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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Faith;   Hope;   Thompson Chain Reference - Ancient Heroes;   Battle of Life;   Faith;   Faith-Unbelief;   Heroes, Ancient;   The Topic Concordance - Faith/faithfulness;   Hope;   Seeing;   Substance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Faith;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Faith;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Hope;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Faith;   Hypostasis;   Self-Denial;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abraham;   Ancestors;   Apocrypha;   Faith;   Hebrews;   Revelation of God;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Assurance;   Ethics;   Faith;   Hebrews, Epistle to;   Peter, First Epistle of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abraham ;   Allegory;   Assurance;   Assurance (2);   Faith;   Hebrews Epistle to the;   Hellenism;   Isaac ;   Joseph ;   Justification;   Man;   Substance ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Cherubim;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Faith;   Jephthah;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Abram;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Evidence;   Faith;   Hope;   Substance;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for November 8;   Every Day Light - Devotion for March 27;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Hebrews 11:1. Faith is the substance of things hoped for — Εστι δε πιστις ελπιζομενων ὑποστασις· Faith is the SUBSISTENCE of things hoped for; πραγματων ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων·. The DEMONSTRATION of things not seen. The word υποστασις, which we translate substance, signifies subsistence, that which becomes a foundation for another thing to stand on. And ελεγχος signifies such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain, because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be; and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, and is proved to be. Such is the faith by which the soul is justified; or rather, such are the effects of justifying faith: on it subsists the peace of God which passeth all understanding; and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart where it lives, by the Holy Ghost. At the same time the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirits who have this faith that their sins are blotted out; and this is as fully manifest to their judgment and conscience as the axioms, "A whole is greater than any of its parts;" "Equal lines and angles, being placed on one another, do not exceed each other;" or as the deduction from prop. 47, book i., Euclid: "The square of the base of a right-angled triangle is equal to the difference of the squares of the other two sides." ελεγχος is defined by logicians, Demonstratio quae fit argumentis certis et rationibus indubitatis, qua rei certitudo efficitur. "A demonstration of the certainly of a thing by sure arguments and indubitable reasons." Aristotle uses it for a mathematical demonstration, and properly defines it thus: Ελεγχος δε εστις ὁ μη δυνατος αλλως εχειν, αλλ' οὑτως ὡς ἡμεις λεγομεν, " Elenehos, or Demonstration, is that which cannot be otherwise, but is so as we assert." Rhetor. ad Alexand., cap. 14, περι ελεγχου. On this account I have adduced the above theorem from Euclid.

Things hoped for — Are the peace and approbation of God, and those blessings by which the soul is prepared for the kingdom of heaven. A penitent hopes for the pardon of his sins and the favour of his God; faith in Christ puts him in possession of this pardon, and thus the thing that was hoped for is enjoyed by faith. When this is received, a man has the fullest conviction of the truth and reality of all these blessings though unseen by the eye, they are felt by the heart; and the man has no more doubt of God's approbation and his own free pardon, than he has of his being.

In an extended sense the things hoped for are the resurrection of the body, the new heavens and the new earth, the introduction of believers into the heavenly country, and the possession of eternal glory.

The things unseen, as distinguished from the things hoped for, are, in an extended sense, the creation of the world from nothing, the destruction of the world by the deluge, the miraculous conception of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to glory, his mediation at the right hand of God, his government of the universe, &c., &c., all which we as firmly believe on the testimony of God's word as if we had seen them. See Macknight. But this faith has particular respect to the being, goodness, providence, grace, and mercy of God, as the subsequent verses sufficiently show.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/hebrews-11.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


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 4:2-7; Genesis 5:21-24; Genesis 6:8-14).

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 12:1-5). 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 18:11-13). 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 22:1-18).

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 28:1-4; Genesis 47:29-31; Genesis 49:1; Genesis 50:24-25).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/hebrews-11.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

DIVISION VI

(Hebrews 11:1-40)

A DISCUSSION OF FAITH;

SOME CITATIONS OF OLD TESTAMENT EXEMPLARS OF FAITH;

THEY WERE NOT MADE PERFECT APART FROM US

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

The preoccupation of scholars with their view of making this verse a logical definition of faith has resulted in the rendition before us, which is certainly no improvement on the KJV, and would even seem to be capricious, since the word translated "assurance" is the same word translated "substance" in Hebrews 1:3, and "confidence" in Hebrews 3:14. Milligan is undoubtedly correct in the observation that this is not a formal definition of faith at all, but "rather a plain statement with regard to its nature and province."[1]

Macknight said, "The word for `evidence' (or `assurance') denotes a strict proof or demonstration; a proof which thoroughly convinces the understanding and determines the will."[2] Adam Clarke followed the same line of thought, saying:

It is such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration (as to a proposition in geometry) of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain, because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be; and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, as it is proved to be.[3]

Substance has several shades of meaning, including the thought of the GROUND that stands under a proposition; also, it means the ACTUAL SUBSTANCE as contrasted with the mere vision of a thing, this latter connotation making the passage mean that faith in the believer's soul actually brings reality into his existence, conveying the thought of an earnest, or pledge, of ultimate fulfillment.

Things hoped for are all of those blessings, temporal and eternal, that make up the inheritance of the faithful. Resurrection from the dead and the triumphal entry into the everlasting habitations are surely included.

Things not seen include everything in the whole area of faith, the creation of the universe, the incarnation of Christ, the judgment of the world by the deluge, the second advent of Christ, the final judgment, the ultimate reception by every man of the destiny, good or bad, that shall be assigned to him by God's enforcement of universal judgment, founded on justice and mercy. Unseen things are very strongly emphasized in this chapter, and repeated reference to them is made.

[1] R. Milligan, New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), Vol. 9, p. 298.

[2] James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 560.

[3] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1829), Vol. 6, p. 762.

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Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/hebrews-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for - On the general nature of faith, see the notes on Mark 16:16. The margin here is, “ground or confidence.” There is scarcely any verse of the New Testament more important than this, for it states what is the nature of all true faith, and is the only definition of it which is attempted in the Scriptures. Eternal life depends on the existence and exercise of faith Mark 16:16, and hence, the importance of an accurate understanding of its nature. The word rendered “substance” - ὑπόστασις hupostasis - occurs in the New Testament only in the following places. In 2Co 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Hebrews 3:14, where it is rendered “confident” and “confidence;” and in Hebrews 1:3, where it is rendered “person,” and in the passage before us; compare the notes on Hebrews 1:3. Prof. Stuart renders it here “confidence;” Chrysostom, “Faith gives reality or substance to things hoped for.”

The word properly means “that which is placed under” (Germ. Unterstellen); then “ground, basis, foundation, support.” Then it means also “reality, substance, existence,” in contradistinction from what is unreal, imaginary, or deceptive (täuschung). “Passow.” It seems to me, therefore, that the word here has reference to something which imparts reality in the view of the mind to those things which are not seen, and which serves to distinguish them from those things which are unreal and illusive. It is what enables us to feel and act as if they were real, or which causes them to exert an influence over us as if we saw them. Faith does this on all other subjects as well as religion. A belief that there is such a place as London or Calcutta, leads us to act as if this were so, if we have occasion to go to either; a belief that money may be made in a certain undertaking, leads people to act as if this were so; a belief in the veracity of another leads us to act as if this were so. As long as the faith continues, whether it be well-founded or not, it gives all the force of reality to what is believed. We feel and act just as if it were so, or as if we saw the object before our eyes. This, I think, is the clear meaning here. We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them. And this is, undoubtedly, the fact in regard to all who live by faith and who are fairly under its influence.

Of things hoped for - In heaven. Faith gives them reality in the view of the mind. The Christian hopes to be admitted into heaven; to be raised up in the last day from the slumbers of the tomb, to be made perfectly free from sin; to be everlastingly happy. Under the influence of faith he allows these things to control his mind as if they were a most affecting reality.

The evidence of things not seen - Of the existence of God; of heaven; of angels; of the glories of the world suited for the redeemed. The word rendered “evidence” - ἔλεγχος elengchos - occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in 2 Timothy 3:16, where it is rendered “reproof.” It means properly proof, or means of proving, to wit, evidence; then proof which convinces another of error or guilt; then vindication, or defense; then summary or contents; see “Passow.” The idea of “evidence” which goes to demonstrate the thing under consideration, or which is adapted to produce “conviction” in the mind, seems to be the elementary idea in the word. So when a proposition is demonstrated; when a man is arraigned and evidence is furnished of his guilt, or when he establishes his innocence; or when one by argument refutes his adversaries, the idea of “convincing argument” enters into the use of the word in each case.

This, I think, is clearly the meaning of the word here. “Faith in the divine declarations answers all the purposes of a convincing argument, or is itself a convincing argument to the mind, of the real existence of those things which are not seen.” But is it a good argument? Is it rational to rely on such a means of being convinced? Is mere “faith” a consideration which should ever convince a rational mind? The infidel says “no;” and we know there may be a faith which is no argument of the truth of what is believed. But when a man who has never seen it believes that there is such a place as London, his belief in the numerous testimonies respecting it which he has heard and read is to his mind a good and rational proof of its existence, and he would act on that belief without hesitation. When a son credits the declaration or the promise of a father who has never deceived him, and acts as though that declaration and promise were true, his faith is to him a ground of conviction and of action, and he will act as if these things were so.

In like manner the Christian believes what God says. He has never seen heaven; he has never seen an angel; he has never seen the Redeemer; he has never seen a body raised from the grave. “But he has evidence which is satisfactory to his mind that God has spoken on these subjects,” and his very nature prompts him to confide in the declarations of his Creator. Those declarations are to his mind more convincing proof than anything else would be. They are more conclusive evidence than would be the deductions of his own reason; far better and more rational than all the reasonings and declarations of the infidel to the contrary. He feels and acts, therefore, as if these things were so - for his faith in the declarations of God has convinced him that they are so - The object of the apostle, in this chapter, is not to illustrate the nature of what is called “saving faith,” but to show the power of “unwavering confidence in God” in sustaining the soul, especially in times of trial; and particularly in leading us to act in view of promises and of things not seen as if they were so. “Saving faith” is the same kind of confidence directed to the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - as the Saviour of the soul.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/hebrews-11.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1.Now faith, etc. Whoever made this the beginning of the eleventh chapter, has unwisely disjointed the context; for the object of the Apostle was to prove what he had already said ­that there is need of patience. (200) He had quoted the testimony of Habakkuk, who says that the just lives by faith; he now shows what remained to be proved — that faith can be no more separated from patience than from itself. The order then of what he says is this, — “We shall not reach the goal of salvation except we have patience, for the Prophet declares that the just lives by faith; but faith directs us to things afar off which we do not as yet enjoy; it then necessarily includes patience.” Therefore the minor proposition in the argument is this, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, etc. It is hence also evident, that greatly mistaken are they who think that an exact definition of faith is given here; for the Apostle does not speak here of the whole of what faith is, but selects that part of it which was suitable to his purpose, even that it has patience ever connected with it. (201) Let us now consider the words.

He calls faith the hypostasis, the substance of things hoped for. We indeed know that what we hope for is not what we have as it were in hand, but what is as yet hid from us, or at least the enjoyment of which is delayed to another time. The Apostle now teaches us the same thing with what we find in Romans 8:24; where it is said that what is hoped for is not seen, and hence the inference is drawn, that it is to be waited for in patience. So the Apostle here reminds us, that faith regards not present things, but such as are waited for. Nor is this kind of contradiction without its force and beauty: Faith, he says, is the hypostasis, the prop, or the foundation on which we plant our foot, — the prop of what? Of things absent, which are so far from being really possessed by us, that they are far beyond the reach of our understanding.

The same view is to be taken of the second clause, when he calls faith the evidence or demonstration of things not seen; for demonstration makes things to appear or to be seen; and it is commonly applied to what is subject to our senses. (202)

Then these two things, though apparently inconsistent, do yet perfectly harmonize when we speak of faith; for the Spirit of God shows to us hidden things, the knowledge of which cannot reach our senses: Promised to us is eternal life, but it is promised to the dead; we are assured of a happy resurrection, but we are as yet involved in corruption; we are pronounced just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear that we are happy, but we are as yet in the midst of many miseries; an abundance of all good things is promised to us, but still we often hunger and thirst; God proclaims that he will come quickly, but he seems deaf when we cry to him. What would become of us were we not supported by hope, and did not our minds emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God’s word and of his Spirit? Faith, then, is rightly said to be the subsistence or substance of things which are as yet the objects of hope and the evidence of things not seen. Augustine sometimes renders evidence “conviction,” which I do not disapprove, for it faithfully expresses the Apostle’s meaning: but I prefer “demonstration,” as it is more literal.

(200) Griesbach makes the division at the thirty-eighth verse of the last chapter, and this is no doubt what the subject requires. — Ed.

(201) “Faith is here generally described, not only as it justifies, but also as it acts towards God and lays hold on his promises, works, and blessings revealed in his word, past, present, and future." — Pareus.

(202) The two words “substance” and “evidence” have been variously rendered, though the meaning continues materially the same: “substinance” and “demonstration” by Beza: “confident expectation” and “conviction” by Grotius and Doddridge: “confidence” and “evidence” by Macknight: “confidence” and “convincing evidence” by Stuart. When the primary meaning of words is suitable, there is no necessity of having recourse to what is secondary. The first word means properly a foundation, a basis, a prop, a support: and what can be more appropriate here? Faith is the basis or the prop (as Calvin renders it in his exposition) of things hoped for; that is, faith is the foundation of hope; it is the fulcrum on which hope rests. The other word is properly “demonstration” a proof supported by reasons — what is made clear and evident. Conviction is the result of demonstration. So, then, the meaning is this — faith sustains hope, and exhibits to view things unseen: it is the basis on which the objects of hope rest, and the demonstration or manifestation of what is not seen.

The word “substance” is derived from the Vulgate: though its etymological meaning corresponds with the original, yet its received meaning is quite different. The original word occurs five times in the New Testament, and is rendered “confidence” in 2 Corinthians 9:4; Hebrews 3:14, — “person” in Hebrews 1:3, — and here “substance;” but why not its more literal meaning, “foundation?”

The things “hoped for” include the promises; but the things “not seen,” all that is revealed as to what is past and is to come, — the creation, the future destiny of man, etc. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/hebrews-11.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Hebrews, chapter 11:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen ( Hebrews 11:1 ).

This is not so much a definition of faith as it is the declaration of what faith does. It is the substance of things that are hoped for. And the word substance there has been translated in the new versions the substantiating of the things that we hope for. And the evidence, that word has been translated conviction of the things not seen. I'm convicted of truths, though I may not have seen them, I'm convicted of their existence. There is evidence for the existence of God, and it causes me to believe in God. Though I have never seen God, the evidence of His existence creates that faith in my heart.

As we pointed out this morning, there are many things that we believe in that we don't and haven't seen. We believe in the wind, though we haven't seen the wind. We see the effects of the wind. We see the trees that are bowing in its force. We see the leaves that are blowing. We see the dust that is being carried. We see the evidence of it. You can feel it. We say, "Oh, that's a cold, biting wind," or we say, "Oh, that's one of those warm Santa Anas." And you feel the wind. You see the evidence of it, and thus, we believe in the wind, though we don't actually see the wind itself.

Magnetic force--I believe in it, but I've never seen it. I see its effect as I bring opposite poles together and I watch them attract. And so I believe in the magnetic powers or the magnetic force, but I have never seen it. I see evidence of it.

I see evidence of God. I feel the presence of God. I feel the power of God. I feel the love of God. And I see the evidence of God's existence, and thus, faith. I believe in the existence of God, though I've never seen God. Yet, I do not doubt His existence, because of the evidence that is all around. Faith--the substantiating of the things that are hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

For by it [that is, by faith] the elders obtained a good report ( Hebrews 11:2 ).

Now here is evidence of what men have wrought by faith. And as he starts to...well, before he gets into it, he starts with just the creation of the world itself.

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 ( Hebrews 11:3 ).

Interesting statement, especially from a scientific standpoint. The Bible said that God said, "Let there be light." God said, "Let the waters above the firmament be divided from the waters beneath the firmament." God said, "Let the earth bring forth herb yielding seed after its kind." God said . . . and so we believe that God spoke the seen world into existence so that the things which we do see were made out of things which do not appear.

An example, really, of faith or an evidence of faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So God took unseen things and made the material, seen universe in which we live, the worlds. Now looking at that a little more closely, God made the world out of things that do not appear.

We know that the universe, the worlds, are made up of atoms which are invisible. We know they exist, but yet, they are invisible. So that all of the material things that we see are made up of things that cannot be seen: of atoms, protons, electrons. So, by faith we believe that the worlds were formed by the word of God so that the things that we do see, the things that appear, are made out of things which cannot be seen or do not appear. Fascinating statement!

Now he begins to list those men of faith from the Old Testament. And he lists them in chronological order, as far as their appearances in the Bible, until you get to David and Samuel, and only there does he reverse the chronological order.

The first to appear on the scene of faith was Abel.

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 speaks ( Hebrews 11:4 ).

In other words, the example speaks to us today of Abel, who offered his sacrifice to God through faith. It was because of his faith that he was declared by God to be righteous.

Now there has been a lot made over the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. How that Cain, being a farmer, brought the fruit of the ground unto the Lord. Probably brought some of his produce that he had cultivated, whereas Abel, being a husbandman, brought a lamb unto God as a sacrifice. When they offered their sacrifices unto the Lord, the Lord accepted Abel's sacrifice, but He rejected Cain's. Now, just how this was demonstrated, we do not know. But when Cain saw that his offering was rejected and Abel's was accepted, he was angry with the Lord for rejecting his offering. And the Lord said unto him, "Why are you angry that your offering was rejected? If it was rejected, it was because sin lies at your door." And declaring, basically, that if it were offered properly it would have been accepted; if his heart was right.

There has been a lot made over the fact that one was a blood sacrifice and the other was not a blood sacrifice, but an offering of the fruit of the ground. Many have suggested that that is the reason why God accepted Abel's, because he offered a blood sacrifice and rejected Cain's, because it was really the product of the works of his own hands that he brought to the Lord. And a lot has been made over that. But in the commentary here in Hebrews it tells us the reason why one was rejected and the other was accepted, is one was offered in faith and the other was offered not with faith, just the works of man's hands.

There are those today who offer in faith, and there are those today who offer works for righteousness. There are those who seek to be righteous by their faith in the Lord and those who seek to be righteous by their works. The interesting thing to me is that when God inaugurated the sacrifices and all through Moses, there was the meal offering which was acceptable to God. It was the bringing in of the grain that you had grown, grinding it into flour, making little cakes and baking them, and offering them unto the Lord as a peace offering unto God, an offering that indicated the consecration of my service unto God. The meal offering it was called. So that it was an offering that was perfectly legitimate, an offering that expressed sort of a communion with God as did the peace offering. But here he was seeking communion with God when sin was in his heart. God said to first deal with the sin.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said that if a man comes to the altar and realizes that his brother has ought against him, he ought to first go to his brother and reconcile their differences and then come and offer your gift unto the Lord ( Matthew 5:23-24 ). Many times a person is trying to shortcut himself into fellowship with God. First of all, not realizing that it is sin that has alienated me from God, and before I can really have any kind of communion or fellowship with God, the sin issue must be dealt with. That was Cain's failure to deal with the sin issue, and God put the finger on it. He said, "If your offering is rejected, it is because sin is at the door of your tent. Take care of that first and then come and offer your gift unto the Lord." So, one, Abel offered in faith and was accepted. It was a testimony of his righteousness. Early in history then God is testifying of righteousness through faith.

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 ( Hebrews 11:5 ).

What a great testimony. Here's a man that declares he pleased God. That is the very purpose of our existence, to bring pleasure to God. In the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, where John sees the cherubim about the throne of God, worshipping the Lord, declaring the holiness and eternal character of God. The twenty-four elders fall on their faces before the throne and take their crowns and cast them on the glassy sea and they say, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor; for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created" ( Revelation 4:11 ). Basic fact of our existence--you were created for God's pleasure. A person who lives for their own pleasure is living out of sync with God. It is interesting how that a person living for their own pleasure is constantly pursuing pleasure, constantly trying to find something new, something different, some new sensation. Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God.

Now we are told,

For without faith it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6 ):

So the witness of faith. It was through faith that Abel was declared righteous by the Lord and accepted by God. Through faith, Enoch, as he walked with God, was translated that he should not see death, but before then he had this witness: he pleased God. How did he please God? Through his faith. For without faith it is impossible to please God.

for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him ( Hebrews 11:6 ).

So you, first of all, have to believe in the existence of God, but then you have to believe that God is good; God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

The next example is that of Noah.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet ( Hebrews 11:7 ),

Faith--the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Up until the time of Noah, it had never rained upon the earth. The earth was watered by a mist that came out of the ground every evening. There was, no doubt, a very heavy moisture blanket around the earth as God divided the waters above the firmament from the waters beneath the firmament. And this heavy water blanket in the atmosphere no doubt accounted for the discoveries in the geological stratas of asparagus ferns sixty or seventy feet tall. It probably accounted for the longevity of life, averaged nine hundred years or so. For the moisture blanket shielded the earth from much of the cosmic radiation which causes mutation of the cells and the breakdown and the aging process.

The period of the antediluvians with the long life and with the tremendous growth of plants and trees, they'd never seen rain before. God said that He was going to cause it to rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. Noah tried to warn the people of the impending flood that was going to come, and they mocked him. For a hundred years he was building this giant ship out in an area that had never known rain. Preacher of righteousness . . .

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with reverence, he 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 ( Hebrews 11:7 ).

Again, the whole idea here in the chapter is that it is through faith that a person is accounted righteous before God. It is believing in God that is the most important, not my works; they follow. Works will logically automatically follow my faith. But works cannot produce faith, nor can they substitute for faith. Faith does work. I cannot say that I believe with all of my heart without my life conforming to what I believe. There has to be that conformity, but faith has to come first. My faith in God provokes my works for God.

Now Noah condemned the world by his belief and faith in God, and he became the heir of the righteousness, which is by faith.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he was going ( Hebrews 11:8 ).

God first said to Abraham, "Get out of this place, out of the land of your fathers, and go unto a land that I will show you." Now oftentimes as God is leading us, He leads us just one step at a time, and that is our problem. I don't like being led one step at a time. If He tells me to get out, I want Him to tell me where to go. I like two steps or three or four. I like Him to spell out the whole thing. Maybe I don't want to do what He's got in mind when we get down the road. The Holy Spirit said to Philip in Samaria, "Go down to Gaza, that desert area." That's all. Here he is in the midst of a great revival. Many Samaritans are believing, being baptized, being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord commands him to leave this marvelous move of the Spirit and go down to this desert place, go down to Gaza. So, Philip went. Of course, he had two steps. The Lord said, "Go," and he said, "Where?" "To Gaza." Abraham only had one, "Go, get out of the land." So Abraham began to journey not knowing where he was going. "Hey where you headed, fella?" "I don't know." "You mean you're moving your whole family and you don't know where you are going?" "Ya." "Well, if you don't know where you are going, how you going to know when you get there?" "Oh, He'll tell me."

"So by faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing where he was going."

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise ( Hebrews 11:9 ):

So here, when he came to the land and he stood on Bethel, the center of the land, good vantage point, God said, "Look to the north, the east, the south and the west as far as you can see, Abraham. I've given you this land unto your seed forever. It's yours." And so he journeyed through the land. He went down to Hebron and back up to the area of Shechem. But he was as a stranger and a pilgrim there. He lived in tents. He didn't build any cities. He didn't build any homes. He just lived in tents, though the whole land was his by the promise of God. Yet, he dwelt in it as a stranger.

For he was looking for [the eternal city of God,] a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith Sara herself received strength to conceive, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised ( Hebrews 11:10-11 ).

As we read of these people of great faith, we see that they made their mark in history because of their faith. When Sarah comes on the scene, her faith is spoken of that in her old age (she was plus ninety), had never had a child. And yet, she received strength to conceive seed and bore the son, though she was past age, because she judged Him faithful.

You remember, though, that Sarah's faith wasn't always so perfect. A lot of times as we read of these people of faith, we sort of think them out of our category. They're sort of super saints. "I can never attain to that." But when the Lord was talking to Abraham concerning his son that He was going to give to him, Abraham said, "O Lord, let Ishmael live before thee!" And the Lord said, "I will bless Ishmael and make of him a nation, but Sarah is going to bear a child, and through Sarah shall thy seed be called" ( Genesis 17:18-21 ). Well, she was eavesdropping over in the tent, listening to what the Lord was saying to Abraham. When the Lord said to him, "Through Sarah your seed be called," she started laughing. That's incredulous! And so the angel of the Lord said, "Why did Sarah laugh?" And she said, "I wasn't laughing" ( Genesis 18:13-15 ). It was significant when the child was born they named him laughter, Isaac, which means laughter, because they laughed at how incredulous it seemed that Sarah should conceive in her old age and bear a son.

Therefore there sprang even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and the sand which is by the seashore innumerable ( Hebrews 11:12 ).

So there sprung forth from Abraham an innumerable host of people.

These all died in faith ( Hebrews 11:13 ),

Wait a minute! Are you supposed to die in faith? I thought if you had enough faith, you wouldn't die. "Just have enough faith and you'll never be sick. Have enough faith and you can drive any kind of car you want or live in any kind of home you want if you just have enough faith." These all died in faith, the "Faith Message" had not reached them yet.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises ( Hebrews 11:13 ),

That is, the promises of the Messiah that God had given to them. They believed in God's salvation that He promised that He would provide. They all died in faith not having received the promises,

but having seen them afar off, they were persuaded of them, and they [held on to them] embraced them, and they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the eaRuth ( Hebrews 11:13 ).

So they had the proper attitude towards the world, proper perspective of life. I'm only a stranger and a pilgrim here. I'm satisfied to dwell in a tent. This isn't my home. I'm passing through. I'm just a transient here. I am looking for my permanent home. I'm looking for my dwelling with God in His eternal kingdom. And so they saw the promises. They were given the promises of the kingdom of God. Abraham looked for that city which had foundation whose maker and builder was God. He was looking for the kingdom of God and confessing that, "I'm not permanent here. I'm just passing through. I'm a stranger and a pilgrim to this earth. I belong to the heavenly kingdom, a citizen of that heavenly kingdom." So they saw the promises. They were persuaded of the truth of the promises. They embraced or held on to the promises and they made their confession. I'm just a stranger and a pilgrim here.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they are seeking for a country. Now truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned ( Hebrews 11:14-15 ).

When they came to Haran, he could have turned around and gone back into Babylon. You can always turn back. But they journeyed on in obedience to God.

But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city ( Hebrews 11:16 ).

This is interesting: God is not ashamed to be called their God. It may indicate that God is ashamed that some people call Him God. The way the people act I wouldn't blame Him. I pray that I'll never be an embarrassment to God. I'm afraid I have been. I'm afraid that I have done things that embarrassed God in a sense that people said, "Oh well, he's a minister of God." And God was sort of ashamed that I should be so identified.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, 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 be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence he also received him in a figure ( Hebrews 11:17-19 ).

Here is some outstanding insight on the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac to the LORD.

Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, said, "The gospel that I declared unto you, how that Christ died according to the scriptures, and was buried according to the scriptures, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures" ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ). He, of course, was referring to the Old Testament scriptures. We know that there was predicted in the Old Testament the death of Christ. Isaiah 53 , "numbered with the transgressors in His death." And Psalm 22 , "soul poured out to death." We know that the scriptures prophesied He would be buried and made His grave with the rich.

But where in the Old Testament is there a prophecy of His rising again the third day? It was prefigured in Jonah, and Jesus brought that out, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" ( Matthew 12:40 ). But where in the scripture, the Old Testament, does it speak of the resurrection after three days? And we go to the story of Abraham, where God said unto Abraham, "Abraham," and he said, "Here am I." "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice in the place that I will show you" ( Genesis 22:2 ).

A lot of people from the secular world take this particular story to put down the Bible and to put down God. "What kind of God is He that would require a man to offer his son as a human sacrifice?" And because they only read the story in a cursory manner, they are confused and they ridicule such a God that would require such a thing of a man.

"Take now thy son, thine only son," God said. Was Isaac his only son? No, he had another son by Hagar named Ishmael, who was some thirteen years older than Isaac. But as God said, "Through Isaac shall thy seed be called." So that God did not recognize Abraham's work of the flesh. He only recognized that work of the spirit, the son of promise, Isaac. Again, we usually in our minds picture Isaac, because of the Sunday school papers that we had, of being maybe eight to ten years old. So we see this one hundred year old Abraham, one hundred and eight at this time, leading this little eight-year-old boy towards Mount Moriah where he is going to offer him as a human sacrifice unto God. The idea being of God asking Abraham to give the most cherished possession that he had to Him. Testing Abraham. "Will you hold back anything from Me, Abraham?"

Isaac was probably twenty-seven years old by this time, not leading a little boy. The scripture would indicate that he's in his late twenties probably at this point. So that means Abraham was probably one hundred and twenty-five by this time. And Isaac, being in the prime of his youth, could have easily overpowered his Dad and said, "Okay, Dad, that's enough. What's going on here?" Isaac was willingly submissive to the father's will.

For three days they journeyed from Hebron, and in the mind of Abraham, for those three days his son Isaac was dead, because he knew that God had required that he offer him as a sacrifice in the place that He would show him. After three days the Lord showed to Abraham Mount Moriah. And so Abraham said to the servants, "You wait here. I and the lad will go and will worship God and will come again."

There is employed in that particular text what is known grammatically in the Hebrew as a polysyndeton. That is the repetition of the word and over and over, where you find, "and, and, and, and," which in the grammatical structure indicates a continued deliberate action, no hesitation, just the movement, continued and deliberate. But it is interesting, "I and the lad will go and will worship God and will come again." He is declaring that Isaac is going to come back with me.

Now Abraham figures God's got a problem, because God has said, "Through Isaac shall thy seed be called." Isaac has not yet had any children. Isaac has to have children, because God has to keep His word. Now, I don't know how God's going to do it. I know God will do it. I know that God's word is faithful. God's word is true. God will keep His word. And God has said, "Now offer Isaac," so I'll offer Isaac, but somehow God's gotta work some kind of a miracle, because Isaac doesn't have any children yet, and through Isaac the nation is to be developed. So be believed, notice, he believed that God was able to raise him up really from the dead. He believed in the resurrection. God is able to raise this boy up from the dead if necessary to keep His promise to me, "Through Isaac shall thy seed be called."

So he was going on sheer faith in the word of God, "Through Isaac shall thy seed be called." I'll do it. God has to do something, raise him from the dead or something, because I and the lad will go and we will come again.

And so as Isaac was with his father now, the two of them walking towards Moriah, Isaac said, "Father, here is the wood and we've got the fire, but where is the sacrifice? You're forgetting something, Dad." And Abraham said, "Son, the Lord will provide Himself a sacrifice" ( Genesis 22:7-8 ). Interesting prophecy. He'll not provide a sacrifice for Himself. He will provide Himself a sacrifice.

And when they came to Mount Moriah, Abraham bound Isaac, and put him on the altar, raised the knife, and God said, "Okay far enough, Abraham. Hold it. I know that you will not withhold anything from Me. Behold, there is a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Offer it on the altar." So Abraham took the ram, and offered it on the altar. And he called the name of the place Jehovah-Jireh. And then he prophesied, "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." ( Genesis 22:10-14 ). Jehovah sees. The word is, "Jehovah has vision." We translate it, "Jehovah will provide." Well, the word provide, the base word of provide is vision, provision. With God there is very little difference between vision and provision. God sees, God is going to take care of it. The Lord will provide.

In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. All right, "Take now thy son, thine only son." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."

As Isaac was three days and three nights dead in the mind of his father, so Jesus three days and three nights before His resurrection. Interesting! Coincidental? It was on Mount Moriah where the cross was placed upon which Jesus died. The mount of the Lord, where Abraham offered his son Isaac, two thousand years later God offered His only begotten Son. And God provided Himself a sacrifice for our sins, for God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

Now, if we did not have Hebrews to give us a commentary on the story of Abraham, we, too, could be confused at God's demand. But we read here that it was through absolute faith in the word of God that Abraham was willing to go through this whole experience, believing so powerfully in the word of God that he knew that God would, if necessary, raise Isaac from the dead in order that He might fulfill His word, "Through Isaac shall they seed be called."

So accounting that God was able to raise him even from the dead, "from whence also he received him in a figure." In other words, he was an impossible child anyhow. He was a miracle child. His birth was long beyond any natural possibility for birth, and so he was in a sense received from the dead, a miracle child to begin with. And he knew that God having given him by a miracle, could also by a miracle sustain him until the promise of God was fulfilled through Isaac.

Continuing down through history.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning the things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones ( Hebrews 11:20-22 ).

So, following the family line. The faith of the father, Abraham, passed on to Isaac, who by faith blessed his two sons, Jacob and Esau, and prophesied of the things to come. By faith, then, Jacob himself blessed his sons and the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. And now by faith Joseph, when he was about ready to die, he was in Egypt, had great authority and power in Egypt, but he knew that one day the people of God must go back and possess the land that God had promised to Abraham. He knew that they weren't going to be in Egypt forever. And so he made them promise, "Now when you return to the land, I want you to take my bones out of Egypt and take them back to the land." So knowing that God's word was to be fulfilled that the land would one day be theirs, some three hundred years later after the death of Joseph, when the children of Israel began their trek from Egypt to the Promise Land, with them they carried the mummy of Joseph to bury it in the land of promise.

By faith Moses ( Hebrews 11:23 ),

Moving on ahead now, a jump of several hundred years here.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment ( Hebrews 11:23 ).

The Pharaoh had commanded that all of the Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile River--drowned. For he was afraid that the Hebrews, because they were having so many children, would become a threat to the security of Egypt. As they began to multiply more rapidly than the Egyptians, he could foresee the day when they would be stronger and overthrow the Egyptians and make the Egyptians their slaves. So, he ordered all of the baby boys to be drowned in the Nile. When Moses was born, by faith his parents hid him. They disobeyed the order of the Pharaoh. They saw he was a beautiful child. They were not afraid of the king's commandment.

By faith Moses, when he was come of age ( Hebrews 11:24 ),

Which in this particular case was forty years old. Having been schooled in the schools of Egypt in the sciences and the arts, Moses having been raised in the Pharaoh's palace, having been adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter, having at his disposal all of the riches of Egypt, all of the glory of Egypt.

By faith Moses, when he came of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; but chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ( Hebrews 11:24-25 );

He made a very interesting choice. He could have just gone on as the son of Pharaoh's daughter and enjoyed through his lifetime the pleasures of sin, but that would have been a very short time, though he lived to be one hundred twenty, still short in comparison to the fact that he has been gone for 3,700 years now. But he chose, rather, to identify himself with God's people; suffering the affliction of God's people than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He realized that the pleasures of sin are not lasting. You may give yourself over to indulgence. You may find great pleasure and excitement in the indulging of your flesh, but it doesn't last. It grows old quickly.

Moses made the choice, a wise choice indeed.

For he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt ( Hebrews 11:26 ):

So on the one side you have the son of Pharaoh's daughter, with all of the glory of the royal palace. You have the riches of Egypt at your disposal. On the other side you have the affliction of the people of God, the reproach of Christ. You have the immediate advantage and the eternal advantage to choose. Moses wisely chose the eternal over the immediate. God, give us that kind of wisdom that in our choices we will take eternity into view. That we will not just take that which seems to be so exciting, and temporarily beneficial, but that we'll look and find out where the path leads. What is the end of the story? What is the end of the path? Moses by faith chose the path of suffering affliction over the path of ease and glory, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, because

he had respect unto the recompense of the reward ( Hebrews 11:26 ).

Because he looked at the eternal aspect, the eternal reward, the eternal reward of following Jesus Christ. The eternal reward of living for Him so far outweighs any temporal advantage that I might have in living after the flesh.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible ( Hebrews 11:27 ).

The secret of his endurance, that ability to see God and to see the work of God and the hand of God. And if I can see the hand of God in my hour of suffering, if I can see the hand of God in the moment of trial or affliction, then I can endure. When I start to get weak, and I start to question and I start to say, "Why, God?" If I can only just come to the realization that all things are working together for good to those who love God and that God has a purpose, and when I can see God then I can endure. I can say, "Well, God, I don't understand, but You've got a reason and a plan," and I endure as seeing Him who is invisible. The substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Seeing Him.

Through faith he kept the passover ( Hebrews 11:28 ),

The final plague upon the Egyptians was to be the death of the first-born child of every family in Egypt. The Lord said, "I'll pass through the land this night and the firstborn in every house will be slain. Command the children of Israel that they take a lamb out of their flock, the first year, to kill it and put the blood in a basin and with hyssop sprinkle the blood upon the lentils and on the doorposts." Sprinkling on the lentils and the doorposts, interestingly enough, gives you the sprinkling in the shape of a cross. God said, "And when I pass through the land tonight and I see the blood, I will pass over that house and the first-born will be spared." The lamb sacrificed for the house. The substitutionary lamb preserving the firstborn. The lamb dying instead of the firstborn, and there we get a very beautiful picture of the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who died in our place that we might have life.

And so by faith he kept the Passover,

lest the destroying of the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land: and the Egyptians attempting to do it were drowned ( Hebrews 11:28-29 ).

Moving ahead, the successor to Moses was Joshua.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about for seven days ( Hebrews 11:30 ).

In the city of Jericho there lived a woman whose name was Rahab, who had received the spies that Joshua had sent. And who delivered them from the inhabitants of Jericho.

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace ( Hebrews 11:31 ).

The author says,

What more can I say? I don't have time to tell about Gideon [now we're in the book of Judges], Barak, Samson, Jephthae ( Hebrews 11:32 );

These are all men from the book of Judges who became judges of Israel and who through their faith delivered the children of Israel from their enemies.

Going on from the book of Judges to

David ( Hebrews 11:32 ),

It's interesting to me that David doesn't get much mention here, just his name listed.

and then Samuel ( Hebrews 11:32 ),

And as I said, this is the only place where the chronological order is broken. Samuel is listed after David and so that's the only break in the chronology. And the writer probably was in his mind just taking from the beginning the men of the Old Testament who by faith their lives were made outstanding.

Now here's what they did through faith.

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, [probably referring to Daniel] they quenched the violence of fire, [probably referring to the three Hebrew children delivered from the fiery furnace] they escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness they were made strong, they waxed valiant in fight, and they turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again ( Hebrews 11:33-35 ):

This is the first section. In the first section is pretty much powerful, positive kind of reactions and responses to their faith. These are the positive sides to faith: the subduing of kingdoms, obtaining the promises, stopping the mouths of lions, quenching the violence of fire, made strong out of their weakness, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens and women receiving their dead to life again.

But the man of faith can also know defeat and discouragement. Being a man of faith doesn't mean that you will always going to have healing, you're always going to have victory, you're always going to drive a Maserati, you're never going to have any trouble. Because as it goes on,

others were tortured, not accepting deliverance ( Hebrews 11:35 );

Their faith caused them to make their stand firm for God and they were tortured for their faith. It is possible for a person to be victorious over the enemy, to wax valiant in battle, to subdue the aliens, but it is also possible for the man of faith to be tortured for his faith. God doesn't always deliver those who believe and trust in Him. We mustn't think of God, "If I trust in Him, He will surely deliver me." This is the fallacy of this "Faith" teaching today. It looks at only the first half of the list and ignores the second half of the list, but that isn't reality. Through faith they believed to the point of not accepting deliverance. They were tortured.

This happened to the early church. James was beheaded by Herod. Steven was stoned to death. Men of faith and yet men who were tortured for their faith.

Not accepting deliverance,

that they might obtain a better resurrection ( Hebrews 11:35 ):

It's better to have a resurrection unto eternal life than resurrection unto damnation, and that they might have that better resurrection unto eternal life.

And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, [as was Zechariah and also, as thought, Jeremiah] they were sawn asunder [or sawed in two] ( Hebrews 11:36-37 ),

Isaiah, that marvelous prophet that we've enjoyed his revelations. Manasseh the evil son of Hezekiah ordered him sawed in two. Great man of faith, marvelous spiritual insights

They 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 ( Hebrews 11:37-38 ):

What a statement, remarkable statement, concerning these men. The world wasn't worthy of them and yet, what things they endured as the result of their faith in God.

Your faith in God is not always going to bring you tremendous triumph and victories over the enemy, but your faith in God will sustain you through any kind of exigency that you may face in life. That's the thing. Do I have the faith, the quality of faith that endures? I like the faith that brings me over the top, that brings me the victory, that subdues the aliens, and I like that. But I am also interested that I have that faith that will see me through the hardships, the sufferings, the testings.

they wandered in deserts, and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth [Elijah]. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise ( Hebrews 11:38-39 ):

Though they all believed, and here's the good report of them, yet though they died in faith, they did not receive the promise.

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect ( Hebrews 11:40 ).

They all died in faith, believing the promise that God would, indeed, send His salvation through His Son. They all believed that there would be made the provision for their sins by God. God had promised that this should be. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we've turned everyone to our own ways, but God will lay on Him the iniquities of us all" ( Isaiah 53:6 ). And they believed the promise of God that He would provide salvation, and they died believing that promise of God. But yet, in their death they did not enter into the kingdom of God and into that eternal glory. The sacrifices that they made were all made in faith as they looked forward to the sacrifice that God would one day make when He would send His only begotten Son. But the sacrifices they made could not put away sin. All they did was point to the future when God would provide the perfect sacrifice through His only begotten Son. So when they died they did not enter in to the heavenly kingdom, but they had to wait for the promise of God to be fulfilled.

In Luke's gospel, the sixteenth chapter, Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man, who fared sumptuously every day, and there was a poor man that was brought daily and laid at his gate, covered with sores, and the dogs would come and lick his sores. And he would eat the scraps of food that were thrown to him from the rich man's table. And it came to pass that the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom; moreover also the rich man died. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment. Seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus there being comforted in Abraham's bosom, said, 'Father Abraham, send Lazarus to me, that he might take his finger and dip it in water, and touch my tongue; for I am tormented in this heat.' But Abraham said, 'Son, do you remember that in your lifetime you had the good things, and Lazarus the evil? Now he is comforted while you are tormented. And beside this, there is a gulf that is fixed between us, so it is impossible for those that are here to come over there, and for those that are there to come over here.' He responded, 'I pray thee then, if he can not come to me, please send him back to warn my brothers that they don't come to this awful place.' Abraham said, 'They have the law and the prophets; if they will not believe the law and the prophets, neither would they believe, even though one came back from the dead.'"

Jesus taught that prior to His death hell was divided into the two compartments; those who were being comforted by Abraham, Lazarus being comforted in Abraham's bosom, Abraham the father of those who believe. As those who would follow the faithful steps of Abraham would die and would come into this compartment of hell, Abraham would say, "Don't worry, God's faithful. He promised and He'll send His Son. He'll send the Savior. We'll get out of here."

Isaiah, the sixty-first chapter, and the prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me to preach the good tidings to the meek; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of the vengeance of our God." But He said, "I came to open the prison to those that were bound, setting the captive free." So we are told that when Jesus died for our sins He descended into hell and He preached, according to Peter, to those souls that were in prison. Now He came to set the prisoner free and to open the doors to those were captive, so that when Jesus rose, Matthew's gospel tells us in the twenty-seventh chapter, the graves of many of the saints were opened and were seen walking around the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection.

Paul tells us that when He ascended He led the captives from their captivity. "For He who has ascended is the same one who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth and when he ascended He led the captives from their captivity." He fulfilled that portion of the promise. He emptied that part of hell. Now, they all died in faith not having received the promise. They didn't die and enter into the kingdom of God, but they died and went with Abraham, being comforted by the man of faith that God would indeed keep His promise and be faithful to His word. And when Jesus came, He declared deliverance to the captive. "I've done it! Sin is now put away; the sacrifice is complete. We're going to break out of here." And He led the captives from their captivity; opened the prison doors to those who had been bound.

It is through Jesus Christ that the door has been made open into heaven. So as Jesus said to Martha grieving over her brother Lazarus, "If you live and believe in Me, you will never die." Oh, you'll be changed, yes, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Death is a metamorphosis. My spirit moves out of this old tent into the new house, a building of God not made with hands that is eternal in the heavens. While living in this tent I often groan earnestly desiring to be free, not that I would be unclothed or an unembodied spirit, but I want to be clothed upon with a body which is from heaven. For I know that as long as I am living in this body, I am absent from the Lord; but I would choose rather to be absent from this body, and to be present with the Lord.

Paul said, "I'm in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better; nevertheless, it is necessary for your sakes that I remain" ( Philippians 1:23-24 ).

Again, in writing to the Corinthians, he said, "There was a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I don't know;) but he was caught up to the third heaven. And there he heard things and if I tried to describe them in human language it would be a crime" ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 ). So glorious were the things they defy description.

"This corruption must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality" ( 1 Corinthians 15:53 ). That's what death is to the child of God. The sting is gone. "O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" ( 1 Corinthians 15:55 ) Jesus has removed the sting of death by taking away our sin. And thus, for the child of God, it's the glorious coronation day. This robe of flesh I'll drop and rise to receive the everlasting prize. What a glorious hope we have in Christ.

Now these of the Old Testament, theirs was a different case. They all died in faith not having received the promise, for you see, God provided some better thing for us. They, without the finished work of Christ, could not enter in to the kingdom of God. It was only through that finished work of Christ where was the door open as He preached to the souls in prison and led them from their captivity. But now ours is the victory. We enter in to the glorious promise of God. And to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.

Shall we pray.

Thank you, Father, for all that You have done for us. For that goodness, for the blessings, for the richness that is ours through Jesus Christ, for the promises and for the hope. O Lord our Lord how excellent is Thy name in all the earth. How excellent are Your works towards us your children. Lord, we thank You for the gift of faith, that you've given to each man a measure of faith. Lord, we pray that You will continue the work of Your Spirit within our hearts as we yield ourselves to You, to walk in fellowship with You through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to live in that hope of eternal life in and through Him. Looking forward to that day when we shall be changed and fashioned like unto His own glorious image according to the mighty power of the Spirit of God that even works in our lives today. Lord, we believe and we trust and we know that Your Word is sure. Though heaven and earth may pass away, Your Word is something You will keep forever. Thank You, Lord for the unchanging promises upon which our souls are anchored this evening through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Suppose your name will ever get listed in this Hallmark of Faith that God has? How I thank God for the work of His Spirit as He helps us in our weaknesses, that I rely not upon my faithfulness, my work, my ability, but upon His faithfulness, His work. I know He is able.

May the Lord be with you and strengthen you and bless you and keep you in all your ways as you walk in fellowship with Him. May your life be enriched in the fullness of that mercy and grace that he has extended towards us through Jesus our LORD. God bless you and give you a beautiful week. Strengthened by the LORD, may you abound in all things in Christ to the glory and the praise and the honor of our God, our Savior, and our Lord. In Jesus' name. "



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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/hebrews-11.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for: In this passage Paul is not defining what faith is; instead, he is describing faith and explaining what it does. Faith requires holiness in God’s people (12:14). For example, faith allows a person to be convinced of the reality of invisible things. The word "faith" (pistis) means "conviction (or) belief" (Thayer 512) concerning anything or anyone. In the New Testament, the word is generally used in the sense of divine things. The King James Version indicates that faith does not come from what is seen, but from what is not seen. Moses’ faith, for example, allowed him to see the invisible. In verse 27, Paul says, "By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (11:27).

Paul says faith is the "substance" of things hoped for. The word "substance" (hupostasis) refers to the foundation on which one builds his hope. A better translation would possibly be "confidence," as found in Hebrews 3:14 and in 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; to denote what is "firm, trust, (or) assurance" (Thayer 645). Paul encourages his readers to be fully persuaded about "things hoped for" (elpizo), meaning to wait for, "salvation with joy and full of confidence" (Thayer 205). If one cannot be convinced of the unseen promises of God, he proves he does not have the faith necessary for salvation. Faith achieves impressive works through God’s authority. It tolerates every kind of affliction for the sake of God whose voice has been heard and whose reward has been seen through His written word.

the evidence of things not seen: By the word "evidence" (elegchos), Paul suggests that faith is the demonstration or "proof" (Thayer 202) of things that are invisible. In other words, "faith" is what causes a Christian to be persuaded of all things God has given in His word. Paul explains the source of faith: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). The "things" include the fulfillment of all spiritual promises. Paul’s words here are similar to his teaching to the Christians in Rome: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Here in Hebrews, Paul refers to Christians’ being persuaded of the reality of things that are invisible or things that cannot be demonstrated by one’s senses. "Things future and things unseen must become certainties to the mind if a balanced life is to be lived. Faith mediating between man and the supersensible is the essential link between himself and God" (Dods 352). In short, "faith" is that which enables us to treat as real the things that are unseen. It appears by the expression "the evidence of things not seen" that Paul is not restricting his thoughts to faith in Jesus Christ only but also to faith in the gospel, faith in the eternal reward in heaven, faith in all things promised by God. To a true Christian, when God speaks, all controversy is settled.

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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/hebrews-11.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Essentially faith is confidence that things yet future and unseen will happen as God has revealed they will. This is the basic nature of faith. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith rather than defining it.

"This word hypostasis ["assurance," NASB] has appeared twice already in the epistle. In Ch. Hebrews 1:3 the Son was stated to be the very image of God’s hypostasis; in Ch. Hebrews 3:14 believers are said to be Christ’s associates if they hold fast the beginning of their hypostasis firm to the end. In the former place it has the objective sense of ’substance’ or ’real essence’ (as opposed to what merely seems to be so). In the latter place it has the subjective sense of ’confidence’ or ’assurance.’ Here it is natural to take it in the same subjective sense as it bears in Ch. Hebrews 3:14, and so ARV and RSV render it ’assurance.’" [Note: Bruce, The Epistle . . ., p. 278.]

"Faith is the basis, the substructure (hypostasis means lit. ’that which stands under’) of all that the Christian life means, all that the Christian hopes for." [Note: Morris, p. 113.]

 

". . . faith celebrates now the reality of the future blessings that constitute the objective content of hope." [Note: Lane, Hebrews 9-13, p. 328.]

Someone else described faith as the spiritual organ that enables a person to perceive the invisible realities of life.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hebrews-11.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Faith in the Antediluvian Era 11:1-7

The writer began by stating three facts about faith. These are general observations on the nature of faith, some of its significant features. He then illustrated God’s approval of faith with examples from the era before the Flood.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hebrews-11.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 11

THE CHRISTIAN HOPE ( Hebrews 11:1-3 )

11:1-3 Faith means that we are certain of the things we hope for, convinced of the thing we do not see. It was because of faith that the men of old time had their record attested. It is by faith that we understand that the world was fashioned by the word of God, so that what is seen came into being out of what is unseen.

To the writer to the Hebrews faith is absolutely certain that what it believes is true and that what it expects will come. It is not the hope which looks forward with wistful longing; it is the hope which looks forward with utter conviction. In the early days of persecution they brought a humble Christian before the judges. He told them that nothing they could do could shake him because he believed that, if he was true to God, God would be true to him. "Do you really think," asked the judge, "that the like of you will go to God and his glory?" "I do not think," said the man, "I know." At one time Bunyan was tortured by uncertainty. "Everyone doth think his own Religion rightest," he said, "both Jews and Moors and Pagans; and how if all our Faith and Christ and Scriptures should be but a 'Think so' too?" But when the light broke he ran out crying, "Now I know! I know!" The Christian faith is a hope that has turned to certainty.

This Christian hope is such that it dictates all a man's conduct. He lives in it and he dies in it; and it is the possession of it which makes him act as he does.

As Silesius sang:

"With Hope for pilgrim's stall I go,

And Patience is my travelling dress

Wherewith through earthly weal and woe,

I fare to everlastingness."

Moffatt distinguishes three directions in which the Christian hope operates.

(i) It is belief in God against the world. If we follow the world's standards we may well have ease and comfort and prosperity; if we follow God's standards we may well have pain and loss and unpopularity. It is the conviction of the Christian that it is better to suffer with God than to prosper with the world. In the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are confronted with the choice of obeying Nebuchadnezzar and worshipping the king's image or obeying God and entering the fiery furnace. Without hesitation they choose God ( Daniel 3:1-30). When Bunyan was due for trial he said: "With God's comfort in my poor soul, before I went down to the justices I begged of God that if I might do more good by being at liberty than in prison, then I might be set at liberty. But if not, his will be done." The Christian attitude is that in terms of eternity it is better to stake everything on God than to trust to the rewards of the world.

(ii) The Christian hope is belief in the spirit against the senses. The senses say to a man: "Take what you can touch and taste and handle and enjoy."

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying."

The senses tell us to grasp the thing of the moment; the spirit tells us that there is something far beyond that. The Christian believes in the spirit rather than the senses.

(iii) The Christian hope is belief in the future against the present. Long ago Epicurus said the chief end of life was pleasure. But he did not mean what so many people think he meant. He insisted that we must take the long view. The thing which is pleasant at the moment may bring pain in the long run; the thing which hurts like fury at the moment may bring joy in the long run. The Christian is certain that in the long run no man can exile the truth for "great is truth, and in the end she will prevail."

It looked as if his judges had eliminated Socrates and as if Pilate had crushed Christ; but the verdict of the future reversed the verdict of the moment. Fosdick somewhere says that Nero once condemned Paul, but the years have passed on and the time has come when men call their sons Paul and their dogs Nero.

It is easy to argue: "Why should I refuse the pleasure of the moment for an uncertain future?" The Christian answer is that the future is not uncertain because it belongs to God; and it is enough that God has commanded and that God has promised.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say that it was precisely because the great heroes of the faith lived on that principle that they were approved by God. Every one of them refused what the world calls greatness and staked everything on God--and history proved them right.

The writer to the Hebrews goes further. He says that it is an act of faith to believe that God made this world and adds that the things which are seen emerged from the things which are not seen. This was aiming a blow at the current belief that God created the world out of existing matter which, being necessarily imperfect, meant that from the beginning this was an imperfect world. The writer to the Hebrews insists that God did not work with existing material but created the world from nothing. When he argued like this he was not interested in the scientific side of the matter; he wanted to stress the fact that this is God's world.

If we can grip that fact, two things follow. First, we will use it as such. We will remember that everything in it is God's and will try to use it as God would have us use it. Second, we will remember that, even when it may not look like it, somehow God is in control. If we believe that this is God's world then into our lives come a new sense of responsibility and a new power of acceptance, for everything belongs to God and all is in his hands.

THE FAITH OF THE ACCEPTABLE OFFERING ( Hebrews 11:4 )

11:4 It was by faith that Abel offered to God a fuller sacrifice than Cain and so gained the verdict of being a just man, for God himself witnessed to that fact on the grounds of the gifts he brought: and although he died because of his faith, he is still speaking to us.

The writer to the Hebrews begins his honour roll of faith with the name of Abel whose story is in Genesis 4:1-15. Cain tilled the ground and brought to God an offering of the fruits of the ground; Abel was a flock-master and brought to God an offering from his flocks. God preferred the gift of Abel to the gift of Cain who, moved to bitter jealousy, murdered his brother and became an outcast upon the earth. In the original, the meaning of the story is difficult. There is no indication why God preferred the gift of Abel to the gift of Cain. It may well be that the only offering which a man can properly bring to God is his most precious possession. This is life itself, and to the Hebrews blood always stood for life. We can well understand that, because when the blood flows away, life ebbs away. On that principle the only true sacrifice to God was a sacrifice of blood. Abel's sacrifice was of a living creature, Cain's was not; therefore Abel's was the more acceptable.

But it may well be that the writer to the Hebrews is thinking not only of the story as it is in Genesis but also of the legends which gathered round it in Jewish folk-lore. The Jews themselves found the story puzzling and elaborated it in order to find a reason for God's rejection of Cain and for Cain's murder of Abel. The earliest legend tells how every time Eve bore children she bore twins, a boy and a girl, and that they were given to each other as man and wife. In the case of Abel and Cain, Adam tried to change this and planned to give the twin sister of Cain to Abel. Cain was bitterly dissatisfied. To settle the matter, Adam said to them: "Go, my sons, sacrifice to the Lord; and he whose sacrifice is accepted shall have the young girl. Take each of you offerings in your hand and go, sacrifice to the Lord and he will decide." So Abel, who was a shepherd, took his best lamb to the place of sacrifice; but Cain, who was a tiller of the ground, took the poorest sheaf of corn he could find and laid it on the altar. Whereupon fire descended from heaven and consumed Abel's offering so that not even the cinders were left while Cain's was left untouched. Adam then gave the girl to Abel and Cain was sorely vexed. One day Abel was asleep upon a mountain; and Cain came upon him and took a stone and crushed his head. Then he threw the dead body on his back and carried it about because he did not know what to do with it. He saw two crows fighting and one killed the other, then dug a hole with its beak and buried it. Cain said: "I have not the sense of this bird. I, too, will lay my brother in the ground," and he did so.

The Jews had still another story to explain the first murder. Cain and Abel could not agree as to what they should possess. So Abel devised a scheme whereby they might bring an end to contention. Cain took the earth and everything stationary; Abel took everything moveable. But in Cain's heart there was still bitter envy. One day he said to his brother: "Remove thy foot; thou standest on my property; the plain is mine." Abel ran to the hills but Cain pursued him, saying: "The hills are mine." Abel took refuge on the mountains but Cain still pursued him saying: "The mountains, too, are mine." And so, in his envy, he hunted his brother until he killed him.

At the back of this story lie two great truths. First, there is envy. Even the Greeks saw its horror. Demosthenes said: "Envy is the sign of a nature that is altogether evil." Euripides said: "Envy is the greatest of all diseases among men." There was a Greek proverb which said: "Envy has no place in the choir of God." Envy leads to bitterness; bitterness to hatred; and hatred to murder. Envy is that poison which can poison all life and kill all goodness. Second, there is this strange and eerie thought that Cain had discovered a new sin. One of the old Greek fathers said: "Up to this time no man had died so that Cain should know how to kill. The devil instructed him in this in a dream." It was Cain who introduced murder into the world. There is condemnation for the sinner; but there is still greater condemnation for the man who teaches another to sin. Such a man, even as Cain was, is banished from the face of God.

So the writer to the Hebrews says: "Although he died for his faith, he is still speaking to us." Moffatt finely comments: "Death is never the last word in the life of a righteous man." When a man leaves this world, he leaves something in it. He may leave something which will grow and spread like a canker; or he may leave something fine which blossoms and flourishes without end. He leaves an influence of good or ill; every one when he dies still speaks. May God grant to us to leave behind not a germ of evil but a lovely thing in which the lives of those who come afterwards will find blessing.

WALKING WITH GOD ( Hebrews 11:5-6 )

11:5-6 It was by faith that Enoch was transferred from this to the other life so that he did not die but passed from men's sight, because God took him from one life to the other. For, before this change came to him it was testified that he pleased God. Apart from faith it is impossible to please God, for he who approaches God must believe that God is, and that he is the rewarder of those who spend their lives seeking him.

In the Old Testament the life of Enoch is summed up in one sentence: "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24). Many legends gathered around his name. He was said to be the first man skilled in tailoring and in sewing and that he instructed men how to cut out skins in the proper shape to make garments. He was said to be the first to teach men to make shoes to protect their feet. He was said to be the first to put pen to paper and instruct men from books.

Legend tells that with Enoch the Angel of Death made a compact of friendship. Enoch made three requests of him. First, to die and come back again so that he might know what death was like. Second, to see the abode of the wicked so that he might know what the punishment of the evil was like. Both these requests were granted. His third request was to be permitted to see into Paradise so that he might see what the blessed enjoyed. This also was granted, but Enoch, having been granted a glimpse of Paradise, never came back to earth again.

The simple statement in Genesis has a kind of mystical quality. In itself it does not say how Enoch died. It simply says that in God's good time he passed serenely from this earth. There were two specially famous interpretations of the death of Enoch.

(i) The Book of Wisdom ( Wis_4:10 ff.) has the idea that God took Enoch to himself when he was still young to save him from the infection of this world. "He was taken away while he lived amidst sinners.... He was snatched away lest evil should change his understanding or guile deceive his soul." This is another way of putting the famous classical saying: "Whom the gods love die young." It looks on death as a reward. It means that God loved Enoch so much that he removed him before age and degeneration descended hand in hand upon him.

(ii) Philo, the great Alexandrian Jewish interpreter, saw in Enoch the great pattern of repentance. He was changed by repentance from the life that is apart from God to the life that walks with God.

The writer to the Hebrews reads into the simple statement of the Old Testament passage the idea that Enoch did not die at all but that in some mystic way God took him to himself. But surely the meaning is much simpler. In a wicked and corrupt generation Enoch walked with God and so when the end came to him, there was no shock or interruption. Death merely took him into God's nearer presence. Because he walked with God when other men were walking away from him, he daily came nearer to him and death was no more than the last step that took him into the very presence of that God with whom he had always walked.

We cannot think of Enoch without thinking of the different attitudes to death. The sheer serenity of the Old Testament statement, so simple and yet so moving, points forward to the Christian attitude.

(i) There are those who have thought of death as mysterious and inexplicable. William Morris wrote:

"Death have we hated, knowing not what it meant."

Bacon said: "Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark." To some, it has always been the terrifying unknown giving rise to what Hamlet called "that dread of something after death."

(ii) There are those who simply have seen in death the one inevitable thing in life. Shakespeare makes Caesar say in Julius Caesar:

"It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come."

And in Cymbeline he writes with a strange fatalistic beauty:

"Fear no more the heat o' the sun,

Nor the furious winter's rages;

Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone and ta'en thy wages:

Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

"Fear no more the frown o' the great,

Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:

Care no more to clothe and eat;

To thee the reed is as the oak:

The sceptre, Teaming, physic must

All follow this, and come to dust.

"Fear not more the lightning-flash,

Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;

Fear not slander, censure rash;

Thou hast finish'd joy and moan:

All lovers young, all lovers must

Consign to thee, and come to dust."

Death is inevitable and there is nothing to be gained by struggling against it.

(iii) Some have seen in death sheer extinction. It was that loveliest of Roman poets, Catullus, who pled with Lesbia for her kisses because the night was coming:

"Lesbia mine, let's live and love!

Give no doit for tattle of

Crabbed old censorious men;

Suns may set and rise again,

But when our short day takes flight

Sleep we must one endless night."

To die was to go out to nothingness and be lost in an eternal sleep.

(iv) Some have seen in death the supreme terror and the unmitigated evil. In Measure for Measure Shakespeare makes Claudio say:

"Death is a fearful thing.

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;

To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;

This sensible warm motion to become

A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit

To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside

In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;

To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,

And blown with restless violence round about

The pendent world....

The weariest and most loathed worldly life

That age, ache, penury and imprisonment

Can lay on nature, is a paradise

To what we fear of death."

To Claudio the worst and bitterest of life was to be preferred to death. W. S. Gilbert wrote in The Yeomen of the Guard:

"Is life a boon?

If so, it must befall

That Death, whene'er he call,

Must call too soon."

Robert Burns wrote of the early death of Highland Mary:

"But oh! fell death's untimely frost

That nipt my flower sae early!"

There are those who have seen only the grim terroriser and despoiler in death.

(v) Many have seen in death release. Weary of the world and of life, they have seen it as escape. Keats said that he had been "half in love with easeful death." Shakespeare in one of his sonnets cried:

"Tir'd with all these, for restful death I cry."

Nicholas Rowe wrote: "Death is the privilege of human nature." The Stoics held that the gods had given men the gift of life and the still greater gift of taking their own lives away. Swinburne best of all caught this mood of world-weariness in The Garden of Proserpine:

"From too much love of living,

From hope and fear set free,

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no life lives forever,

That dead men rise up never;

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,

Nor any change of light;

Nor sound of waters shaken,

Nor any sound or sight;

Nor wintry leaves nor vernal

Nor days nor things diurnal;

Only the sleep eternal

In an eternal night."

There are those for whom death is good because it is the end of life.

(vi) Some have seen in death transition--not an end, but a stage on the way; not a door closing, but a door opening. Longfellow wrote:

"There is no Death! What seems so is transition;

This life of mortal breath

Is but a suburb of the life elysian,

Whose portal we call death."

George Meredith wrote:

"Death met I too,

And saw the dawn glow through."

To such death has always been a call to come up higher, a crossing from the dark to the dawn.

(vii) Some have seen death as an adventure. As Barrie made Peter Pan say: "To die will be an awfully big adventure." Charles Frohman, who had known Barrie so well, went down with the Lusitania in that disaster of 7 May 1915. His last words were: "Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life." An old scholar who was dying turned to his friends: "Do you realize," he said, "that in an hour or two I will know the answers for which we have been searching all our lives?" To such death is the adventure of supreme discovery.

(viii) Above all, there are those, like Enoch, who have seen death as an entering into the nearer presence of him with whom they have lived for so long. If we have lived with Christ, we may die in the certainty that we go to be for ever with our Lord.

In this passage the writer to the Hebrews lays down in addition the two great foundation acts of faith of the Christian life.

(i) We must believe in God. There can be no such thing as religion without that belief. Religion began when men became aware of God; it ceases when they live a life in which for them God does not exist.

(ii) We must believe that God is interested. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, we must believe that God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

There were those in the ancient world who believed in the gods, but they believed that they lived out in the spaces between the worlds, entirely unaware of these strange animals called men. "God," said Epicurus as a first principle, "does nothing." There are many who believe in God but do not believe that he cares. It has been said that no astronomer can be an atheist; but it has also been said that an astronomer is bound to believe that God is a mathematician. But a God who is a mathematician need not care. Men have called God The First Principle, The First Cause, The Creative Energy, The Life Force. These are the statements of men who believe in God, but not in a God who cares.

When Marcus Aurelius was asked why he believed in the gods, he said: "True, the gods are not discernible by human sight, but neither have I seen my soul and yet I honour it. So then I believe in the gods and I honour them, because again and again I have experienced their power." Not logic but life convinced him of the gods. Seneca said: "The first essential of the worship of the gods is to believe that there are gods...and to know those gods who preside over the world, because they control the universe with their power, and work for the safety of the whole human race, while they still remember each individual person." Epictetus said: "You must know that the most important thing in reverence for the gods is to have right beliefs that they are and that they order all things righteously and well."

We must believe not only that God exists but also that he cares and is involved in the human situation. For the Christian that is easy, for God came to the world in Jesus Christ to tell us how much he cares.

THE MAN WHO BELIEVED IN GOD'S MESSAGE ( Hebrews 11:7 )

11:7 It was by faith that Noah, when he had been informed by God about things that were still unseen, reverently accepted the message and built an ark to preserve his household in safety. Through that faith he passed judgment on the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is the result of faith.

The Old Testament story of Noah is in Genesis 6:1-22; Genesis 7:1-24; Genesis 8:1-22. The earth was so wicked that God decided that there remained nothing to do but destroy it. He told Noah his purpose of judgment and instructed him to build an ark in which he and his family and the representatives of the animal creation might be saved. With reverence and obedience Noah took God at his word and so in the destruction of the world he was preserved.

As is usually the case, legend adds many a detail to this story. The writer to the Hebrews must have known these legends and they must have helped to add vividness to the picture in his mind. One story tells how Noah was in doubt as to the shape he was to give the ark. God revealed to him that it was to be modelled on a bird's belly and was to be constructed of teak wood. Noah planted a teak tree and in twenty years it grew to such a size that out of it he was able to build the entire ark. Another story tells that, after he had been forewarned by God, Noah made a bell of plane wood, about five feet high, and that he sounded it every day, morning, noon and evening. When he was asked why, he answered: "To warn you that God will send a deluge to destroy you all." Another story tells that, when Noah was building the ark, the people laughed at him and counted him mad. But he said to them: "Though you rail at me now, the time will come when I shall rail at you; for you will learn to your cost who it is that punishes the wicked in this world and reserves for them a further punishment in the world to come."

Even more than Abel and Enoch, Noah stands out as a man of faith.

(i) Noah took God at his word. He believed the message which God sent him. God's message might look foolishness at the moment; but Noah believed it and staked everything on it. Obviously if he was going to accept that word of God, he had to lay aside his normal activities and concentrate on doing what his message commanded. Noah's life was one continued and concentrated preparation for what God had said would come.

The choice comes to every man either to listen to or to disregard the message of God. He may live as if that message is of no importance or as if it is the most important thing in the world. We may put it in another way--Noah was the man who heeded the warning of God; and because he heeded he was saved from disaster. God's warning comes to us in many ways. It may come from conscience; it may come from some direct word of God to our souls; it may come from the advice or the rebuke of some good and godly man; it may leap out at us from God's Book or challenge us in some sermon. Wherever it comes from, we neglect it at our peril.

(ii) Noah was not deterred by the mockery of others. When the sun was shining, his conduct must have looked like that of a fool. Who ever in his senses built a great hulk of a ship on dry land far from the sea? The man who takes God's word may often have to adopt a course of action which looks like madness.

We have only to think of the early days of the Church. One man meets a friend. He says to him: "I have decided to become a Christian." The other man replies: "Do you know what happens to Christians? They are outlaws. They are imprisoned, thrown to the lions, crucified, burned." The first man replies: "I know." And the other says despairingly: "You must be mad."

It is one of the hardest challenges of Christianity that we have to be prepared to be sometimes a fool for Jesus' sake. We should never forget that there was a day when his friends came and tried to get him to go home because they thought that he was mad. The wisdom of God is so often foolishness with men.

(iii) Noah's faith was a judgment on others. That is why, at least in one sense, it is dangerous to be a Christian. It is not that the Christian is self-righteous; it is not that he is censorious; it is not that he goes about finding fault with other people; it is not that he says: "I told you so." It often happens that simply by being himself the Christian passes judgment on other people. Alcibiades that brilliant but wild young man of Athens used to say to Socrates: "Socrates, I hate you, for every time I meet you, you show me what I am." One of the finest men who ever lived in Athens was Aristides, who was called "the just." But they voted to banish him. One man, asked why he had so voted, answered: "Because I am tired of hearing Aristides called 'the just.'" There is danger in goodness, for in its light evil stands condemned.

(iv) Noah was righteous through faith. It so happens that he is the first man in the Bible to be called dikaios ( G1342) , righteous ( Genesis 6:9). His goodness consisted in the fact that he took God at his word. When other men broke God's commandments, Noah kept them; when other men were deaf to God's warnings, Noah listened to them; when other men laughed at God, Noah reverenced him. It has been said of Noah that "he threw the dark scepticism of the world into relief against his own shining faith in God." In an age when men disregarded God, for Noah he was the supreme reality in the world.

THE ADVENTURE AND THE PATIENCE OF FAITH ( Hebrews 11:8-10 )

11:8-10 It was by faith that Abraham, when he was caned, showed his obedience by going out to a place which he was going to receive as an inheritance, and he went out not knowing where he was to go. It was by faith that he sojourned in the land that had been promised to him, as though it had been a foreign land, living in tents, in the same way as did Isaac and Jacob, who were his coheirs in the promise of it. For he was waiting for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

The call of Abraham is told with dramatic simplicity in Genesis 12:1. Jewish and eastern legends gathered largely round Abraham's name and some of them must have been known to the writer to the Hebrews. The legends tell how Abraham was the son of Terah, commander of the armies of Nimrod. When Abraham was born a very vivid star appeared in the sky and seemed to obliterate the others. Nimrod sought to murder the infant but Abraham was concealed in a cave and his life saved. It was in that cave the first vision of God came to him. When he was a youth he came out of the cave and stood looking across the face of the desert. The sun rose in all its glory and Abraham said: "Surely the sun is God, the Creator!" So he knelt down and worshipped the sun. But when evening came, the sun sank in the west and Abraham said: "No! the author of creation cannot set!" The moon arose in the east and the stars came out. Then Abraham said: "The moon must be God and the stars his host!" So he knelt down and adored the moon. But after the night was passed, the moon sank and the sun rose again and Abraham said: "Truly these heavenly bodies are no gods, for they obey law; I will worship him who imposed the law upon them."

The Arabs have a different legend. They tell how Abraham saw many flocks and herds and said to his mother: "Who is the lord of these?" She answered: "Your father, Terah." "And who is the lord of Terah?" the lad Abraham asked. "Nimrod," said his mother. "And who is the lord of Nimrod?" asked Abraham. His mother bade him be quiet and not push questions too far; but already Abraham's thoughts were reaching out to him who is the God of all. The legends go on to tell that Terah not only worshipped twelve idols, one for each of the months, but was also a manufacturer of idols. One day Abraham was left in charge of the shop. People came in to buy idols. Abraham would ask them how old they were and they would answer perhaps fifty or sixty years of age. "Woe to a man of such an age," said Abraham, "who adores the work of one day!" A strong and hale man of seventy came in. Abraham asked him his age and then said: "You fool to adore a god who is younger than yourself!" A woman came in with a dish of meat for the gods. Abraham took a stick and smashed all the idols but one, in whose hands he set the stick he had used. Terah returned and was angry. Abraham said: "My father, a woman brought this dish of meat for your gods; they all wanted to have it and the strongest knocked the heads off the rest, lest they should eat it all." Terah said: "That is impossible for they are made of wood and stone." And Abraham answered: "Let thine own ear hear what thine own mouth has spoken!"

All these legends give us a vivid picture of Abraham searching after God and dissatisfied with the idolatry of his people. So when God's call came to him he was ready to go out into the unknown to find him! Abraham is the supreme example of faith.

(i) Abraham's faith was the faith that was ready for adventure. God's summons meant that he had to leave home and family and business; yet he went. He had to go out into the unknown; yet he went. In the best of us there is a certain timorousness. We wonder just what will happen to us if we take God at his word and act on his commands and promises.

Bishop Newbigin tells of the negotiations which led to the formation of the United Church of South India. He had a share in these negotiations and in the long discussions which were necessary. Things were frequently held up by cautious people who wished to know just where each step was taking them, until in the end the chairman reminded them that a Christian has no right to ask where he is going.

Most of us live a cautious life on the principle of safety first; but to live the Christian life there is necessary a certain reckless willingness to adventure. If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith. It is sometimes necessary for the Christian to take the way to which the voice of God is calling him without knowing what the consequences will be. Like Abraham he has to go out not knowing where he is going.

(ii) Abraham's faith was the faith which had patience. When he reached the promised land, he was never allowed to possess it. He had to wander in it, a stranger and a tent-dweller, as the people were some day to wander in the wilderness. To Abraham God's promise never came fully true; and yet he never abandoned his faith.

It is characteristic of the best of us that we are in a hurry. To wait is even harder than to adventure. The hardest time of all is the time in between. At the moment of decision there is the excitement and the thrill; at the moment of achievement there is the glow and glory of satisfaction; but in the intervening time there is necessary the ability to wait and work and watch when nothing seems to be happening. It is then that we are so liable to give up our hopes and lower our ideals and sink into an apathy whose dreams are dead. The man of faith is the man whose hope is flaming bright and whose effort is intensely strenuous even in the grey days when there is nothing to do but to wait.

(iii) Abraham's faith was the faith which was looking beyond this world. The later legends believed that at the moment of his call Abraham was given a glimpse of the new Jerusalem. In the Apocalypse of Baruch God says: "I showed it to my servant by night" (4: 4). In 4 Ezra the writer says: "It came to pass when they practised ungodliness before thee, that thou didst choose one from among them whose name was Abraham; him thou didst love and to him only thou didst reveal the end of the times, secretly, by night" (4: 13). No man ever did anything great without a vision which enabled him to face the difficulties and discouragements of the way. To Abraham there was given the vision; and, even when his body was wandering in Palestine, his soul was at home with God. God cannot give us the vision unless we permit him; but if we wait upon him, even in earth's desert places be will send us the vision and with it the toil and trouble of the way become all worth while.

BELIEVING THE INCREDIBLE ( Hebrews 11:11-12 )

11:11-12 It was by faith that Sarah, too, received power to conceive and to bear a son, although she was beyond the age for it, for she believed that he who gave the promise could be absolutely relied upon. So from one man, and he a man whose body had lost its vitality, there were born descendants, as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, as countless as the sand upon the seashore.

The story of the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah is told in Genesis 17:15-22; Genesis 18:9-15; Genesis 21:1-8. Its wonder is that both Abraham and Sarah were ninety years old, long past the age of begetting or bearing a child; and yet, according to the old story, that promise was made and came true.

The reaction of Abraham and Sarah to the promise of God followed a threefold course.

(i) It began with sheer incredulousness. When Abraham heard the promise he fell upon his face and laughed ( Genesis 17:17). When Sarah heard it she laughed within herself ( Genesis 18:12). On first hearing of the promises of God, the human reaction often is that this is far too good to be true.

"How thou canst think so well of us,

And be the God thou art,

Is darkness to my intellect,

But sunshine to my heart."

There is no mystery in all creation like the love of God. That he should love men and suffer and die for them is something that staggers us into sheer incredulity. That is why the Christian message is the gospel, good news; it is news so good that it is almost impossible to believe it true.

(ii) It passed into dawning realization. After the incredulity came the dawning realization that this was God who was speaking; and God cannot lie. The Jews used to lay it down as a primary law for a teacher that he must never promise his pupils what he was unwilling or unable to perform; to do so would be to accustom the pupils thus early to the broken word. When we remember that the one who makes the promise is God, there comes the realization that however astonishing that promise may be, it must none the less be true.

(iii) It culminated in the ability to believe in the impossible. That Abraham and Sarah should have a child, humanly speaking, was impossible. As Sarah said: "Who would have said that Sarah would suckle children?" ( Genesis 21:7). But, by the grace and the power of God, the impossible became true. There is something here to challenge and uplift the heart of every man. Cavour said that the first essential of a statesman is "the sense of the possible." When we listen to men planning and arguing and thinking aloud, we get the impression of a vast number of things in this world which are known to be desirable but dismissed as impossible. Men spend the greater part of their lives putting limitations on the power of God. Faith is the ability to lay hold on that grace which is sufficient for all things in such a way that the things which are humanly impossible become divinely possible. With God all things are possible, and, therefore, the word impossible has no place in the vocabulary of the Christian and of the Christian Church.

SOJOURNERS AND STRANGERS ( Hebrews 11:13-16 )

11:13-16 All these died without obtaining possession of the promises. They only saw them from far away and greeted them from afar, and they admitted that they were strangers and sojourners upon the earth. Now people who speak like that make it quite clear that they are searching for a fatherland. If they were thinking of the land from which they had come out, they would have had time to return. In point of fact they were reaching out after something better, I mean, the heavenly country. It was because of that that God was not ashamed to be called their God, for he had prepared a city for them.

None of the patriarchs entered into the full possession of the promises that God had made to Abraham. To the end of their days they were nomads, never living a settled life in a settled land. They had to be for ever moving on. Certain great permanent truths emerge from them.

(i) They lived for ever as strangers. The writer to the Hebrews uses three vivid Greek words about them.

(a) In Hebrews 11:13 he calls them xenoi ( G3581) . Xenos is the word for a stranger and a foreigner. In the ancient world the fate of the stranger was hard. He was regarded with hatred and suspicion and contempt. In Sparta xenos ( G3581) was the equivalent of barbaros ( G915) , barbarian. A man writes complaining that he was despised "because I am a xenos ( G3581) ". Another man writes that, however poor a home is, it is better to live at home than epi ( G1909) xenes ( G3581) , in a foreign country. When clubs had their common meal, those who sat down to it were divided into members and xenoi ( G3581) . Xenos ( G3581) can even mean a refugee. All their lives the patriarchs were foreigners in a land that never was their own.

(b) In Hebrews 11:9 he uses the word paroikein ( G3939) , to sojourn, of Abraham. A paroikos ( G3941) was a resident alien. The word is used of the Jews when they were captives in Babylon and in Egypt. A paroikos ( G3941) was not very much above a slave in the social scale. He had to pay an alien tax. He was always an outsider and only on payment a member of the community.

(c) In Hebrews 11:13 he uses the word parepidemos ( G3927) . A parepidemos was a person who was staying there temporarily and who had his permanent home somewhere else. Sometimes his stay was strictly limited. A parepidemos ( G3927) was a man in lodgings, a man without a home in the place where life had sent him. All their lives the patriarchs were men who had no settled place that they could call home. It is to be noted that to dwell in a foreign land was a humiliating thing in ancient days; to the foreigner in any country a certain stigma attached. In the Letter of Aristeas the writer says: "It is a fine thing to live and to die in one's native land; a foreign land brings contempt to poor men and shame to rich men, for there is the lurking suspicion that they have been exiled for the evil they have done." In Ecclesiasticus ( Sir_29:22-28 ) there is a wistful passage:

"Better the life of the poor under a shelter of logs

Than sumptuous fare in the house of strangers.

With little or much be contented:

So wilt thou not have to bear the reproach of thy wandering.

An evil life it is to go from house to house,

And where thou art a stranger thou must not open thy mouth.

A stranger thou art in that case and drinkest contempt;

And besides this thou wilt have to hear bitter things:

'Come hither, sojourner, and furnish my table,

And if thou hast aught feed me therewith';

Or, 'Get thee gone, sojourner, from the face of honour,

My brother is come as my guest, I have need of my house.'

These things are grievous to a man of understanding:

Upbraiding concerning sojourning, and the reproach of a

moneylender."

At any time it is an unhappy thing to be a stranger in a strange land, but in ancient days to this natural unhappiness there was added the bitterness of humiliation.

All their days the patriarchs were strangers in a strange land. That picture of the sojourner became a picture of the Christian life. Tertullian said of the Christian: "He knows that on earth he has a pilgrimage but that his dignity is in heaven." Clement of Alexandria said: "We have no fatherland on earth." Augustine said: "We are sojourners exiled from our fatherland." It was not that the Christians were foolishly other-worldly, detaching themselves from the life and work of this world; but they always remembered that they were people on the way. There is an unwritten saying of Jesus: "The world is a bridge. The wise man will pass over it but will not build his house upon it." The Christian regards himself as the pilgrim of eternity.

(ii) In spite of everything these men never lost their vision and their hope. However long that hope might be in coming true, its light always shone in their eyes. However long the way might be, they never stopped tramping along it. Robert Louis Stevenson said: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive." They never wearily gave up the journey; they lived in hope and died in expectation.

(iii) In spite of everything they never wished to go back. Their descendants, when they were in the desert, often wished to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt. But not the patriarchs. They had begun and it never struck them to turn back. In flying there is what is called the point of no return. When the aeroplane has reached that point it cannot go back. Its petrol supply has reached such a level that there is nothing left but to go on. One of the tragedies of life is the number of people who turn back just a little too soon. One further effort, a little more waiting, a little more hoping, would make the dream come true. Immediately a Christian has set out on some enterprise sent him by God, he should feel that he has already passed the point of no return.

(iv) These men were able to go on because they were haunted by the things beyond. The man with the wanderlust is lured on by the thought of the countries he has never yet seen. The great artist or composer is driven by the thought of the performance he has never yet given and the wonder he has never yet produced. Stevenson tells of an old byreman who spent all his days amidst the muck of the byre. Someone asked him if he never got tired of it all. He answered; "He that has something ayont (beyond) need never weary." These men had the something beyond--and so may we.

(v) Because these men were what they were, God was not ashamed to be called their God. Above all things, he is the God of the gallant adventurer. He loves the man who is ready to venture for his name. The prudent, comfort-loving man is the very opposite of God. The man who goes out into the unknown and keeps going on will in the end arrive at God.

THE SUPREME SACRIFICE ( Hebrews 11:17-19 )

11:17-19 It was by faith that Abraham offered up Isaac when he was put to the test. He was willing to offer up even his only son, although it had been said to him: "It is in Isaac that your descendants will be named." He was willing to do this for he reckoned that God was able to raise him even from the dead. Hence he did receive him back which is a parable of the resurrection.

The Isaac story, told in Genesis 22:1-18, is that most dramatic account of how Abraham met the supreme test of the demand for the life of his own son. To some extent this story has fallen into disrepute. It is excluded from syllabuses of religious education because it is held to teach an unacceptable view of God. Or it is held that the point of the story is that it was in this way that Abraham learned that God did not desire human sacrifice. No doubt that is true; but, if we want to see this story at its greatest and as the writer to the Hebrews saw it, we must take it at its face value. It was the response of a man who was asked to offer God his own son.

(i) This story teaches us that we must be ready to sacrifice what is dearest to us for the sake of loyalty to God. There have been many who have sacrificed their careers to what they took to be the will of God. J. P. Struthers was the minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Greenock, a little congregation, which, it is neither false nor unkind to say, had a great past but no future. Had he been willing to forsake the Church of his fathers, any pulpit in the land was open to him and the most dazzling ecclesiastical prizes were his; but he sacrificed them all for the sake of what he considered to be loyalty to God's will.

Sometimes a man may have to sacrifice personal relationships. He may feel called by God to a task in a sphere which is difficult and in a place that is unattractive and it may be that the girl he is to marry will not face it with him. The man must choose between the will of God and the relationship which means so much to him. When Bunyan was in gaol he was thinking of what must happen to his family if he was executed. Especially the thought of his little blind daughter, who was so dear to him, haunted him: "O," he said, "I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it."

"The dearest idol I have known,

Whate'er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from thy throne,

And worship only thee."

Abraham was the man who would sacrifice even the dearest thing in life for God. Time and again in the early Church it happened. In a home one partner became a Christian and the other did not; the children became Christians and the parents did not. The sword came down upon that home; and unless there had been those who counted Christ dearer than all else, there would be no Christianity today.

God must come first in our lives, or he comes nowhere. There is a story of two children who had been given a toy Noah's Ark as a present. They had been listening to the Old Testament stories and determined that they too would offer a sacrifice. They examined the animals in their toy ark and finally decided on a sheep with a broken leg. The only thing they would offer was a broken toy they could well do without. That is the way in which so many people would like to sacrifice to God; but only the dearest and the best is good enough for him.

(ii) Abraham is the pattern of the man who accepts what he cannot understand. To him there had come this incomprehensible demand. It did not make sense. The promise was that in Isaac his seed would grow and grow until he became a mighty nation in which all others would be blessed. On the life of Isaac depended the promise; and now God seemed to want to take that life away. As Chrysostom put it: "The things of God seemed to fight against the things of God, and faith fought with faith, and the commandment fought with the promise." For everyone at some time there comes something for which there seems to be no reason and which defies explanation. It is then that a man is faced with life's hardest battle--to accept when he cannot understand. At such a time there is only one thing to do--to obey and to do so without resentment, saying: "God, you are love! I build my faith on that."

(iii) Abraham is the pattern of the man who, with the test, found a way of escape. If we take God at his word and stake everything on him, even when there seems to be nothing but a blank wall in front of us, the way of escape will open up.

THE FAITH WHICH DEFEATS DEATH ( Hebrews 11:20-22 )

11:20-22 It was by faith that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in the things concerning the future. It was by faith that Jacob, when he was dying. blessed each of the sons of Joseph and prayed leaning, on the head of his staff. It was by faith that Joseph, as he came to the end, had his mind the days when the children of Israel would leave Egypt, and gave instructions concerning his bones.

One thing links these three examples of faith together. In each case it was the faith of a man to whom death was very near. The blessing which Isaac gave is in Genesis 27:28-29; Genesis 27:39-40. Given after Isaac had said: "Behold. I am old, I do not know the day of my death" ( Genesis 27:2). it was: "God give you of the dew of heaven. and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down to you." The blessing of Jacob is given in Genesis 48:9-22. The story has just said that "the time drew near that Israel must die" ( Genesis 47:29). The blessing was: "in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" ( Genesis 48:15-16). The incident from the life of Joseph comes from Genesis 50:22-26. When Joseph was near to death he made the Israelites take an oath that they would not leave his bones in Egypt but would take them with them when they went out to possess the promised land, which in due time they did ( Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).

The point which the writer to the Hebrews wishes to make is that all three men died without having entered into the promise that God had made, the promise of the Promised Land and of greatness to the nation of Israel. Isaac was still a nomad, Jacob wits an exile in Egypt. Joseph had attained to greatness but it was the greatness of a stranger in a strange land; and yet they never doubted that the promise would come true. They died not in despair but in hope. Their faith defeated death.

There is something of permanent greatness here. The thought in the mind of all these men was the same: "God's promise is true, for he never breaks a promise. I may not live to see it, death may come to me before that promise becomes a fact; but I am a link in its fulfilment. Whether or not that promise comes depends on me." Here is the great function of life. Our hopes may never be realized but we must live in such a way that we shall hasten their coming. It may not be given to every man to enter into the fullness of the promises or God, but it is given to him to live with such fidelity as to bring nearer the day when others will enter into it. To us all is given the tremendous task of helping God make his promises come true.

FAITH AND ITS SECRET ( Hebrews 11:23-29 )

11:23-29 It was by faith that Moses, when he was born, was kept hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful: and they did not fear the edict of the king. It was by faith that Moses, when he grew to manhood, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter and chose rather to suffer evil with the people of God than to enjoy the transient pleasures of sin, for he considered that a life of reproach for the sake of the Messiah was greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed upon his reward. It was by faith that he left Egypt, unmoved by the blazing anger of the king, for he could face all things as one who sees him who is invisible. It was by faith that he carried out the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroying angel might not touch the children of his people. It was by faith that they crossed the Red Sea as if they were going through dry land and that the Egyptians, when they ventured to try to do so, were engulfed.

To the Hebrews Moses was the supreme figure in their history. He was the lender who had rescued them from slavery and who had received the Law of their lives from God. To the writer of the letter to the Hebrews Moses was pre-eminently the man of faith. In this story, as Moffatt points out, there are five different acts of faith. As with the other great characters whose names are included in this roll or honour of God's faithful ones, many legends and elaborations had gathered round the name of Moses and doubtless the writer of this letter had them also in his mind.

(i) There was the faith of Moses' parents. The story of their action is told in Exodus 2:1-10. Exodus 1:15-22 tells how the king of Egypt in his hatred tried to wipe out the children of the Israelites by having them killed at birth. Legend tells how Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses ( Exodus 6:20), were troubled by the decree of Pharaoh. As a result Amram put away his wife, not because he did not love her, but because he would spare her the sorrow of seeing her children killed. For three years she was put away, and then Miriam prophesied: "My parents shall have another son, who shall deliver Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians." She said to her father: "What hast thou done? Thou hast sent thy wife away out of thine house, because thou couldst not trust the Lord God that he would protect the child that might be born to thee." So Amram, shamed into trusting God, took back his wife; and in due time Moses was born. He was so lovely a child that his parents determined to hide him in their house. This they did for three months. Then, the legend tells, the Egyptians struck upon a cruel scheme. The king was determined that hidden children should be sought out and killed. Now when a child hears another child cry, he will cry too. So Egyptian mothers were sent into the homes of the Israelites with their babies; there they pricked their babies until they cried. This made the hidden children of the Israelites cry, too, and so they were discovered and killed. In view of this, Amram and Jochebed decided to make a little ark and to entrust their child to it on the waters of the Nile.

That Moses was born at all was an act of faith; that he was preserved was another. He began by being the child of faith.

(ii) The second act of faith was Moses' loyalty to his own people. The story is told in Exodus 2:11-14. Again the legends help to light up the picture. When Moses was entrusted to the waters of the Nile, he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, whose name is given as Bithia, or more commonly Thermouthis. She was entranced by his beauty. Legend says that when she drew the ark out of the water, the archangel Gabriel boxed the ears of the little baby to make him cry so that the heart of Thermouthis might be touched as she saw the little face puckered in sorrow and the eyes full of tears. Thermouthis, much to her sorrow, was childless; so she took the baby Moses home, and cared for him as her own son. He grew to be so beautiful that people turned in the street, and even ceased their work, to took at him. He was so wise that he was far beyond all other children in learning and in knowledge. When he was still a child, Thermouthis took him to Pharaoh and told him how she had found him. She placed him in his arms, and he was so entranced by the child that he embraced him and. at the request of Thermouthis, he promised to make him his heir. By way of jest he took his crown and placed it on the child's head; but the infant snatched the crown from his head and flung it on the ground and trampled on it. Pharaoh's wise men were full of foreboding that this child would some day trample the royal power under foot. They wished to destroy Moses there and then. But a test was proposed; they set before the child a bowl of precious stones and a bowl of live coals. If he put out his hand and touched the jewels, that would prove that he was so wise that he was a danger; if he put out his hands and touched the coals, that would prove that he was so witless that he was no danger. The infant Moses was about to touch the jewels when Gabriel took his hand and put it on the coals. His finger was burnt; he put the burnt finger in his mouth and burnt his mouth; that, they say, was why he was not a good speaker ( Exodus 4:10) but stammered all his life.

So Moses was spared. He was brought up in all luxury. He was heir to the kingdom. He became one of the greatest of all Egyptian generals; in particular he conquered the Ethiopians when they were threatening Egypt and in the end was married to an Ethiopian princess. But all the time he had never forgotten his fellow-countrymen; and the day came when he decided to ally himself with the downtrodden Israelites and say goodbye to the future of riches and royalty that he might have had.

Moses gave up earthly glory for the sake of the people of God. Christ gave up his glory for the sake of mankind; and accepted scourging and shame and a terrible death. Moses in his day and generation shared in the sufferings of Christ, choosing the loyalty that led to suffering rather than the ease which led to earthly glory. He knew that the prizes of earth were contemptible compared with the ultimate reward of God.

(iii) There came the day when Moses, because of his intervention on behalf of his people, had to withdraw from Egypt to Midian ( Exodus 2:14-22). Because of the order in which it comes that must be what Hebrews 11:27 refers to. Some people have found difficulty here, because the Exodus narrative says that it was because Moses feared Pharaoh that he fled to Midian ( Exodus 2:14), while Hebrews says that he went out not fearing the blazing wrath of the king. There is no real contradiction. It is simply that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews saw even more deeply into the story. For Moses to withdraw to Midian was not an act of fear; it was an act of courage. It showed the courage of the man who has learned to wait.

The Stoics were wise; they held that a man should not throw his life away by needlessly provoking the wrath of a tyrant. Seneca wrote: "The wise man will never provoke the wrath of mighty men; nay, he will turn aside from it; in just the same way as sailors in sailing will not deliberately court the danger of the storm." At that moment Moses might have gone on but his people were not ready. If he had gone on recklessly he would simply have thrown his life away and the deliverance from Egypt might never have happened. He was big enough and brave enough to wait until God said: "Now is the hour."

Moffatt quotes a saying of A. S. Peake: "The courage to abandon work on which one's heart is set and accept inaction cheerfully as the will of God is of the rarest and highest kind and can be created and sustained only by the clearest spiritual vision." When our fighting instincts say: "Go on," it takes a big and a brave man to wait. It is human to fear to miss the chance; but it is great to wait for the time of God--even when it seems like throwing a chance away.

(iv) There came the day when Moses had to make all the arrangements for the first Passover. The account is in Exodus 12:12-48. The unleavened bread had to be made; the Passover lamb had to be slain; the door post had to be smeared with the blood of the lamb so that the Angel of Death would see the blood and pass over that house and not slay the first-born in it. But the really amazing thing is that, according to the Exodus story, Moses not only made these regulations for the night on which the children of Israel were leaving Israel; he also laid it down that they were to be observed annually for all time. That is to say, he never doubted the success of the enterprise, never doubted that the people would be delivered from Egypt and that some day they would reach the promised land. Here was a band of wretched Hebrew slaves about to set off on a journey across an unknown desert to an unknown promised land and here was the whole power of Egypt hot upon their heels; yet Moses never doubted that God would bring them safely through. He was pre-eminently the man who had the faith that if God gave his people an order he would also give them the strength to carry it out. Moses knew well that God does not summon his servants to a great task and leave it at that; he goes with them every step of the way.

(v) There was the great act of the crossing of the Red Sea. The story is told in Exodus 14:1-31. There we read of how the children of Israel were wondrously enabled to pass through and of how the Egyptians were engulfed when they tried to do the same. It was at that moment that the faith of Moses communicated itself to the people and drove them on when they might well have turned back. Here we have the faith of a leader and of a people who were prepared to attempt the impossible at the command of God, realizing that the greatest barrier in the world is no barrier if God be there to help us overpass it. The book As in Adam has this sentence: "The business of life, the way to life, consists in getting over fences, not in lying down and moaning on the hither side." To Moses belonged the faith to attempt what appeared to be the most insurmountable fences in the certainty that God would help the man who refused to turn back and insisted on going on.

Finally, this passage not only tells us of the faith of Moses; it also tells us of the source of that faith. Hebrews 11:27 tells us that he was able to face all things as one who sees him who is invisible. The outstanding characteristic of Moses was the close intimacy of his relationship with God. In Exodus 33:9-11 we read of how he went into the Tabernacle; "and the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." In Numbers 12:7-8 we read of God's verdict on him when there were those who were ready to rebel against him: "with him I speak mouth to mouth." To put it simply--the secret of his faith was that Moses knew God personally. To every task he came out from God's presence.

It is told that before a great battle Napoleon would stand in his tent alone; he would send for his commanders to come to him, one by one; when they came in, he would say no word but would look them in the eye and shake them by the hand; and they would go out prepared to die for the general whom they loved. That is like Moses and God. Moses had the faith he had because he knew God in the way he did. When we come to it straight from God's presence, no task can ever defeat us. Our failure and our fear are so often due to the fact that we try to do things alone. The secret of victorious living is to face God before we face men.

THE FAITH WHICH DEFIED THE FACTS ( Hebrews 11:30-31 )

11:30-31 It was by faith that the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. It was by faith that Rahab, the harlot, did not perish with the disobedient because she had welcomed the scouts in peace.

The writer to the Hebrews has been citing as examples of faith the great figures of the time before Israel entered into the Promised Land. Now he takes two figures from the period of struggle when the children of Israel were winning a place for themselves within Palestine.

(i) The first is the story of the fall of Jericho. That strange old story is told in Joshua 6:1-20. Jericho was a strong city, barred and fortified. To take it seemed impossible. It was God's commandment that once a day for six days and in silence the people should march round it, led by seven priests marching in front of the ark and bearing trumpets of rams' horn. On the seventh day the priests were to blow upon the trumpets, after the city had been encircled seven times, and the people were to shout with all their might, "and the wall of the city will fall down flat." As the old story tells it, so it happened.

That story left an indelible mark upon the memory of Israel. Centuries after this Judas Maccabaeus and his men were facing the city of Caspis, so secure in its strength that its defenders laughed in their safety. "Wherefore Judas with his company, calling upon the great Lord of the world, who without any rams or engines of war did cast down Jericho in the time of Joshua, gave it fierce assault against the walls and took the city by the will of God" ( 2Ma_12:13-16 ). The people never forgot what great things God had done for them and, when some great effort was called for, they nerved themselves for it by remembering them.

Here is the very point the writer to the Hebrews wishes to make. The taking of Jericho was the result of an act of faith. It was taken by men who thought not of what they could do but of what God could do for them. They were prepared to believe that God could make their obvious weakness able for an incredible task. After the smashing of the Spanish Armada, there was erected on Plymouth Hoe a monument with the inscription: "God sent his wind and they were scattered." When the people of England saw how the storm and the gale had shattered the Spanish Armada, they said: "God did it." When we are faced with any great and demanding task, God is the ally we must never leave out of the reckoning. That which to us alone is impossible is always possible with him.

(ii) The second story the writer to the Hebrews takes is that of Rahab. It is told in Joshua 2:1-21 and finds its sequel in Joshua 6:25. When Joshua sent out spies to spy out the situation in Jericho, they found a lodging in the house of Rahab, a harlot. She protected them and enabled them to make their escape; and in return, when Jericho was taken she and her family were saved from the general slaughter. It is extraordinary how Rahab became imprinted on the memory of Israel. James ( James 2:25) quotes her as a great example of the good works which demonstrate faith. The Rabbis were proud to trace their descent to her. And, amazingly, she is one of the names which appear in the genealogy of Jesus ( Matthew 1:5). Clement of Rome quotes her as an outstanding example of one who was saved "by faith and hospitality."

When the writer to the Hebrews cites her, the point he desires to make is this--Rahab in face of all the facts believed in the God of Israel. She said to the spies whom she welcomed and hid: "I know that the Lord has given you the land.... For the Lord your God, is he who is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath" ( Joshua 2:9-11). At the moment when she was speaking, there seemed not one chance in a million that the children of Israel could capture Jericho. These nomads from the desert had no artillery and no siege-engines. Yet Rahab believed and staked her whole future on the belief--that God would make the impossible possible. When common sense pronounced the situation hopeless, she had the uncommon sense to see beyond the situation. The real faith and the real courage are those which can take God's side when it seems doomed to defeat. As Faber had it:

"Thrice blest is he to whom is given

The instinct that can tell

That God is on the field when he

Is most invisible.

For right is right, since God is God;

And right the day must win;

To doubt would be disloyalty,

To falter would be sin."

The Christian believes that no man who takes the side of God can ever ultimately be on the losing side for, even if he knows earth's defeats, there is a victory whose trophies are in heaven.

THE HEROES OF THE FAITH ( Hebrews 11:32-34 )

11:32-34 And what more shall I say? Time will fail me if I try to recount the story of Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, or Jephthah, of David. of Samuel and of the prophets, men who, through faith, mastered kingdoms, did righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword. from weakness were made strong, showed themselves strong in warfare, routed the ranks of aliens.

In this passage the writer lets his mind's eye roam back over the history of his people; and out of it there springs to memory name after name of those who were heroic souls. He does not take them in any particular order but, as we shall see when we look at the outstanding characteristics of each, there is a line of thought which binds them all together.

The story of Gideon is told in Judges 6:1-40; Judges 7:1-25. With only three hundred men Gideon won a victory over the Ammonites in days when they had terrorized Israel, a victory which went ringing down the centuries. The story of Barak is in Judges 4:1-24; Judges 5:1-31. Under the inspiration of the prophetess Deborah, Barak assembled ten thousand young men and faced the fearful odds of the Canaanites with their nine hundred chariots of iron to win an almost incredible victory. It was as if a band of almost unarmed infantry had routed a division of tanks. The story of Samson is in Judges 13:1-25; Judges 14:1-20; Judges 15:1-20; Judges 16:1-31. Always Samson was fighting alone. In the isolation of his splendid strength again and again he faced the most amazing odds and emerged triumphant. He was the scourge of the Philistines. The story of Jephthah is in Judges 11:1-40; Judges 12:1-15. Jephthah was an illegitimate son; he was driven into a kind of exile and into the life of an outlaw; but when the Ammonites were putting Israel into fear, the forgotten outlaw was called back and won a tremendous victory, although his vow to God cost him the life of his daughter. There was David, who had once been a shepherd lad and who, to his own and everyone else's astonishment, was anointed king in preference to all his brothers ( 1 Samuel 16:1-13). There was Samuel, born to his mother so late in life ( 1 Samuel 1:1-28), again and again moving alone as the only strong and faithful man of God amongst an easily frightened, discontented and rebellious people. There were the prophets, man after man of them bearing a faithful and isolated witness to God.

The whole list is of men who faced incredible odds for God. It is of men who never believed that God was on the side of the big battalions and were willing to take tremendous and even terrifying risks for him. It is of men who cheerfully and courageously and confidently accepted God-given tasks which, on human terms, were impossible. They were all men who were never afraid to stand alone and to face immense odds for the sake of their loyalty to God. The honour roll of history is of men who chose to be in God's minority rather than with earth's majority.

In the second part of the passage the writer to the Hebrews tells what these men did and others like them in a series of machine-gun-like phrases. For most of us much of their impact may be lost, for this reason--phrase after phrase is a reminiscence. For those who knew the scriptures well in their Greek version, phrase after phrase would ring a bell in the mind. The word used for mastering kingdoms is what Josephus, the Jewish historian, used of David. The phrase used for wrought righteousness is the description of David in 2 Samuel 8:15. The expression used for stopping the mouths of lions is that used of Daniel in Daniel 6:18; Daniel 6:23. The phrase about quenching the violence of fire goes straight back to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in Daniel 3:19-28. To speak about escaping the edge, of the sword was to direct men's thoughts to the way in which Elijah escaped threatened assassination in 1 Kings 19:1 ff and Elisha in 2 Kings 6:31 ff. The trumpet call about being strong in warfare and routing the ranks o the aliens would immediately make men think of the unforgettable glories of the Maccabaean days.

The phrase about being made strong out of weakness might conjure up many a picture. It might paint the mental picture of the extraordinary healing of Hezekiah after he had turned his face to the wall to die ( 2 Kings 20:1-7). Perhaps more likely in the time in which the writer to the Hebrews wrote, it would remind his hearers of that epic but bloodthirsty incident told in the Book o Judith, one of the apocryphal books. There was a time when Israel was threatened by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar led by his general Holofernes. The Jewish town of Bethulia had determined to surrender in five days' time for its supplies of food and water were at an end. In the town there was a widow called Judith. She was wealthy and beautiful but she had lived in lonely mourning since her husband Manasses had died. She dressed in all her finery, persuaded her people to let her out of the town and went straight to the camp of the Assyrians. She gained entry into the presence of Holofernes and persuaded him that she was convinced of the defeat of her people as a punishment for their sins. She offered him a way into Jerusalem by stealth; and then, having gained his confidence, she slew him in his drunken sleep with his own dagger, cut off his head and carried it back to her people. The traitors within the camp were silenced and looming defeat was turned into tumultuous victory. A woman's weakness had become strength to save her country.

The writer to the Hebrews is here seeking to inspire new courage and a new sense of responsibility by making his hearers remember their past. He does not do it blatantly but with infinite artistry. He does not so much tell them what to remember as by delicate hints compel them to remember for themselves. When Oliver Cromwell was arranging for the education of his son Richard, he said: "I would have him learn a little history." When we are discouraged, let us remember and take heart again. God's arm is not shortened; his power is not grown less. What he did once he can do again, for the God of history is the same one as we worship today.

THE DEFIANCE OF SUFFERING ( Hebrews 11:35-40 )

11:35-40 Women received back their own folk as if they had been raised from the dead. Others were crucified because they refused to accept release, for they were eager to obtain a better resurrection. Others went through scoffing and scourging, yes, and chains and imprisonment. They were stoned; they were sawn asunder; they underwent every kind of trial; they died by the murder of the sword. They went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, they were in want, they were oppressed, they were maltreated--the world was not worthy of them--they wandered in desert places and on the mountains, they lived in caves and in holes of the earth. All these, though they were attested through their faith, did not receive the promise. because God had some better plan for us, that they, without us, should not find all his purposes fulfilled.

In this passage the writer to the Hebrews is intermingling different periods of history. Sometimes he takes his illustrations from the Old Testament period; but still more he takes them from the Maccabaean period which falls between the Old and the New Testaments.

First let us take the things that can be explained against the Old Testament background. In the lives of Elijah ( 1 Kings 17:17 ff.) and of Elisha ( 2 Kings 4:8 ff.) we read how. by the power and the faith of the prophets, women did receive back again their children who had died. 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 tells how the prophet Zechariah was stoned by his own people because he told them the truth. Legend had it that down in Egypt Jeremiah was stoned to death by his fellow-countrymen. Jewish legend tells that Isaiah was sawn asunder. Hezekiah, the good king, died, and Manasseh came to the throne. He worshipped idols and tried to compel Isaiah to take part in his idolatry and to approve of it. Isaiah refused and was condemned to be sawn asunder with a wooden saw. While his enemies tried to make him recant his faith he steadfastly defied them and prophesied their doom. "And whilst the saw cut into his flesh, Isaiah uttered no complaint and shed no tears; but he ceased not to commune with the Holy Spirit till the saw had cloven him to the middle of his body."

Even more the mind of the writer to the Hebrews goes back over the terrible days of the Maccabaean struggle. That is a struggle of which every Christian should know something, for if in these killing times, the Jews had surrendered their faith, Jesus could not have come. The story is like this.

About the year 170 B.C. there was on the throne of Syria a king called Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a good governor but he had an almost abnormal love for all things Greek and saw himself as a missionary for the Greek way of life. He tried to introduce this into Palestine. He had some success; there were those who were willing to accept Greek culture, Greek drama, Greek athletics. Greek athletes trained naked and some of the Jewish priests even went so far as to seek to obliterate the mark of circumcision from their bodies so that they might become completely hellenized. So far, Antiochus had succeeded only in causing a division in the nation; the greater part of the Jews were unshakeably true to their faith and could not be moved. Force and violence had not yet been used.

Then about 168 B.C. the matter came to boiling-point. Antiochus had an interest in Egypt. He amassed an army and invaded that country. To his deep humiliation the Romans ordered him home. They did not send an army to oppose him; such was the might of Rome that they did not need to. They sent a senator called Popilius Laena with a small and quite unarmed suite. Popilius and Antiochus met on the boundaries of Egypt. They talked; they both knew Rome and they had been friendly. Then, very gently, Popilius told Antiochus that Rome did not wish him to proceed with the campaign but wished him to go home. Antiochus said that he would consider it. Popilius took the stall which he was carrying and drew a circle in the sand round about Antiochus. Quietly he said: "Consider it now; you will give me your decision before you leave that circle." Antiochus thought for a moment and realized that to defy Rome was impossible. "I will go home," he said. It was a shattering humiliation for a king.

So Antiochus turned for home, almost mad with rage; and on the way he turned aside and attacked Jerusalem, capturing it almost without an effort. It was said that 80,000 Jews were killed and 10,000 sold into captivity. But there was worse to come. He sacked the Temple. The golden altars of the shewbread and of the incense, the golden candlestick, the golden vessels, even the curtains and the veils were taken. The treasury was sacked. Worse was to come. On the altar of the burnt offering he offered sacrifices of swine flesh to Zeus; and he turned the Temple chambers into brothels. No act of sacrilege was omitted. Still worse was to come. He completely forbade circumcision and the possession of the scriptures and of the law. He ordered the Jews to eat meats which were unclean and to sacrifice to the Greek gods. Inspectors went throughout the land to see that these commands were carried out. And if any were found to defy them, they "underwent great miseries and bitter torments.; for they were whipped with rods and their bodies were torn to pieces; they were crucified while they were still alive and breathed; they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as if they were upon their crosses. And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed; and those with whom they were found miserably perished also" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 12: 5, 4). Never in all history has there been such a sadistic and deliberate attempt to wipe out a people's religion.

It is easy to see how this passage can be read against the terrible happenings of these days. The Book of Fourth Maccabees has two famous stories which were undoubtedly in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he made his list of the things that the man of faith has had to suffer.

The first is the story of Eleazar, the aged priest ( 4Ma_5:1-38 ; 4Ma_6:1-35 ; 4Ma_7:1-23 ). He was brought before Antiochus and ordered to eat swine's flesh, being threatened with the direst penalties if he refused. He did refuse. "We, Antiochus," he said, "who are convinced that we live under a divine law, consider no compulsion to be so forcible as obedience to our law." He would not comply with the king's order, "no, not if you pluck out my eyes and consume my bowels in the fire." They stripped him naked and scourged him with whips, while a herald stood by him, saying: "Obey the king's commands," His flesh was torn off by the whips and he streamed down with blood and his flanks were laid open by wounds. He collapsed and one of the soldiers kicked him violently in the stomach to make him rise. In the end even the guards were moved to wondering compassion. They suggested to him that they would bring him dressed meat which was not pork, and that he should eat it pretending that it was pork. He refused. "We should thus ourselves become an example of impiety to the young, if we became to them an excuse for eating the unclean." In the end they carried him to the fire and threw him on it, "burning him with cruelly contrived instruments and pouring stinking liquids into his nostrils." So he died, declaring: "I am dying by fiery torments for the law's sake."

The second is the story of the seven brothers ( 4Ma_8:1-29 ; 4Ma_9:1-32 ; 4Ma_10:1-21 ; 4Ma_11:1-27 ; 4Ma_12:1-19 ; 4Ma_13:1-27 ; 4Ma_14:1-20 ). They, too, were given the same choice and confronted with the same threats. They were confronted with "the wheels and racks and hooks and catapults and caldrons and frying pans and finger racks and iron hands and wedges and hot cinders." The first brother refused to eat the unclean things. They lashed him with whips and tied him to the wheel until he was dislocated and fractured in every limb. "They heaped up fuel and, setting fire to it, strained him upon the wheel still more. And the wheel was besmeared all over with blood, and the heap of coals was extinguished with the droppings of gore, and pieces of flesh flew about the axles of the machine." But he withstood their tortures and died faithful. The second brother they bound to the catapults. They donned spiked iron gloves. "These wild beasts, fierce as panthers, first dragged all the flesh off his sinews with their iron gauntlets to his chin and tore off the skin of his head." He, too, died faithful. The third brother was brought forward. "The officers, impatient at the man's boldness, dislocated his hands and feet with racking engines and wrenching them from their sockets, pulled his limbs asunder. And they fractured his fingers and his arms and his legs and his elbows." In the end they tore him apart on the catapult and flayed him alive. He, too, died faithful. They cut out the tongue of the fourth brother before they submitted him to like tortures. The fifth brother they bound to the wheel, bending his body round the edge of it, and then fastened him with iron fetters to the catapult and tore him in pieces. The sixth they broke upon the wheel "while a fire roasted him from beneath. Then they heated sharp spits and applied them to his back; and piercing through his sides they burned away his bowels." The seventh brother they roasted alive in a gigantic frying pan. These, too, died faithful.

These are the things of which the writer to the Hebrews is thinking; and these are things which we do well to remember. It was due to the faith of these men that the Jewish religion was not completely destroyed. If that religion had been destroyed, what would have happened to the purposes of God? How could Jesus have been born into the world if the Jewish religion had ceased to exist? In a very real way we owe our Christianity to these martyrs of the times when Antiochus made his deliberate attempt to wipe out the Jewish religion.

There came a day when the situation ignited. The agents of Antiochus had gone to a town called Modin and had erected an altar there to make the inhabitants do sacrifice to the Greek gods. The emissaries of Antiochus tried to persuade a certain Mattathias to set an example by offering sacrifice, for he was a distinguished and influential man. He refused in anger. But another Jew, seeking to curry favour and to save his own life, came forward and was about to sacrifice. Mattathias, moved to uncontrollable wrath, seized a sword and slew his apostate countryman and the king's commissioner with him.

The standard of rebellion was raised. Mattathias and his sons and those like-minded took to the hills; and once again the phrases used to describe their life there were in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews and he has echoes of them over and over again. "So Mattathias and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that they ever had in the city" ( 1Ma_2:28 ). "Judas Maccabaeus (and his friends) withdrew himself into the wilderness and lived in the mountains, after the manner of beasts" ( 2Ma_5:27 ). "Others, who had run together into caves near by, to keep the Sabbath day secretly, being discovered...were all burnt together" ( 2Ma_6:11 ). "They wandered in the mountains and in the dens like beasts" ( 2Ma_10:6 ). In the end under Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers the Jews regained their freedom and the Temple was cleansed and the faith flourished again.

In this passage the writer to the Hebrews has done as before. He does not actually mention these things. Far better than his hearers should be moved by this and that phrase to remember them for themselves.

In the end he says a great thing. All these died before the final unfolding of God's promise and the coming of his Messiah into the world. It was as if God had so arranged things that the full blaze of his glory should not be revealed until we and they can enjoy it together. The writer to the Hebrews is saving: "See! the glory of God has come. But see what it cost to enable it to come! That is the faith which gave you your religion. What can you do but be true to a heritage like that?"

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/hebrews-11.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 11:1 See Topic Notes on "Sermons_Gann" for a Sermon on

WHAT KIND OF FAITH DO YOU HAVE? Heb. 11:1-10

III. ch. 11-13 Living By Faith

ch. 11 Examples of Faith

ch. 12 Endurance of Faith

ch. 13 Evidence of Faith (what ought to show salt in our life)

(For sermon on Heb. 11:1-10 see "A God-Pleasing Faith" see "Sermons_Gann" Topic Notes.

Definition of Faith:

Faith is being certain of the things we hope for, a conviction of things we do not see.

Faith is absolutely certain that what it believes is true and will come to pass.

Faith is the eye of the soul, and obedience is the hand.

- - - - - - -

THE FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD    

    Hebrews 11:1-10

Introduction: Hebrews 11:1-3

1.    Faith is confident assurance for that which we hope.

    a.    A conviction of the things (reality) we do not see.

        (Our title deed to heaven.)

    b.    Faith is the eye of the soul

        (A conviction of things not seen)

    c.    Obedience is the hand of the soul.

2.    Hebrews 11:2 B Examples from the ancient fathers.

    a.    For their faith - men of old gained approval from God.

    b.    [For introduction also see Focus on Faith, Hebrews, by Tom Holland, p. 69. ]

3.    Two relationships of faith - Hebrews 11:1

    a.    The future - a hopeful outlook - forward look

    b.    The unseen - the evidence of their reality - backward look

1.    A WORSHIPING FAITH - v. 4

    Hebrews 11:4 - Abel -     (Genesis 4:4)

1.    Offers sacrifice. (Genesis 1:1)

    a.    Faith prompted him to worship in accordance to God’s Word C Romans 10:17

        1)    Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

        2)    We concluded therefore that God had directed him how to worship.

    b.    See Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 11:4, for the importance of being faithful in truth.

2.    His faithful worship (sacrifice) showed his righteousness (being right with God.)

    a.    Genesis 4:4 "also" He did what Cain did, and more!

    b.    Three kinds of sacrifice is expected from the Christian.

        1)    Hebrews 13:15 - sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips. (praying and singing)

        2)    Romans 12:1-2 - a living sacrifice, our bodies.

        3)    Philippians 4:18 - our gifts or offerings to God are termed as sacrifice

3.    Influence continues - Still speaking to us. Genesis 4:10 Able’s blood cries from the ground@

    a.    What does his blood cry out? Justice! Vengeance! - (Romans 12:19)

    b.    The blood of Christ also speaks out - Hebrews 12:24

        What does the Lord’s blood cry?

        Ephesians 1:7 Redemption!

        Hebrews 9:14 1 John 1:7 Cleansing

        Revelation 1:5 Washing away sins

        Romans 5:11 Atonement

He made the right sacrifice - man needs to sacrifice self today - Romans 12:1

4.    Abel’s faith was a faith that prompted worship according to God’s word.

II.    A WALKING FAITH - v. 5

Hebrews 11:5 B Enoch - Genesis 5:22, Genesis 5:24

1.    Enoch walked with God in a day when others were walking away from God. Genesis 5:22-24; Genesis 6:5

    a.    A Walking Faith has to do with the way one lives. Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:17 Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:8;

    b.    This kind of faith lives the way God wants you to live.

2.    This kind of faith has the power to form character, and does not fear death.

Revelation 1:18 - Because today Jesus has the keys of death and hades.

    a.    Was not found. Illustration: I like the way a girl retold this Bible story.             Enoch went walking with God one day and they walked so far God said,             Enoch, you just come on home with me.

    b.    God made him His man.

    c.    "Translated" - Colossians 1:13 into kingdom.

        STAR TREK ’ transporter

3.    A play on words "Was not found" - Many places a Christian today should not be found

4.    He pleased God - His life was pleasing to God (in a very wicked world). Without this kind of faith we can’t be pleasing.

    a.    What about your life? How are you living? walking? Doing? Saying? Church? Family?

5.    Enoch’s was a faith that lived the way God wanted him to live.

III.    A WORKING FAITH - v. 7

    Hebrews 11:7 - Noah - Genesis 6:13 -22

1.    What did Noah Do? He heeded the warning from God.

    a.    Noah took God at His word. The only assurance Noah had of an impending flood was what God told Noah. (Genesis 6:17).

    b.    Again we see that his faith was founded on God’s word.

2.    Noah "Prepared" an ark for the saving of his family from the flood.

    a.    This kind of faith ’prepares" for a great day of God’s judgment.

        2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:31 2 Peter 3:9-10

    b.    Noah’s preparation involved:

        1)    A work of a great magnitude - it was a great ark!

        2)    A work of a great duration - worked apparently 120 yrs building the ark. (Genesis 6:3) Faithful in persevering.

        c)    Are you working? What are you doing? Are you continuing, enduring faithfully?

2.    The faith that pleases God is a faith that prepares for the great day of judgment.!

    a.    Christians heeded Christ’s warning regarding the fall of Jerusalem, .AD 67. Matthew 24:16 - let those in Judea flee to the mts. Luke 21:20, Mark 13

    b.    Do we heed the warning not to get entangled with the world today? 2 Timothy 2:4.

    c.    Noah "prepared" for the great Day of God? Men need to prepare now! [Amos’ message to his generation, Amos 4:12]

4.    Noah worked as God directed - Genesis 6:22

    a.    Did what God said, the way God said. God made the revelation, Noah followed.

    b.    Started with His own house. Salvation of own house is of first importance.

    c.    Noah’s faith was an example to that world. His obedience stood as condemnation to those who would not obey God.

5.    His obedience to faith shows his righteousness. Hebrews 11:7

    a.    Make righteous by his obedience to faith.

    b.    Noah was the first man in the Bible to be called "righteous" or "just".

6.    The faith that pleases God is a faith that prepares for the great day of judgment.!

IV.    A WILLING FAITH - vs. 8 - 10

    Hebrews 11:8-10 - Abraham - (Genesis 12:1-3)

1.    Left his home country. By faith Abraham obeyed. Called

"Friend of God" (James 2:23, Isaiah 41:8)

    a)    God called him and he responded. Abraham had faith in God’s word - Genesis 12:1-3.

    b)    He made the right choice. Accepted God’s invitation.

    c)    Genesis 22:1-2 ff - he was willing to offer his son. Abraham obeyed when a considerable sacrifice was involved. Hebrews 11:17 -f

        Obedience is the acid test of Faith!

2.    Abraham made his dwellings temporary (lived in tents, not "houses" - he lived in a strange country (foreign) - v. 9 .

    a)    Let us realize this earth is NOT our home.

         We are THE aliens here - Philippians 3:20

3.    He looked for a heavenly city. v. 10.

    a)    Abraham’s faith looked beyond this world. He was willing to make life an adventure. And willing to have patience.

    b)    This kinds of faith believes the future is directed by our relationship with God in the present.

4.    The faith that pleases God is the faith that obeys - J 14:15; Hebrews 5:8-9

    a.    We say, "I want to wait until I know just where I’m going"

    b.    Don’t say, "I want to wait until I am sure I can live as a Christian?"

    c.    WHAT KIND OF A FAITH DO YOU HAVE?

Conclusion: - Hebrews 11:6

1.    The writer had defined faith, vs. 1-3, and then gives examples of men of great faith, and what their faith did to please God.

    a.    Without this kind of faith cannot be pleasing to God.

    b.    This is the kind of faith the writer is talking about in verse 6, which stands as our conclusion.

2.    Just assenting to the intellectual truths of the Bible is not enough B

    a.    The kind of faith that is pleasing to God - is the kind illustrated here in Hebrews 11:6.

    b.    A "nodding" ("yes, yes, I believe that!") faith will not do!                     Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9.

3.    Our faith to please God must be:

    1)    a WORSHIPING faith - that worships according to God’s directions

    2)    a WALKING faith - that transforms character and lives the way God wants us to.

    3)    a WORKING faith - that will prepare oneself for God’s great day of judgment.

    4)    a WILLING faith - that will obey God’s every command - and look beyond this world.

    

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Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/hebrews-11.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,.... The "faith" here spoken of is not a mere moral virtue, which is a branch of the law; nor a bare assent to anything revealed, declared, and affirmed in the Gospel; nor a faith of doing miracles; nor an implicit one; nor a mere profession of faith, which sometimes is but temporary; nor the word or doctrine of faith; but that which is made mention of in the preceding chapter, by which the just man lives, and which has the salvation of the soul annexed to it: and it does not so much design any particular branch, or act of faith, but as that in general respects the various promises, and blessings of grace; and it chiefly regards the faith of Old Testament saints, though that, as to its nature, object, and acts, is the same with the faith of New Testament ones; and is a firm persuasion of the power, faithfulness, and love of God in Christ, and of interest therein, and in all special blessings: it is described as "the substance of things hoped for"; and which, in general, are things unseen, and as yet not enjoyed; future, and yet to come; difficult to be obtained, though possible, otherwise there would be no hope of them; and which are promised and laid up; and in particular, the things hoped for by Old Testament saints were Christ, and eternal glory and happiness; and by New Testament ones, more grace, perseverance in it, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life. Now faith is the "substance" of these things; it is the ground and foundation of them, in which there is some standing hope; in which sense the word

υποστασις is used by Septuagint in Psalms 69:2. The word of promise is principal ground and foundation of hope; and faith, as leaning on the word, is a less principal ground; it is a confident persuasion, expectation, and assurance of them. The Syriac version renders it, the "certainty" of them; it is the subsistence of them, and what gives them an existence, at least a mental one; so with respect to the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints, the incarnation, sufferings, and death of Christ, his resurrection, ascension, and session at God's right hand, are spoken of, as if they then were; and so are heaven, and glory, and everlasting salvation, with regard to the faith and hope of New Testament saints: yea, faith gives a kind of possession of those things before hand, John 6:47. Philo the Jew e says much the same thing of faith;

"the only infallible and certain good thing (says he) is, that faith which is faith towards God; it is the solace of life, πληρωμα χρηστων ελπιδων, "the fulness of good hopes", c.''

It follows here,

the evidence of things not seen of things past, of what was done in eternity, in the council and covenant of grace and peace; of what has been in time, in creation, and providence; of the birth, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; of things present, the being, perfections, love, c. of God of the session of Christ at God's right hand, and his continual intercession; and of the various blessings of grace revealed in the Gospel; and of future ones, as the invisible realities of another world: faith has both certainty and evidence in it.

e De Abrahamo, p. 387.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/hebrews-11.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Nature of Faith. A. D. 62.

      1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.   3 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.

      Here we have, I. A definition or description of the grace of faith in two parts. 1. It is the substance of things hoped for. Faith and hope go together; and the same things that are the object of our hope are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all that he has promised to us in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong that it gives the soul a kind of possession and present fruition of those things, gives them a subsistence in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them: so that believers in the exercise of faith are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Christ dwells in the soul by faith, and the soul is filled with the fullness of God, as far as his present measure will admit; he experiences a substantial reality in the objects of faith. 2. It is the evidence of things not seen. Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things that cannot be discerned by the eye of the body. Faith is the firm assent of the soul to the divine revelation and every part of it, and sets to its seal that God is true. It is a full approbation of all that God has revealed as holy, just, and good; it helps the soul to make application of all to itself with suitable affections and endeavours; and so it is designed to serve the believer instead of sight, and to be to the soul all that the senses are to the body. That faith is but opinion or fancy which does not realize invisible things to the soul, and excite the soul to act agreeably to the nature and importance of them.

      II. An account of the honour it reflects upon all those who have lived in the exercise of it (Hebrews 11:2; Hebrews 11:2): By it the elders obtained a good report--the ancient believers, who lived in the first ages of the world. Observe, 1. True faith is an old grace, and has the best plea to antiquity: it is not a new invention, a modern fancy; it is a grace that has been planted in the soul of man ever since the covenant of grace was published in the world; and it has been practiced from the beginning of the revelation; the eldest and best men that ever were in the world were believers. 2. Their faith was their honour; it reflected honour upon them. They were an honour to their faith, and their faith was an honour to them. It put them upon doing the things that were of good report, and God has taken care that a record shall be kept and report made of the excellent things they did in the strength of this grace. The genuine actings of faith will bear to be reported, deserve to be reported, and will, when reported, redound to the honour of true believers.

      III. We have here one of the first acts and articles of faith, which has a great influence on all the rest, and which is common to all believers in every age and part of the world, namely, the creation of the worlds by the word of God, not out of pre-existent matter, but out of nothing, Hebrews 11:3; Hebrews 11:3. The grace of faith has a retrospect as well as prospect; it looks not only forward to the end of the world, but back to the beginning of the world. By faith we understand much more of the formation of the world than ever could be understood by the naked eye of natural reason. Faith is not a force upon the understanding, but a friend and a help to it. Now what does faith give us to understand concerning the worlds, that is, the upper, middle, and lower regions of the universe? 1. That these worlds were not eternal, nor did they produce themselves, but they were made by another. 2. That the maker of the worlds is god; he is the maker of all things; and whoever is so must be God. 3. That he made the world with great exactness; it was a framed work, in every thing duly adapted and disposed to answer its end, and to express the perfections of the Creator. 4. That God made the world by his word, that is, by his essential wisdom and eternal Son, and by his active will, saying, Let it be done, and it was done,Psalms 33:9. 5. That the world was thus framed out of nothing, out of no pre-existent matter, contrary to the received maxim, that "out of nothing nothing can be made," which, though true of created power, can have no place with God, who can call things that are not as if they were, and command them into being. These things we understand by faith. The Bible gives us the truest and most exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest or run down the scripture-account of the creation, because it does not suit with some fantastic hypotheses of our own, which has been in some learned but conceited men the first remarkable step towards infidelity, and has led them into many more.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/hebrews-11.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The apostle now resumes his great theme, Christ called a Priest of God for ever after the order of Melchisedec. He alludes, in the beginning of our chapter, to the historical facts of Genesis. We must bear in mind that Melchisedec was a man like any other. There, is no ground, in my judgment, for the thought of anything mysterious in the facts as to his person. The manner in which scripture introduces him is such as to furnish a very striking type of Christ. There is no necessity for considering anything else, but that the Spirit of God, forecasting the future, was pleased to conceal the line of Melchisedec's parentage, or descendants if any, of their birth or death. He is suddenly ushered upon the scene. He has not been of by the reader before; he is never heard of again in history. Thus the only time when he comes into notice he is acting in the double capacity here spoken of: King of righteousness as to his name, King of Salem as to his place, blessing Abraham on his return from the victory over the kings of the Gentiles in the name of the Most High God, and blessing the Most High God the possessor of heaven earth in the name of Abraham.

The apostle does not dwell on the detailed application of His Melchisedec priesthood, as to the object and character of its exercise. He does not draw attention here to the account, that there was only blessing from man to God, and from God to man. He does not reason from the singular circumstance that there was no incense, any more than sacrifice. He alludes to several facts, but leaves them. The point to which he directs the reader is the evident and surpassing dignity of the case the unity too of the Priest and the priesthood; and this for an obvious reason.

The time for the proper exercise of the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ is not yet arrived. The millennial day will see this. The battle which Abraham fought, the first recorded one in scripture, is the type of the last battle of this age. It is the conflict which introduces the reign of peace founded on righteousness, when God will manifest Himself as the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. This is, as is well known, the special characteristic of the millennium. Heaven and earth have not been united, nor have they been in fact possessed for the blessing of man by the power of God, since sin severed between the earth and that which is above it, and the prince of the power of the air perverted all, so that what should have been, according to God's nature and counsels, the source of every blessing, became rather the point from which the guilty conscience of man cannot but look for judgment. Heaven, therefore, by man's own conviction, must be arrayed in justice against earth because of sin, But the day is coming when Israel shall be no more rebellious, and the nations shall be no longer deceived, and Satan shall be dethroned from his bad eminence, and all idols shall flee apace, and God shall be left the undisputed and evidently Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth. In that day it will be the joy of Him who is the true Melchisedec, to bring out not the mere signs, but the reality of all that can be the stay and comfort of man, and all that sustains and cheers, the patent proof of the beneficent might of God, when "no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."

But meanwhile, confessedly, the Spirit of God directs attention, not to the exercise, but to the order of the Melchisedec Priest. If we have to wait for the exercise at a future day, the order is as true and plain now as it ever can be. Indeed, at no time will its order be more apparent than at present; for I think there can be little doubt to any unbiassed Christian who enters with intelligence into the Old Testament prophecies, that there is yet to be an earthly sanctuary, and, consequently, earthly priests and sacrifices for Israel in their own land; that the sons of Zadok, as Ezekiel lets us know, will perpetuate the line at the time when the Lord shall be owned to be there, in the person of the true David their King, blessing His people long distressed but now joyful on earth. But this time is not yet come. There is nothing to divert the heart from Christ, the great High Priest in the heavens. No doubt all will be good and right in its due season then. Meanwhile Christianity gives the utmost force to every type and truth of God. The undivided place of Christ is more fully witnessed now, when there are no others to occupy the thought or to distract the heart from Him as seen by faith in glory on high.

Hence the apostle applies the type distinctly now, as far as the "order" of the priesthood goes. We hear first of Melchisedec (King of righteousness), next of Salem or peace; without father, without mother, without genealogy. Unlike others in Genesis, neither parents are recorded, nor is there any hint of descent from him. In short, there is. no mention of family or ancestors, "having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" neither is recorded in scripture; "but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually."

The next point proved is the indisputable superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood to that of Aaron, of which the Jews naturally boasted. After all, the telling fact was before them that, whoever wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, it was not a Christian who wrote the book of Genesis, but Moses; and Moses bears witness to the homage which Abram rendered to Melchisedec by the payment of tithes. On the other hand, the priests, Aaron's family, among the sons of Levi, "have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham." Thus Melchisedec, "whose descent is not of Aaron nor of Levi," like Jesus, "received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises!" "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better." No argument could be more distinct or conclusive. The other descendants of Abraham honoured the house of Aaron as Levitical priests; but Abraham himself, and so Levi himself, and of course Aaron, in his loins honoured Melchisedec. Thus another and a higher priesthood was incontestably acknowledged by the father of the faithful. "And, as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him."

This leads to another point; for the change of the priesthood imports a change of the law. "If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" This change was clearly taught in the book of Psalms. It was not only that there had been at the beginning such a priest, but that fact became the form of a glorious anticipation which the Holy Ghost holds out for the latter day. Psalms 110:1-7, which, as all the Jews owned, spoke., throughout its greater part at least, of the Messiah and His times, shows us Jehovah Himself by an oath, which is afterwards reasoned on signifying that another priest should arise after a different order from that of Aaron. "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest." Thus the Pentateuch and the Psalms bore their double testimony to a Priest superior to the Aaronic.

Further, that this Priest was to be a living one, in some most singular manner to be an undying Priest, was made evident beyond question, because in that Psalm it is said, "He testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." This was also a grand point of distinction. Where could they find such a Priest? where one competent to take up that word "for ever"? Such was the Priest of whom God spoke. "For," says he, "there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (for the law made nothing perfect)." He uses in the most skilful manner the change of the priest, in order to bring along with it a change of the law, the whole Levitical system passing away "but [there is] the bringing in of a better hope." Such is the true sense of the passage. "For the law made nothing perfect" is a parenthesis. By that hope, then, "we draw nigh unto God."

But again the solemn notice of Jehovah's oath is enlarged on. "Inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (for those priests were made without an oath" no oath ushers in the sons of Aaron "but he with an oath by him that said as to him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant."

And, finally, he sums up the superiority of Christ in this, that "they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but he, because of his continuing for ever, hath the priesthood intransmissible." There was but one such Priest.

In every point of view, therefore, the superiority of the Melchisedec priest was demonstrated over the line of Aaron. The fulfilment of the Melchisedec Order is found in Christ, and in Him alone. The Jews themselves acknowledge that Psalms 110:1-7 must be fulfilled in Christ, in His quality of Messiah. Nothing but stupid, obstinate, unbelieving prejudice, after the appearance of the Lord Jesus, could have suggested any other application of the Psalm. Before Jesus came, there was no question of it among the Jews. So little was it a question, that our Lord could appeal to its acknowledged meaning, and press the difficulty His person created for unbelief. By their own confession the application of that Psalm was to the Messiah, and the very point that Jesus urged upon the Jews of His day was this how, if He were David's Son, as they agreed, could He be his Lord, as the Psalmist David confesses? This shows that, beyond question, among the Jews of that day, Psalms 110:1-7 was understood to refer to the Christ alone. But if so, He was the Priest after the order of Melchisedec, as well as seated at Jehovah's right hand a cardinal truth of Christianity, the import of which the Jews did not receive in their conception of the Messiah. Hence throughout this epistle the utmost stress is laid on His being exalted in heaven Yet there was no excuse for a difficulty on this score. Their own Psalm, in its grand prophetic sweep, and looking back on the law, pointed to the place in which Christ is now seated above; and where it is of necessity He should be, in order to give Christianity its heavenly character.

The doctrine follows: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost." He does not mean by this the worst of sinners, but saving believers to the uttermost, bringing through every difficulty those "that come unto God by him." A priest is always in connection with the people of God, never as such with those that are outside, but a positive known relation with God "seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." This statement is so much the more remarkable, because in the beginning of this epistle he had pointed out what became God. It 'became Him that Christ should suffer. It became us to have a Priest, "holy, harmless, undefiled, made higher than the heavens."

What infinite thoughts are those that God's word gives; as glorifying for Himself as elevating for our souls! Yet who beforehand would have anticipated either? It became God that Christ should go down to the uttermost; it became us that He should be exalted to the highest. And why? Because Christians are a heavenly people, and none but a heavenly Priest would suit them. It became God to give Him to die; for such was our estate by sin that nothing short of His atoning death could deliver us; but, having delivered us, God would make us to be heavenly. None but a heavenly Priest would suffice for the counsels He has in hand. "Who needeth not daily," therefore says He, "as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's." He always keeps up the evidence of the utter inferiority of the Jewish priest, as well as of the accompanying state of things, to that of Christianity. "For this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath which was since the law, a Son perfected (or consecrated) for ever." This was the very difficulty that the Jew pleaded; but now, in point of fact, it was only what the Psalm of Messiah insisted on, the law itself bearing witness of a priest superior to any under the law. Holy Scripture then demanded that a man should sit down at the right hand of God. It was accomplished in Christ, exalted as the great Melchisedec in heaven. If they were Abraham's children, and not his seed only, surely they would honour Him.

Hence, in Hebrews 8:1-13, the apostle draws his conclusion. "Now of the things that are being spoken of this is a summary: We have such an high priest, who is set down on [the] right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the holies, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." InHebrews 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-14 it is written, that "having by himself made purification of our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The point there is personal glory. No other seat was suitable to such a One. He sat down there as of His own right and title, but nevertheless making a part of His divine glory to be witnessed in, as indeed His person was necessary to make His blood efficacious to the purging of our sins. But in chapter 8. He sits there not merely as the proof of the perfectness with which He has purged our sins by Himself alone, but as the Priest; and accordingly it is not merely said "on high," but "in the heavens." Such is the emphasis. Accordingly observe the change of expression. He has been proved to be a divine person, and the true royal priest of whom not Aaron only but Melchisedec was the type. Hence the right hand of the throne is introduced, but, besides, "of the Majesty in the heavens." So that, let the Jews say what they might, there was only found what answered to their own scriptures, and what proved the incontestable superiority of the great Priest whom Melchisedec shadowed out, and of whom it was now for the Christian justly to boast. He is "minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not of man." Now the tone becomes bolder with them, and shows clearly that the Jew had but an empty form, a foreshadow of value once, but now superseded by the true antitype in the heavens.

Here, too, he begins to introduce what a. priest does, that is, the exercise of his functions. "For every high priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not even be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve the representation and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was oracularly told when about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was shown to thee in the mountain. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant." Thus, before he enters on the subject of the sacrifices at length, he takes notice of the covenants, and thence he draws a conclusion from the well-known prophecy in Jeremiah, where God declares that the days were coming when He would make a new covenant. What is the inference from that? He presses the fact of a new principle, as well as an institution established on better promises, upon the Jews. For why should there be a new covenant, unless because the first was faulty or ineffectual! What was the necessity for a new covenant if the old one would do as well? According, to the Jews it was quite impossible, if God had once established a covenant, He could ever change; but the apostle replies that their own prophet is against their theory. Jeremiah positively declares that God will make a new covenant. He argues that the word "new" puts the other out of date, and this to make room for a better. A new covenant shows that the other must have thereby become old, and therefore is decaying and ready to vanish away.

All this is a gradual undermining the wall until the whole structure is overthrown. He is labouring for this, and with divine skill accomplishes it, by the testimonies of their own law and prophets. He does not require to add more to the person and facts of Christ than the Old Testament furnishes, to prove the certainty of Christianity and all its characteristic truths with which he occupies himself in this epistle. I say not absolutely all its great truths. Were it a question of the mystery of Christ the Head, and of the church His body, this would not be proved from the Old Testament, which does not reveal it at all. It was hid in God from ages and generations. There are types that suit the mystery when it is revealed, but of themselves they never could make it known, though illustrating particular parts when it is. But whether we look at the heavenly supremacy of Christ over the universe, which is the highest part of the mystery, or at the church associated with Him as His body, composed of both Jew and Gentile, where all distinction is gone, no wit of man ever did or could possibly draw this beforehand from the Old Testament. Indeed, not being revealed of old, according to the apostle, it is altogether a mistake to go to the Old Testament for that truth.

Hence in Hebrews we never find the body of Christ as such referred to. We have the church, but even when the expression "church" occurs, it is the church altogether vaguely, as inHebrews 2:12; Hebrews 2:12, or viewed in the units that compose it not at all in its unity. It is the assembly composed of certain individuals that make it up, regarded either as brethren, as in the second chapter ("In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee"), or as the church of the first-born ones, as in Hebrews 12:1-29, persons who drew their title from Christ the first-born Heir. There we have those that compose the church, in allusion to Christ, contrasted with the position of Israel as a nation, because of the nearness which they possess by the grace of Christ known on high.

It may be observed, too, that the Holy Ghost appears but little in this epistle. Not of course that one denies that He has His own proper place, for all is perfect as to each person of the Trinity and all else, but never to this end. For a similar reason we never find life treated in the epistle, nor righteousness. It is not a question of justification here. We hear of sanctification often, but even what is thus spoken of throughout is rather in connection with separation to God and the work of Christ, than the continuous energy of the Holy Ghost, except, as far as I remember, in one practical passage "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." In other cases the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of sanctification by God's call, and Christ's blood. I refer to the fact just to exemplify on the one hand the true bearing of the epistle, and what I believe will be discovered in it, and on the other hand to guard against the mistake of importing into it, or trying to extract from it, what is not there.

Hebrews 9:1-28 brings us into the types of the Levitical ritual, priesthood and sacrifice. Before developing these, the apostle refers to the tabernacle itself in which these sacrifices were offered. "There was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called holy of holies; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold." Carefully observe that it is the tabernacle, never the temple. The latter is not referred to, because it represents the millennial glory; the former is, because it finds its proper fulfilment in that which is made good in the Christian scheme now. This supposes the people of God not actually settled in the land, but still pilgrims and strangers on the earth; and the epistle to the Hebrews, we have already seen, looks emphatically and exclusively at the people of God as not yet passed out of the wilderness; never as brought into the land, though it might be on the verge; just entering, but not actually entered. There remains, therefore, a sabbath-keeping for the people of God. Thither they are to be brought, and there are means for the road to keep us moving onward. But meanwhile we have not yet entered on the rest of God. It remains. Such is a main point, not ofHebrews 4:1-16; Hebrews 4:1-16 only, but of the epistle. It was the more urgent to insist on it, because the Jews, like others, would like to have been settled in rest here and now. This is natural and pleasant to the flesh, no doubt; but it is precisely what opposes the whole object of God in Christianity, since Christ went on high till He come again, and therefore the path of faith to which the children of God are called.

Accordingly, then, as suiting this pilgrim-path of the Christian, the tabernacle is referred to, and not the temple. And this is the more remarkable, because his language is essentially of the actual state of what was going on in the temple; but he always calls it the tabernacle. In truth, the substratum was the same, and therefore it was not only quite lawful so to call it, but if he had not, the design would have been marred. But this shows the main object of the Spirit of God in directing us for the type that applies to the believer now to an unsettled pilgrim-condition, not to Israel established in the land of promise.

To what, then, is the allusion to the sanctuary applied? To mark that as yet the veil was unrent. "Into the second [goes] the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way of the holies was not yet made manifest, while as yet the first tabernacle was standing: which is a figure for the present time according to which are offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not, as pertaining to the conscience, make him that did the religious service perfect; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." With all this Christianity is contrasted. "But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by the better and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, nor by blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood entered in once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption." Here the words "for us" had better be left out. They really mar the sense, because they draw attention not to the truth in itself so much as its application to us, which is not the point in Hebrews 9:1-28, but rather ofHebrews 10:1-39; Hebrews 10:1-39. Here it is the grand truth itself in its own character. What is the value, the import., of the sacrifice of Christ viewed according to God, and as bearing on His ways? This is the fact. Christ has gone into the presence of God," having obtained eternal redemption." For whom it may be is another thing, of which he will speak by-and-by. Meanwhile we are told that He has obtained (not a temporary, but) "eternal redemption." It is that which infinitely exceeds the deliverance out of Egypt, or any ceremonial atonement ever wrought by a high priest for Israel. Christ has obtained redemption, and this is witnessed by the token of the veil rent from top to bottom. The unrent veil bore evidence on its front that man could not yet draw near into the holiest that he had no access into the presence of God. This is of the deepest importance. It did not matter whether it was a priest or an Israelite. A priest, as such, could no more draw near into the presence of God in the holiest than any of the common people. Christianity is stamped by this, that, in virtue of the blood of Christ, once for all for every believer the way is made manifest into the holiest of all. The veil is rent: the believer can draw near, as is shown in the next chapter; but meanwhile it is merely pointed out that there is no veil now, eternal redemption being obtained.

Thus does the apostle reason on it: "For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh" (which the Jew would not contest): "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to do religious service to the living God? And for this cause he is mediator of the new covenant, that by means of death, for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, the called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Thus the power of what Christ had wrought was now brought in for future ends; it was not merely retrospective, but above all in present efficacy while the Jews refuse Christ.

The allusion in the last clause to the eternal inheritance (for everything is eternal in the Hebrews, standing in decided contrast with Jewish things which were but for a season) leads the Holy Spirit to take up the other meaning of the same word, which was and is rightly enough translated covenant. At first sight every one may have been surprised, especially those that read the New Testament in the language in which God wrote it, at the double meaning of the word which is here translated "covenant." It ( διαθήκη ) means "testament" as well as "covenant." In point of fact the English translators did not know what to make of the matter; for they give sometimes one, sometimes the other, without any apparent reason for it, except to vary the phrase. In my judgment it is correct to translate it both ways, never arbitrarily, but according to context. There is nothing capricious about the usage. There are certain surroundings which indicate to the competent eye when the word "covenant" is right and when the word "testament" is better.

It may then be stated summarily, in few words, unless I am greatly mistaken, that the word should always be translated "covenant" in every part of the New Testament, except in these two verses; namely, Hebrews 9:16-17. If, therefore, when you find the word "testament" anywhere else in the authorized version, you turn it into "covenant" in my opinion you will not do amiss. If in these two verses we bear in mind that it really means "testament," growing out of the previous mention of the "inheritance," I am persuaded that you will have better understanding of the argument. In short, the word in itself may mean either; but this is no proof that it may indifferently or without adequate reason be translated both ways. The fact is, that love of uniformity may mislead some, as love of variety misled our English translators too often. It is hard to keep clear of both. Every one can understand, when once we find that the word means almost always covenant," how great the temptation is to translate it so in but two other occurrences, especially as before and after it means "covenant" in the same passage. But why should it be "testament" in these two verses alone, and "covenant" in all other places? The answer is, that the language is peculiar and precise in these same two verses, requiring not a covenant but a testament, and therefore the sense of testament here is the preferable one, and not covenant. The reasons will be given in a moment.

First of all, as has been hinted, that which suggests "testament" is the end of verse 15 "They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." How is it that anybody ordinarily gets an inheritance? By a testament, to be sure, as every one knows. Such has been the usual form in all countries not savage, and in all ages. No figure therefore would be more natural than that, if God intended certain persons called to have an inheritance, there should be a testament about the matter. Accordingly advantage is taken of an unquestionable meaning of the word for this added illustration, which is based on the death of Christ, "Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." That the word ( διαθέμενος ) in this connection means "testator" appears to me beyond just question. I am not aware that it is, nor do I believe that it could be, ever used in such a sense as "covenanting victim," for which some contend. It often means one who arranged or disposed of property, or anything else, such as a treaty or covenant.

Let us next apply the word "covenant" here, and you will soon see the insuperable difficulties into which you are plunged. If you say," For where a covenant is, there must also of necessity be the death of the covenanter" the person. Now is it an axiom, that a covenant-maker must die to give it force? It is quite evident, on the contrary, that this is not only not the truth which all recognize when stated, but altogether inconsistent with the Bible, with all books, and with all experience. In all the covenants of scripture the man that makes it has never to die for any such end. Indeed both should die; for it usually consists of two parties who are thus bound, and therefore, were the maxim true, both ought to die, which is an evident absurdity.

The consequence is, that many have tried (and I remember making efforts of that kind myself, until convinced that it could not succeed) to give ὁ διαθέμονος , in the English Bible rightly rendered "the testator," the force of the covenanting victim. But the answer to this is, that there is not a single writer in the language, not sacred only but profane, who employs it in such a sense. Those therefore that so translate our two verses have invented a meaning for the phrase, instead of accepting its legitimate sense as attested by all the monuments of the Greek tongue; whereas the moment that we give it the meaning assigned here rightly by the better translators, that is, the sense of "testator" and "testament," all runs with perfect smoothness, and with striking aptitude.

He is showing us the efficacy of Christ's death. He demonstrates its vicarious nature and value from the sacrifices so familiar to all then, and to the Jew particularly, in connection with the covenant that required them Now his rapid mind seizes, under the Spirit's guidance, the other well-known sense of the word, namely, as a testamentary disposition, and shows the necessity of Christ's death to bring it into force. It is true that victims were sometimes slain in ratifying a covenant, and thus were the seal of that covenant; but, first, they were not essential; and, secondly and chiefly, ὁ διαθέμενος , the covenanter or contracting party had in no case to die in order to make the contract valid. On the other hand it is notoriously true, that in no case can a testament come into execution without the testator's death a figure that every man at once discerns. There must be the death of him who so disposes of his property in order that the heir should take it under his testament. Which of these two most commends itself as the unforced meaning of the passage it is for the reader to judge. And observe that it is assumed to be so common and obvious a maxim that it could not be questioned. "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." The addition of this last clause as a necessary condition confirms the sense assigned. Had he merely referred to the covenant ( i.e. the sense of the word which had been used before), what would be the aim of the "also?" It is just what he had been speaking of throughout, if covenant were still meant. Apply it to Christ's death as the testator, and nothing can be plainer or more forcible. The death of Christ, both in the sense of a victim sacrificed, and of a testator, though a double figure, is evident to all, and tends to the self-same point. "For a testament is of force after men are dead (or, in case of dead men, ἐπὶ νεκροῖς ): since it is never of force when the testator liveth."

But now, returning from this striking instance of Paul's habit of going off at a word ( διαθήκη ), let us resume the regular course of the apostle's argument. "Whereupon neither the first [covenant] was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself, and all the people, saying, "This [is] the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you. And he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are according to the law purged with blood; and without shedding, of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the representations of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into holies made with hands, figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us."

Thus distinctly have we set before us the general doctrine of the chapter, that Christ has suffered but once, and has been offered but once; that the offering cannot be severed from the suffering. If He is to be often offered, He must also often suffer. The truth on the contrary is, that there was but one offering and but one suffering of Christ, once for all; in witness of the perfection of which He is gone into the presence of God, there to appear for us. Thus it will be observed, at the end of all the moral and experimental dealings with the first man (manifested in Israel), we come to a deeply momentous point, as in God's ways, so in the apostle's reasoning. Up to this time man was the object of those ways; it was simply, and rightly of course, a probation. Man was tried by all sorts of tests from time to time God knew perfectly well, and even declared here and there, the end from the beginning; but He would make it manifest to every conscience, that all He got from man in these His varied dealings was sin. Then comes a total change: God takes up the matter Himself, acting in view of man's sin; but in Jesus, in the very Messiah for whom the Jews were waiting, he has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and has accomplished this mighty work, as admirably befitting the goodness of God, as it alone descends low enough to reach the vilest man, and yet deliver him with a salvation which only the more humbles man and glorifies God. For now God came out, so to speak, in His own power and grace, and, in the person of Christ on the cross, put away sin abolished it from before His face, and set the believer absolutely free from it as regards judgment.

"But now once in the consummation of the ages," this is the meaning of "the end of the world;" it is the consummation of those dispensations for bringing out what man was. Man's worst sin culminated in the death of Christ who knew no sin; but in that very death He put away sin. Christ, therefore, goes into heaven, and will come again apart from sin. He has nothing more to do with sin; He will judge man who rejects Himself and slights sin. as He will appear to the salvation of His own people. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

It is perfectly true that, if we think of Christ, He was here below absolutely without sin; but He who was without sin in His person, and all His life, had everything to do with sin on the cross, when God made Him to be sin for us. The atonement was at least as real as our sin; and God Himself dealt with Christ as laying sin upon Him, and treating Him, the Great Substitute, as sin before Himself, that at one blow it might be all put away from before His face. This He has done, and done with. Now accordingly, by virtue of His death which rent the veil, God and man stand face to face. What, then, is man's actual estate? "As it is appointed unto men once to die," wages of sin, though not all, "but after this the judgment," or the full wages of sin, "so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;" this He has finished; "and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." He will have nothing more to do with sin. He has so absolutely swept it away for those who believe on Him, that when He comes again, them will be no question of judgment, as far as they are concerned, but only of salvation, in the sense of their being cleared from the last relic or result of sin, even for the body. Indeed it is only the body that is here spoken of. As far as the soul is concerned, Christ would not go up to heaven until sin was abrogated before God. Christ is doing nothing there to take away sin; nor when He comes again will He touch the question of sin, because it is a finished work. Christ Himself could not add to the perfectness of that sacrifice by which He has put away sin. Consequently, when He comes again to them that look for Him, it is simply to bring them into all the eternal results of that great salvation.

In Hebrews 10:1-39 he applies the matter to the present state of the believer. He had shown the work of Christ and His coming again in glory. What comes in between the two? Christianity. And here we learn the direct application. The Christian stands between the cross and the glory of the Lord Jesus. He rests confidingly on the cross, that only valid moral basis before God; at the same time he is waiting for the glory that is to be revealed. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." No Jew could or ought to pretend to such purgation as its result.

I should like to ask whether (or how far) all the believers here assembled can take this as their place with simplicity. You, as a Christian, ought to have the calm settled consciousness that God, looking on you, discerns not one spot or stain, but only the blood of Jesus Christ His Son that cleanses from all sin. You ought to have the consciousness that there is no judgment for you with God by-and-by, however truly He, as a Father, judges you now on earth. How can such a consciousness as this be the portion of the Christian? Because the Holy Ghost bears this witness, and nothing less, to the perfectness of the work of Christ. If God's word be true, and to this the Spirit adheres, the blood of Christ has thus perfectly washed away the sins of the believer. I mean his sins now; not sin as a principle, but in fact, though it be only for faith. "The worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." It is not implied that they may not sin, or that they have no consciousness of their failure, either past or present. "Conscience of sins" means a dread of God's judging one because of his sins. For this, knowing His grace in the work of Christ for them, they do not look; on the contrary, they rest in the assurance of the perfection with which their sins are effaced by the precious blood of Christ.

This epistle insists on the blood of Christ, making all to turn on that efficacious work for us. It was not so of old, when the Israelite brought his goat or calf. "In those sacrifices," referring to the law to which some Hebrew Christians were in danger of going back, "there is a remembrance made again of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Therefore all such recurring sacrifices only call sins to remembrance; but what the blood of Christ has done is so completely to blot them out, that God Himself says, "I will remember them no more.

Accordingly he now turns to set forth the contrast between the weakness and the unavailingness of the Jewish sacrifices, which, in point of fact, only and always brought up sins again, instead of putting them away as does the sacrifice of Christ. In the most admirable manner he proves that this was what God was all along waiting for. First of all, "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God." There we find these two facts. First, in God's counsels it was always before Him to have One more than man though a man to deal with this greatest of all transactions. There was but One that could do God's will in that which concerned man's deepest wants. Who was this One? Jesus alone. As for the first Adam and all his race, their portion was only death and judgment, because he was a sinner. But here is One who proffers Himself to come, and does come. "In the volume of the book it is written of me" a book which none ever saw but God and His Son. There it was written, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." Redemption was the first thought of God a counsel of His previous to the dealings with man which made the necessity of redemption felt. God meant to have His will done, and thereby a people for Himself capable of enjoying His presence and His nature, where no question of sin or fall could ever enter.

First, He makes a scene where sin enters at once. Because His people had no heart for His promises, He imposed a system of law and ordinances that was unjudged in them, which provoked the sin. and made it still more manifest and heinous. Then comes forth the wondrous counsel that was settled before either the sin of man, or the promises to the fathers, or the law which subsequently put man to the test. And this blessed person, single-handed but according to the will of God, accomplishes that will in offering Himself on the cross.

So it is said here, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first" (that is, the law), "that he may establish the second" (that is, God's will, often unintelligently confounded by men with the law, which is here set in the most manifest contradistinction). Next the apostle, with increasing boldness, comes to the proof from the Old Testament that the legal institution as a whole was to be set aside. "He taketh away the first." Was this Paul's doctrine? There it was in the Psalms. They could not deny it to be written in the fortieth psalm. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do, thy will, O God." All he does is to interpret that will, and to apply it to what was wrought on the cross. "By the which will" (not man's, which is sin, but God's) "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

This leads to a further contrast with the action of the Aaronic priest. "Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God." Jesus sits down in perpetuity. This is the meaning of the phrase, not that He will sit there throughout all eternity. Εἰς τὸ διηνεκές does not express eternity (which would be εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , or some such form of words) but "for continuance." He sits there continually, in contrast with the Jewish priest, who was always rising up in order to do fresh work, because there was fresh sin; for their sacrifices never could absolutely put away sin. The fact was plain that the priest was always doing and doing, his work being never done; whereas now there is manifested, in the glorious facts of Christianity, a Priest sat down at God's right hand, a Priest that has taken His place there expressly because our sins are blotted out by His sacrifice If there was any place for the priest, one might have supposed, to be active in his functions, it would be in the presence of God, unless the sins were completely gone. But they are completely gone; and therefore at God's right-hand sits down He who is its witness.

How could this be disputed by one who simply believed Psalms 110:1-7? For there is seen not only the proof that the Messiah is the One whom God pronounced by an oath "a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec," but the glorious seat He has taken at the right-hand of God is now worked into this magnificent pleading. Christianity turns everything to account. The Jew never understood his law until the light of Christ on the cross and in glory shone upon it. So here the Psalms acquire a meaning self-evidently true, the moment Christ is brought in, who is the truth, and nothing less. Accordingly we have the third use of the seat Christ has taken. In the first chapter we saw the seat of personal glory connected with atonement; in the eighth chapter it is the witness of His priesthood, and where it is. Here it is the proof of the perpetual efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. We shall find another use before we have done, which I hope to notice in its place.

But the Holy Ghost's testimony is not forgotten. As it was God's will and the work of Christ, so the Holy Ghost is He who witnesses to the perfectness of it. It is also founded on one of their own prophets. "This is the covenant," says he, "that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."

Then we hear of the practical use of all. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holies by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our hope [for so it should be] without wavering (for he is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." But the higher the privilege, the greater the danger of either despising or perverting it.

In Hebrews 6:1-20, we saw that the Spirit of God brings in a most solemn warning for those who turn their back on the power and presence of the Holy Ghost, as bearing witness of Christianity. Here the apostle warns those that turn their back on Christ's one sacrifice. It is evident that in these we have the two main parts of Christianity. The foundation is sacrifice; the Power is of the Holy Ghost. The truth is, that the Holy Ghost is come down for the purpose of bearing His witness; and he that deserts this for Judaism, or anything else, is an apostate and lost man. And is he better or safer that slights the sacrifice of the Son of God, and goes back either to earthly sacrifices or to lusts of flesh, giving a loose rein to sin, which is expressly what the Son of God shed His blood to put away? He who, having professed to value the blessing of God abandons it, and rushes here below into the sins of the flesh knowingly and deliberately, is evidently no Christian at all. Accordingly it is shown that such an one becomes an adversary of the Lord, and God will deal with him as such. As in chapter 6 he declares that he is persuaded better things of them, than that they would abandon the Holy Ghost; so here he expected better things than that they would thus dishonour the sacrifice of Christ In that case, he says, God was not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love; in this case, he lets them know that he had not forgotten the way in which they had suffered for Christ. There it was more particularly the activity of faith; here it is the suffering of faith.

This leads into the life of faith, which was a great stumbling-block to some of these Christian Jews. They could not understand how it was they should come into greater trouble than before. They had never known so great and frequent and constant trial. It seemed as if everything went against them. They had looked for advance and triumph and peace and prosperity everywhere; on the contrary, they had come into reproach and shame, partly in their own persons, partly as becoming the companions of others who so suffered. But the apostle takes all this difficulty by the horns, as good as telling them, that their having suffered all this was simply because it is the right road. These two things, the cross on earth and glory on high, are correlative. As they are companions, so do they test a walk with God; one is faith, the other is suffering. This, he maintains, has always been so; it is no novelty he is preaching. Accordingly the epistle to the Hebrews, while it does put the believer in association with Christ, does not, for all this, dissociate him from whatever is good in the saints of God in every age. Hence the apostle takes care to keep up the real link with the past witnesses for God in faith and suffering, not in ordinances.

In the beginning ofHebrews 11:1-40; Hebrews 11:1-40 we are told what faith is. It is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is no definition of what it is to believe, but a description of the qualities of faith. "For by it the elders obtained a good report." How could any believers put a slight upon it? "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God;" a simple but a most sublime truth, and one that man never really found out that we are entirely dependent on faith for after all. The wise men of the present day are fast giving up the truth of creation. They do not believe that God called all things into being. The greater number of them may use the word "creation," but it must never be assumed that they mean what they say. It is wise and necessary to examine closely what they mean. Never was there a time when men used terms with a more equivocal design than at the present moment. Hence they apply some terms to the work of God in nature similar to what they apply to His work in grace. The favourite thought is "development;" and so they hold a development or genesis of matter, not a creation: matter continually progressing, in various forms, until at last it has progressed into these wise men of our day. This is precisely what modern research amounts to. It is the setting aside of God, and the setting up of man; it is the precursor of the apostasy that is coming, which again will issue in man taking the place of God, and becoming the object of worship, instead of the true Creator. Nor is it that redemption only is denied, but creation also; so that there is very great importance in maintaining the rights and the truth of God in creation.

Therefore it is well to stand clear of all men's schemes and thoughts, ever rising up more and more presumptuously, because they mainly consist of some slight in one way or another on the word of God. A simple word of scripture settles a thousand questions. What the wise men of antiquity, the Platos and Aristotles, never knew what the modern sages blunder about, without the slightest reason, after all the word of God has made the possession of every child of His. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

There is no indulgence of human curiosity. We do not know the steps of His work, until we come to the preparation of an abode for man. Nothing can be more admirable than this reserve of God. We are not told the details of what preceded the great week when God made the man and the woman. I am not going to enter into any statement of facts as to this now, but there is no truth in its own place more important than that with which the apostle commences in this chapter, namely, that "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." It is not only that we believe it, but we understand it thereby. There is nothing more simple; at the same time it is just one of those questions that God has answered, and this so as to settle the mind perfectly, and fill the heart with praise. Man never did nor could settle it without the word of God. There is nothing here below so difficult for the natural mind; and for the simple reason that man can never rise above that which is caused. The reason is obvious because he is caused himself. Therefore is it that men so naturally slip into, or rest on, second causes. He is only one of a series of existing objects, and consequently never can rise above that in his own nature. He may infer that there must be; but he never can say that there is. Reason is ever drawing conclusions; God is, and reveals what is. I may, of course, see what is before my eyes, and. may so far have sensible evidence of what exists now; but it is only God who can tell me that He in the beginning caused to be that which now is. God alone who spake it into being can pronounce upon it. This is just what the believer receives, feeds on, and lives accordingly.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God." It is possible that the word "worlds," which is a Hebraistic word, belonging to the Alexandrian Jews particularly, may embrace dispensations; but undoubtedly the material world is included in it. It may mean the worlds governed by dispensations; but still that the idea of the whole universe is in it cannot be fairly contested by competent minds. "The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen" which would not be the case if it was only a dispensation "were not made of things which do appear."

Having laid this as the first application of faith, the next question is when man fell, how was he to approach God? The answer is, by sacrifice. This then is brought before us. "By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain."

The third point is how to walk with God, and this again is by faith. Thus in every case it is faith. It owns the creation; it recognizes sacrifice as the only righteous means of being accepted with God the only means of approaching Him worthily. Faith, again, is the only principle of walk with God; as it is, again, the only means of realizing the judgment of God coming on all around us.

Here, it is plain, we have the chief lineaments of revealed truth. That is to say, God is owned in His glory, as Creator of all by His word. Then, consequent on the fall, comes the ground of the believer's acceptance; then his walk with God, and deliverance from His judgment of the whole scene, in the midst of which we actually are. Faith brings God into everything. (Verses 1-7.)

But then comes far more definite instruction, and, beginning with Abraham, the details of faith. The father of the faithful was the one first called out by promise. At first it was (ver. 8) but the promise of a land; but when in the land he received the promise of a better country, that is, a heavenly, which raised his eyes to the city on high, in express contrast with the earthly land. When he dwelt in Mesopotamia, he had a promise to bring him into Canaan; and when he got there, he had a promise of what was higher to lead his heart above. At the end of his course there was a still heavier tax on him. Would he give up the one that was the type of the true Seed, the progenitor, and the channel of the promised blessing, yea, of the Blesser? He knew that in Isaac his seed was to be called. Would he give up Isaac? A most searching and practical question, the very unseen hinge in God Himself on which not Christianity only, but all blessing, turns for heaven and earth, at least as far as the fallen creation is concerned. For what did the Jews wait in hope? For Christ, on whom the promises depend. And of what did Christianity speak? Of Christ who was given up to death, who is risen and gone above, in whom we find all the blessing promised, and after a better sort. Thus it is evident that the introduction of the last trial of Abraham was of all possible moment to every one that stood in the place of a son of Abraham. The severest and final trial of Abraham's faith was giving up the son, in whom all the promises were infolded, to receive him back on a resurrection ground in figure. It was, parabolically, like that of Christ himself. The Jews would not have Him living. The Christians gained Him in a far more excellent way after the pattern of resurrection, as Abraham at the close received Isaac as it were from the dead.

Then we have the other patriarchs introduced, yet chiefly as regards earthly hopes, but not apart from resurrection, and its connection with the people of God here below. On these things I need not now dwell farther than to characterize all, from Abraham inclusively, as the patience of faith. (Verses 8-22.)

Then, having finished this part of the subject, the apostle turns to another characteristic in believers the mighty power of faith which knows how to draw on God, and breaks through all difficulties. It is not merely that which goes on quietly waiting for the accomplishment of the counsels of God. This it was of all consequence to have stated first. And for this simple reason: no place is given herein to man's importance. Had the energetic activity of faith been first noticed, it would have made more of man; but when the heart had been disciplined in quiet endurance, and lowly expectancy from God, then he could be clothed with the energy of the Spirit. Both are true; and Moses is the type of the latter, as Abraham of the former. Accordingly we find everything about Moses. as well as done by him, extraordinary. His deliverance was strange; still more his decision and its results. He goes out, deliberately and knowingly, just at the time of life when a man is most sensitive to the value of a grand sphere of influence, as well as exercise of his powers, wherein, too, he could have ordinarily exerted all in favour of his people. Not so Moses. He acted in faith, not policy. He made nothing of himself, because he knew they were God's people. Accordingly he became just the more the vessel of divine power to the glory of God. He chose "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 recompence of the reward." And what then? "By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king." This was in the ways of God the necessary moral consequence of his self-abnegation.

"Through faith he instituted the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." These two last verses bear witness to the grace of God in redemption. In the blood of the Lamb, sprinkled on the door-posts of Israel, we see the type of God's judgment of their sins; next, in the passage of the Red sea, the exhibition of His power, which, in the most conspicuous way, saved them, and destroyed for ever their enemies. But whether the one or the other, all was by faith.

But mark another striking and instructive feature of this chapter. No attention is paid here to the march through the wilderness, any more than to the establishment in the land, still less to the kingdom. We have just the fact of their passing through the Red sea, and no more; as we have the fall of Jericho, and no more. The intention here was not to dwell either on the scene in which their waiting was put to the test, the wilderness, or on anything that could insinuate the settled position of Israel in the land. As to the pathway through the wilderness, it had been disposed of inHebrews 4:1-16; Hebrews 4:1-16. The grounds why Canaan could not consistently be made prominent in this epistle as a present thing, but only as a hope, we have already seen.

This deeply interesting chapter closes with the reason why those who had thus not only lived but died in faith did not get the promise: "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." What was this "better thing"? Can there be a doubt that Christianity is meant? that good portion which shall not be taken away from those who cleave to the Crucified, who is now exalted in heaven? One can well understand that the apostle would leave his readers to gather thus generally what it must have been. God then has provided some better thing for us. He has brought in redemption in present accomplishment, and at the same time He has given scope for a brighter hope, founded on His mighty work on the cross, measured by Christ's glory as its present answer at the right hand of God. Hence He crowns the noble army of witnesses with Christ Himself. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, laying aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking off unto Jesus the captain and completer of faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

This is a different way of looking at His session there. In all the other passages of the epistle the meaning of the word is, that He took His seat, or simply sat down there. It is the fact that there He sat down; but in this place it will be observed that His taking His seat there is the reward of the life of faith. As the result of enduring the cross, having despised the shame, the word for sitting down here has a remarkably beautiful shade of meaning different from what is given in all the other occurrences. Its force implies that it is not merely what He did once, but what He is also doing still. Attention is drawn to the permanence of His position at the right hand of God. Of course it is true that Jesus took His seat there, but more is conveyed in the true form of the text ( κεκάθικεν ) here.

This, however, only by the way. Beyond question the Lord is regarded as the completer of the whole walk of faith in its deepest and, morally, most glorious form. Instead of having one person illustrating one thing, another person another, the Lord Jesus sums up the perfection of all trial in His own pathway, not as Saviour only, but in the point of view of bearing witness in His ways for God here below. Who ever walked in faith as He? For indeed He was a man as really as any other, though infinitely above man.

From this practical lessons of great value are drawn. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children." Thus the first part of the chapter shows us simply what God holds out to the new man; but the epistle to the Hebrews never looks at the Christian simply in the new man, but rather as a concrete person. From the beginning to the end of it the Christian in Hebrews is not thus dealt with apart from the old nature, as we may see him regarded in the ordinary epistles of Paul, where the old and the new man are most carefully separated. It is not the case in the epistles of James and Peter, with which so far the epistle to the Hebrews agrees. The reason I take to be, that the apostle meets the Jewish believer where he is, as much as possible giving credit for what was really true in the Old Testament saints, and so in the Jewish mind. Now it is evident that in the Old Testament the distinction was not made between flesh and spirit in the way in which we have it brought out in the general doctrine of Christianity.

The apostle is dealing with the saints as to their walk; and as he had shown how Christ alone had purged the sins of the believer, and how He is on high, as the Priest in the presence of God, to intercede for them in their weakness and dangers; so now, when he is come to the question of the walk of faith, Christ is the leader of that, walk. Accordingly, this is an appeal to the hearts. which cleave to Christ the rejected King, and Holy Sufferer, who is now in glory above. He necessarily completes all as the pattern for the Christian. But then there are impediments as well as sin, by which the enemy would keep us from the race set before us; whilst God carries on His discipline in our favour. And the apostle shows that we need not only a perfect pattern in the walk of faith, but chastenings by the way. This, he says, must be from a father who loves his true and faulty children: others enjoy no such care. First of all, it is love that calls us to the path that Christ trod; next, it is love that chastens us. Christ never needed this, but we do. He reasons that, while our parents only chastise us the best way they can (for after all their judgment might not be perfect), the Father of spirits never fails. He has but one settled purpose of goodness about us; He watches and judges for our good, and nothing but our good. He has set His mind upon making us, patterns of His holiness. It is what He carries on now. Fully does He allow, as connected with this, that the chastening seems not joyous but grievous. We begin with His love, and shall end in it without end. He only removes obstructions, and maintains our communion with Himself; surely this ought to settle every question for the believer. If we know His perfect love and the wisdom of it, we have the best answer to silence every murmuring thought or wish of the heart.

There is nothing more serious than to set grace against holiness. Nowhere does the apostle give the smallest occasion for such a thought. So here he tells them to "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man lack the grace of God." It is not a question of the law, which a Jew might naturally conceive to be the standard of the will of God now as of old for Israel. How easily we even forget that we are not Jews but Christians! Reason can appreciate not grace but law; and so people are apt, when things go wrong, to bring in the law. It is quite legitimate to employ it in an à fortiori way, as the apostle does in Ephesians 6:1-24. For assuredly if Jewish children honoured their father and mother on legal grounds, much more ought Christian children on grounds of grace.

Another great call was, to beware "lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." Thus you see, either corrupt passion on the one hand or profanity on the other, are unsparingly condemned by the grace of God. If the law could show little mercy in such a case, the grace of God views all sin as intolerable.

This leads him, from speaking of Esau's case, to add as a known fact, that afterward, when he desired to have inherited the blessing he was rejected (for he found no place of repentance), though he sought it carefully with tears. That is, he sought carefully with tears the blessing given to Jacob; but there was no room left for repentance, simply in the sense of change of mind; for, I suppose, the word here has that sense, which sometimes, no doubt, it has. In its ordinary usage, it has a much deeper force. Every change of mind is far from being repentance, which doctrinally means that special and profound revolution in the soul when we take God's part against ourselves, judging our past ways, yea, what we are in His sight. This Esau never sought; and there never was one who did seek and failed to find it. Esau would have liked well to have got or regained the blessing; but this was given of God otherwise, and he had forfeited it himself. Arranged all beforehand, neither Isaac's partiality nor Jacob's deceit was able to divert the channel. His purpose utterly failed to secure the blessing for his profane but favourite son. He saw his error at last, and put his seal on God's original appointment of the matter.

And here we are favoured with a magnificent picture of Christianity in contrast with Judaism. We are not come to Sinai, the mountain that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and a voice more terrible than that of the elements. To what then are we come? To mount Zion. And what is its distinctive character as here introduced? If we examine the historical facts as found in the Old Testament story, what is it rises up before all eyes as to Zion? When does it first appear? After the people had been tried and found wanting; after the priests had wrought, if possible, greater corruption; after the king of Israel's choice had reduced them to the lowest degradation. 'It was therefore a crisis after the most painful accumulation of evils that weighed on the heart of Israel. But if people and priest and king were proved thus vain, God was there, and His grace could not fail. Their abject ruin placed them just in the circumstances that suited the God of all grace. At that very moment therefore the tide begins to turn. God brings forward His choice, David, when the miserable end of Saul and Jonathan saw the Philistines triumphant, and Israel disheartened as they had scarce been beyond that moment. The hill of Zion up to this time had been the constant menace of the enemy against the people of the Lord; but in due time, when David reigned, it was wrested out of the hands of the Jebusites, and became the stronghold of Jerusalem, the city of the king. Thenceforward how it figures in the Psalms and prophets! This then is the monument for such as we are. Let blinded Jews turn their sightless eyeballs to the mountain of Sinai. Let men who can see only look there, and what will be found? Condemnation, darkness, death. But what at Zion? The mighty intervention of God in grace yea, more than that, forgiveness, deliverance, victory, glory, for the people of God.

For not merely did David receive from Jehovah that throne, but never were the people of God lifted out of such a state of distress and desolation, and placed on such a height of firm and stable triumph as under that one man's reign. He had beyond all mere men known sorrow and rejection in Israel; yet he himself not only mounted the throne of Jehovah, but raised up His people to. such power and prosperity as, was never reached again. For although outwardly, no doubt, the prosperity lasted in the time of Solomon, it was mainly the fruit of David's suffering, and power, and glory. God honoured the son for the father's sake. It remained for a brief season; but even then it soon began to show rents down. to the foundations, which became apparent too, too quickly in Solomon's son. With Zion then the apostle justly begins. Where is the mountain that could stand out so well against Sinai? What mountain in the Old Testament so much speaks of grace, of God's merciful interference for His people when all was lost?

Rightly then we begin with Zion, and thence may we trace the path of glory up to God Himself, and down to the kingdom here below. Impossible to rise higher than the Highest, whence therefore the apostle descends, to consequences. Indeed we may say that the whole epistle to the Hebrews is just this: we start from the foundation of grace up to God Himself in the heavens; and thence springs the certainty that the stream of grace is not exhausted, and that undoubtedly it will issue in unceasing blessing by-and-by for the earth, and for the people of Israel above all, in the day of Jehovah.

Accordingly we have a remarkable line of blessing pursued for our instruction here. "Ye are come unto mount Zion," which was the highest Old Testament point of grace on earth. Others doubtless could speak of their Ararat, their Olympus, their Etna; but which boasted of the true God that loved His people in the way that Zion could? But would a Jew infer hence that it was only the city of David he was speaking of? Let him learn his error. "And unto the city of the living God, (not of dying David,) the heavenly Jerusalem" (not the earthly capital of Palestine). This I take to be a general description of the scene of glory for which Abraham looked. He could know nothing of the mystery of the church, Christ's body, nor of her bridal hopes; but he did look for what is called here the "heavenly Jerusalem," that city "whose maker and builder is God." In this phrase there is no allusion whatever to the church; nor indeed anywhere in the Hebrews is there any reference to its distinctive portion in union with its Head. When it says that Abraham looked for the city, it means a blessed and ordered scene of glory on high, which eclipsed the Holy Land before his eyes. This, however, does not mean the church, but rather the future seat of general heavenly bliss for the glorified saints.

Then he adds: "And to myriads of angels, the general assembly" for such is the true way to divide the verse "and to the church of the firstborn," etc. This proves that the city of the heavenly Jerusalem does not mean the church, because here they are certainly distinguished from each other, which therefore completely settles all the argument that is often founded on Abraham's looking for a heavenly city. It was not the church, I repeat, but what God prepares above for those who love Him. True, the apostle John uses this very city as the figure of the bride. But this essential difference separates between the city for which Abraham looked and the bride so symbolised in the Apocalypse. When the apostle Paul, speaks of "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," he means the scene of future heavenly blessedness; whereas when John speaks of the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, he means, not where but what we are to be. The difference is very great. The epistle sets before us the seat of glory prepared on high; the Revelation speaks of the bride represented as a glorious golden city with figures beyond nature. The one is what may be called the objective glory; the other is the subjective condition of those that compose the bride, the Lamb's wife.

Having brought its to see the "church of the firstborn which are written in heaven," the apostle next can only speak of "God the Judge of all." He describes Him thus in His judicial character. The reason appears to be, because he is going to tell us of the Old Testament saints. They had known God in His providence and dealings on the earth, though looking for a Messiah and His day. Hence, therefore, he now introduces us "to the spirits of just men made perfect." These evidently are the elders of olden times. None but the Old Testament saints, as a class, can all be in the separate state: not the church, or New Testament saints, for we shall not all sleep; nor the millennial saints, for none of them will die. The reference is therefore plain and sure.

Then we hear of "Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant" the pledge of Israel's full and changeless blessing. Lastly, he points "to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better than Abel:" the assurance that the earth shall be delivered from its long sorrow and slavery.

Thus the chain of blessedness is complete. He has shown its the symbolic mount Of grace in Zion, contrasted with Sinai the mountain of law. If the one figured the imposed measure of man's responsibility, which can only but most justly condemn him, in the other we behold the mountain of God's grace after all was lost. Then follows the heavenly glory, to which grace naturally leads; then the natural inhabitants of the heavenly land, namely, the angels "and to myriads of angels, the general assembly." Then he shows us others higher than these, by a divine call "and to the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." They do not belong to heaven like the angels; but God had an eternal purpose, which brought them by an extraordinary favour there. And then, in the centre of all, we have God Himself. But having looked up to Him who is above all, he speaks of the highest group next to God in His judicial character, namely, the Old Testament saints. Then he descends to a new or fresh covenant (not καινῆς , as elsewhere, but νέας ), the recently inaugurated covenant for the two houses of the ancient people. Although the blood on which that covenant was founded may be now long shed, when the covenant comes into force for them will it not be as fresh as the day the precious Victim died and shed His blood? The reference here I cannot but regard as exclusively to the two houses of Israel. And as thus were shown the people immutably blessed (for salt shall not be wanting to that covenant) in the scene that will soon come, we finally hear of the earth itself joyful in the curse removed for ever. It is "the blood that speaketh better than Abel." For the martyred saint's blood the earth cried to God for vengeance; but Christ's blood proclaims mercy from God, and the millennial day will be the glorious witness of its depth, and extent, and stability, before the universe.

The rest of the chapter brings in, accordingly, the closing scene, when the Lord comes to shake everything, and establish that blessed day. But although it will be the shaking of all things, not of earth only but also heaven, yet, marvellous to say, such confidence of heart does grace give, that this, which may be regarded as the most awful threat, turns into a blessed promise. Think of the shaking of heaven and earth being a promise! Nothing but absolute establishment of heart in God's grace could have gazed on a destroyed universe, and yet call it a "promise." But it is the language for us to learn and speak, as we are called to rest on God and not on the creature.

The last chapter (Hebrews 13:1-25) follows this up with some practical exhortations as to brotherly love continuing; then as to kindness to strangers, or hospitality; finally, as to pity for those in bonds. "Be mindful of those in bonds, as bound with them; and of those which suffer adversity." Again he insists upon the honour and purity of the marriage tie, and the abhorrence that God has for those that despise and corrupt it, and the sure judgment which will come upon them. He presses a conversation without covetousness, and a spirit of content, founded on our confidence in the Lord's care.

At the same time he exhorts the believers as to their chiefs, that is, those who guided them spiritually. It is I likely that the Hebrew believers were somewhat unruly. And their relation to their leaders he puts forward in various forms. First, they were to remember those that once ruled them. Those were now gone from the scene of their trials and labours, of "whom, considering the issue of their conversation, imitate the faith."

This naturally leads the apostle to bring before them One that never ends "Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." Why should His saints be carried away with questions about meats and drinks? He is the same unchangingly and evermore, as He has ever been. "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established in grace." See how this word, this thought, always predominates in the epistle. Why turn back to "meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein?"

Had they been taunted with having no altar, possessing nothing so holy and so glorious in its associations? It was only owing to the blindness of Israel. For, says he, "we have an altar," yea, more than that, an altar, "whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." You that go after the tabernacle (as he persists in calling it, even though now the temple) have no title to our altar, with its exhaustless supplies. To us Christ is all.

But this becomes the occasion of a remarkable allusion, on which I must for a moment dwell. He draws attention to the well-known rites of the atonement day; at any rate, if not of that day exclusively, wherever there was a beast the body of which was burnt without the camp, and the blood carried within the veil. Do you not discern in this striking combination the distinctive features of Christianity? Alas! it is not the dulness of Jewish prejudice only, but exactly what is denied by every system of which men boast in Christendom. For these very features did Judaism despise the gospel. But let not the Gentile boast, no less unbelieving no less arrogant, against true Christianity. Christendom precisely takes the middle ground of Judaism between these two extremes. The mean looks and sounds well, but is utterly false for the Christian. The two extremes, offensive to every lover of the viâ media of religious rationalism, must be combined in Christianity and the Christian man, if he is to maintain it unimpaired and pure. The first is, that in spirit the Christian is now brought by redemption, without spot or guilt, into the presence of God. If you believe in Christ at all, such is your portion nothing less. If I know what Christ's redemption has accomplished for all who believe, I must know that God has given me this. He honours the work of Christ, according to His estimate of its efficacy, as it is only according to His counsels about us for Christ's glory. Of this we saw somewhat inHebrews 10:1-39; Hebrews 10:1-39. And what is the effect of it? As a Christian I am now free, by God's will, to go in peace and assurance of His love into the holiest of all yes, now. I speak, of course, of our entrance there only in spirit.

As to the outer man also, we must learn to what we are called now. The apostle argues that, just as the blood of the beast was brought into the holiest of all, while the body of the same animal was taken outside the camp and burnt, so this too must be made good in our portion. If I have an indisputable present title of access into the holiest of all, I must not shrink from the place of ashes outside the camp. He that possesses the one must not eschew the other. In these consists our double present association by faith, while on the earth. The apostle earnestly insists on them both. We belong to the holiest of all, and we act upon it, if we iet rightly, when we worship God; nay, when we draw near to God in prayer at all times. Brought nigh to God by the blood of Jesus, we have perfect access, so that there is nothing between God and us; for Christ suffered once to bring us to God, as He intercedes that we may have communion. with Him in this place of nearness. Our being brought to God supposes, and is founded on the fact, that our sins are gone perfectly by His one offering; otherwise no madness is greater than indulging such a thought. If it be not the truth, it would be the height of presumption indeed. But far from this, it is the simple fact Of the gospel. "He suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust," says another apostle, "that he might bring us" not to pardon, nor to peace, nor to heaven, but "to God." Compare alsoEphesians 2:1-22; Ephesians 2:1-22. We are brought, then, washed from our sins, to God, and, according to this epistle, into the holiest of all, where He displays Himself. The real presumption, therefore, is to pretend to be a Christian, and yet to doubt the primary fundamental truth of Christianity as to this.

But the bodies of those beasts were burnt without the camp: my place, so far as I in the body am concerned, is one of shame and suffering in this world.

Are those two things true of you? If you have and prize one alone, you have only got the half of Christianity yea, of its foundations. Are they both true of you? Then you may bless God that He has so blessed you, and given you to know as true of yourself that which, if not so known, effectually prevents one from having the full joy and bearing the due witness as an unworldly and simple-hearted servant of Christ here below. It is true, He does not always call at once into the place of reproach and suffering. He first brings us into the joy and nearness of His presence. He satisfies us with the perfectness with which Christ has washed us from our sins in His blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father. But having done this, He points us to the place of Christ without the camp. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the. camp, bearing his reproach." This was the very thing that these Jewish Christians were shrinking, from, if not rebelling against. They had not made up their minds to suffer: to be despised was odious in their eyes. Nor is it pleasant to nature. But the apostle lets them know that if they understood their true blessing, this was the very part of it that was inseparably bound up with their present nearness to God, as set forth typically by the central and most important rite of the Jewish system. This is the meaning of the blood carried within, and of the body burnt without.

Let us then seek to combine these two things perfect nearness to God, and the place of utter scorn in the presence of man. Christendom prefers the middle course; it will have neither the conscious nearness, to God, nor the place of Christ's reproach among men. All the effort of Christendom is first to deny the one, and then to escape from the other. I ask my brethren here if they are looking to God strenuously, earnestly, for themselves and for their children, not to allow but to oppose as their adversary every thing that tends to weaken either of these truths, which are our highest privilege and our truest glory as Christians here below. What a surprise to the Hebrew believers to find such truths as these so strikingly shown out in type even in the Jewish system!

But the apostle goes farther, as indeed was due to truth. These characteristics he proves to be really found in Christ Himself. He is evidently gone into the holiest of all in His own person. But how? What had immediately preceded this, The cross. Thus the cross and heavenly glory must go together. The gracious Lord gives and designs that we should take His own place both in heaven and here. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp." This is just the closing practical word of the epistle to the Hebrews. God was going openly to set aside the Jewish system, as it had already been judged morally in the cross of Christ. When the Messiah was crucified, Judaism was in principle a dead thing: if it was in any sense kept up, it was no more than a decent time before its burial. But now God sends His final summons, founded on their own ritual, to His people who were hankering after the dead, instead of seeing the Living One on He as it were repeats, "Let the dead bury the dead." The Romans will do the last sad offices. But as for you who believe in Jesus, wait not for the Romans; let Judaism be nothing but a corpse, which does not concern you. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach."

This was a final call; and how gracious! If God had reserved the epistle to the Hebrews until after He sent forth His armies and burned up their city, destroying their polity root and branch, it might have been retorted that the Christians valued the Jewish ritual as loner as it was available, and only gave it up when earthly temple and sacrifice and priest were gone. But God took care to summon His children outside to abandon the whole system before it was destroyed. They were to leave the dead to bury their dead; and they did so. But Christendom has wholly failed to profit by the call, and is doomed to perish by a judgment yet more solemn and wide-spread than that which swept away the ancient temple.

Another point follows, connected with what we have had before us, and demanding our attention. Instead of pining after that which is about to be destroyed, or repining at the call to go out to the place of Christ's shame on earth, Christianity, which replaces Judaism now, may well cause us to offer "the sacrifice of praise to God continually." There are two kinds of sacrifice to which we are now called. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." That may have a higher character, these a lower; but even the highest is never to supersede or make us forgetful of the lowest.

Then comes a second exhortation as to their guides, or leading men among the brethren. (Compare Acts 15:22.) Obey your leaders, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as those that shall give account." There is no sanction here, of course, of the vulgar and outrageous error that pastors give an account of the souls of their flock. It is an idea that superstition hatched, for the purpose of spuriously exalting a clerical order. The meaning is, that spiritual guides shall give an account of their own behaviour in watching over other souls; for it is a work that calls for much jealousy over self, patience with others, painstaking labour, lowliness of mind, and that hearty love which can bear all, endure all, believe all. There is then the solemn admonition of the account they are to render by-and-by. They watch as those that shall give an account. Now is the time for self-denying labour, and endurance in grace; by-and-by the account must be given to the Lord that appointed them. And the apostle would that their work of watching might be done with joy, and not groaning for this would be unprofitable for the saints.

But even the apostle felt his own need of the prayers of the faithful, not because he had gone wrong, but because he was conscious of no hindrance to his work from a had conscience. "Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience; in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner."

Then he commends the saints to God. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, in virtue of the blood of the everlasting covenant, perfect you in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight "through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for the ages of the ages."

Finally, he beseeches his brethren to hear the word of exhortation. Such is pre-eminently the bearing of this epistle to those who had no such frequent opportunities of profiting by his teaching as the Gentile churches. We can understand, therefore, both the delicacy that thus entreated them, and the meaning of the added words, "for also in few words I have written to you." Nor does it seem so natural for any as the great apostle to inform them of his child and fellow-labourer: "Know that the brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come pretty soon, I will see you. Salute all your leaders, and all the saints. They from Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen."

Thus the apostle closes this most striking and precious epistle, brimful to overflowing with that which had an especial and very touching interest to a Jew, but nevertheless needed as certainly by us, and as rich in instruction for us in this day as for those at any time that has passed away. For let me say this as a parting word, and I say it advisedly, because of circumstances that might well be before our hearts, no deliverance, however enjoyed, no place of death to law, world, or sin, no privilege of union with Christ, will enable a soul to dispense with the truths contained in this epistle to the Hebrews. We are still walking here below; we are in the place therefore where infirmity is felt, where Satan tempts, where we may fail through unwatchfulness. The greater part of the affections of the Christian are drawn out toward our Saviour by all this scene of sin and sorrow through which we are passing on to heaven. If we formed our Christian character practically on such epistles as those to the Ephesians and Colossians alone, depend on it there may not be the hard lines of the law, but there will be very far from the fervent affections which become him who feels the grace of Christ. Be assured it is of the deepest possible moment to cherish the activity of Christ's present love and care for us, the activity of that priesthood which is the subject of this epistle. Holding fast the permanence of the blotting out of our guilt, may we nevertheless and besides own the need of such an One as Christ to intercede for us, and deal in grace with all our feebleness or faults. The Lord forbid that anything should enfeeble our sense of the value and necessity of such daily grace, There may be that which calls for confusion of face in us, but there is unceasing ground also for thanksgiving and praise, however much we have to humble ourselves in the sight of God.

London: W. H. Broom, Paternoster Row.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:1". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/hebrews-11.html. 1860-1890.