Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Hebrews, Chapter Eleven, is a protracted definition of “the just shall live by faith.” When we read the chapter we see that the faith by which the righteous live is revealed in obedient behavior to God. It is not steadfast adherence to a belief in theological facts, as we of today define the watchword of the Protestant Reformation.
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)
The expression “the righteous live by faith” is a quotation from the Book of Habakkuk. It appears three times in the New Testament.
Because of the influence of Gnosticism, I suppose, we have come to believe “the righteous live by faith” means if we hold certain theological beliefs in our mind, never doubting them, we will be saved (go to Heaven, as we define “being saved”).
But when we see the words “shrinks back,” we know the writer is repeating his primary theme. He is speaking of not pressing through to the rest of God.
Every human being who is physically and mentally sound chooses, at every moment, how to live. We choose to live by looking to Jesus for everything we do, or we choose to trust our own wisdom, experience, talents, and strength.
To live by faith is to live by looking to Jesus in all that we do.
To not live by faith is to live by our own resources.
The righteous live by looking to Jesus in all that we do. The wicked live by their own resources. God is not in all their thoughts.
God is not impressed with our self-righteousness, only with our relationship with Himself.
So we see that the current understanding of “the just shall live by faith,” which is that the righteous maintain their doctrinal position, is incorrect. The just shall live by faith is speaking of how the righteous live, not of what they believe in their head.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)
Would you believe that a firmly established Christian, as these Jewish believers undoubtedly were, could shrink back and be destroyed? In our day we would find this difficult to believe, because we perceive being saved as a ticket we buy at some point in time. There is no shrinking or not shrinking involved, unless we mean abandoning Christ altogether and renouncing our statement of belief.
But the word “ignore,” “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?,” and the exhortation concerning the importance of attending services, may suggest the writer is addressing believers who were not necessarily totally abandoning and renouncing their faith, but through carelessness were drifting back into worldliness and sin.
“Shrinking back” reminds us that our discipleship is a fight, a pressing forward against enemies who would prevent our resting in God’s will.
Therefore we would suppose the penalty for such lack of courage and zeal would be a partial loss of inheritance, not destruction!
However, if you will remember, the Lord stated that the lukewarm believers would be vomited from His mouth.
If we would be scriptural we must acknowledge that if someone who professes Christ starts off with enthusiasm and dedication, and then through the passage of time begins to slacken the intensity of his prayer and Bible reading, is in serious trouble. As the Lord said: “Whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
We do not preach such a harsh message today, and so we are found to be false teachers and preachers. Under the cloak of “love” we are not sounding the alarm. Our listeners will die in their sins and their blood shall be required at our hands. This is love?
The following chapter, Chapter Eleven, is a definition of “the righteous shall live by faith.” We may notice that this chapter has nothing whatever to do with doctrinal belief. It is a record of obedience to God’s will.
So when the writer says “who believe and are saved” he does not mean who are saved by their belief in theological facts but by a belief that results in an unswerving pressing toward the mark—untroubled rest in the center of God’s Person and will.
Notice that salvation is regarded as a mark that is attained to after a life of pressing forward in Christ. It reminds us of Jesus saying “He who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Salvation is past, present, and future. There was a point at which we placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Right now we are working out that salvation. In the future we will be saved and brought over to the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. For this reason it is not wise to look back in time at a point when we were “saved.” It would be truer to the Scriptures to remark that at that previous point we began to walk on the path that leads to eternal life.
We must never shrink back but always face each day as a new opportunity to abide in Christ. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife when she looked back! Yesterday’s manna is not palatable or nourishing. Today is the only day of salvation!
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
I like the word “hope.” When we hope we are persuaded God is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently.
The fundamental question mankind has, is, “Is God really good? Can He be trusted to bring me to joy?”
In the beginning, Satan implied to Eve that God was not good. He was not intent on bringing her to joy. God did not want her to be wise.
Every human being must make this decision: “Can I trust that God is going to bring me to joy, or must I take matters into my own hands?
Because we can’t see God we must decide on the basis of our innermost conception of God. If we conceive of the invisible God as being good, then we are going to trust Him with our life and obey Him implicitly. But if we have any doubt that God is good, that He will not bring us to joy but to grief, then we are not going to trust Him with our life.
Therefore faith is our assessment of the Character of the invisible God. We are convinced He is good and will fulfill all our desires if we serve Him, or we are not convinced He is good and we had better trust in what we can see.
This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:2)
When we think of Noah, Abraham, Daniel, we can see that they trusted in the goodness of God. The example of Abraham is especially challenging to us. Abraham truly believed in the goodness of God; that God rewards those who trust Him and obey Him implicitly regardless of the situation into which God brings them.
By faith we understand the universe was formed at God’s command, so what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
We did not see God form the universe; we could not see His invisible forces at work; but we believe that God did make all things.
One person looks at the sky, the earth, and earth’s peoples, and says, “Surely there is a God. All I see did not come into being through random accidents and incidents.” Thus he or she worships the invisible God.
Another person looks at the sky, the earth, and earth’s people, and says, “There is no God. I want to be free to do as I please and not have to worry about having to answer to a God about breaking His laws.”
Thus we have the righteous and the wicked.
But why will one person look at the universe and confirm his faith in a God who is to be trusted, and another person look at the same universe and scoff at the idea of there being a God who will call him to account some day?
Sometimes when I read the Book of Psalms it appears the righteous are one class of people and the wicked are another class of people. I know the Lord Jesus spoke of the planting of God and the planting of Satan.
I have shied away from this thought because I know an individual can be wicked and then turn to Christ. But there may be more to the idea of the Potter making one vessel to honor and another to dishonor than we realize. However it remains true that anyone who wants to can start living righteously in the fear of God, and God will honor him. His wickedness will not be remembered, according to the Book of Ezekiel.
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)
I have heard it taught that Abel offered fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock, and therefore his offering was more acceptable than the farmer Cain who offered from his crops.
I don’t believe this was the basis of God’s acceptance and rejection. In the first place, these were not sin offerings but thank offerings. Cain offered what he had and Abel offered what he had.
I think God looked on their hearts. I think He saw that Cain’s heart was not right toward God. This was demonstrated later by the jealous rage that resulted in murder.
If Cain’s heart had been right with God he would have accepted the rebuke and asked the Lord what he could do to meet God’s approval. Instead the rebuke resulted in anger and envy.
It is easy to come to church and worship with the saints, and yet be harboring envy and murder in our heart. Believers do this all the time. There is a great need for God’s people today to humble themselves and confess the anger, bitterness, and grudges they are concealing. Those who do not humble themselves, confess their sin, and permit God to put His love in them toward their brothers and sisters, will end up on the spiritual scrapheap. These spirits of darkness will not be permitted in the churches any longer. That day is past. God is ready to put the enemies of Christ under His feet.
Abel’s sacrifice was better than that of Cain because Abel loved God. He had faith in God. Because of this, his testimony endures to the present hour. So it is with all who bear a true witness of God—they are stars that shine forever.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
If there is a more remarkable, a more inspiring account in the Bible than the story of Enoch, I do not know of it. How I would love to pass into God’s Presence as Enoch did, without having to spend my last days in a nursing home listening to a nurse saying, “Now be a good boy, Mr. Thompson, and eat all your Jello.”
Enoch lived by faith. He is an example of “the righteous shall live by faith.” Enoch walked with God. God was in all his thoughts. He disappeared one day. My guess is that God comforted Enoch’s family and assured them that Dad was happy and at home with God.
But think! Enoch knew nothing about the cross, about the blood atonement, about the Holy Spirit. He just loved God and wanted to be with God. God granted Enoch’s request. This is true faith, an example to all of us.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
“Must believe that He exists.” “Must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Today we feel that if someone believes there is a God, he has done something wonderful. He hasn’t done anything at all except to assure those around him he is not a fool.
Of course we must believe God exists, although even Satan is positive God exists. It is the next part that divides the righteous from the wicked: “Must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
The battle is joined right at this point. Will God or will He not reward those who earnestly seek Him? This single question determines the course of our life.
If we believe God will reward those who earnestly seek Him, then we are going to spend our days seeking the Lord.
If we do not believe God will reward those who earnestly seek Him, then we are not going to spend our days seeking the Lord. It is as simple and straightforward as this.
Oh, we might be a “Christian” and attend church. But this does not mean we are earnestly seeking the Lord. After the 11:00 service we may spend the remainder of Sunday and the rest of the days of the week pleasing our flesh. We are not automatically a Christian because we attend church regularly; although I pointed out previously that attending church services on a regular basis is essential to the Christian life. We are not a true Christian until we are earnestly seeking Him.
And we are not going to wrench ourselves away from our daily life and earnestly seek the Lord until we are fully persuaded we shall be rewarded for our effort.
God works in terms of rewards. When the disciples asked Jesus what they would get for leaving everything and following Him, Christ did not demur. He did not say “Oh, you should follow Me because it is the right thing to do.” Rather, He said, “You will sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel.”
God understands well how the prospects of rewards and pleasure influence us. He understands also how the threat of eternal fire influences us. So God tells us our future will be bright indeed if we serve Him, and grim indeed if we do not.
Faith is our confidence that serving God will eventually bring us to joy, even though we may go through much suffering to attain to the reward.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
On one sunny day God told Noah there was going to be a flood. There was no evidence at that time of rain, much less a flood. God told Noah to build an ark. Noah set out to build an ark and worked on it for many years, apparently. It is probable that his three sons helped him.
The Ark was 450 feet long. A football field is only 300 feet long, so you can picture what the Ark looked like. Can you imagine how the neighbors reacted when they saw this huge ship being built in Noah’s back yard; the comments they made?
Noah was a righteous man living among wicked people. When God warned Noah about the flood that was to come, Noah was moved by holy fear. Holy fear is a form of faith. Noah built the Ark by faith in God when as yet there was no rain. It is this sort of faith that brings righteousness.
The great lie today is that mental assent to theological facts (our version of “faith”) brings righteousness. This is not Bible faith. Noah demonstrated true Bible faith by his behavior. By his example he condemned those who saw what he was doing and did not prepare themselves. They went on with their marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, reaping, building, until the flood came and carried them away.
God has warned us that the return of Jesus Christ will be as the days of Noah. If we do not respond with holy fear and prepare ourselves and our household, we are guilty of unbelief even though we make a profession of faith in Christ.
True faith always results in some kind of behavior. Even the godly Abraham did not spend his entire life just believing God. Abraham obeyed God continually and demonstrated his faith by his obedience.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
Paul used Abraham as our example of salvation by faith alone. The truth is, it was only the one instance, when God spoke to Abraham about his seed being as the stars in number, that the required response was only belief in the promise. The other accounts of Abraham’s life had to do with active behavior.
There can be no true faith apart from obedience!
Sometimes God calls us to go somewhere or do something we do not understand. This does not happen often. But when it does, we have to prayerfully and carefully move in the indicated direction. We do not always understand God, but we trust God.
Abraham left that which was familiar, not realizing the awesome consequences of his obedience. May we also demonstrate our faith by our faithfulness and obedience to God. Our actions also may have awesome consequences.
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews (11:9,10)
Abraham sojourned in what is now the land of Israel. Isn’t it remarkable that this area of land is still in dispute! The reasoning today is that this is a political struggle in which the Palestinians are seeking a state and more land to live in. This is not why there always is conflict in this territory. It is because Satan knows that one day Christ will govern from the city of Jerusalem, and he wishes to prevent this if he can. If we could see in the spirit realm we would see the hordes of demons who are stationed in the area bounded by the Euphrates River and the Mediterranean Sea.
How Abraham was able to know about the city with foundations, the new Jerusalem, we do not know. But he knew about the holy city. This fabulously wealthy man continued to live in tents, waiting for God to bring him to the city, which he must have seen in vision.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Hebrews 11:11)
Twenty-five years elapsed from the time the promise was made until Isaac was born. The promise was fulfilled because Abraham had faith that God is faithful. Faith in the faithfulness of God. Faith is our assessment of God’s Character.
Abraham had received a mighty touch from God. After Sarah died, Abraham had more children by another wife.
God may promise us something we greatly desire. We shall receive the fulfillment if we maintain our faith in God’s faithfulness and are patient. We are not able to comprehend God’s abilities. His promise to us may be staggering. Nevertheless, it shall come to pass to the last detail—even though the fulfillment requires an act that sets aside natural laws.
And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:12)
God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled in his physical descendants. But what God had promised extends far, far beyond the physical people and land of Israel. For every member of Christ is the Seed God promised Abraham. Think of it!—a fulfillment Abraham could not have imagined.
While we are seeking God, let us listen carefully to Him. Let us also ask for whatever is on our heart. Do not be afraid to go past the bounds of probability or possibility when you are inquiring of the Lord. He can do anything He desires. But you have to ask.
Long before the personal computer had been developed I asked the Lord if I could preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people breathe the air. I was teaching the fifth grade in a public elementary-school at the time. The subsequent development of the personal computer, the Internet, and technology still on the drawing board is making it possible to reach every individual in the world.
Nothing is impossible to the Lord.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
“The just shall live by faith” is a verse from the Old Testament. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, were living by faith when they died. What does this mean? It means the focus of their life was on the Lord.
“The just shall live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament. It is one of the foundational statements of the Protestant Reformation. But it is not being used to speak of a life focused on the Lord. Rather the idea is that people are righteous and will go to Heaven on the basis of holding fast to sound doctrine.
The difference is, the true meaning of the just shall live by faith is speaking of a person who lives in obedience to the Lord. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah lived godly lives. God said about Noah that he was the only righteous man of his time.
Today we use the just shall live by faith to mean belief in Jesus Christ is the Divine alternative to righteous behavior. We are saved by faith rather than by works. We can live righteously or not, according to our own will. But how we live does not affect our righteousness in God’s sight or our salvation.
The idea of God counting people righteous who are living unrighteously is not found in either Testament. We have derived this thought from Paul’s attempt to steer Jews away from the works of the Law so they would look to Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life.
But we do not teach, ordinarily, a daily looking to Christ but to our unwavering subscription to our denominational “Statement of Faith.”
Too often Christians are seen to be silly people who are seeking how to use Jesus to make more money, to eat all they want without becoming overweight, or to otherwise improve their lot in life. But the Bible is not about making money or changing the effects of overeating. It is about sin and righteous behavior. The confusion today results from the teaching that the just shall live by faith means we are saved by a belief system rather than by making an effort to live righteously.
From Abel to the latest person to receive Jesus Christ, the only way of pleasing God is by faith. Worshipers under the Law of Moses were not found guiltless by a routine sacrifice of animals unless the animals were offered in faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
So it is not at all true that the difference between the two covenants, the Law of Moses and the new covenant, is that people under the Law were saved by obeying what was written and we are saved by faith, interpreted to mean we do not have to obey what is written in the New Testament.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, were still living by faith when they died. They were pursuing the Lord. Somehow they knew about God’s future plans for His people. They did not receive the fulfillment of these promises. They saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
In like manner we are saved by hope—hope the Lord Jesus will return from Heaven and establish His Kingdom on the earth.
Those of ancient times admitted they were aliens and stranger on the earth. So must we Christians. The Gospel is a hope for the future, not a plan for helping American believers live a fun-filled life in the present hour.
We understand, therefore, that the difference between the two covenant is not that one is a covenant of works and the other is a covenant of faith. All of God’s covenants operate through faith. The difference is that the demands for our personal moral transformation are much greater under the new covenant, and the Divine grace given to us to accomplish such moral transformation is much greater than the grace given under the Law of Moses.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:14)
Say what things? Say that they are aliens and strangers on the earth. Their hope reveals that they are looking for a country of their own.
We Christians need to adopt this attitude—that we are aliens and strangers on the earth. We too are looking forward to the coming to earth of the new Jerusalem. As the Lord said, we are not of this world. Our world is coming in the future. It will be a country of our own, and those who today are destroying the earth will no longer be present.
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:15,16)
“Remember Lot’s wife.” “No man putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
The idea that we are not at home in the present world but are hoping for a better, a more righteous, more holy world in which all the people obey God, should be central in Christian thinking.
I do not see this attitude, this longing for a better world, in current Christian thinking. I think it has become fashionable to attempt to fit Christ into the current American culture. It really would be healthy, I think, if our nation were to suffer. Suffering would help us long for God’s new world of righteousness instead of trying to make ourselves more comfortable in the present world.
Once we set out on our Christian discipleship, with our eyes on the heavenly city, we are never to look back. If we do, God will be disappointed in us. God will be ashamed to be called our God if we choose the present world over the wonderful new world He has for us.
The newspaper every day is filled with accounts of people being brutalized by some individual who places his own satisfaction above the welfare of other individuals. We see this in families, in encounters of rape and murder, in child molestation, in fraud in the giant corporations as well as in the government.
If we want to live in such a world, the Lord may allow us to. But if we reject the idea that this is what God wants, and look forward to a city in which there is no rape, no child molestation, no domestic violence, no fraud, no self-seeking on the part of the leadership, then God is not ashamed to be called our God. He has prepared a city for such as we.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, Even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your seed will be reckoned.” (Hebrews 11:17,18)
It appears to me that this test of faith and obedience ranks second only to that of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Every person whom God has chosen to be of high rank in His Kingdom will be tested severely. God has to be certain we place obedience to Him above all other considerations. Until this is true, we cannot rule with the Lord Jesus Christ.
One interesting point is that God had told Abraham that His descendants would come through Isaac. By killing Isaac, Abraham was destroying the possibility that he would have descendants who would be his heirs and carry on his name.
This is a lesson to us. No matter what God gives us, whether as a part of our physical life on earth or as part of our ministry, the moment God asks us to give it up we are to do so. We are to grasp absolutely nothing we have been given. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:19)
I doubt if Abraham knew of anyone whom God had raised from the dead. Yet Abraham reasoned that if God had said his descendants would come through Isaac, and he succeeded in slaying Isaac, then God would raise Isaac from the dead and return him to Abraham.
It seems there was no limit to Abraham’s faith. Abraham did not imagine that God had changed His mind. Isaac was born by a miracle, so Abraham believed he would be raised from the dead by a miracle. God give us faith!
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. (Hebrews 11:20)
The Spirit of God that rested on Isaac was involved when Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. Isaac had faith in the Spirit that was in him. We know this because after Isaac blessed Jacob he had no blessing left for Esau. If Isaac was not speaking by the Spirit, as soon as he found out he had been deceived he would have withdrawn the blessing and given it to Esau.
But Isaac could not do this. Once Isaac had spoken by the Spirit of God, the blessing was established; the birthright was established in Jacob; and Esau was left relatively destitute.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)
Again, when we read the blessing administered to Ephraim and Manassah, with the greater inheritance given to Ephraim although Manassah was the firstborn, we see that Jacob was moved by faith in the Spirit of God who was in him.
The blessing on the true Seed of Abraham is the Holy Spirit.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Genesis 50:24,25)
Evidently the Spirit of God had shown Joseph that God was going to bring the Israelites up from Egypt to the land of Israel. Remember, at the time Joseph said this the Israelites were not laboring under the cruelty that occurred after the death of Joseph. So it was not obvious they would have to leave the land where they had been treated well.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Hebrews 11:23)
It seems to me that the faith shown by the parents of Moses at this point was not so much a prophetic faith, a faith intertwined with the Spirit of God, but a resoluteness of character; a determination to do what is right in spite of danger.
So often in life we have to apply courage when we are facing a situation in which to do the right thing can result in harm. Perhaps courage is a form of faith and fear is a form of unbelief.
Pessimism and a negative approach to life sometimes are related to unbelief in the goodness and faithfulness of God. When we do what we know to be the right thing, regardless of the consequences, I think we are showing faith in God’s goodness and watchful care over us.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. (Hebrews 11:24)
Moses took a stand. We who are called to be saints need to take a stand. We are not of the world but Christ has called us out from the world to belong to Him in a special way.
The term “Christian” today indicates membership in a religion. There are good people who are Christians and bad people who are Christians. So we are not saying too much in America when we claim to be a Christian.
Being a saint, however, is a holy calling. Once we are called to be a saint we have no other calling in life. We may work at one vocation or another, but our profession or vocation is not our calling. It is our way of supporting those who depend on us.
To be called out from the world to be a saint of God is the highest calling there is. It requires every bit of wisdom, strength, and character we have to fulfill the calling as a saint. We have been set apart to worship God and do His will. If we make anything else the focus of our life we are coming short of what we have been called to be.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (Hebrews 11:25)
Moses was raised in palatial splendor as a grandson of Pharaoh. Egypt at the time was one of the dominant countries of the world. Everything we can imagine in the way of luxury was available to Moses.
In our church I tell the young people from time to time that being a Christian sometimes means they will not be able to enjoy all the things of the world that other young people have access to. It costs something to be a Christian.
Dedicated Christian parents have to say no to their children, when they are invited by the children of worldly parents to engage in an activities that are not godly. This can be quite difficult for American Christian parents who want their children to “have everything.” American parents, whether or not they are Christians, tend to worship their children.
Paul tells us to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. This world is not our home. We are just passing through. God makes sure that we have what we need. But we are not at home here, and so we cannot just relax and join with the world in its pursuits and entertainments.
If God is merciful, the worldly parent with the worldly child will experience the fires of Divine judgment in order that both the parent and the child will not be drawn away from Christ.
Sometimes Christian parents are heard to say, “I want my child to have the best.” This is a selfish statement, isn’t it? How about the children in poorer countries? Shouldn’t they also have the “best.” By best, in America, is meant every material pleasure.
If we want our children to have the best we will remember how Moses had God’s best. God’s best required that Moses leave the pleasures of Pharaoh’s palace and journey through a hot, blistering desert, listening to the grumbling of millions of unbelieving people.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:26)
Christians have always been tolerated in America and sometimes admired. But it is not so today. There are faint outlines of coming persecution. If hard times come to America, especially in the form of terrorism, and Americans begin to hurt, they are going to look for a scapegoat. The scapegoat may turn out to be Christian people, as long as they support Israel.
When a nation, such as America, has had every comfort and luxury, and then these are denied, many people will react like tyrannical children who are not getting everything they desire. They are going to hoard money and food, and murder people whom they believe are responsible for their lack of comfort. Somehow the Christians may be blamed and have to go underground.
But we must remember we never are to deny Christ. Even if it means the loss of our job, or our possessions, or our children, or our life, we never, never, never are to deny Christ.
Moses felt to be disgraced for Christ was worth more than all the treasures of Egypt. “He was looking ahead to his reward,” the Scripture says. It reminds us of Abraham looking for the city that has foundation. What reward? No doubt Moses’ reward was the Lord Himself, fellowship with the Lord.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)
Again we see faith displayed as courage.
Moses saw the invisible Lord and thus was able to persevere. David had set the Lord before him at all times and was not shaken.
“Looking always to Jesus.” One of the great principles of discipleship is that of keeping our eyes on the Lord. We can walk on water, when the Lord invites us to, as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
One of Satan’s devices is to confront us with such abominations, or injustices, or perversity, that we will take our eyes off the Lord. This is what he wants. Satan wants us to fret about evil.
There is monstrous evil taking place in many countries of the world. We read about the inhuman actions of those in positions of leadership. Instead of taking care of those entrusted to them, the leaders advance themselves while their charges are left in abject misery. It seems to be happening more each day.
One of our main tasks in the days to come will be to refuse to fret, no matter what depths of evil we see taking place. We absolutely must keep our eyes on the Lord no matter what happens. If we watch the Lord, He will bring us safely through every calamity.
I read in the paper today of a woman in Mexico whose daughter was murdered. When she went to the authorities because her daughter did not come home on time, they told her not to worry because her daughter was out dancing somewhere and would come home. The responsible authorities took no action. Later the daughter was found dead in a ditch where her body had been thrown.
For some reason I felt personally upset about this. I went to the Lord. He assured me, as He always does, that all of those involved in this tragedy would give an account of their actions before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only then did I feel at peace.
Instead of railing about how terrible the world is getting I went to the Lord. Soon I had peace and was able to put this abomination out of my mind.
We are going to have to keep our eyes on Jesus in these days, and not take them off the Lord no matter what is happening around us. We can persevere through every situation if we will do this.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (Hebrews 11:28)
God told Moses all the details concerning the first Passover observance. Moses obeyed by faith. He already had seen many miracles so he knew what God said, God would do.
We have to obey God by faith. When He tells us to put our faith in the blood atonement made on Calvary, we have to do what God has said.
Faith always is demonstrated by our obedience. Sometimes Christians say that they believe in Christ; but then they do not do what Christ has commanded. Such do not really believe in Christ Himself. If they did, they would do what He and His Apostles have commanded.
They don’t believe in Christ Himself. They may believe in what they have heard about Christ, that He was born of a virgin and is the Son of God. But the demons know this and they are not saved.
Salvation is not a matter of believing the truth about Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to us as we put our faith in the living Jesus, keeping our eyes on Him, and obeying all He tells us to do in His Word and personally. If we do not do this, we do not have a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:29)
The parting of the Red Sea was a major miracle. We have not seen miracles of this magnitude throughout Christian history, but there may have been many of which I am unaware.
Jesus said the works that He had done we would do because He was going to return to the Father. It is my point of view that we shall see miracles of this magnitude before too long. Certainly the miracles performed by the two witnesses of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation would be in this category.
But these outstanding miracles will not take place in church at 11:00 AM while we are sitting comfortably in our pews. They will occur during times of danger and trouble, just as in the case of the Israelites who were fleeing for their lives.
We are going to need faith in miracles to survive in America of the future; and God will give us such faith if we ask Him.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30)
The walls were high and thick and the soldiers of Jericho were protected from the arrows and spears of the Israelites.
Marching around the walls with the priests blowing trumpets was not a reasonable battle tactic. But the Israelites obeyed God, and God fought for them. God removed the defenses of the enemy.
God is calling us today to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to every nation as a witness. The coming of the Kingdom of God to the Christian people, and finally to the world, will result in the removal of all sin from mankind.
We need faith that God indeed can do what He said. He stated, in the Book of Daniel, that He is going to make an end of sin. This means the angelic lords who have been driven from God’s Presence and now are ruling the earth from the lower heavens are going to be removed from their positions of power and influence.
God commanded us in Deuteronomy to utterly destroy these kings and all of their followers
But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7:23,24)
We are to do as Joshua and the people did. We are not to scheme how we are going to bring in the Kingdom of God. We are going to listen to the Lord and do exactly what He tells us to do, whether it seems foolish or not.
Joshua and the other leaders could have plotted how to take the city of Jericho. Instead they just followed the Lord’s directions. This is what we are to do in the days to come. Our watchword is to be: “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit.” We are to ignore the numerous plans of well-intentioned people and do exactly what Jesus says. Then we will be able to defeat the enemy no matter how strongly entrenched.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
Rahab was not killed with those who were disobedient. The inhabitants of Jericho had heard, perhaps from the traders of the caravans, of the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of Sihon and Og. It may be that the inhabitants of Jericho were given a chance to surrender but were unbelieving or disobedient.
Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof And said to them, “I know the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:8-11)
Rahab was not an Israelite. She had heard of the things the God of the Hebrews had done. Faith rose up in her. She took a chance on being killed in order to protect the spies sent out by Joshua. The other inhabitants of Jericho knew of God’s works just as well as Rahab did. But when Rahab heard, she believed. Her faith in the God of the Hebrews saved her from death.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, Quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38)
Gideon had little confidence in himself. After his fleeces, and the conversation he overheard, he had faith enough to do what God commanded. He won a battle when his army was greatly outnumbered.
God showed at that time that He did not want to work with a great army of Israelites, for they would be persuaded they had prevailed by their own means. When 300 men were able to vanquish the huge force of the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples, God was glorified.
Barak also was not sure of himself, but Deborah helped him. It seems to me that both Gideon and Barak are examples of what you might call “reluctant warriors.” God took the initiative with Gideon and Barak, and they obeyed and won great victories. But it was God’s idea and not theirs for them to attack a superior enemy.
In the case of both Gideon and Barak, it really was the Lord who routed the enemy.
We must understand in our day that we do not have to develop a plan and set forth to “do great things for God.” The need in our day is for people who are listening to the Lord, and then go forth prayerfully and carefully to do exactly what the Lord is commanding. Jesus knows what He wants. It is up to us to listen carefully before we charge out in our own zeal.
Personally I think the day is past for “great men of God.” I believe we need people of moderate attainments who obey the great God. How do you feel about this?
Judge Samson was an example of a man chosen by the Lord to deliver Israel but whose life was not holy. Samson showed his faith at the end when he prayed for strength to bring down the temple of Dagon. He could have done great good for Israel with his extraordinary gift of strength, but he chose to follow the appetites of his flesh.
The Lord helped Jephthah defeat the Ammonites. Jephthah made a terrible vow, and honored it when God answered his prayer. I have heard preachers say that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a burnt offering, he just didn’t give her in marriage to anyone.
God did not ask Jephthah to make such a dangerous vow, but God did not prevent him from doing what he vowed. Neither did God comment on what he did to his daughter. We in America are so soft we cannot even picture a hero of faith sacrificing his daughter as a burnt offering. Such an action is beyond the scope of our imagination. (Yet, crimes occur every day in the world that are far more gruesome than this! Our sophistication is the thinnest of veneers.)
Jephthah became so anxious to be a hero (remember he had been cast out previously) that he made a rash, foolish vow. This is why we must get rid of our idols—of everything we desire intensely, other than the Lord. If we do not, our fierce clutching of our idol will lead us to say or do something that one day will cause us agony.
It may be true that trouble will come to our nation—enough trouble for us to get back to the fundamentals of life; enough trouble for us to understand the severity of God and of life itself.
Jephthah lived only six years after this. I have no doubt he died of a broken heart. She was his only child.
David was a man after God’s own heart. God was in all David’s thoughts.
David committed adultery and murder. When David repented, God forgave him to such an extent that David died in honor and his Psalms have blessed the faithful to the present day.
I think David portrayed the kind of faith that God esteems. Everything David did was wrought in God. David looked to God in war, and also in the governing of Israel. David spoke to God continually, and God spoke to David. David set God before Him at all times so he would not be shaken.
We can tell from reading the Psalms that David had numerous enemies—perhaps some of them were within David’s palace. David sought refuge in God.
David was moved prophetically when he established the Ark of the Covenant in Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem, while the remainder of the Tabernacle remained at the high place in Gibeon. Also when he purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and built an altar there, the site of the future Temple.
David is one of the clearest examples of true faith to be found in the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews is telling the believing Jews to consider how David served God throughout his entire life. He did not start out in faith and then turn back to the ways of the flesh, as did his son, Solomon.
Samuel is another example of someone called of God, who then served the Lord all the days of his life.
The Hebrew Prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel stood with God against their nation. By faith Isaiah spoke of Christ, and also rebuked the sinners in Israel. By faith Jeremiah told his people to surrender to the Babylonians. By faith Ezekiel, a priest as well as a prophet, warned the Israelites that destruction would come upon them because of their sins.
The heroes of faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouth of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, escaped the edge of the sword, received strength in their weakness, became powerful in battle, routed foreign armies, received back their dead, were tortured and refused to be released, faced jeers and flogging, were chained and put in prison, were stoned, were sawed in two (tradition says this was Isaiah), were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
The world was not worthy of them.
They lived as they did in order to gain a better resurrection.
The point is, faith turns aside from the present world and gazes at the future.
The Jewish believers needed to be reminded of this, because they were returning to business as usual in the world.
We American Christians also need to be reminded that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a hope for a better future, not a means of making ourselves comfortable in the present world. We need to realize that if we desire a “better resurrection” we cannot spend our days seeking luxury and pleasure at the present time.
Those who have gone before us, from the time of Abel, have left bloody footprints in the snow. We need to prepare ourselves to serve God, to endure hardship as good soldiers of Christ, no matter what the future holds.
Let us think for a moment. Remember, Chapter Eleven was preceded by the Reformation slogan: “The just shall live by faith.” Chapter Eleven is a lengthy definition of this slogan.
Now compare this definition, including the suffering of the righteous, with the way “the just shall live by faith” is applied today. Today we are saying this slogan means we are to do nothing but believe in Jesus. Obviously our understanding of the Reformation slogan, and the Bible definition of the slogan, have little in common.
It is time now for another reformation of Christian thinking.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39,40)
Again we come to the idea that the patriarchs had a vision of the Kingdom of God. They realized something good was ahead. Yet they did not receive what had been promised.
We need to give careful thought to this. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, the Prophets, undoubtedly are in Heaven today. Would you agree with that? We know Abraham is in Heaven because the rich man saw him there with Lazarus.
But none of these saints have received what had been promised.
What does this tell us? It tells us that residence in Heaven is not what had been promised. The goal of the righteous is not residence in Heaven.
God has planned something better for us. So there is something better than residence in Heaven, apparently.
The saints of old cannot be made perfect apart from us. So the writer of the Book of Hebrews is maintaining his thesis that our goal is perfection (let us go on to perfection), which he also terms “His rest.”
I would say that our primary goal is to be conformed to the moral image of Jesus Christ and to enter untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. Our goal is rest in the Person and will of God. The Kingdom of God, our inheritance with Christ, all flow from our primary goal.
We see then that our goal is not a place but a state of being. The saints of old did not have access to that goal because the Father’s House, the Lord Jesus Christ, had not been crucified and resurrected.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
The verse above no doubt is referring to the saints mentioned in the preceding chapter. Is the writer speaking poetically when he says we are surrounded by them, or is he being literal?
My belief is that he is being literal. I believe that saints named in the preceding chapter, and numerous others, are surrounding us so they can learn from us and be made perfect together with us.
We profit from their lives and now they are profiting from our lives. Do you remember how Moses and Elijah spoke with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration and discussed His coming departure (death) at Jerusalem?
In view of the fact that we are being observed we must throw off the sin that hinders us and run with patience the race marked out for us.
I suppose this would be an effective argument to use with Jews—the idea that Moses and other patriarchs were watching them. This should make them turn back to the pursuit of eternal life.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
If there is a secret of the Christian discipleship it is that of fixing our eyes on Jesus. As long as we do that we move ahead successfully.
The idea that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith needs some examination. I think we view salvation as a kind of open-ended, never-get-there waiting to die and go to Heaven. We have been saved, so the next stop is Heaven. We have been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, so the next stop is Heaven. We ought to try to do good but nobody’s perfect.
This is not the case. Our redemption has a specific beginning, a specific process, and a specific conclusion. The Jewish believers did not realize this. They had become spiritually lethargic. They were not pressing toward the mark.
Our salvation has not been fully accomplished until we are at rest in the Father through Christ. This means there never is a point during our lifetime when we are to cease pressing forward toward the rest of God. There is a goal, a mark, and we are not to come short of it.
Jesus Christ was able to endure the cross, scorning the shame, because there was joy set before Him. He realized He was going to inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. We ourselves will not be able to endure our cross unless we fix our eyes on the joy set before us. That joy is not eternal residence in Heaven but the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. We are coheirs with Christ.
If we are not looking forward to returning with the Lord and inheriting the nations, then we need to ask God to show us the desirability of this inheritance. When He does we will understand clearly that the nations and the earth are what we want, not a mansion in the spirit world.
Christ has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God in Heaven. We already are there in Him and with Him, according to Paul. Our task is maintaining our position there, because many forces seek to pull us down from our high place in God. In these days, only the most determined will be able to keep their crown. The temptations are going to triple in intensity and number.
If you do not have joy set before you at this time, ask God to place joy before you. He will do this, because He understands that you will lose heart if you do not have something joyful to look forward to.
Faith is defined as holding fast to the hope God is a rewarder of those who continue to seek Him earnestly and diligently until the promise is fulfilled.