Hebrews 11- Trusting in the Son

Hebrews 11- Trusting in the Son

We are nearing the end of a 16-week series on a book in the Bible called Hebrews.   As much as any NT book, Hebrews is one long theme from beginning to end.  One challenge, then, in teaching through this each week is that we want to ensure we understand the text that has come before.

Same is true for our text today, which is chapter 11.  This chapter 11 is all about the theme of faith.  Particularly, the author recounts many, many familiar individuals from the centuries before as recorded in the OT.  Many call this chapter, “The Hebrews Hall of Faith.”  The author recounts the faith and perseverance of these men and women, even under severe suffering like persecution and other challenges. 

But why does he give reminisce of the history of so many godly people?   The answer is found in what precedes this chapter.  So let’s read the end of chapter 10 to see why he inserted all the stories of chapter 11.

Hebrews 10:32–39 (CSB)

32 Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.

33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way.

34 For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, because you know that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession.

35 So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

36 For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.

37 For yet in a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.

38 But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and are saved.

The majority of the readers had believed in Jesus, the Messiah.  And they suffered for it.  Persecution.  Imprisonment.

Anyone would be tempted to quit.  To turn aside from Jesus.  But they didn’t.  So the author urges them, “Keep going!  Don’t give up!  It’s all true.  We are saved by faith.”

Hebrews 11

Now the table is set for chapter 11.  In this lengthy chapter, the author’s goal is to stir up our faith by way of example so that we continue walking with Jesus.  So that in our suffering, we won’t reject faith in Christ.  So that we’ll endure to the end and so find great reward from God himself.

And connected to faith are several other themes we will see in this chapter.

  1. Approval.

By faith they found approval from God. 

  1. Hope

By faith, they had hope in the next world.  They expectantly longed for something better than this world.

  1. Action.

They demonstrated their faith by their actions.  By obedience. We will see many verbs that declare those actions.

  1. Endurance

In the midst of much suffering, including persecution, they endured in faith to the end of their lives.  They didn’t quit.  They refused to deny the Lord. 

We will talk more about each one of these as we read through the chapter. 

Hebrews 11 (CSB)

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

2 For by this our ancestors were approved.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did.  By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.

5 By faith Enoch was taken away, and so he did not experience death. He was not to be found because God took him away. For before he was taken away, he was approved as one who pleased God.

6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

7 By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Verse 1 is not a precise definition of faith, but it does give us a description.

First, the word “faith” simply means “trust.”  We trust God.  We believe what he says and does. And who he is.

Second, faith is future oriented.  It is focused on future, eternal things.  “The reality of things hoped for.”   Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but a confident expectation of good.  The men and women of faith in this chapter were future oriented.  Not simply 10 years in the future, but 1000 years.

Third, faith is trusting God for things we cannot see yet.  Someday we will see them.  We will see the Lord with our own eyes.  But for now, for these few short years on earth, we trust God that he is real, even though we can’t see him.

Fourth, in verse 6, we discover faith pleases God.   How beautiful and simple:  To bring God pleasure….to please him….we simply walk by faith.  We trust him.  Whatever he says in the Scriptures, we believe it.   We simply believe that he exists…that he is real…that he is there.  And we believe that he will reward and honor anyone who seeks him….who yearns to know him. 

In vs. 4-7, the author recounts 3 men from Genesis:  Abel, Enoch, and Noah.  We can read their stories in Genesis 4 through 9. 

They all trusted God for their eternal future, even though they couldn’t see it yet or touch it.  They are examples to us.  We can be inspired to do the same. 

And our first of four themes in this chapter is revealed here:

Approval.

By their faith in God, they found God’s approval.  They were commended by him…because of their faith. 

We see this in vs. 2,4,5,39.    They simply trusted God and what he said, and he declared them righteous.  Acceptable.  At peace with him.  Back in chapter 10, it is spoken of in different terms:  10:38 “My righteous one will live by faith.”

This is the core of the NT message, such as in Romans and Galatians, on how we find forgiveness and a right standing before God:  it is by faith.  It is never by works. 

So author is saying, “Those who walk by faith will receive approval from God. Righteousness will come no other way.”

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going.

9 By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.

10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the one who had promised was faithful.

12 Therefore, from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and as innumerable as the grains of sand along the seashore.

Abraham and Sarah are also in Genesis.  What a tremendous story they have.  They were given a great promise by God, and they had no idea how it would ever happen.  But they trusted God.

We experience situations like that in our lives.   We have no idea how our situation will turn out for good, but we trust God that he will do it.

Now here is what I view as the key to the whole chapter.  A great summary.

Read vs. 13-16.

13 These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.

14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return.

16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one.  Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

This section brings up our second theme connected to faith:  Hope.    

Hope

From vs. 1, faith is the certainty of what we hope for.

And in these four verses, though the word “hope” isn’t used, that’s what these believers had.  Their faith in a trustworthy, powerful, eternal, invisible God stirred up genuine hope for the future.  They were future oriented.  Their hope and longing was for the eternal, the heavenly.  A yearning for a world that they couldn’t see, but believed it was real. 

Abraham and the others didn’t receive on earth all that God had promised them.  In one of the great promises of the Bible that connects Abraham to us, God promised him that one of his descendants would bring blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:3, Galatians 3:8).  That descendant was Jesus.

Abraham didn’t see that fulfilled in his lifetime.   But by faith, he looked ahead and trusted that God was good, and that his promises would find their fulfillment in the next world. 

Abraham and the others knew that this earth as it is was not their true home.  Their citizenship was in another world.   They were (in vs. 13) “foreigners and temporary residents.”  Exiles.  Strangers.

Many of you in this room are “foreigners” in the U.S.  You are from another country and are here just for a while to finish a degree and then go back home.    Perhaps you understand from your experience better than I do what Hebrews is telling us. 

The author is saying to us all, “This is earth not your ultimate home.  Don’t sink your roots too deeply.  You won’t be here long.”  Don’t put your hope in this world.  Long for a better place.   Long for another city.  A better country.  Long for the coming heavenly kingdom, the place where God is King.  And he will graciously share his kingdom with all who have faith in his Son.

For us today, the common NT language associated with the word “hope” is the Second Coming of the Son of God. 

Men and women of faith persevere through difficult days because they are looking forward to another world.  They have hope.

Is this our hearts?  Are we heavenly minded…..having our minds always on the eternal, the heavenly?  Or are our minds stuck on this world?  On the temporary? 

The answer to that question will make or break our strength to persevere in faith during in hard times.

The men and women of this chapter had biblical hope for a better world.

Let’s finish the rest of the story as we remember the faith of so many others in the OT, that we might follow their example.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son,

18 the one to whom it had been said, Your offspring will be traced through Isaac.

19 He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, after he was born, was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter

25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin.

26 For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking ahead to the reward.

27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible.

28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites.

29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being marched around by the Israelites for seven days.

31 By faith Rahab the prostitute welcomed the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed.

I love Rahab’s story.  Here is the most unlikely to be in this list.  First, she was not a Jew.  She was a pagan.  A Canaanite.  Second, she was a great sinner.  A prostitute.  Yet she is eternally recorded as an example to us.  A woman of faith.  And she became the great, great grandmother of King David.  And ultimately, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.  If this woman—unlikely as it is—can be an example to us today of walking by faith in spite of a dark past, we can do the same.

32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets,

33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight.

35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection.

36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.

38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised,

40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

The believers of old—Abraham and the others—were approved (declared righteous) through their faith.  But they never saw the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, that one day one of Abraham’s descendants would bring blessing to every nation on the earth. That one descendant is Jesus Christ.

But now, in both their age and in ours, we are made complete in Christ.

The point of all of this is, all these men and women of old trusted God and his promise and so found eternal life.  The promise is now fulfilled in Jesus, and we must cling to God just like they did.  Only in Jesus will we find life.

So in the midst of our suffering, even persecution, persevere in faith.  Don’t quit.  You will be greatly rewarded.  We will read next week the first 2 verses in Chapter 12:  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  This is the ultimate point of Chapter 11. 

This long section brings out a third theme connected with faith:  Action. 

Action

Genuine faith is always accompanied by action.

Note the many, many verbs in this chapter.  Faith is the ROOT, and good works are the FRUIT, so the author is showing us readers that the saints of old like Abraham, Moses, and Rahab all had genuine faith.

In our men’s ministry, we are studying Paul’s letter to Titus.  In that brief letter, Paul emphasizes over and over again the importance of taking action.  Paul makes it clear we are saved by God’s mercy and grace, not by works.  Yet since works always accompany true faith, he says, “Be zealous for good works.”  In other words, do something!  Your faith in the living God will compel you to action.

This is what we see here in chapter 11. 

So if we say we have faith in Jesus, that is fantastic.  Then we must say to one another, “Show me your verbs.”  What are your verbs?  What action is being prompted by your trust in Jesus?   Verbs like, “I prayed. I gave.  I went.  I cared.  I served.  I waited patiently.  I rejoiced.  I obeyed.  I confessed.  I worshiped.  I helped.  I spoke.  I listened.”

We see from these ancient believers that verbs always accompany genuine faith. 

Then fourth and finally, the entire chapter…actually, the entire Book of Hebrews…emphasizes another theme connected to our faith:  Endurance.

Endurance. 

Perseverance.  In all of your suffering, keep walking by faith to the end. 

Why?  It’s all true.  It’s worth it.  God is good.  Jesus is the Answer.  Eternity is real.  Suffering will be over soon.

So keep going in the midst of all your troubles.  Keep trusting Jesus.  Fix your eyes on him.

All the ancients like Abraham and David and Rahab endured in faith in their suffering because they trusted God was faithful to his promise.  So they endured because they knew that their citizenship was in another world.

Again, this call to endurance in faith to the end is the main point of chapter 11.

Chapter 10 ends with this.

Hebrews 10:36 CSB  For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.

Chapter 12 begins with this.

Hebrews 12:1 CSB  …Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,

So Chapter 11 is sandwiched in between, inspiring us and urging us to continue walking by faith, just like the ancients did. 

Ten days ago, my wife and I had to take an unscheduled trip to Colorado where my parents live because my 87-year old mother was in Intensive Care in the hospital.  She has been walking by faith in Jesus for 46 years, and she is now near the end of her life. 

While she was lying in her hospital bed, Hebrews 10, 11, and 12 were in the forefront of my mind as I thought about her in her last days.

So last Sunday with my family gathered around her bed, I reminded her of her endurance in faith, that she has been trusting Jesus all these years and has loved him and followed him through all kinds of pain and heartache and loss.

With many tears, I told her, “Mom, you’re in the last chapter of your life on earth.  Your suffering in the past couple of years has been great, but your longing has been to be with Jesus.  You’re almost there.  Keep trusting him.  Don’t quit now.”

I reminded her of the many men and women in Chapter 11 who experienced great suffering in life, but they clung to the Lord by faith to the very end. 

In chapter 12, next week’s passage, it says, “Considering all these people in chapter 11, run with endurance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”  I shared that with my mom, “You’re almost there.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  You’ll see him very soon.”  I printed off Hebrews 12:1-2 and laminated it so that she could be reminded to hold on to Jesus.

That is the message of Hebrews 11 for us.  Example after example of men and women who, for the sake of God, endured much suffering and didn’t give up. 

When life was hard, confusing, and stressful, they kept trusting. 

When life was unfair, painful, and frustrating, they didn’t turn from God. 

They didn’t quit.  They didn’t go back to their former ways of living and believing. 

No, they kept their eyes on Jesus.  They endured in faith knowing that their approval—their righteousness— was a gift from God.  They persevered with hope.  With a heavenly mindedness.  They walked by faith, demonstrating that faith with many verbs.  And so they endured.  They kept going to the end, even though they didn’t receive on earth everything God had promised. 

Application

Let me offer three simple but powerful steps we can take to imitate the men and women of Hebrews 11.

  1. Learn from the ancients.

The Lord placed these stories in Hebrews 11 and in the OT for a reason.  We are to learn from them.  Be inspired by them.  Find strength from them.

Romans 15:4 CSB For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.

So let’s learn from these believers from centuries past.   Re-read chapter 11 at lunch today with family or roommates. During the rest of 2024, read portions of the OT, and when you do, look carefully at the stories.  Some of those stories will be failures.  Unbelief.  Rebellion.  Learn from those.  Others will be successes.  Faith in the midst of many challenges and fears.

Also, read some good biographies of Christians over the centuries who walked by faith.  Often when my wife and I travel, we listen to biographies like that.  In the past few years, we’ve listened to biographies about David Livingstone, Corrie ten Boom, George Muller, Amy Carmichael, and more. 

Learn from the ancients. 

  1. Make a list of verbs that you can implement by faith today. 

Action is the mark of a man or woman who is walking by faith, trusting that God does exist and that he is good.

What action…what verbs…could you zealously, joyfully implement today as you walk by faith?  Are there verbs you have been resisting?   Verbs like rejoicing instead of complaining?   Serving others instead of being self-absorbed?  Forgiving instead of walking in bitterness and anger?

Make a list of verbs.  Like listening.  Caring.  Helping.  Serving.  Providing.  Giving.  Praying.  Worshiping.  Humbling yourself.  Forgiving.

Let us simply pray, “Lord, how can I do your will today?”

  1. Long for the eternal.

Someone recently said to me, “Life is short.  It’s time I do something for myself.”  They are partially correct:  This life is short.  But now is not the time to live for self.  It’s time to live for Christ who died for us. 

Every day we need to find ways to remember that this life is short, and the next life is long….that is, forever.  Let’s find ways to keep that in our minds like Abraham and others did. 

One way to help is to meditate on Scriptures that tell us that we are strangers and exiles on earth.  Memorize Hebrews 11:13, that we are “foreigners and temporary residents on earth.” 

Or memorize Philippians 3:20-21:

Philippians 3:20–21 CSB Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.

Our temporary visa is about to expire, and very soon we will be called home.  May we long for and live for our heavenly home. 

Conclusion

To conclude, faith is a confidence in God concerning eternal things, unseen things, promised things.  And like the ancients, we walk by faith.

Our faith is appropriate and right, for God is faithful.  Faith in him is the only reasonable path for real life.  God promised to Abraham to bring blessing to all the nations, and he did that in his Son.  So we know that our God is completely trustworthy.

So in all our trials and suffering, let us remember Hebrews 11…those who walked on earth before us.  And let keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.