Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

Hebrews 11

Verses 1-40

10 The Path of Faith

( Hebrews 11 )

In Hebrews 3 believers are addressed as partakers of the heavenly calling. We are called from earth to heaven. In Hebrews 9 we learn that heaven has been secured to the believer, for Christ has entered into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us. In Hebrews 10 we learn that believers have been fitted by the work of Christ for heaven, so that, even now while on earth, they can enter in spirit into heavenly joys within the veil.

In Hebrews 11 we have set before us the path which the heavenly man is to tread as he passes through this world on his way to heaven. The teaching clearly shows that from the beginning to the end it is a path of faith. The whole chapter is a beautiful unfolding of the quotation from the prophet Habakkuk, in the end of the preceding chapter, “The just shall live by faith.”

Remembering to whom the Epistle is written, we can understand that a whole chapter should be devoted to the insistence of “faith” as the great principle by which the believer lives. These Hebrew believers might have special difficulty in accepting the path of faith, as they had been brought up in a religious system that very definitely appealed to sight. The Jewish system centred round a magnificent temple with its altars and material sacrifices offered by an official priesthood clad in beautiful robes, conducting ornate ceremonies according to a prescribed ritual.

All this, however, had been set aside by Christianity into which they had been brought. These believers had to learn that in Christianity there is nothing for sight, but everything for faith. Moreover, the seen things of the Jewish religion were only the shadows of good things to come, whereas the unseen things of Christianity are the substance. They were called to go without the Jewish camp to reach Christ, who was in the outside place of reproach. Having come outside, they are warned by the apostle not to “draw back”.

The apostle's exhortations and warnings have a solemn voice for us today, as Christendom has to such a large extent drawn back, not perhaps in the full sense of the words used in Heb_10:38 ; Heb_10:39 , as that is actual apostasy. Christendom has drawn back in the way of imitation. It has copied the Jewish system in once again rearing magnificent temples with visible altars, and appointing official priests to conduct elaborate ceremonies which appeal to sight and the natural man, while raising no question of conversion or the new birth. Thus Christendom, though not giving up the profession of Christianity to go back to Judaism, has attempted to link Judaism on to Christianity, the result being that Christendom is losing the vital truths of Christianity, into which only the true believer can enter, while retaining the outward things of Judaism which the natural man can appreciate.

In this great chapter we leave the shadows behind to enter the path of faith in which alone the real and vital things of God can be known and enjoyed. We learn, moreover, that in all dispensations faith has been the vital link with God.

After the first three introductory verses, the chapter naturally falls into three main divisions:

Firstly, verses 4-7, presenting faith as the great principle by which we draw nigh to God and escape the judgment to come;

Secondly, verses 8-22, giving examples of men of faith that laid hold of the purpose of God for the world to come, enabling them to walk as strangers and pilgrims on the earth;

Thirdly, verses 23-38, in which faith is seen overcoming the power of the devil and the present world with all its attractions and difficulties.

Introductory

(Vv. 1-3)

(V. 1). The introductory verses present the great principles of faith. The first verse is hardly a definition of faith, but rather a statement of the effect of faith. It tells us what faith does, rather than what faith is. Faith substantiates things hoped for. It makes very real to our souls the things to which we look forward. It gives us the conviction of things not seen. The unseen things become as real to the believer as though present to sight, “yea, much more so because there is deception in things seen” (J.N.D.).

(V. 2). By faith the elders obtained a good report. It was not by their works, or by their lives, but by their faith that they obtained a good report. They were men and women of like passions with us, and their lives were marred with many a failure, and their works were on occasion to be condemned. Nevertheless, in spite of all failure, they were marked by faith in God, and after hearing their report, we are again reminded at the end of the chapter that it was by faith they obtained a good report.

(V. 3). Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. The natural man, with enmity to God in his heart, seeks by reason to account for the formation of the universe without God. He would fain find the origin of the world in matter and forces of nature. The result is that he gropes in the dark and finds no certainty in his speculations. The theories that are hailed with delight as the last word in wisdom by one generation are rejected by the following generation as untenable nonsense. Man is only occupied with the things that appear. God definitely states that what is seen does not take its origin from things which appear. By reason men lead themselves into a sea of conflicting speculations: by faith the believer understands how the worlds were framed. We know that the origin of matter is not from matter, for things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Faith knows that all the worlds came into being “by the Word of God”.

Thus the introductory verses present three great principles of faith: firstly, faith makes real to us things unseen; secondly, faith obtains for its possessors a good report; thirdly, faith leads us to understand things that lie outside the comprehension of the natural mind.

Faith Drawing Nigh to God

(Vv. 4-7)

Passing from the introductory verses we come to the first main division of the chapter, in which faith is seen to be the great principle of approach to God, as set forth in Abel; of deliverance from death, as exemplified in Enoch; and of escape from judgment, as presented in Noah. Thus by faith the individual believer is set in right relationships with God.

(V. 4) In Abel we have set forth the only way in which a sinner can approach God. Abel knew that he was a sinner and that God is an holy God who cannot pass over sins. How then was he to be right with God? By faith he took the only possible way for a sinner under the sentence of death. He came to God on the ground of the death of a victim to which no sin attached. His sacrifice to God spoke of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and thus Abel obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. God did not testify of his life, or even of his faith, but of the sacrifice which his faith brought. This is still the way of blessing for a sinner, and the only way. The one who believes in Jesus, and pleads His great sacrifice, obtains witness that he is righteous. The word to such is, “by Him all that believe are justified from all things”. Thus it is that Abel being dead yet speaketh. He still speaks of the way of faith by which a sinner can obtain blessing.

(Vv. 5, 6). In Enoch we have presented another great trait of faith; it delivers from death. Of Enoch we read that by faith he was translated that he should not see death. In spite of sight and reason, and contrary to all experience, he looked to be translated without seeing death. Only faith could look for an event that had never taken place before in the history of men. So the believer today looks, not for death, but translation. We wait for an event that has no parallel in the history of Christendom. We wait for the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the Lord to call us to meet Him in the air. The natural man looks with dread for death to close his history on earth; only faith can look to be translated without passing through death.

In the history in Genesis nothing is said of the faith of Enoch, but we are twice told that he “walked with God”. It is to this fact that the apostle apparently refers when he says that, before Enoch's translation, “he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Upon this testimony the apostle argues that he must have had faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God. The one that comes to God must believe, not only that God is, but that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

(V. 7). In Noah we see how faith escapes the judgment of God. He was warned by God of coming judgment when outwardly there was not the slightest sign of impending doom, for, when God gave the warning, the coming judgment was “not seen as yet”. As far as things seen were concerned, everything went on as usual. The Lord tells us that the men of that day ate and drank, married wives and were given in marriage. Nevertheless, the man of faith believed the warning of God and, moved with fear, availed himself of the provision that God made, and thus escaped the judgment that overwhelmed the world. By the course he took in faith, he condemned the world that refused to believe the testimony of God to coming judgment, and became the heir with that long line of believers who, by their faith in God's Word, are accounted righteous.

Faith Laying Hold of the World to Come

(Vv. 8-22)

With verse 8 we enter upon another division of the chapter setting forth the faith that embraces the purpose of God for the world to come, enabling the believer to walk as a stranger and a pilgrim in this present world. In this division, extending to verse 22, five Old Testament saints are mentioned by name: Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, each having their distinguishing marks of faith, but all looking on to the future world of glory.

(V. 8). Abraham is the main witness to the faith that lays hold of the purposes of God, leading him to look on to another world and walk as a stranger in this world. He was called to go out of the country in which he had lived in view of another country which he would afterwards receive. If God calls a man out of this present world it is because He has a better world into which to bring him. It will be remembered that Stephen commences his address before the Jewish council by saying, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham.” That is a wonderful statement, but the statement at the end of the address is more wonderful, for Stephen, looking up steadfastly into heaven and seeing Jesus standing on the right hand of God, can say, “I behold the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” The beginning of the call is that the God of glory appears to a man on earth; the end is that a Man appears in the glory of God in heaven. Directly the Lord Jesus takes His place in glory we see clearly what Abraham saw dimly - the full result of the call of God. We, like Abraham, have been called according to the purpose of God ( 2Ti_1:9 ); but this means we have been called out of this present world to have part with Christ in the home of glory where He is, to be actually with Him and like Him - conformed to the image of God's Son ( Php_3:14 ; Rom_8:29 ; 2Th_2:14 ).

Moreover, in Abraham we have not only a striking illustration of the sovereign call of God, but also a bright example of the response of faith. Firstly, we read, “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” To leave your country, not knowing whither you are going, would appear to the natural man simple madness and contrary to all reason and prudence. This, however, is the very occasion for faith to shine. It was enough for the faith of Abraham that God had called him, and God knew whither He was leading him. At times we want to see what will be the result of taking a step in obedience to God's Word; consequently, we hesitate to take the step. Human prudence would carefully weight up results; divinely given faith leaves the result of obedience with God.

(V. 9). Secondly, Abraham not only went out in faith, but, having left the old scene, he walked by faith before he obtained the new. Thus, together with Isaac and Jacob he put on the stranger and pilgrim character. To him the land he was in was a strange country and he himself a pilgrim dwelling in tents. Is not this the true position of the Christian today? We have been called out of the world around us; we are not yet in the new to which we are going. In the meantime we are strangers in a strange world and pilgrims going on to another world.

(V. 10). Thirdly, Abraham looked for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Here we learn what it was that sustained him as a pilgrim in a strange land: he looked on to the future blessing that God has for His people. He was surrounded by the cities of men which, in that day as in this, had no righteous foundations. For this reason the cities of men are doomed to destruction. Abraham looked on to the city of God which, founded on righteousness, will never be moved. We know from verse 16 and also Heb_12:22 that this is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem”. Thus Abraham takes the path of faith in the light of the world to come.

To nature it may appear the height of folly to let go this present world of sight for a world that we have never seen. But faith looks on to the city of God - the heavenly Jerusalem; and when that fair city comes into view, with all its glory and blessedness - the city where there is no sorrow, no crying, no death and no night - then it will be seen how right and how wise was Abraham, and how wise are all those who follow in his steps, in letting go this present world and walking as strangers and pilgrims to the city of God.

(Vv. 11, 12). In Sara we further learn that faith not only looks to God in the face of pressing difficulties, but trusts in God in spite of natural impossibilities. She did not look at the ordinary means of obtaining a son, or reason, “How can this be?” Her confidence was in God, that He would faithfully carry out His own Word in His own way. God honoured her faith by giving her a child “when she was past age”. Thus God secures a great company of people according to His purpose, but does so in His own way, from one “as good as dead”. As so often in the ways of God, He carries out His plans by vessels of weakness in circumstances that seem hopeless. He brings strength out of weakness, meat out of the eater, life out of death, and “so many as the stars of the sky in multitude” from one as good as dead. “He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.”

(Vv. 13-16). Further, we are told that these saints not only lived in faith, but they also “died in faith”, not having received the promises. They having died, God gives us a wonderful summary of their lives. In their history we know there was much failure, for they were men of like passions with ourselves, and their failures have been recorded for our warning. Here the failure is passed over, and God records all that in their lives was the fruit of His own grace. These verses are God's epitaph upon the Patriarchs.

Firstly, we are told that they looked beyond things seen. They saw the promises “afar off”. They were persuaded in their minds of the certainty of the future glory and they heartily embraced the hope of glory.

Secondly, the future glory being heartily embraced produced a practical effect in their lives - they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Thirdly, confessing themselves to be strangers and pilgrims, they gave a clear witness to God, “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek [their] country.”

Fourthly, they overcame the opportunities to return to the world which they had left. Those who answer to the call of God and separate from this present world will find that the devil will seek to draw them back into it by giving them opportunities to return. The lust of the flesh, the attractions of the world, the claims of natural relationships, the business circumstances of life, will in various ways and at different times, open to us opportunities to return. Abraham declared plainly that he was a stranger and a pilgrim; Lot declared plainly that he merely followed a man, for three times it is recorded that he went with Abraham. So, when the opportunity came, Lot embraced it and returned to the cities of the plain, while Abraham passed on to the city of God. Alas! how many since Lot's day, not having embraced the promise, have embraced the opportunity to turn from a path which is impossible to nature and a constant trial to the flesh.

Would we escape the opportunities to return, then let us see that we declare plainly that we are on the Lord's side. Would we declare plainly, then let us definitely accept the path of separation from the world as strangers and pilgrims. Would we be truly strangers and pilgrims, then let us look on to the vast vista of blessing that is opened to us in the new world; let us be persuaded of the reality of the coming glory and heartily embrace it in our affections.

Fifthly, having refused the opportunities to return to their own country, they were free to press on with “desire” to a “better country”, that is “an heavenly”.

Sixthly, of men whose lives are thus characterised we read, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” In the details of their lives there were many failures, and much of which they doubtless were ashamed, but the great governing principles of their lives which moved them and gave character to their walk were such that God was not ashamed to own them and to be called their God.

Seventhly, for such God has prepared a city, and in that city all that was of God in their lives will have a glorious answer.

If these things mark us in this our day, may we not say, in spite of our many failures, our weaknesses, and our insignificance in the eyes of the world, God will not be ashamed to be called our God?

(Vv. 17-19). The life of Abraham illustrates another phase of faith. If the life of faith is tried by the opportunities to turn back that are presented by the devil, it will also be tested to prove its worth by trials sent from God. So we learn that Abraham “was tried” when he was told to offer up Isaac, his only begotten son - the very one through whom the promises were to be fulfilled. His faith answered to the test and enabled him to offer up his son, accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.

(V. 20). Isaac is next brought before us as an example of one who walked in the light of the future, for we read, he “blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.” The history of the blessing of his sons is given in Genesis 27 , and as we read that sad chapter in which every member of the family breaks down, we can discover little evidence of any faith. There, Isaac appears to be governed by his appetites and seeking to act according to nature. Here, God, who sees behind all outward failure, lets us know it was by faith Isaac blessed his sons concerning things to come.

(V. 21). Jacob is next mentioned amongst the elders who obtained a good report through faith; but apparently in his case God waits until he is dying before He records the act of faith that gave Jacob a place amongst the elders. His course as a saint was marred with many a blemish. A deceiver of his father, a supplanter of his brother, an outcast from his home, a wanderer in a strange land, serving a master that he cheated and by whom he was deceived, his children a grief to him, he ends at last his chequered career as a stranger in Egypt. Nevertheless, he was a true saint of God, and his stormy life had a bright sunset. Rising above nature, he acts in faith in blessing the sons of Joseph. Nature would have given the first place to the elder, but Jacob, knowing by faith that God had purposed the younger for the chief place, crossed his hands and, in spite of the protest from Joseph, he gives the younger the first blessing.

(V. 22). Lastly, Joseph is brought before us as an example of faith looking on to the future, for we read that, when dying, he made mention of the departing of Israel. Never had man wielded such power or occupied such a place of worldly glory as Joseph in Egypt, yet when he is dying all the glory of this world fades from his vision. Instead of looking back to the past glories of Egypt, Joseph is looking on to the coming glories of Israel. At that moment it looked very unlikely that Israel would ever leave Egypt. They had settled down in Goshen and, as we read, “they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.” However, faith saw that one hundred and fifty years hence Israel would be delivered from Egypt to enter their own promised land, and faith gave commands in view of their departure.

Faith Overcoming the Present World

(Vv. 23-40)

The early part of the chapter presents the faith by which a believer draws nigh to God on the ground of sacrifice and finds deliverance from death and judgment (verses 4-7); then there passes before us the faith by which the believer walks through this world as a stranger and a pilgrim in the light of the world to come (verses 8-22); in the latter part of the chapter, commencing with verse 23, we see the faith that overcomes this present world. In the former section, Abraham was the great example of one whose faith laid hold of the world to come, the heavenly country and the city which hath foundations. In this latter portion, Moses is the outstanding example of a believer who by faith overcomes the present world.

(V. 23). In connection with the birth of Moses, we are reminded of the faith of his parents that not only led them to ignore the king's commandment, but to overcome their fear. It is the fear of some impending evil that is often more difficult to overcome than the evil itself. Strangely enough, as we might think, what drew forth the activity of their faith was the beauty of their child. They acted in faith “because they saw the child beautiful” (N.Tn.). Apparently, it was faith working by love.

(V. 24). Passing on to Moses himself, we have a striking witness to the way faith overcomes this present world with all that it can offer in the way of attraction and glory. The parents overcame the fear of the world; their son overcame its favours. This makes the faith of Moses all the more striking, for we may overcome the fear of the world and yet fall under its favour.

In order to realise the fine quality of this man's faith it is well to recall what Scripture presents as to his remarkable character, as well as the high position he occupied in the world. Stephen in his address before the Jewish council gives us a brief but remarkable summary of the character and position of Moses ( Act_7:20-22 ). There we are told that he was “exceeding fair”, that he “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Here, then, was a man whose appearance was attractive, whose mind was well-stored with all the learning of the leading country of the world in that day, who could apply his wisdom with weighty words, and follow up his words with mighty deeds. Moses, then, was in every way fitted to fill with distinction the highest position in this world. Moreover, this great position was within his grasp, for he was by adoption the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and thus in the direct line to the throne of the Pharaohs.

Under circumstances so favourable to advancement in this world how does Moses act? Firstly, we read, “When he had become great” - when the moment was favourable for him to take advantage of his great abilities and position - he turned his back on all this world's glory and “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.”

(V. 25). Secondly, we learn what he chooses, and his choosing is as striking as his refusing. In his day there was a large number of people who formed the lowest class in Egypt. They were unwanted foreigners, treated with the utmost rigour as slaves. Their lives were made bitter by reason of their hard bondage as they laboured at brick-making and worked in the fields under the scorching sun ( Exo_1:13 ; Exo_1:14 ). But, in spite of their low estate and hard bondage, these slaves were the people of God. With these people Moses chose to throw in his lot, preferring to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

In the presence of this remarkable “refusing” and “choosing”, we may well ask what was the spring of his actions. In one word we are told that it was faith.. In faith he refused the world; in faith he chose affliction with the people of God. Moreover, he acted, as faith ever does, in the face of providence, in spite of the dictates of natural feelings, and in a way that appeared to outrage common sense.

Against the course he pursued, providence might very well have been pleaded. Could it not have been argued, with every appearance of reason, that it would be wrong to ignore the remarkable providence by which God had placed a man doomed to death by the command of the king in the very highest position before the king? Right natural feeling could have been urged; for it might very well have been said that gratitude to his benefactress demanded that he should remain at court. Reason and common sense could be urged, for it could be said that his great abilities and his high position with its consequent influence could surely be used to promote the interests of his poor brethren. Faith, however, looks to God, knowing that while providence, right natural feelings and common sense may have their place, yet they cannot be a true guide or rule of conduct in the path of faith; and though providence brought Moses into the court of the king, faith led him out. By faith he refused his providential connection with the greatest people in the world to choose a path of identification with the most despised in the land.

(V. 26). If faith acts thus there must be some hidden power - some secret motive - that enables faith to take a path so contrary to nature. This brings us to the “esteeming” of Moses. Verse 24 gives us the “refusing” of Moses; verse 25 the “choosing” of Moses; verse 26 the “esteeming” of Moses, which discovers to us the secret of his refusing and choosing.

This esteeming will show that faith is not a step in the dark. Far otherwise, for faith has its secret motives as well as its outward energies. Faith forms a deliberate estimate of values, faith has a long outlook and faith has an object. The faith of Moses formed a true estimate of things seen and unseen. He looked these things in the face and he weighed them up. On the one hand, there was his great position in the world, and connected with it all the pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt. On the other hand, connected with the people of God there was at that time suffering and reproach. Having weighed them up, he deliberately refused the world and chose to suffer with the people of God.

Why did he thus act? Because his faith had a long outlook; as we read, “He had respect unto the recompence of the reward”, and again, “He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.” He looked beyond the treasures and the pleasures of Egypt on the one hand, and beyond the suffering and reproach of the people of God on the other. By faith he looked on and saw “the King in His beauty” and “the land that is very far off”. In the light of the glory of that land, and attracted by the beauty of the King, he overcame all the glory of the world. In the light of the coming world he formed a true estimate of the present world. He saw that connected with the reproach of Christ there were greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt.

He saw that over all the glory of this world there was the shadow of death and judgment. He saw that the pleasures of this world are only for a season, and all the treasures of Egypt end in a grave. Even so had Joseph found in an earlier day, for he too had occupied a great place in Egypt. Next to the king he had wielded a power that no mortal man before or since had ever wielded in this world. Nevertheless, it all ended in a coffin, for the last words of the Book of Genesis are these, “Joseph died ... and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” So much for Egypt's pleasures and Egypt's treasures. “Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away.” All the glory of this world at last sinks down to a coffin. Pharaoh's mighty empire contracts to a narrow grave.

How different with God's people! Their portion in this world is one of suffering and reproach; but to suffer with Christ in reproach is to reign with Christ in glory, for is it not written, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him”?

To the man of the world, the refusing and the choosing and the esteeming of Moses seem the height of folly. Let us see then how it works out in the case of Moses. Pass on one thousand five hundred years from the day of his refusing and choosing, and we shall begin to see the recompense of the reward. Turn to that great scene described in the opening verses of Matthew 17 and we shall see that the land that was far off has drawn nigh and the King is displayed in His beauty. We are carried above the earth into the high mountain apart, and for a moment we see Christ in His glory, when the fashion of His countenance was altered. The face once marred more than any man's now shines as the sun. The garments of humiliation are laid aside and the garments that shine as the light are put on. This was a wonderful appearance, but there are other wonders to follow, for “Behold,” we read, “there appeared ... Moses and Elias talking with Him.” Fifteen centuries before, Moses disappeared from the sight of the world and this world's king to share the reproach of Christ with His poor and despised people: now he appears again, but this time to share the glory of the King of kings in company with prophet and apostles. Time was when he endured as seeing Him who is invisible; now he is “with Him” in glory. In the light of this recompense of the reward, who will say that Moses missed his opportunity when he refused the world and chose to identify himself with the suffering people of God?

(V. 27). Well it is for us to profit by this shining example of faith. Good indeed if we weigh the riches of Christ against the treasures of this world and esteem the former greater than the latter. Well, too, if we look beyond all self-denials and world-refusals and see the recompense of reward in the coming glory. Above all, well if we endure in the presence of all opposition, insults and reproach, by seeing Him who is invisible. In the presence of the opposition and insults of his enemies Stephen endured without a word of anger or resentment, by seeing Him who is invisible, for we read, “He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus” ( Act_7:55 ). Let us not be content with knowing that He sees us, but let us seek to walk in the energy of the faith that sees Him. It is a great thing to realise that He sees us; it is yet more to walk as seeing Him by faith, while waiting for the moment when we shall actually see Him face to face,

For how will recompense His smile,

The sufferings of this 'little while'.

(V. 28). There are, moreover, further lessons for us in the story of Moses. We have seen that his faith lifted him above the fear of man; we are now to see that it leads to the holy fear of God. Faith recognises that we are sinners, and that God is a holy God who cannot pass over sin. Israel as sinners were under judgment equally with the Egyptians. How, then, were they to escape the destruction of their firstborn? God provides a way of shelter from judgment - the blood of the lamb - and God says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over.” Faith rests, not on our estimate of the blood of the Lamb, but on God's perfect estimate. Thus through faith Moses “kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.”

(V. 29). By faith in God's value of the blood, the children of Israel were passed over in Egypt; then, by faith “they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land.” God was met as a judge in Egypt: He intervenes as a Saviour at the Red Sea. There the people were told to “stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah”; and there God held back the waters of the Red Sea so that His people passed through on dry land. Sheltered by the blood from judgment in Egypt, they were saved from all their enemies at the Red Sea.

By the death of Christ the claims of a holy God are met, and by the death and resurrection of Christ the believer has passed through death and judgment. In type the passover presents Christ offering Himself without spot to God : the Red Sea presents Christ delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.

The Egyptians assaying to pass through the Red Sea were drowned. For nature to face death without faith is certain destruction. Alas! how many there are today who make the outward profession of Christianity yet assay to obtain salvation by their own efforts, and face death apart from faith in the blood of Christ, only to meet destruction.

(V. 30). If by faith the people of Israel were saved from judgment and delivered from Egypt, so by faith they overcame the opposition of the enemy that would prevent them entering the promised land. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.” Israel adopted an unheard of method of besieging a city; but it was not simply walking round the city for seven days that brought down the walls, but faith that obeyed God's Word.

(V. 31). Faith, moreover, obtains for a woman with a disreputable character a place amongst these Old Testament worthies. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not.” As a harlot she would come under the condemnation of men. By faith she comes into the great cloud of witnesses that obtain a good report from God.

(V. 32). Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David and Samuel complete the list of the men of faith mentioned by name. It has been remarked that in this list of names the historical order is not followed. In history Barak came before Gideon, Jephthae before Samson. This may be to emphasise the fact that in the days of the Judges the faith of Gideon was of a brighter order than that of Barak, and that Samson's faith exceeded that of Jephthae. David may be classed with the Judges as himself a ruler; and Samuel may be mentioned last to connect him with the prophets that came after the kings.

(Vv. 33, 34). In the closing verses the apostle refers to signal acts of faith to set forth the striking qualities of faith. Firstly, he refers to incidents that emphasise the power of faith that subdues kingdoms and overcomes armies; that is strong in weakness and valiant in fight; that triumphs over the power of nature, as represented by the lion, and quenches the violence of the elements such as fire; and that even obtains victory over death.

(Vv. 35, 36). Secondly, the apostle passes before us the endurance of faith that in torture refused to accept deliverance and in trial endured mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonments.

(Vv. 37, 38).Thirdly, he speaks more particularly of the sufferings of faith: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword.”

Lastly, we see the reproach of faith. The world drove the men of faith from their midst, treating them as despised outcasts. They became wanderers in the earth. By its treatment of God's worthies, the world proved itself to be unworthy. In condemning the men of faith, it condemned itself.

(V. 39). Nevertheless, in spite of their acts of power, their endurance, their sufferings and their reproach, they did not in their day receive the promised blessing. In the past they lived by faith; today they have a good report; in the future they will enjoy the recompense of the reward when they enter upon the promised blessings. Great will be the blessing of these Old Testament saints; yet God has provided some “better thing” for the Christian. When God has completed His purpose in calling out the church, the Old Testament saints together with the church will enter upon the fulness of blessing. They wait, and we wait, for the resurrection morn in order to be “made perfect”.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/hebrews-11.html. 1832.