational, and is as essential with regard to things unseen, as the eye is to things seen.
A good report ; commendation from God and good men.
We understand ; through God’s testimony.
Worlds ; heaven and earth.
Things which are seen ; the whole visible universe.
Things which do appear ; things visible to sense. The matter itself of which heaven and earth are made was called into being by God’s power, and afterwards reduced to order and beauty. Faith quickens, purifies, elevates, and ennobles the human soul. It raises it to higher spheres, gives it keener vision and a purer atmosphere, enables it to look backward and forward, above, beneath, and around, and avail itself to an untold extent of the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of the vision and knowledge, the wisdom, grace, and joy of God.
More excellent sacrifice ; because offered in a more excellent spirit. There is probably a reference also to the kind of offering. It was not merely a thank-offering, like that of Cain, but a propitiatory sacrifice.
Testifying of his gifts ; expressing in some visible form his approbation of them. Genesis 4:4-1.4.7 .
Yet speaketh ; by his example and its effects. Two persons may engage in the same external worship and yet their service be totally different in the sight of God. Whatever is done, in order to be accepted of him, must be done with faith, in spirit and in truth.
He pleased God ; by walking with him. Genesis 5:24 . He had confidence in him, lived in communion with him, opened his heart to him, and consulted him as his bosom-friend.
Moved with fear ; because he believed God’s word that the flood would certainly come. Genesis 6:14-1.6.22 .
By the which ; by which faith of his, with its accompanying fruits.
He condemned the world ; his example of faith condemned their unbelief.
The righteousness which is by faith ; the righteousness which God gives through faith. See note to Romans 1:17 . Fear is a powerful means of the salvation of men. God designs to awaken it, and it is right that it should have influence. There is great reason for it, and he who attempts to show that there is not, acts against God and against the best interests of mankind.
Not knowing whither he went ; God’s words were, "Unto a land that I will show thee," Genesis 12:1 ; and such was his confidence in God that he was willing to go anywhere, as God should direct. It is not necessary for us to know all that God will do with us, in order to trust in and obey him; or to be able to see the reasons of his declarations, in order to believe them; or to understand the manner in which his promises can be accomplished, in order to expect their fulfilment.
As in a strange country ; he bought no land except what he wanted for a burying-ground, but lived as a stranger in tents, expecting his permanent abode and possessions in heaven. Genesis 13:3 ; Genesis 13:18 ; Genesis 18:1 ; Genesis 18:9 .
A city which hath foundations ; which hath everlasting foundations; that heavenly city which God himself has built for those who love him. Chap Hebrews 12:22 ; Hebrews 13:14 . Old Testament saints had knowledge of a future state, and expected their reward in another world.
Sarah ; Genesis 21:1-1.21.2 ; Genesis 22:17 .
Great events for this world as well as the future, depend on the exercise of faith in God; and things which affect vast multitudes for time and eternity, are accomplished through its influence, which would otherwise be impossible.
The promises ; the things which God had promised.
Embraced them ; looked forward to the fulfilment of the promises with earnest desire and confident expectation.
Confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims ; see Genesis 23:4 , where the literal pilgrimage of Abraham shadows forth this life as a pilgrimage; and so it is spoken of by Jacob, Genesis 47:9 , and still more fully afterwards by David, 1 Chronicles 29:15 .
A country ; which they had not found and could not find in this world.
God is not ashamed ; because they place such confidence in him and desire such pure and elevated joys, he has prepared for them a permanent abode and unending bliss in heaven. God is ashamed of those who have no confidence in him and prepares for them no habitation in heaven. He will not acknowledge them as his people, Mark 8:38 , or bring them to his blest abode.
In a figure ; when raised alive from the altar where he expected him to die. There are no difficulties in believing God’s declarations and obeying his commands, over which faith cannot triumph.
Things to come ; which God had promised, and which Isaac confidently expected. Genesis 27:27-1.27.40 .
Blessed both the sons ; Genesis 48:5-1.48.20 .
Upon the top of his staff ; Genesis 47:31 ; the quotation is from the Greek version of the Seventy. The same Hebrew letters, according as they are differently pronounced, may signify bed or staff. Taken either way, the sense of the passage is substantially the same. Faith lives and worships God in death.
The departing of the children of Israel ; out of Egypt, because God had promised it. Genesis 50:24-1.50.25 .
Proper ; beautiful.
Not afraid ; to disobey the king’s command, because they trusted in God to protect them. There are cases in which to obey civil rulers is wrong. In such cases, faith will keep even a woman from obeying the most despotic king.
Affliction with the people of God ; because he expected in so doing to receive the blessings which God had promised them.
The reproach of Christ ; here, and in chap Hebrews 13:13 , the reproach which Christ in all ages bears in the person of his covenant people, as he once bore it in his own person; for what is done to his people is done to him. Compare Matthew 10:40 ; Matthew 18:5-40.18.6 ; Luke 9:48 ; Luke 10:16 , and especially Matthew 25:34-40.25.45 . Of this reproach each disciple must for Christ’s sake bear his share, before he can share with Christ in his glory. 2 Timothy 2:12 .
The reward ; to be given him by God. No earthly sacrifices are too great for faith to make in order to obey God, and no loss is encountered in such a cause which faith does not esteem unspeakable gain.
Forsook Egypt ; Exodus 12:31-2.12.51 .
As seeing him who is invisible ; as seeing by faith the unseen God-a beautiful illustration of what is said, verse Hebrews 11:1 , of faith. Faith has eyes to see invisible things, and a heart to feel their power. It has a head to plan, a tongue to speak, and a hand to work for God.
The passover , and the sprinkling of blood ; Moses observed them as God directed, expecting according to His promise, that in so doing he and the Israelites would be safe. Exodus 12:21-2.12.30 . Faith regards the blood of Christ as the foundation of human hope, and looks to it as the only safeguard from the destroyer.
They passed through the Red sea ; trusting in God to preserve them. Exodus 14:22-2.14.29 .
Compassed about ; with confidence that God would cause the walls of the city to fall as he had said. Joshua 6:15-6.6.20 .
Rahab ; believed that what God had spoken concerning Israel would be accomplished, and she acted accordingly. Joshua 2:1-6.2.21 ; Joshua 6:23 .
Gideon ; Judges 6:1-7.6.40 ; Judges 7:1-7.7.25 ; Judges 8:1-7.8.35 .
Barak ; Judges 4:1-7.4.24 ; Judges 5:1-7.5.31 .
Samson ; Judges 13:1-7.13.25 ; Judges 14:1-7.14.20 ; Judges 15:1-7.15.20 ; Judges 16:1-7.16.31 .
Jephthae ; Judges 11:1-7.11.40 ; Judges 12:1-7.12.15 .
David ; 1 Samuel 16:1-9.16.13 .
Samuel ; 1 Samuel 1:20 .
The prophets ; Matthew 5:12 .
For examples, see the references.
No victories ever won compare with those of faith. Its triumphs no earthly tongue can speak or pen describe. They are written in the book of life, and will be told with immortal tongues, by multitudes which no man can number, in strains of glory rising higher and higher, and growing sweeter and sweeter to endless ages.
Women received their dead ; 1 Kings 17:17-11.17.23 ; 2 Kings 4:32-12.4.37 .
Others were tortured ; from this point onward examples are included of those who lived after the record of the Old Testament was closed, some of whose sufferings for the truth’s sake are recorded in the books of Maccabees, and in Josephus’ account of the same times. A better resurrection ; to a life of everlasting glory.
A good report ; they are in Scripture commended as good men, and their faith by which they persevered in duty held up as worthy of imitation to all succeeding ages.
The promise ; the great thing promised, namely, the Messiah and the blessings of the gospel.
Some better thing ; the fulfilment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ and the blessings which he conferred.
Not be made perfect ; without the fulfilment of these promises, which we witness, and in the faith of which they lived, and died, and went to glory.
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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent