Heb 11: Examples of faith, to encourage his readers to emulate
these heroes and heroines of faith, who on the basis of what they knew about God
and His promises had the courage to move out into the unknown, with their hearts
set upon, and their lives controlled by, a great unseen reality.
Vv 1-3: The nature and importance of faith.
FAITH: The word "faith" ("pistis") is used more often
in Hebrews than in any other NT book, occurring 24 times in the present chapter
alone. Faith in Hebrews involves active obedience rather than a passive belief
in the truth of God. (Cp the close relationship between unbelief and
disobedience in Heb 3:18 -- 4:2.) This obedience obviously also involves trust.
Thus the word faith in Hebrews approximates "faithfulness" (cp Heb 10:36-39).
BEING SURE OF: "Assurance" (RSV) -- emphasizing the
subjective aspect of faith; the "confident anticipation" (CHeb 203). On the
other hand, the AV has "substance" -- emphasizing the objective aspect, the
solid ground upon which the faith of the individual may rest.
"The Gr 'hypostasis' occurs elsewhere in Hebrews in two
places. In the first of these (Heb 1:3) the word has an objective sense and is
translated 'being' by NIV: 'the exact representation of his being.' In its
second occurrence (Heb 3:14) the word may have a subjective sense and is
translated 'confidence' by NIV: 'the confidence we had at first.' Even in this
passage, however, an objective sense is possible... The objective sense is
probably to be favored in the present passage because it is more in keeping with
the normal meaning of the word and the main thrust of the chapter. A third
option, similar to the objective meaning of the word, has been suggested on the
basis of the use of the word in contemporaneous secular papyri, where it means
'title deed' or 'guarantee' " (NIBC).
WHAT WE HOPE FOR: "Behind NIV's 'what we hope for' is
the strong Christian word for 'hope' ('elpizomenon'), which involves not wishful
thinking, but confident expectation (cp Heb 6:11; 10:23; Rom 8:24f). The reason
for the confidence of this hope -- and indeed of our faith itself -- is the
faithfulness of God (cp Heb 10:22f)" (NIBC).
CERTAIN: Gr "elenchos" occurs only here in the NT. The
AV has "evidence", which is better: the Gr has the idea of "proving"
(subjective), or "a means of proof" (objective). "Many commentators have
interpreted this word as referring to the subjective certainty or 'conviction'
of faith (cp Heb 10:22). But here too the objective sense is to be preferred,
parallel with the first statement (so interpreted). The action produced by faith
is a manifestation or a proving of the reality of things not yet seen.
The objective interpretation of these two words is in
agreement with one of the major emphases of the entire chapter, that is, that
faith is active in obedience. But when faith manifests itself in this way, the
unseen and the hoped–for become real. Faith expressed in this way can be
said to objectify what is believed. This in turn strengthens faith itself (which
is why faith and obedience must accompany each other)" (NIBC).
WHAT WE DO NOT SEE: It is the expression of faith
rather than the conviction of faith that is the author's point in this chapter.
The obedient response of faith substantiates what is promised. Effective faith,
although directed to future realities, also in a sense makes the future present.
Faith that is authentic recognizes the reality of the unseen and allows itself
to be governed by that reality. In a similar vein, Paul can write, "so we fix
our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:18). And he adds a little
farther on, "we live by faith, not by sight" (2Co 5:7). What our author provides
here is not so much a technical definition of faith as it is a description of
what authentic faith does and how God provides evidence in the practice of faith
that what He promises will eventually come to pass. The future and unseen
realities can be made real by Christians through faith. "We may paraphrase this
verse in the following words: 'Faith through its active character gives
substance to, that is, expresses the reality of, things hoped for; it
demonstrates the truth of things not yet seen' " (NIBC).
Though the foregoing stresses the FUTURE aspect of "what is
not seen", the point in this phrase may as likely be "what is not seen" because
it is PAST. "Things" is "pragmaton" -- a thing done, a work or transaction
accomplished -- and hence something which God did in the past, and which later
generations have learned from the divine testimony (Rom 10:17). This would, of
course, be the point of Heb 11:3 which follows: "faith" looks back into history,
and discerns the visible hand of God acting to achieve His will, and it also
looks forward into the future with confidence that that unseen Hand will yet
bring that divine will to perfect fruition.
THIS IS WHAT THE ANCIENTS WERE COMMENDED FOR: These
"elders", both men and women of the past, are to be brought forward as specific
illustrations (the "cloud of witnesses": Heb 12:1) beginning in v 4, so that the
present verse can serve almost as a title for the remainder of the
BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE UNIVERSE WAS FORMED AT
GOD'S COMMAND, SO THAT WHAT IS SEEN WAS NOT MADE OUT OF WHAT WAS VISIBLE:
The author begins his great catalogue with a reference to the origin of the
created order, for here he finds an illustration of the very principle in faith
that involves unseen reality coming to concrete expression. The "universe" (lit,
"the ages") was brought into existence at God's command (lit, "by the word of
God"; cp Gen 1; Psa 33:6,9). The event of the creation itself points to an
unseen reality of exceptional importance that is prior to and indeed generates
the world we can see. Our understanding of the creation of the universe through
the word of God is itself by faith. That is, here too we reckon the truth of an
unseen reality, despite the account of creation given in Scripture. From the
creation we may indeed know of God's power (Rom 1:20).
Vv 4-40: Examples of faith, with related
BY FAITH ABEL OFFERED GOD A BETTER SACRIFICE THAN CAIN
DID: Cp Gen 4:2-16. Abel's sacrifice was a blood sacrifice (cp Heb 9:22), in
remembrance and imitation of the "sacrifice" by which his parents were provided
a covering for their nakedness (Gen 3:21). Altho not specifically said, it may
be assumed that this was the type of sacrifice commanded -- and that Cain chose,
instead, his own way, feeling it was 'just as good' as Abel's way: "There is a
way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Pro
BY FAITH HE WAS COMMENDED AS A RIGHTEOUS MAN, WHEN GOD
SPOKE WELL OF HIS OFFERINGS: Lit, he "was well attested," referring to the
account in Genesis, as is clear in the deliberate allusion to the words of the
LXX of Gen 4:4, that "God spoke well of his offerings".
AND BY FAITH HE STILL SPEAKS, EVEN THOUGH HE IS DEAD:
The first murder produced the first martyr, and Abel's innocent blood was not
forgotten (Heb 12:24; Mat 23:35; cp Gen 4:10). Having died for his faithfulness,
Abel continues to speak the message of faith -- figuratively speaking, "his
blood cries out from the ground"! (This appears to be the source of the symbolic
language of Rev 6:9,10: "I saw under the altar the souls [lives, or blood, as in
Lev 17:11] of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the
testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long,
Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and
avenge our blood?' " Like the later martyrs portrayed in Rev, the faith (and
sacrifice) of the first martyr assured that God would remember him, and raise
him from the dead to eternal life.
V 5: Though it might at first look appear otherwise, it
may be taken as fairly certain that Enoch died: he is, after all, one of the
early witnesses of faith to which Heb 11:13 refers: "All these people were still
living by faith when they died." Death reigned (over all, presumably) from Adam
to the time of Moses (Rom 5:14) -- which would include Enoch. He did NOT ascend
to heaven (John 3:13; cp Gen 5:24).
Enoch received special visions of the Last Days (Jude
Where, exactly, did he go, and what, exactly, happened to him?
To this there is one good Bible answer: "The secret things belong to the LORD
our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children" (Deu 29:29).
There are certain things which we just cannot know.
BY FAITH ENOCH WAS TAKEN FROM HIS LIFE: "Taken" is
"translated" in AV: "metatithemi" = transfer, remove, transplant, change sides.
To be removed from one situation or condition or physical location, and
transported to another.
SO THAT HE DID NOT EXPERIENCE DEATH: To "experience" is
to comprehend, ie wi complete understanding. Like Moses, Enoch was put to sleep
in midst of full vigor -- so as not to "see" disease, violence, and/or old age
(cp v 13; Xd 119:48).
Enoch's fate is mentioned in Gen 5:24: Enoch testified against
the "ungodly" (Jud 1:14,15), ie Lamech, his counterpart in Cain's line: a man of
violence (Gen 4:23,24). Perhaps Lamech sought to slay Enoch, and God removed hm
from harm -- hidden in Garden of Eden, to walk with God in even closer
fellowship, as a "reward" (Heb 11:5,6). (BS 10:152,153).
What happened to Enoch? In both Gen and Heb 11:5 Enoch is
treated differently than his contemporaries. Did he die? Probably "Yes!": 1Co
15:22: "as in Adam all die"; and Rom 5:14: "death reigned from Adam to Moses."
Also, Heb 11:13: "these all died in faith", and the five people mentioned
earlier included Enoch.
If so, then what about the statement: "he was not, for God
took him"? This suggests disappearance or removal, as does Heb 11:5 and the word
"translated" (= transferred, or changed as to status: ie Heb 7:12). Possibly
Enoch was taken away from a potential life-threatening disaster to another place
to live out his life. Heb 11:4,5 sets Enoch alongside Abel who died by the hand
of an assassin; both experienced God's overshadowing care, yet one suffered and
the other was delivered.
HE COULD NOT BE FOUND: "Enoch's removal would prove a
nine days wonder, his disappearance giving occasion to much talk. Search parties
sought for him, expecting to find him either dead or alive; but without
success... We might see here some parallel with what will happen in the day of
the Lord's advent, when some are 'taken.' It will occasion the same surprise,
and similar results. And it will precede the judgment which corresponds to 'the
days of Noah.' Faith in God involves two things, says the apostle, as in his
brief, pregnant way he treats of matters revealed in the OT; belief in the
existence of God, and that God has a purpose with man. Faith touches the unseen,
and shews itself in the confidence that God is. It touches also things hoped
for, and therefore matters of promise. In this its relationship to the Word of
God is seen; for things promised are known in and by the Word of God, and faith
comes by hearing the Word of God" (CHeb 217,218).
GOD HAD TAKEN HIM AWAY: Or "translated him" (AV). From
Gen 5:24, LXX. Cp similar wd in Col 1:13: "and brought us into the kingdom of
the Son he loves". "Translated" from the dominion of sin and death to the
dominion of righteousness and life!
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: Faith is the complete acceptance of all God has
promised (Rom 10:16,17); it is the means of salvation (Eph 2:8).
"Faith is honouring to God: and faith requires time for its
exercise. God had made 'great and precious promises' to the fathers: and He
tried them by not specifying time and causing them to wait long. 'And so after
he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise' (Heb 6:15). Let us not weary
under a similar test: 'a patient continuance in well doing' is the revealed rule
of our acceptance (Rom 2:7), and this means a long time of waiting with nothing
to rely on but confidence in the pledged word of Yahweh, ie, faith, 'without
which, it is impossible to please Him' (Heb 11:6). By such a process, we shall
be prepared for a place among the tried sons of God, with whom we shall be
enabled to say at the last, 'Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him; let us
be glad and rejoice in His salvation' (Isa 25:9)" (WP 35).
REWARDER: The noun "rewarder" ("misthapodoteas") occurs
only here in the NT, but the related noun "reward" ("misthapodosia") occurs 3
other times in the NT: Heb 2:2; 10:35; 11:26.
V 7: Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2Pe 2:5). He
and his family, in the ark, were saved thru water -- the like figure of baptism
(1Pe 3:20,21). The days of Noah were a parable of the Last Days (Luk 17:26,27).
BY FAITH NOAH, WHEN WARNED ABOUT THINGS NOT YET SEEN, IN
HOLY FEAR BUILT AN ARK TO SAVE HIS FAMILY: The author thus returns
explicitly to the orientation of faith toward the unseen and the future (cp v
1). This is a dominant theme in Heb 11. In this specific instance, and in
contrast to all the others in this ch, the unseen and future involve the threat
of imminent judgment rather than Last Days blessing.
In Noah's case, the "things not yet seen" would include
BY HIS FAITH HE CONDEMNED THE WORLD AND BECAME HEIR OF THE
RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH: The faith of Noah served to highlight the
unbelief of the world and thus to demonstrate the propriety of its condemnation.
Noah in turn became an heir of God's salvation (cp Heb 6:17). The language is at
first glance the language of Paul (cp Rom 3:22,24; 4:13). Noah's faith expressed
itself in action (cp Gen 6:9,22; 7:1); righteousness is fundamentally a matter
of faith in the unseen, leading to appropriate action. The key is not in the
"believing" alone, but in faith as the cause of proper conduct.
Vv 8-12: In the OT Abraham is the man of faith par excellence.
According to Gen 15:6, "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as
righteousness." Paul can describe Abraham as "the father of all who believe"
(Rom 4:11; cp Gal 3:9). Our author understandably gives more space to him than
to any other of the examples he brings forward. Three major episodes from
Abraham's life come into view: the departure to the holy land (vv 8-10); the
later fulfillment of the promise of descendants (vv 11,12); and, in vv
17–19, the sacrifice of Isaac. In all of these, faith is wonderfully
illustrated. It was faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a
human perspective were insurmountable. Our author's "by faith" formula is
applied to Abraham four times: vv 8,9,11 (also including Sarah), and v
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: In this first example (drawn from Gen 12:1, 4) the
essence of faith is beautifully and simply expressed: to step out into the
unknown, following the unseen God! Abraham leaves the known and the familiar to
be led wherever God leads him. He acts on the basis of God's promise alone,
heading toward the unseen and unknown (cp the definition of faith in v 1).
Abraham is thus controlled by God and His covenant promises -- involving an
eternal inheritance in the land of Canaan. This is exactly what faith entails
and what our author wants his readers to emulate (cp Heb 13:13).
Our author puts together faith and obedience in a way similar
to Jam 2:14-26.
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: Despite the fact that he came to
the land of Canaan, he did not settle there as though that were his final goal.
Indeed, he continued to live as a pilgrim or wanderer in this world (Gen 23:4)
even in the land of promise, a dweller in tents (eg, Gen 12:8; 13:3; 18:1),
rather than more permanent structures. In the speech of Stephen in Acts 7 the
same point is made. When Abraham went out to the land, God "gave him no
inheritance here, not even a foot of ground" (Acts 7:5).
And in this manner of life and philosophy Abraham was followed
by his son and grandson (to be mentioned again in vv 20,21), Isaac and Jacob (cp
Gen 25:27; 26:3), who were literally fellow–heirs of the same promise (cp
FOR HE WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO THE CITY WITH FOUNDATIONS,
WHOSE ARCHITECT AND BUILDER IS GOD: The reason for this attitude of Abraham,
so strange by the world's standards, is now made clear. He knew that what God
ultimately had in store for his people transcended security and prosperity in a
parcel of real estate on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. The author now
uses the metaphor of a city -- no doubt with the Last Days image of the New
Jerusalem in mind (cp v 16; Heb 12:22; 13:14; Rev 21:2,10; Gal 4:26).
Alternatively, he can speak of a heavenly country as its equivalent (v 16). The
city looked for by Abraham is described as one with foundations (cp Rev
21:14,19; Isa 28:16; Eph 2:20; 2Ti 2:19) -- that is, one that is stable and
lasting -- a city whose architect and builder is God himself. This will receive
elaboration in vv 13–16.
ARCHITECT AND BUILDER: Two rare nouns in the NT. The
first of these, "techniteäs" ("craftsman," "designer"), is found elsewhere
in the NT only in Acts 17:29; 18:3; and Rev 18:22; the second, "demiourgos"
("maker," "creator"), occurs only here in the NT.
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: The second example of Abraham's faith
(drawn from Gen 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1–7) involves the fulfillment of
God's promise of descendants. Abraham put his trust in God's faithfulness. This
trust enabled Abraham and Sarah to accomplish the humanly unthinkable (cp
Abraham's response, Gen 17:18; and Sarah's in Gen 18:12; 21:7). Thus despite his
(and Sarah's) age and Sarah's (and his) barrenness, Abraham "received power to
The mg alternative reading, that "Sarah was enable to bear",
is not the preferred, since the Gr for "beget" always refers, elsewhere, to the
male and not to the female. This is not meant to deny that Sarah also believed,
as did Abraham -- for she surely did, despite a hint of early doubt.
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: The result of faith in this instance was that from this one
man, who was "worn out," "impotent," or as good as dead, came forth an abundance
of offspring. This abundance, now seen as fulfillment, is deliberately described
in the language of the covenant promises to Abraham (see Gen 15:5; 22:17;
32:12). God was faithful to his promise, and it was by their faith that Abraham
and Sarah experienced God's faithfulness. Our author's argument here is very
similar to Paul's in Romans 4:16-25. There Paul refers to God as the one "who
gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" (Rom
4:17). He too describes Abraham's body with the expression "as good as dead"
(Rom 4:19), using the sw as the author of Hebrews; and he describes Abraham's
attitude in these words: "being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he
had promised" (Rom 4:21).
AND HE AS GOOD AS DEAD: In this Abraham typifies Jesus
Christ, who was cut off out of the land of the living, without generation, and
yet would live again to see his multitudinous seed also (Isa 53:8,10).
Vv 13-16: The transcendent nature of hope. Our author
interrupts his inventory of paragons of the faith and their specific triumphs of
faith in order to elaborate the material of vv 8–10. The perspective set
forth here, wherein one lives in this world as an alien, is of the essence of
faith as it is first described in v 1. The things hoped for, although not yet
seen, control the life of the person of faith. The OT saints looked for the
reality God had promised.
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: The paragons of faith mentioned thus far, like those about to be
mentioned (cp v 39), died without receiving "the promises". They died, having
lived their lives under the controlling influence of a reality distant and not
yet experienced. Their believing response to what lay in the future is described
by the author in the picturesque language of their having seen it from a
distance and having welcomed it (John 8:56). It was their orientation toward the
promises that enabled them to regard their present status as only temporary and
to describe themselves as aliens and strangers on earth (Gen 23:4; 47:9; 1Ch
29:15; Psa 39:12).
THEY ONLY SAW THEM: KJV adds: "and were persuaded of
them, and embraced them".
ALIENS AND STRANGERS ON EARTH: The story is told about
some Christians who were traveling in the Middle East. They heard about a wise,
devout, beloved old believer, so they went out of their way to visit him. When
they finally found him, they discovered that he was living in a simple hut. All
he had inside was a rough cot, a chair, a table, and a battered stove for
heating and cooking. The visitors were shocked to see how few possessions the
man had, and one of them blurted out, "Well, where is your furniture?" The aged
saint replied by gently asking, "Where is yours?" The visitor, sputtering a
little, responded, "Why, at home, of course. I don't carry it with me; I'm
traveling." "So am I," the godly Christian replied. "So am I."
PEOPLE WHO SAY SUCH THINGS SHOW THAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A
COUNTRY OF THEIR OWN: Their true home accordingly lay elsewhere (ie, not in
this present evil age -- even if in the same physical location), and thus they
sought for themselves a special "homeland".
IF THEY HAD BEEN THINKING OF THE COUNTRY THEY HAD LEFT,
THEY WOULD HAVE HAD OPPORTUNITY TO RETURN: Abraham and his family could, of
course, have returned to Mesopotamia if they had continued to regard that land
as their true home. But this was not what was in their thoughts or what governed
their lifestyle. This stands in sharp contrast to the generation that wandered
in the wilderness and failed to enter God's rest (Heb 4:6), but who instead
desired to return to Egypt. Nor should any kind of "going back", or "apostasy",
be in the minds of the readers (see Heb 10:39). It was not their absence from
Mesopotamia that caused Abraham and his family to refer to themselves as
strangers and exiles, but the fact that -- even in their new land, the land of
promise -- they were STILL strangers and exiles, because the right TIME had not
INSTEAD, THEY WERE LONGING FOR A BETTER COUNTRY -- A
HEAVENLY ONE: What they looked for was a heavenly place. Not necessarily a
place IN heaven, but a heavenly place.
Our heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), by a heavenly Father (Mat
18:35), thru a heavenly word (Joh 3:12), presents to us a heavenly status (Eph
2:6), as we await a heavenly image (1Co 15:48,49), to be a heavenly Jerusalem
(Heb 12:22), in a heavenly country (Heb 11:16), within a heavenly kingdom (2Ti
4:18). All this constitutes Christ's bre as a heavenly people of God!
"It is remarkable that some people cannot discern the
difference betw 'a heavenly country' and heaven itself. The earth, which we are
told is to be eternal abode of the righteous (Pro 10:30; Psa 37:9; Mat 5:5; Rev
5:10), will truly be a heavenly country when the God of heaven, by means of His
Son from Heaven, removes the curse now resting upon it (Gen 3:17; Psa 67:6;
85:12; Isa 35:1; Rev 22:8)" (FGJ).
THEREFORE GOD IS NOT ASHAMED TO BE CALLED THEIR GOD, FOR HE
HAS PREPARED A CITY FOR THEM: Cp Exo 3:6 (and its quotation in Mat 22:32;
Mar 12:26; Luk 20:37). God is faithful to His promises. Their expectation (which
involved the hope of a resurrection to eternal inheritance of the land of
promise) may thus be referred to as an already existing reality. Indeed, it is
already being experienced, in hope, by the ecclesia (Heb 12:22), as well as
something yet to come in all its fullness (Rev 21:2).
The author again refers to a city that God has prepared for
them (mentioned earlier in v 10).
Vv 17-19: The third and perhaps the most remarkable example of
Abraham's faith is now set forth: the offering of Isaac.
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 SO: The story of the testing of Abraham's faith related here is drawn
from Gen 22:1-14 (cp Rom 8:31,32). Although Abraham had bound Isaac and, in
obedience to God, was about to slay him as a sacrifice, God intervened at the
HE WHO HAD RECEIVED THE PROMISES: Which were all to be
fulfilled, by the way, in and thru that special son He had been called upon to
offer (v 18)! How could such a thing be? How could God fulfill His promises if
Isaac were to be offered? Yet with God nothing was impossible!
EVEN THOUGH GOD HAD SAID TO HIM, "IT IS THROUGH ISAAC THAT
YOUR OFFSPRING WILL BE RECKONED": This quotation is drawn from Gen 21:12 and
may be literally translated as "In Isaac will your seed be named." Abraham
endured a most severe form of testing but through it demonstrated his faith,
that is, his absolute, unshakable confidence in the reliability of God's
ABRAHAM REASONED THAT GOD COULD RAISE THE DEAD: From
Abraham's point of view, God's power was such that, if necessary, the sacrificed
Isaac could be raised by God "from the dead".
"Reasoned" ("logizomai") means to "count as true." It occurs
only here in Heb, but is used frequently in connection with Abraham in Rom
FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, HE DID RECEIVE ISAAC BACK FROM
DEATH: Lit, "from whence he received him in a parable." This may mean no
more than that since Isaac was as good as dead at the point of being sacrificed,
it is "as though" he had been raised from the dead. There may, however, be a
deliberate allusion here to Isaac as an anticipation of the resurrection of
Christ. For, like Abraham, God sacrificed His only son, whom he has now received
again from the dead through the resurrection (Rom 8:31,32; cp John 3:16). Thus
the binding of Isaac may foreshadow not only the sacrifice of Christ but also
BY FAITH ISAAC BLESSED JACOB AND ESAU IN REGARD TO THEIR
FUTURE: Lit, "concerning things to come". Isaac, who received the same
covenant as Abraham, spoke confidently of the future (Gen 27:28,28,39,40)
because he trusted God's promises. He therefore stands with his father in the
lineage of faith.
"Blessed" ("eulogeo") in this context refers to the Hebrew
custom of passing the promise, and the privileged position that goes with it (cp
Heb 6:14), from one generation to another. Thus a father who is nearing death
blesses his son or grandson (as Abraham blessed Isaac, Gen 25:11; Isaac blessed
Jacob, Gen 27:27-29; and Jacob blessed Joseph, Gen 48:15, and Ephraim and
Manasseh, Gen 48:20).
In the case of Isaac, this was a triumph over natural desires:
Isaac had desired to pass the blessing along to Esau, who was his favorite --
but he trembled upon realizing that his unrighteous desires had been subverted
by God Himself, and the blessing conferred upon Jacob: "And indeed he WILL be
blessed!" (Gen 27:33), is his exclamation of marveling, at how God had worked
providentially to bring about His will, despite the intentions and efforts of
BY FAITH JACOB, WHEN HE WAS DYING, BLESSED EACH OF JOSEPH'S
SONS: The reference to the blessing of the two sons of Joseph, rather than
to the blessing of his own twelve sons (Gen 49), is probably by the prompting of
the preceding reference to Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau. Jacob, however,
unlike Isaac, deliberately sought to bless the younger of the two, Ephraim (Gen
AND WORSHIPED AS HE LEANED ON THE TOP OF HIS STAFF: The
last clause in this verse is taken practically verbatim from the LXX of Gen
47:31. Although the LXX has Jacob leaning upon his staff (followed by AV and
NIV), the Hebrew of Gen 47:31 says he "bowed himself upon the head of the bed"
(RSV). The words for "bed" and "staff" consist of the same three consonants
("mth") vocalized differently: "mittah" is "bed", and "matteh" is "staff". The
Masoretes of the early Middle Ages chose the vowels for "bed," and so it has
come to us in our Hebrew Bibles. The physical object leaned upon is of little
significance; what matters is the attitude and pose of worship that points to
Jacob's faith: here was a man who was aged and weak, yet even as he was forced
to lean upon something else for support, his real "support" was Almighty God
The best guess? Prob "staff", because: (1) a staff points to
frailty of age, and a pilgrim worship (cp staff in hand: Exo 12:11), and (2) a
staff sym rulership, as in Jacob being a shepherd and ruling over his flock --
his sons, grandsons, etc.
BY FAITH JOSEPH, WHEN HIS END WAS NEAR, SPOKE ABOUT THE
EXODUS OF THE ISRAELITES FROM EGYPT AND GAVE INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HIS BONES:
As in the two preceding examples, we again are presented with a glimpse of a
hero of faith who is close to his death (lit, "dying"). Thus these examples
illustrate vividly the statement in v 13 about dying "in faith." Because of his
faith in the faithfulness of God, Joseph had knowledge of the future and was
able to speak of (lit) "the exodus of the sons of Israel" and give directions
(lit) "concerning his bones" (see Gen 50:24-26), which like Jacob's, were to be
brought to the promised land. These instructions were duly accomplished,
according to Exo 13:19 and Josh 24:32. The man who had under his hand the vast
wealth and power of Egypt was nevertheless really only concerned about a poor
pilgrim people, and a poor, despised land -- because the God of heaven, whom he
worshiped, had chosen this people and this land for His very own!
Both these incidents reveal the patriarchs' preoccupation and
fascination with the land itself -- the land of Canaan, the land of promise, the
land of the Kingdom of God to come!
AND GAVE INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HIS BONES: "For 40 years
those bones had been a source of encouragement, and a silent exhortation, to
those who would hear -- and his faith had been fully vindicated. God had brought
them out, and He brought them in.
"We do not follow a coffin: we know of an empty tomb, which
speaks eloquently of resurrection. We follow not a dead man's bones: we follow
the living Lord Jesus christ, who, by his death, has brought us out. One day he
will return, and by his grace, he will bring us into the rest that remains for
the people of God. Until that day we must endeavour to follow the example of
Paul in Phi 3:13,14; 'Forgetting those things which are behind (Egypt), and
reaching forth unto those things that are before (the Kingdom), I press toward
the mark for the prize of the high calling of god in Christ Jesus.' Can we
possibly do less?" (A Harvey, Xd 138:256).
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: The very life of Moses was dependent upon faith from the
beginning. As a newborn baby, he was saved by the faith of his parents. It was
at great personal risk that they disobeyed Pharaoh's commandment that sons born
to Hebrew parents were to be put to death (Exo 1:22), yet they were not afraid.
They trusted God and his faithfulness, and for three months they kept their son
hidden (Exo 2:1,2).
THEY SAW HE WAS NO ORDINARY CHILD: The reference to the
child as, lit, "beautiful" (Gr "asteios") is drawn from the LXX (Exo 2:2; cp
Acts 7:20). In the latter passage, Moses is said to be "beautiful before God"
suggesting that Gr "asteios" means something more than mere physical beauty --
ie, that he was "acceptable" or "well–pleasing" to God, or "fair to God"
(Acts 7:20, AV mg). Moses' parents may have somehow understood that God had a
special purpose for their son.
Vv 24-27: "So who is Moses? Is he an Egyptian, or is he an
Israelite? In fact, he is a man with a dual identity, a man for whom two
opposing destinies will beckon. He cannot be both; he may choose only one, for
the two paths before him are mutually exclusive. It is this dichotomy inherent
in the account that receives rich exhortational development [here]... There are
two reasons why this issue of identity is such a powerful one. The first is its
aptness for the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Moses prefigures. He was the Son of God
and the Son of man; every day he had to decide to which he identity he would be
"But, in second place, Moses' identity crisis is one that is
typical of us all. We see in Moses the human dilemma in relation to God. There
is the natural way and the spiritual way. We have the choice to hearken to the
voice of God and the choice to shut our ears. The choice for us lies wide open,
just as it did for Moses" (MV, Tes 71:110).
Vv 24-26: Now the author illustrates how faith enables
personal self–denial in the choice of suffering rather than pleasure.
Moses refused what would have been the dream of most: to be part of Pharaoh's
family. Instead he chose to identify with the suffering of his people (Exo
2:11-14; cp Acts 7:23-28). To stay in Pharaoh's court would have meant the
enjoyment of pleasures, that is, immediate gratification. This choice would have
involved Moses' turning his back on the needs of his people and hence had to be
described as sin. The key to Moses' behavior, so strange by the world's
standards, is stated in v 26. He was motivated by "his reward". This is the same
word used in Heb 10:35, also in a context referring to suffering. With that
ultimate or transcendent reward in view, Moses believed that to suffer reproach
"for the sake of Christ" (by which must be meant: 'the hope of a coming
Messiah') led to greater wealth than the best that Egypt could offer. Given the
continuity of God's saving purposes, however, when Moses suffered reproach for
his loyalty to the people of God, in principle he may be said to have suffered
reproach for loyalty to "Christ" (cp Heb 13:13).
WHEN HE HAD GROWN UP: Or become "mature" (Diag);
"mighty in word and deed" (cp Exo 2:11; Acts 7:22,23). Acts 7:23 mentions the
age of "forty".
REFUSED TO BE KNOWN AS THE SON OF PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER:
Poss at some sort of formal adoption ceremony, or even recognition in line of
Pharaohs, and heirship of throne. By faith, Moses made a definite choice,
refusing some specific honor.
HE CHOSE TO BE MISTREATED ALONG WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD
RATHER THAN TO ENJOY THE PLEASURES OF SIN FOR A SHORT TIME: "For a short
time" is Gr "proskairos" -- sw in 2Co 4:17,18: " For our light and momentary
troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. For
what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
HE REGARDED DISGRACE FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST AS OF GREATER
VALUE THAN THE TREASURES OF EGYPT: The KJV translates, "reproach OF Christ".
The connection with "Christ" may be this: that the "reproach" experienced by
Moses when he was rejected by the brethren he came to save (Acts 7:25: "Moses
thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them,
but they did not "; cp Exo 2:11,12) was THE SAME SORT OF REPROACH experienced
much later by Jesus Christ.
BY FAITH HE LEFT EGYPT, NOT FEARING THE KING'S ANGER:
Like his parents (v 23), Moses was unafraid of the mighty Pharaoh. This passage
refers not to Moses' flight from Egypt after killing the Egyptian but, as the
context suggests, to his leading the people of Israel out of Egypt in the exodus
(Exo 12:51). When Pharaoh stormed, "You will see my face no more!" Moses
replied, "You have well said..." (Exo 10:28,29; cp Exo 12:37; 13:17,18). Moses
went out from the "house of bondage"; and the writer to the Hebrews tells the
early Jewish Christians to do the same; in the first instance the "house of
bondage" is in Egypt, but in the last instance it is Judaism itself!
The main reason this passage does not seem to refer to Moses'
initial flight from Egypt is because the narrative (Exo 2:14) says specifically
that he WAS afraid at that time. It is possible, however, to read this passage
to signify that Moses -- after an initial wave of fear -- nevertheless gathered
his courage and resolve, and -- no longer fearing, but rather understanding the
purpose of God more fully -- "left Egypt, no longer fearing the king's anger";
perhaps he was even told by God that he must leave Egypt for the time being, and
went forth in faith (Exo 2:15; Act 7:29).
Yet another alternative is that Moses "left" Egypt -- not
physically, but spiritually -- from the moment he chose to identify himself
publicly with Israel.
HE PERSEVERED BECAUSE HE SAW HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE:
Again alluding back to the opening verse of this ch, the author describes Moses'
accomplishment through faith as seeing Him who is "invisible". The mention of
perseverance may be taken to refer to the entire sequence of events that
culminated in the exodus itself. Moses was motivated by his conviction of the
reality of what is unseen. In keeping with the thrust of the entire ch, it is
probably the transcendent hope that is in view, which, to be sure, in the final
analysis depends upon the existence of God (v 6) and His faithfulness.
V 28 moves from the general to the specific, the means by
which the deliverance of the Israelites was effected. Faith made the Passover
(Exo 12:12-30) a possibility. Because of the sprinkled blood, the delivering
angels hovered over and protected the firstborn of Israel from the destroying
angel -- while the firstborn of Egypt were being killed. It was Moses' faith
that caused him to obey God. He acted in confidence with respect to God's
faithfulness. The result was the deliverance of the Israelites and the
punishment of the Egyptians.
BY FAITH THE PEOPLE PASSED THROUGH THE RED SEA AS ON DRY
LAND; BUT WHEN THE EGYPTIANS TRIED TO DO SO, THEY WERE DROWNED: The people
exhibited the same kind of faith as Moses did. They were confident that God
would deliver them and thus prove Himself faithful to His promises. It was this
faith that enabled them under Moses' leadership to pass through the Red Sea in
the miracle of the dividing of the waters (Exo 14:21-29; cp Psa 78:13). But the
Egyptian pursuers had no such faith and thus came to their end when they tried
to follow the Israelites. Thus the events of the exodus -- that central
deliverance of God's people in the OT -- were possible only by faith.
THE RED SEA: "The sea of reeds" according to the Hebrew
text of Exodus (cp Exo 13:18). The deliverance is celebrated in the "Song of
Moses" (Exo 15).
BY FAITH THE WALLS OF JERICHO FELL, AFTER THE PEOPLE HAD
MARCHED AROUND THEM FOR SEVEN DAYS: The second example of the faith of the
Israelites as a people (cp v 29) is found in the conquest of Jericho. Joshua
might well have been mentioned in this verse, as a man of faith in this
enterprise; his name is presupposed. By faith Joshua and the Israelites marched
around (lit, "circled") the walls of the city (Josh 6:12-21). They trusted God
to do what He said He would do through this otherwise apparently foolish
behavior. By their faith and obedience God thus accomplished His purpose through
BY FAITH THE PROSTITUTE RAHAB, BECAUSE SHE WELCOMED THE
SPIES, WAS NOT KILLED WITH THOSE WHO WERE DISOBEDIENT: It is perhaps
something of a surprise to find Rahab, a non-Israelite, mentioned alongside the
great names of righteous Israelites (cp Jam 2:25). But she too, most remarkably,
had come to have faith in the God of Israel, perhaps by hearing of the victories
of Israel and the power of Israel's God (Josh 2:11). She acted in faith when she
"received the spies in peace". In doing so she put her own life in danger, but
the outcome was that she and her family escaped the destruction that came upon
the city and its disobedient inhabitants (Josh 2; 6:17,23). Despite her
unrighteous profession to that point, Rahab manifested the faith that counts
upon the reality of the unseen.
The story of Rahab became popular in Jewish tradition. She
became a beloved figure as the first proselyte to the Jewish faith. She is even
found in the genealogy of Christ in Mat 1:5 as the mother of Boaz (who married
another famous non-Israelite, Ruth). Rahab's house was an ideal hiding place for
the two spies, since in addition to being readily open during the evening, it
was built into the city wall.
Heb 11:32-40: In these few short verses we are introduced to
that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1), those who in ages past witnessed to
the eternal truths which they believed, and were martyrs of the God they served.
As this chapter is written in a basically chronological sequence (beginning with
Abel -- v 4), we should expect most of the particulars in these last few verses
to belong to the later history of the faithful. (See Article,
"Of whom the world was not worthy" .)
In these verses we have two types of faith, related to one
another, but showing different aspects: (1) In vv 32-35a we see the victories of
faith in action -- against the world; men of God triumph over outside forces,
and the armies of the alien. (2) But in vv 35b-38 we see the victories of faith
in action -- against sufferings, against oneself, against temptation from
The examples of faith in this verse are not in chronological
order. Is there some reason why Samuel is last, and why he is aligned --
apparently -- with the prophets?
This is the only occurrence in the NT of the names Gideon (Jdg
6:11–8:32); Barak (Jdg 4:6–5:31); Samson (Jdg 13:2–16:31); and
Jephthah (Jdg 11:1–12:7). These were judges who saved Israel from foreign
enemies, in circumstances requiring faith in God's promises to them. All four
saved Israel in extraordinary ways: Remember Gideon's "army" of only 300, and
Samson's "jawbone of an ass", as well as the tent-peg of Jael in the days of
Barak. Such incidents illustrate that God can save by few or many, and by very
insignificant means if He so chooses. This He does so that man may not glory in
himself but rather in the Father. And the lesson to us is that we may similarly
find the weapons of faith, and fight the battles of the Lord, in some minor way
which the proud mind of the flesh would never suggest. Let us "humble ourselves
under the mighty hand of God."
CONQUERED KINGDOMS: Jephthah? This could also be an
allusion to the victories recorded in Joshua and Judges, but may include also
David's victories. And Jesus, who by faith chose a kingdom not of this world,
and therefore won the privilege of subduing all worldly kingdoms!
ADMINISTERED JUSTICE: Acting as righteous "judges" --
in stabilizing the nation of Israel, and teaching and practicing right
principles, despite oppositions. The faithful judges and kings (Samuel being the
best representative -- 1Sa 12:3,4) who without regard for present advantage or
crowd-pleasing consistently made the right decisions in the cases brought to
Or Jesus, the preeminent righteous Judge?
GAINED WHAT WAS PROMISED: David? Jacob with the angel?
Or Jesus: "For the joy that was set before him" (Heb 12:1,2).
Perhaps, better, "obtained" (AV) or "received" the promises --
ie, accepted God's promises of good things to come, and took them to heart, and
lived their lives thereby, even though such promises were yet future.
These men of faith all obtained the fulfillment of certain
lesser, and temporal, promises during their lifetimes. But these small promises,
which they could enjoy as realities then, only pointed forward to the promise
which has not even yet been fulfilled.
SHUT THE MOUTHS OF LIONS: Samson (Jdg 14:6), David (1Sa
17:34-36), or most conspicuously, Daniel (Dan 6:22). A fourth man of faith was
the mighty man Benaiah, "who went down and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in
time of snow" (2Sa 23:20).
Or Jesus, who shut the mouth of "death"!
The Scriptures tell only of these four instances of lions
being slain or subdued. Why four? If we remember that lions symbolize the
Gentile nations, bestial in their lusts, then we have here a picture of the four
world empires together, to be tamed and subjected by Christ and the saints, so
that in symbolic language they "shall eat straw like the ox" (Isa 11:6,7).
QUENCHED THE FURY OF THE FLAMES: Moses? Daniel's
friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3:1-30)?
ESCAPED THE EDGE OF THE SWORD: Several of the prophets,
for example, Elijah (1Ki 19:2-8) or Jeremiah (Jer 36:19,26). Joseph and Mary, in
Egypt. "Put up thy sword; he who lives by the sword will die by the sword!" Or
even, in Christ, "circumcision [the sword] avails nothing."
WHOSE WEAKNESS WAS TURNED TO STRENGTH: This brings two
incidents to mind: (1) Samson's strength was miraculously restored to him while
he languished in Philistine chains. Pulling down the great temple of Dagon, he
"destroyed more by his death than by his life" (Jdg 16:28-30), a remarkable
picture of Christ's sacrifice by which man's greatest enemy was destroyed. (2)
The righteous king Hezekiah was "sick unto death", yet was revived through
prayer and faith, and went up to the Lord's house on the third day (2Ki 20:8),
another brilliant foreshadowing of Christ's death and resurrection. Let us
remember that in times of human weakness we may nevertheless be strong in faith
to perform God's will; God has said to one of our brethren: "My strength is
sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Thus we are pointed to Jesus, made in the likeness of sinful
flesh, so that out of that "weakness", and by his faith in his Father, he might
be "made strong" in the conquest of sin and death. The motif of "from weakness
to strength" is found frequently in the NT (eg, Rom 4:19-25; 8:26; 1Co 1:27-29;
2Co 12:9,10; Eph 6:10; Phi 4:13).
WHO BECAME POWERFUL IN BATTLE AND ROUTED FOREIGN
ARMIES: Barak? Gideon? David? Or Jesus, in the wilderness with the
WOMEN RECEIVED BACK THEIR DEAD, RAISED TO LIFE AGAIN:
Almost always the case that women (not men) are mentioned re resurrections: 2Ki
4:36 (the Shunammite woman); 1Ki 17:17-24 (the widow of Zarephath -- a Gentile;
Act 9:41; Joh 11:22,32; 20:15; Mar 5:40. Was it because: thru a woman death
entered world? (WGos 238).
OTHERS WERE TORTURED AND REFUSED TO BE RELEASED:
Rather, "BUT others were tortured", as we have here a contrast. Here begins the
victories of faith in suffering. ("Tortured" is "tympanizo", from "tympanum", a
drum. The sufferer was stretched out upon an instrument like a drumhead, and
beaten to death with sticks and rods.) The remainder of the writer's references
here are to incidents in which the natural mind would be hard-pressed to find a
victory of any sort: "For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are
accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:36).
The outworkings of faith may bring present good, but faith
will also bring trials and tribulations, as God acts to chasten His children.
This preparation has its necessary part in God's overall scheme; the elaborates
on this theme in the next ch: "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving
against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as
unto children, 'My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint
when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and
scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.' If ye endure chastening, God dealeth
with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?... Now
no chastening seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it
yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised
thereby" (Heb 12:4-11).
The Jewish Christians faced trials at the hands of their
natural brethren because they chose to remain separate from the institutions and
traditions of the Mosaic Law, seeing it as a system ready to vanish away (Heb
8:13). This is the same situation which we must now face -- alienation and
disfavor from the world. A mad society is entering its death throes, and those
who will not fall in with its excesses are hated.
SO THAT THEY MIGHT GAIN A BETTER RESURRECTION: Women of
faith received their children raised to life, but this was only a resurrection
to a continuation of mortal life. That for which these "others" hoped was an
awakening to life eternal -- truly a "better resurrection".
Possibly there is also this thought: those who were cruelly
tortured had only to forsake their faith in order to escape death. This would
have been a "resurrection" of sorts, for they would have received back their
lives which had been almost forfeited. But such a renunciation would have meant
loss of that "better resurrection" to immortality.
SOME FACED JEERS AND FLOGGING, WHILE STILL OTHERS WERE
CHAINED AND PUT IN PRISON: Joseph in Egypt (Gen 39:20), and Jeremiah -- the
hated prophet -- put in stocks and lowered into the miry pit (Jer 38:6). In such
trials these men rejoiced, even as Paul sang hymns of praise from his dungeon
The mocking and scourging here is reminiscent of the language
describing the treatment of Jesus according to the passion narratives (Mat
27:29-31; Mark 15:20; Luke 23:11,36; John 19:1; cp Mat 20:19; Mark 10:34; Luke
18:32). This may be in the author's mind when he writes Heb 12:3.
THEY WERE STONED: In OT times we have Naboth, ordered
to be stoned by the wicked Jezebel so that his rightful property might be stolen
(1Ki 21:7-10). And (by tradition) we have Jeremiah, stoned to death in Egypt
where he was carried against his will. Also, Zechariah (2Ch 24:21; cp Mat
23:37). Not to mention Paul himself -- who was stoned and left for
THEY WERE SAWED IN TWO: All ancient sources attribute
this to Isaiah -- in such a manner slain during the reign of Manasseh, "who slew
much innocent blood".
Some mss (cp AV) add: "they were tempted", or "put to the
How does this fit in with the sufferings listed here, since
temptation is the common lot of all -- and therefore not necessarily a special
affliction? The author must be speaking here of the temptations of the faithful
to give up their beliefs in the face of great trials. Again, to put this letter
to the Hebrews in its proper perspective, we must realize that he was writing to
Jews who were being persecuted by their nation (in some cases, even by their
families) because of their strange new ideas. How easy it would have been in
such circumstances to just give in, and to forsake the assembly of the saints
THEY WERE PUT TO DEATH BY THE SWORD: Roman execution of
the apostle Paul, and other Christians.
THEY WENT ABOUT IN SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS, DESTITUTE,
PERSECUTED AND MISTREATED: Those who went about in sheepskins and goatskins
and were forced to live in the wilderness in caves and holes in the ground are
probably not the prophets, such as Elijah (2Ki 1:8), though he is their
prototype, but again the Israelites persecuted by Antiochus during the Maccabean
era. This fits well with the description of them as destitute, persecuted and
mistreated. They fled to the wilderness, according to 1Ma 2:29-38, because of
the evils Antiochus brought upon them. This happened moreover, the author points
out, to persons of whom the world was not worthy (v 38). The underlying irony is
found in the incongruity of God's faithful servants being forced to live like
SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS: The rough, coarse garments of
the prophets -- especially Elijah (1Ki 19:10,13; 2Ki 1:8) and his first-century
counterpart, John the Baptist (Mat 3:4).
Can we not imagine such men as these? Hardened by long years
of wandering and privation, roughly clothed in the skins of the poor, standing
steadfast against the wind and the rain (just as they stand before their
enemies' taunts). Men made perfect by their experiences, by the trials of their
faith: "What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the
wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold,
they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out to see?
A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet" (Mat 11:7-9).
Were such men as these too stern? Too narrow-minded? Too
devoted to an ideal? Were these men not quite "liberal" enough, or easy-going
enough, to suit our fancy? Let us look at such men, look deeply into their eyes
-- let us try to get a glimpse of that animating, invigorating, driving force...
that tremendous, word-begotten faith that lifted them out of their present
situations and into that glorious future of promise.
THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY OF THEM: The proud and vain
and foolish world scorned these men as of no consequence -- "despised and
rejected, men of sorrow, and acquainted with grief". But the world's opinion was
the exact opposite of God's. Those whom they considered unworthy of their notice
except as the object of ridicule and cursing were, in reality, too good for
Let us notice this: the separations forced upon the faithful,
even their trials, were from God. God separated them. This separation (that we,
in our shortsightedness, sometimes resent) is a privilege. It is a supreme
privilege that we are not counted in the company of the world that is destined
to pass away.
THEY WANDERED IN DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS: How Jesus must
have loved the mountains! Often did he spend the entire night in prayer upon the
hills of the Promised Land. We remember how Abraham chose the hills and waste
places of Palestine, rather than the fruitful plain of Sodom.
"I will go about the city in the streets, and in the broad
ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not"
Christ cannot be found in the cities of sin, nor in the "broad
ways" of the earth. He is found instead on the lonely paths, in the wilderness,
in the mountains, the paths frequented by such men as Abraham and Moses and
David. Christ is found in such places, where the noise of man is quieted, and
the still small voice of God may be heard.
Whenever our Saviour had something special to reveal to his
disciples, he carried them out into the mountains. Let us follow Christ into
these same localities -- the "mountains of separation". Let us leave the "city"
behind us. Let us "go forth unto him without the camp". Let us give ourselves a
fair chance to listen, and Christ will speak to us also.
AND IN CAVES AND HOLES IN THE GROUND: See Rev 6:15 --
altho in a different context. Palestine, from its hilly character, abounds in
caves -- to which the persecuted saints were to flee when the "abomination of
desolation" stood before the city (Mat 24:15,16). "O my dove," says the Saviour,
"Thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places" (Song 2:14). But
here, even in immediate danger, the men of faith may feel secure -- their lives
are "hid with Christ".
THESE WERE ALL COMMENDED FOR THEIR FAITH, YET NONE OF THEM
RECEIVED WHAT HAD BEEN PROMISED: Abraham, to whom the promise was made, did
not receive in this life the fulfillment of that promise (Acts 7:5). Abraham was
one of the men of faith who wandered upon the mountains, who "looked for a city"
(Heb 11:10). He believed in the resurrection, as he showed in offering his son
Isaac (Heb 11:19; Gen 22:8-14). And he told his son, "God will provide the
sacrifice." Abraham saw the day of Christ (John 8:56), the "Lamb of God to take
away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). But he knew that he would not benefit
from this until after his death. He received not the promise in this life, but
he fully expected to do so in the future (just as we do).
GOD HAD PLANNED SOMETHING BETTER FOR US: This phrase
may be translated, "God having foreseen..." These two phrases, "God provides"
and "God sees", are again companion thoughts in Gen 22. This account of the
offering of Isaac should be carefully studied in its context and its typical
lessons. It is a beautiful portrayal in shadow of God's offering of His
only-begotten Son. Abraham tells his son, "Yahweh will provide Himself a lamb",
as he contemplates the sacrifice of Isaac's anti-type, the true seed Christ. As
a memorial the place of the altar is named "Yahweh-Jireh" ("It -- Christ --
shall be seen"). The LXX of Gen 22:16 is quoted by Paul in Rom 8:32: "He that
spared not His Own Son, but delivered him up for us all..."
The perfect sacrifice of the Father's only Son is the "better
thing" which God has provided for our salvation. (Or else, the "better thing" is
Canaan in the age to come, God's future Kingdom, as opposed to Canaan in earlier
days, God's past kingdom!)
Christ is better than the sacrifices of the Law (Heb 10:4,14).
The justification which Christ brought by his death and resurrection leads to
the "better resurrection" and the inheritance of the promise in its glorified
millennial state, better than its imperfect past condition -- when at any rate
it could be inherited only for a brief span of mortal life.
SO THAT ONLY TOGETHER WITH US WOULD THEY BE MADE
PERFECT: All are justified by the blood of the Lamb. Christ's sacrifice
atoned for "past sins", as well as those which followed after (Rom 3:25-26; Heb
9:15; Acts 13:39). All the faithful will be made perfect together, by the same
But notwithstanding the promise to the saints of being
perfected, we have while in the flesh continual experience of imperfection. We
must strive to be perfect in conscience before God, even though we are imperfect
in nature. That which is perfect is not yet come, but we wait for it.