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This chapter in itself forms a complete division of the book of Hebrews. If previously the doctrine has been thoroughly laid down that faith is the principle of all actual relationship with God, now Ch. 11 provides from the Old Testament itself numerous examples of positive proof that faith is the one principle that produces real results for God in all ages. It is the experimental proof. And these examples of faith are the more remarkable when we consider that the dispensation of law did not in any way emphasize faith, as does our present dispensation of grace, which indeed may be termed "a dispensation for faith." But though not publicly taught in the Old Testament, yet faith is seen to be the only actual energizing power by which anything for God was accomplished. The Psalms actually are full of declarations of the blessedness of faith, but the law did not declare it as a necessary doctrine. However, there is a power in faith that could not but manifest itself in spite of the legal system.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This is not a definition, but shows us something of what faith does. It is that which, to the individual, gives solid substance to things hoped for. It is no mere fanciful imagination, but an honest trust in the living God, by which the things of God are made a definite, clear reality to the heart, and are thus recognized to be more truly substantial than all material substance-for the latter will pass away. Also it has that peculiar power of evidencing to us "things not seen." Faith in the living God is not blind, but the actual opening of the eyes, accepting unquestionable evidence of the reality of unseen, spiritual things.
"For by it the elders obtained a good report." Did legal-minded Jews consider this? It was not rigid law-keeping that clothed with such illustrious beauty the lives or works of the most outstanding Old Testament saints, but a genuine active faith in God. This we shall see in our chapter.
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." It is no problem to the believer to understand creation. Faith, crediting God, sees nothing too hard for Him. Some socalled scientists, who admittedly find no other alternative but evolution, will reject creation on the ground of its seeming to be "incredible," and with amazing credulity follow the theory that the universe has by the merest chance gradually taken shape out of some original, undefined, hazy nothingness! And thus, life, order, growth, instinct, feeling, sound, hearing, sight, odor, smelling, taste, memory, intellect, reason, energy, movement, personality, conscience, motives, spiritual conceptions, besides an infinite variety of material forms, and also of immaterial characteristics, seen in great variety even within one material species, - all this is claimed to proceed out of a nebulous mass of lifeless nonentity! Where in the universe, have they observed one sample of such a principle in operation? Such reasoning is of course grossly unreasonable.
But in the Word of God is majestic power, and this has framed the universe. The details of this God has not told us, nor does Scripture indicate at what time the original creation came into being. The six days of Genesis 1:1-31, in which the remodeling of the earth for man is described, reveal what is comparatively recent in earth's history. God has made visible things from things invisible. The atom, from which all matter is formed, (and which He created, Colossians 1:16,) is invisible; and the atom itself is formed of smaller, invisible parts. Scientists wonder if even these are again formed by infinitesimal particles, and are dubious if they will ever discover the smallest basic building blocks of matter. At least, the lesson is inescapable, that what is unseen and spiritual is the basis of what is material, and therefore far more important. Faith apprehends this with not the least difficulty.
Verse 3 then connects faith with understanding or wisdom, and in relation to creation. But let us go further: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Observe that this verse connects faith with worship, related to the great truth of redemption. Sin had marred that which God had created without fault. Therefore creation was no basis of worship whatever. Cain ignored the fall, and dared to offer the fruits of the cursed creation. Abel offered a lamb by the shedding of its blood, a striking type of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, in which the just penalty of sin is faced, and borne. Faith recognizes that this is the only ground of approach to God. Apart from the cross, no worship can be acceptable to Him. How brilliantly is this faith exampled for us in the case of Abel, and so early in history.
By his sacrifice he obtained witness that he was righteous. His faith acted upon God's revealed will in the matter. Cain, even when reasoned with by God, stubbornly refused any offering but the fruits that witnessed the work of his own hands, and his pride was his own condemnation. But God testified to the value of Abel's gifts: He had respect to that which spoke of the offering of His own Son. Abel therefore, though murdered by Cain, continues to speak throughout all history: and doubtless multitudes have been awakened of God, through this record, to trust God's one sacrifice.
"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death: and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Here faith is connected with a godly walk in separation from an ungodly world, and therefore related to "translation" into the sphere of new creation. Genesis tells us that "Enoch walked with God." Jude further speaks of his faithful prophesying of the Lord's coming and the judgment of the ungodly (Jude 1:14-15). He is a striking type of the church of God, which in her proper condition walks in devoted separation to God, bearing faithful witness to the coming of the Lord, and will be suddenly caught up to meet the Lord in the air, not actually seeing death. God confirms His approval of her moral separation by physically separating her from the world before judgment falls. No doubt the witness of Enoch was deeply resented, and it has been suggested that the expression, "was not found" implies that he was sought, possibly with the object of putting him to death. But God intervened: he did not see death at all! Wonderful indeed the testimony of Scripture as regards him: "he pleased God." Who can estimate the marvelous value of this? But let its remark that all of this is the fruit of simple, honest faith.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." If one does not honestly believe that "God is," then his apparent religious approach to God is thorough hypocrisy. Faith is simply a true recognition of God, and certainly nothing less than this can please God. This is the elementary essential, while the last part of the verse shows the active working of faith, that is, diligently seeking God, which is certainly to be rewarded, in accordance with the faithful nature of God.
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." In this case faith is connected with work as related to judgment. Noah worked because he believed God. The dreadful reality of God's judgment had stirring effect upon his soul. His labor in building the ark, his preaching while doing so, was not prompted by light motives, but by "godly fear." God had spoken, and God would make good His word. Only Noah's house was saved: others despised both the long preaching of Noah and his amazing labors in building the ark. But the weight of popular opinion was only folly in this case: all was swept away in the flood. Note too that by the very building of the ark Noah condemned the world. Its existence was the witness of the flood to come. Just so, the preaching of the Gospel of eternal salvation through the death of Christ, is clearest witness of the condemnation of the world. If there were no judgment, then salvation would be meaningless. The very fact of the Gospel of God's grace is proof that the world is under judgment, from which only individual faith will deliver individuals. The world chooses to ignore both the warnings of judgment and God's gracious provision for escape; but faith is that principle which, believing God, recognizes that God does as He says, and will tolerate no rebellion. If God says He will judge the world, He will do so. If He provides a way of escape for whosoever will receive it, then it is a perfect provision, and absolutely secures the soul from judgment. Thus Noah became "heir of the righteousness which is by faith." His works did not provide him with this righteousness, but his works were the result of faith in the living God, a faith which was counted to him as righteousness.
But it is well that we notice in the first seven verses of our chapter that faith connects itself with four basic and mighty works of God, as God has revealed them. First, in verse 3, Creation; secondly, in verse 4, Redemp-tion; thirdly, in verse 5, Translation, or new creation; and fourthly, in verse 7, Judgment, God's "strange work." Thus faith exalts the works of God, and has no confidence in what is merely man's work.
Verse 8 begins now a second section, in which Abraham and his family are the examples of faith. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out. not knowing whither he went." We shall see faith here, not only as related to the basic works of God, but to the personal experiences of life. God called Abraham out from a land of idol worshippers, from his own near relatives. It was no light step to take. He was a man of means, and no doubt of prominence; but when God called, it was a voice that could not be ignored: he obeyed. We are not told here with what hesitation he at first acted, for he went only as far as Haran, his father accompanying him, and did not go on until his father died. Such weaknesses of the flesh are necessarily passed over in a chapter that deals with faith. But faith did lead Abraham on, and though not knowing where God was leading him, he went. This is faith in personal life. Can God be fully trusted, or not? Is this not a simple matter for faith to decide? If so, let faith act. If the Word of God tells me the path to take, then let me take it without question. Whatever the difficulties of it. God is more than sufficient for these. If only mere religious feeling prompts me, this is a useless substitute for the clearly declared Word of God. All personal preferences and feelings must utterly give way before this tribunal of absolute truth and authority. Faith therefore in this case connects with obedience. If I have no honest spirit of obedience to the Word of God, then it is mere hypocrisy to boast of having faith in God. When God speaks, faith obeys. For faith is that which trusts God absolutely in preference to every other confidence, and it trusts His Word as showing the only true and safe course for the believer. We shall obey in proportion, as we actually trust the Word of God. Faith does not fearfully inquire first as to what may result from taking a step of obedience: the results may be safely left with God. Abraham did not investigate first to find out all about the land God was sending him to: he obeyed!
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." If faith first obeys, faith also continues. Here is the sted-fast, plodding life of faith, not a settling down amid earthly comforts, but a pilgrim path, as Abraham's tent bore witness. Mere material, present advantage, is no object whatever for faith. God's promise of better things had laid hold of Abraham's soul, and Isaac and Jacob after him took the same pilgrim character (though indeed Jacob in particular was painfully inconsistent in it until his later years). Though Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, yet the promise of the land was to his earthly seed, and he knew that personally he would not take possession of it (CompareGenesis 15:13-15; Genesis 15:13-15).
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." This goes beyond any Old Testament record of Abraham's expectations, and shows that faith looked further than the limits of what God had publicly revealed at the time. The heavenly city had never been mentioned then, but faith could easily recognize that the incorruptible God would provide that which was incorruptible, above all that man observes by his senses, subject as this is to the early corruption and dissolution. Faith then desires nothing less than what is entirely the workmanship of God. It will not be disappointed.
"Through faith Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful Who had promised." Faith here connects with the receiving of strength. For while a step of obedience to God is admirable, and a life of stedfast continuance more admirable still, yet without the supply of God's power, these are impossible. Faith finds this too; and this completes a series of seven beautiful products of faith, basic in all godly character: 1. Wisdom (vs. 3); 2. Worship (vs. 4); 3. Walk (vs. 5); 4. Work (vs. 7); 5. Obedience (vs. 8); 6. Continuance (vs. 9); 7. Strength (vs. 11).
No comment is here made on the fact of Sara's weakness of faith when first God made the announcement that she should have a son (Genesis 18:9-15). But God had the last word, and Sara then believed it. And this simple trust in the truth of God's word produced the strength that was normally impossible. At ninety years of age she gave birth to Isaac. When God has spoken, do we not judge Him faithful, and expect Him to fully carry out what He has promised? Will He not also give the necessary strength for whatever purpose He may see fit to use us? Consider the results of Sara's eventual quiet submission of faith: "Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable." Here is fruit beyond calculation, and certainly beyond the limits of Sara's own hopes. Mere natural hope was dead, so that long before this she had given up any such expectation. Thus God teaches that He alone is the true Resource of His saints; and the fruit of faith's submission is greater far than appears at the time, or possibly for years after. Only eternity will actually reveal it. Faith does not ask to see results, nor depend upon results, but it will eventually produce them, however long the time may seem. It is the principle of life out of death-resurrection.
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Faith sees death to be but a necessary step toward the fulfilment of the promise, hence the quiet calmness of the patriarchs in the face of death. First in our verse we see faith's long sight; secondly, its firm, unshaken persuasion, thirdly, its embracing with the entire soul the preciousness of the truth of God; and fourthly, its unhesitating confession before the world that earth is but a foreign land of pilgrimage. How full, and real, and precious such character! Who would exchange it for all the wealth, pleasure, power and popularity the world may offer for a brief span of years? For the latter is but a bubble of air, bursting and gone, in comparison to eternal, solid substantial reality.
"For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city" The very actions of such examples of faith are a plain declaration that they seek something beyond and unseen, that is substantial and permanent. If Abraham had decided after coming to Canaan, that his previous home in Mesopotamia (where he had served idols) was preferable to a path of faith in the living God, then the way was open for him to return; but he had no such inclination. Just so, one who professes faith in Christ, if he prefers his former sins to a path of faith and the truth of God's Word, may return to his folly again; but this would only prove that he had never in actual faith embraced the promises of God. Abraham desired a better country, which could only be heavenly. however meagre was the knowledge of Abraham as to its character. He could trust Cod without being told everything. Much more has been revealed to us: how much more responsible this therefore renders us! And where this lowly, self-denying pilgrim character is in evidence. God is not ashamed to link His Name with it. Blessed if it can be said of ourselves that He is not ashamed to be called our God! He has prepared for us a city. Loneliness and deprivation now will give place to fullest fellowship and fullest provision there. For this, faith waits with patience.
From verse 17 to 22 there are now four grand examples of faith's triumph in the very face of death, and this concludes the record from the book of Genesis. Observe in this that the greater part of this chapter of the examples of faith is taken from a history previous to the existence of Israel as a nation.
"By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed he called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." This history found in Genesis 22:1-24 is sublimely beautiful, both in the deliberate, unhesitating obedience of Abraham, and in the calm submission of Isaac. Abraham's love for his son was unquestioned, yet at the Word of God he was willing to sacrifice him. It was a striking trial of his faith, for God had before told him, "In Isaac shall they seed be called," and as yet Isaac was a lad. When God had so spoken, Abraham reasoned that if Isaac should die, God would raise him up again, in order to fulfill His promise that Abraham would have descendants through Isaac. Faith thus reckons God's word as paramount and unbreakable, and can willingly give up the most cherished possession on earth for the sake of obedience to that Word. Blessed privilege indeed! Nothing was lost by such faith. Isaac was received back again as though from the dead, - that is in figure, for of course God would not actually suffer the father's hand to kill the child. And this too becomes a most precious type of the great sacrifice of our God and Father in giving His Son to redeem guilty sinners, by the death of the cross.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." The history here is really no credit to the strength of Isaac's faith, for he intended to favor Esau rather than Jacob, no doubt because Esau was the elder; but God had said. "The elder shall serve the younger." However, the fact of Isaac so blessing his sons, as he himself was approaching death, is a simple witness to his faith in the living God, faith that death was no deterrent to the fulfilment of God's promise.
"By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." In this case the same faith is evident, but more intelligent than in Isaac's case, for his right hand he placed on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, for he discerned the mind of God. And on the very verge of death the heart of the aged patriarch expands in unfeigned worship of God. Blessed confidence in the unfailing promise of God!
"By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones."Genesis 50:24-25; Genesis 50:24-25 gives us this simple history. Joseph believed the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps too he was acquainted with the word of God to Abraham that his seed would be a stranger in a strange land, afflicted for four hundred years before they would he brought back to the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:13-14). But whatever the time, his bones were to be buried in Canaan, as indeed was the case. Even death, and long intervening years, was no barrier whatever, so far as faith was concerned, for it waits simply upon God.
Verse 23 now introduces 7 further distinct accomplishments of faith in connection with Israel's history from Egypt to Canaan, and this is followed by a more general list that covers the entire Old Testament. But it will have been noted in the first part of the chapter that Abraham is outstanding as an example of faith; in the latter part that Moses is outstanding. The former, being called to a path of godly separation, shows us the calm, steady endurance of faith. The latter, called to a rigorous service for God, illustrates the energy of faith.
"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment" (Numerical Bible). The faith here was that of Moses' parents, - his mother in this case evidently taking the lead, according to the history. The beauty of the child was doubtless used to impress on them the glory of the Creator, who could be depended upon to honor their simple act of faith in Him. Their hiding the child no doubt endangered their own lives, but God's honor was more important than the king's commandment. Doubtless too the mother's afterward placing the child in the ark at the river's brink, was an act of faith which was used of God in a virtually miraculous way. Did she not actually give him up into the hand of God, and in an unexpected way receive him back again? Thus faith never loses by its relinquishing anything into God's hand. May we learn such lessons well, in regard to our children, or any other possession with which we may be entrusted.
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Forty years elapsed in Moses' life before this definite act of faith. Doubtless his soul was deeply torn and tested as he viewed the affliction of his own people at the hand of the very nation in which he himself was exalted. He had become great, but the people of God were, suffering. Could he then take pleasure in being heir to the throne of Egypt? Eventually he was compelled to face the issue. Faith could not countenance the cruel assault of an Egyptian against an Israelite, and Moses killed the former. It does not follow that Moses acted in faith in the killing and hiding of the body in the sand. Faith might have found more honorable and wise methods of dealing; so that while his actions were prompted by faith in God, yet they also give evidence of the weakness of his faith. It was certainly not as bold as on a later occasion. Nevertheless there was decision here, a real relinquishing of his regal honors, refusing the glories the world had given him.
But lest any should suggest that he ought to have remained in office in Egypt and use his influence in governmentally patronizing and improving the conditions of Israel, we answer that this would not be faith at all, but mere human sagacity. Verse 25 is the ringing answer to all this. Faith must identify itself with God's people, and suffer with them. A man may be a public champion, with motives of utter selfishness: if he really has a heart for the suffering saints of God, he will take his place with them in suffering. Wonderful choice indeed on the part of Moses, and put in contrast to "enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season." Whatever pleasure is found in sin, it is only momentary, and leaves a bitter emptiness in the end. A word in each of the three verses here has much to tell us as regards the decision of faith, -vs. 24, "refused"; vs. 25, "choosing"; vs. 26, "esteeming." This last is a sober, judicious estimate of things. How much better the reproach of Christ than all of Egypt's treasures! For though Christ had not yet been manifested, this faith was the anticipation of Himself as the suffering One on earth. Whether pleasure or treasure, things counted so high in the world's esteem, they were nothing compared to the joy of a path of suffering for Christ's sake. Moreover, faith has long vision. "The recompense of the reward" was a real consideration to Moses. How trivial the few fleeting years of this life in comparison to eternity! But let us pay closest attention to this first act of faith: "he refused." It takes resolute decision to say "No" to the world's offers of finest advantage and distinction, but this is faith's blessed privilege.
Another forty years intervenes between verses 26 and 27, during which Moses had learned in solitary experience, in "the backside of the desert," that all the wisdom of Egypt was nothing to God. Then God called him to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel out of it.
"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." After repeated interviews with Pharoah, and manifestations of God's heavy hand in plagues upon the nation, Moses is persuaded that Pharoah has exceeded in defying the patience of God; and when Pharoah angrily threatens Moses with death, the man of God boldly, solemnly tells the monarch, "Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more" (Exodus 10:28-29). Here is his deliberate forsaking of Egypt: no longer will he labor with it in patience: he gives it up to the judgment of God. Pharoah and his hosts were shortly drowned in the Red Sea. If in verses 24 to 26 we see decision, in verse 27 it is separation. And today the world is no longer under probation, as though God were laboring with it to change its attitude: it is rather under definite sentence of judgment which nothing can avert. Therefore faith forsakes the world,-gives it up to the judgment merited by its rebellion against God. Neither is there suggestion of fear or of cringing on the part of Moses: the king's power is far overshadowed for him by the presence of God, as plainly as though he could see his invisible Creator at his side. Blessed reality of faith! A path of faith is that of deliberate, real separation from the world.
"Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them." Separation from the world must be attended by devotion to God. For if the world is under judgment because of sin, God must also judge sin in His own people. How can this be done without the judgment falling on their own heads? The passover gives the answer. The blood of sacrifice must shelter the soul. Indeed, the blood on the doorposts and lintel was the sign that judgment had already fallen, though upon an innocent victim, - the lamb, - the punishment therefore borne by another. Blessed type of the great sacrifice of Christ, who has fully borne the judgment of every soul who in faith receives Him as Saviour. Judgment is past, and safety is assured. God had made the provision, and Moses by faith accepted it: the lamb was killed, and its blood sprinkled in simple obedience of faith. Thus Moses, by this act of unquestioning faith, would by means of the shedding of blood devote the children of Israel to God, as His own possession.
"By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." No longer do we see only the personal faith of Moses here: all Israel is linked with him. The Passover has been the basis of this link just as the cross of Christ is the basis of the unity of the church of God, the one body (Ephesians 2:16). Now Moses' faith is seen bearing its fruit in Israel. But here faith hears the humiliation of going down to the bottom of the Red Sea, type of death itself, yet being protected from death's overwhelming power. Confidence in God can afford to take the lowliest place, for exaltation follows: they pass through. The Egyptians seek to imitate this, but without faith, without the least humiliation of heart, and they find that unbelief is swallowed up where faith can safely pass.
After verse 29 the third 40 years of Moses' life intervenes; and it is both significant and humbling that all the 10 years' history of the wilderness is left silent in this record of faith in Hebrews 11:1-40. It was too largely a history of lack of faith as regards the nation itself, though individuals no doubt shine out on certain occasions (as Joshua and Caleb.) Moses dies before the event now recorded in verse 30: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.' How strange to the inhabitants of Jericho it must have appeared, to see Israel march in calm, orderly procession around the city once each day for six days,-then seven times on the seventh day. Can we doubt that in the city there was anxious apprehension as to the significance of all this? Some may have scoffed, but not without at least vague tremors of fear. Thus to the world today the Gospel of God is sounded in patient continuance, and it is itself a warning of judgment to come. The world entrenches itself against it, hoping it is secure; but it takes only the intervention of God to suddenly crumple all their defenses: the walls fall down flat, and Israel is victorious. When God gave the order to Joshua, faith simply obeyed. Here is subjugation of enemies; and the believer who has learned the previous lessons, - seclusion, decision, separation, devotion, will also learn the triumphant language of1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Corinthians 15:57: "Thanks he to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ", a victory not over mere natural enemies, but over "spiritual hosts of wickedness" who threaten damage to all spiritual prosperity.
But there is a lovely conclusion to this sevenfold history of faith: "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." Thus victory has not issued merely in destruction, but in this case, salvation. If there is victory in judging evil, how much more precious the victory in the deliverance of a soul from evil! How many were with her in the house we are not told, but all were preserved. The Spirit of God had wrought true conviction in her heart, which judged both the wretchedness of her own previous life and the stubborn rebellion of the city in which she dwelt. There can be no doubt that faith produced a mighty change in this poor, sinful woman. The messengers of God she received with peace, and confessed the true condition of Jericho. Wonderful the grace of God which "brings salvation," and teaches us "that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). Wonderful too that these seven steps in the history of Moses and of Israel end in salvation for others outside Israel! Good for us to apply these things to our personal lives.
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." This general list of names and of those unnamed, together with the long list of conflicts and conquests of faith, is not intended to awaken our admiration of the people involved, but of the God who sustained and enabled them. Indeed, if we read the history of the first four named, we cannot but be impressed with their weakness of faith in many respects, yet in certain definite cases, they did act for God, and faith was in evidence. In other cases they broke down, and did not act by faith at all. We know the same of David also, a man beloved of God, yet falling into grievous sin, for which later he was broken down in deepest contrition before God. Samuel no doubt evidenced a much more steady and godly balance throughout his long life; and we ought all to be encouraged to exercise real, honest faith in every step of our experience, rather than on special occasions merely. It is the one principle that pleases God, and begets true happiness in the soul.
"Subduing kingdoms" would have a parallel in the New Testament in "the casting down of imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). As to "wrought righteousness," here is "the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Corinthians 6:7), righteousness acted on firmly in the face of wrongdoing. "Obtained promises" is a positive result of pleasing God, God revealing Himself in grace to the soul: "He that willeth to do God's will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). "Stopped the mouths of lions" is answered in1 Peter 5:8; 1 Peter 5:8: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Sober vigilance and stedfast faith are the preservatives. As to "the violence of fire," considerJames 3:5-6; James 3:5-6; "escaping the edge of the sword." Matthew 26:52; "out of weakness were made strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; "waxed valiant in fight." Acts 14:45, 46: "turned to flight the armies of the aliens," 1 John 5:4.
"Women received their dead raised to life again."2 Corinthians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 2:8-10 is a similar New Testament experience along this line.
"Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection." Blessed faith indeed, and seen beautifully in Paul himself, who said, "I endure all things for the elect's sake" (2 Timothy 2:10), and "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).
"And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy). They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." If the Old Testament does not give us the details of such history, at least in many of these cases, yet doubtless they were not few; and the annals of subsequent Church history record a multitude of cases of the godly suffering these very things, and tortures even more cruel, for Christ's sake. How pregnant and precious that word, "of whom the world was not worthy."
But the summing up here is of very real interest: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect," Though the promise of God in Christ Jesus was not fulfilled to them before their death, however ardently they may have looked for the Messiah of Israel, yet faith was maintained unto death. God had longer vision, having included present day saints in His counsels of grace. Christ came at the precisely right time, and has fulfilled the promise of God, and we on earth today enjoy this, while waiting for the day when both we and they shall be perfected. They too will yet receive the full blessing of the promise, in a higher way than will the earthly nation Israel. The better thing God has provided for us is the present knowledge on earth of the Son of God having come to fulfill the promise of God. It is thorough, untarnished grace, which should bow our hearts with adoring thanksgiving. Why indeed should we be its subjects rather than they, - who had so suffered for their faith? At least all of this serves to humble our hearts in thankfulness to the allwise and gracious God of glory.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent