God’s Definition of Faith, Hebrews 11

 Having just referred to Habakkuk’s timeless declaration, “The just shall live by faith” (Heb 10:38; Hab 2:3-4), the author now develops the concept of faith. Faith is able to “see” what is invisible; it is a confidence in God that accepts and obeys His word when one’s experience, feelings and desires are to the contrary. Without this quality of faith, “it is impossible to please” God (11:6).  Many were once heavily steeped in their own traditions and rituals as pertaining to the old law (Matt 15:3-9), thus possibly losing the spiritual aspect of worshipping God. The writer now defines faith and demonstrates to his readers that faith has always been a necessary requirement in serving God.

When the author writes about Abraham, and examines the seeds that grew into an ancient and storied nation.  To inherit the land so beloved by Israel, Abraham had to leave his home for an unknown destination and, once there, reside in tents as an outsider (Heb 11:8-9). It was Abraham’s faith, their “father” to whom the promises were made, that accredited him for righteousness (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:1-3).  Abraham’s first demonstration of faith in God was when he was called to leave his home and journey to a place all the while not knowing where he was going (the unseen). For a nation to arise from him, he and his wife faithfully acted in accordance with God’s promises (11:11; Rom 4:19-21). Thus the lives of Abraham and Sarah present an analogy of the Christian endeavor, for we are likewise on a journey and living as sojourners.  Abraham not only had his sights on a tract of land, “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11: 10). Had he been otherwise minded, he would have simply returned to Ur (11:15-16). And if these brethren turn back from God now, they would betray the very ancestor in which they had so much pride. The author here connects faith to the prospect of death, for this is faith’s ultimate challenge.  Regarding God’s command to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, Abraham obeyed “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19). Another ancestor is cited as parallel to the readers’ predicament.  Just as they had chosen to leave Judaism for Christ and are presently suffering for it, even so Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (11:25). Undeniably, God’s people have done the seemingly impossible, radically changing the face of the world.  Sadly, God has also allowed unimaginable hardship to befall them. Of such “the world was not worthy” (11: 38), and they endured “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (11:35).  This most notable chapter on faith in God is an exhortation which says to all who read, “Others have done it. You can do it, too!” We must aspire to real courageous, steadfast faith.

These great heroes of faith were so firmly convinced of God’s promises that it is  as if they actually saw them with their own eyes {inductive faith} (Jn 8:56) even though they died before there fulfillment.  Because they embraced and sought after God’s promise of a real “homeland” (true tabernacle- heaven), they recognized that they were just foreigners (without the country or jurisdiction) and pilgrims (a wanderer; a traveler) during their stay here on earth.  By the actions of their faith they made it clear that they were seeking a better land a “heavenly country”.  Because of their great faith in Him, God is not ashamed to be called their God. Surely we are not ashamed to be called His children?

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