Legacies of Faith
What does faith look like? In chapter 11 of his letter, the author of Hebrews tackles this question by presenting us with a portrait gallery, as it were, of the saints of old—men and women who were commended on account of their faith. This biblical record of commendation is not meant to elevate these individuals to some superhuman status. Instead, we are to view Noah, Moses, and the rest as ordinary people from whom we can derive strength and encouragement as we reflect on how God helped them and honored their faith.
If we want to follow their example of a living, lived-out faith, we need first to see what the faith of these individuals was not. It was not a warm, fuzzy feeling deriving from emotion or circumstances, nor was it a vague notion that everything would just work out in the end. No, for these men and women, faith in practice meant believing what God had said, taking Him at His word, and then regulating their lives accordingly. In other words, as these verses tell us, their faith was an assured conviction that what God had promised would indeed come to fruition.
Furthermore, these saints of old regarded their future reality as if it were present and that which was invisible as if it were actually visible. Even if they didn’t see God’s promises fulfilled in their lifetime, they trusted His faithfulness to His word in light of eternity. Their faith was a deep-seated trust not in their circumstances in the present but in the one who had made promises about their future.
By living out their faith in such a visible way, these saints made a radical impact on their day—and so can we in ours. Whenever an individual, a couple, a family, or a church is prepared to take God at His word and do what He says, lives will be transformed. If we do so, we will better understand who God is and what He has done, and we will be better placed to make a difference in this world and for eternity.
Of all that was true of the saints presented in Hebrews 11, the one unifying characteristic which brought them to this portrait gallery was their faith in the living God—an assurance that God’s promises were able to bear the weight of their hopes and a steady conviction that what God had said was as real as what they could see. Is that your faith? Meditate on all the promises that are yours from God in Christ. Reflect on all the promises God has already kept through history and supremely in the death and resurrection of His Son. Then you will be able, with joy and determination, to set your priorities and make your decisions based on His promises, not on your circumstances.
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
29By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,1 they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
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