God's Provision to Come into His Presence
Jesus – God’s Promise Worth Trusting
– Hebrews 11
Faith is the means by which we come into and live in the presence of God. Faith is integral to what God does in and through our lives. We have seen from Hebrews 1:1 to 10:18 a doctrinal dissertation on the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant. The motivation for such a dissertation is to address the danger of Hebrew believers in Jesus leaving the living ways of life in Christ for the old laws, sacrificial system, rituals and traditions of their previous religious life. Paul has established Jesus as God incarnate and the greatest revelation of Who God is (Hebrews 1-2). He has shown the rest from dead works to be found in a saving relationship with Jesus (Hebrews 3-4). He has shown the superior and sufficient priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 5-8). And He has shown how all of the Old Testament finds its purpose and meaning in how it foreshadows Jesus Who is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant purpose (Hebrews 9-10). Jesus is the way into and to life on in the Presence of God.
In Hebrews 10:19 Paul then moves from a doctrinal emphasis and explanation to how all of this should be applied in life. In light of all that he has said thus far the Hebrew believers in Jesus their Messiah should "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from and evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). He exhorts them, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). He exhorts the Hebrews to unite in fellowship for mutual encouragement in this endeavor (Hebrews 10:24-25). He warns that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, described repeatedly as a "once for all" sacrifice (e.g. Hebrews 7:27; 8:7; 9:27-28; 10:10, 12, and 14), is totally and completely sufficient as a sacrifice for our sins. To reject that is to lose the benefit of such a sacrifice for sins. Paul goes on to say, "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:35-36).
How can the Hebrew believers in Jesus and we "not. . . draw back to perdition, but [be] those who believe to the saving of the soul"? (Hebrews 10:39). Paul introduces the way to endure is through faith - "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:38 quoting the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 26:21 and Habakkuk 2:3-4). And it is to the life of faith and what that means that we turn to now.
It is by faith that we enter and walk in the presence of God. Even in the Old Testament saints were able to approach God and experience His presence in their lives. Those mentioned in Hebrews 11 certainly had a relationship with God and had a sense of God's presence. They lived in faith. They trusted in God and walked with Him by faith. The deepest fulfillment of entering and living in the presence of God is found through faith in Jesus. But the one common denominator of experiencing all that God reveals is faith. Old Testament saints experienced by faith what God revealed and made available to them under the Old Covenant. In the New Testament we can boldly or confidently enter and walk in the presence of God through faith in Christ. In the New Covenant the Holy Spirit's indwelling eternal life regenerating brings the presence of God to the deepest inward parts of our being. By faith we receive such an incredible blessing from God. By faith we proceed and grow in the presence of God. By faith we comprehend greater depths and higher highs concerning the presence of God. Faith is, always has been, and always will be integral to what God does in our lives. Hebrews 11 provides clarity in this regard.
When we look at this chapter we can divide it into an introduction and a body that follows. In Hebrews 11:1-3 we have The Definition and Purpose of Faith. In Hebrews 11:4-40 we have The Faith that Pleases God.
The Definition and Purpose of Faith - Hebrews 11:1-3
Hebrews 11 (NKJV)
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Paul begins with a clear definition of what "faith" is. The primary problem he is addressing with the Hebrews is their lack of faith in the gospel revealed by God in Jesus under the New Covenant. This chapter will clearly define faith. In the first three verses we will be given five basics of faith. And then in the rest of the chapter we will be given numerous faith examples from the Old Testament as a means to convince and edify the faith of his Hebrew readers. And we are also the beneficiaries of one of the greatest chapters of the Bible.
First, faith is necessary for life. "Faith" (Greek pistis) is a word defined as persuasion, credence, assurance, belief, faith, fidelity, trust, trustworthiness, reliability. Faith is something we couldn't live without. Faith has both a common and particular, a temporary and eternal aspect. In reality you can't live without faith.
Common faith is necessary to live temporally. It would be impossible to live without faith. Every time we make a move in life we exert faith in some way. When we awake in the morning by faith we trust the bathroom will work, our clothes will still be there and that there will be food for breakfast. When we step out into the world we trust that the sky won't fall, the car or other transportation will work and that certain things will all be in place for us. We may step on a train, plane or ship and when we do we are trusting they will work and transport us safely to our destination. When we walk down a street we do so by faith that there is safety to do so. We take faith for granted but to a certain extent it would be impossible to live without faith. Faith is like breathing. In fact, every time we take a breath we exert a little bit of faith that air will be there to breath.
Biblical faith is necessary to live eternally. But such common faith is not what saves the soul. Faith must be ridden to into spiritual life (e.g. John 3). And that is what this chapter is about. Saving faith and the faith we live in to receive the promises of God, is much more than that. The faith of the Bible is much more than faith in objects and machinery. The faith spoken of in scripture is faith to live in a relationship with God in Christ. Hebrews 11 speaks to us of a faith that please God, saves the soul and enables us to live spiritually with God. Hebrews 11 speaks to us of faith in terms of the moral conviction of religious truth and that God is true. In the context of Hebrews as a whole this faith speaks to us about reliance on Jesus for salvation and life. When someone puts their faith in Jesus as Savior their eternal life begins at that point. They may die but they pass from this existence of salvation in Christ to their eternal existence in the presence of God in Christ (e.g. John 11:5-26; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 21-22). Those who die without such saving faith will live eternally in a state of loss and separation from God in a place called hell (cf. Revelation 20).
Second, faith is foundational to moving forward. Faith is described as "the substance of things hoped for." "Substance" (Greek hypostasis) refers to the foundation of a thing, the concrete, essence, confidence in something, substance of what makes it what it is. The phrase "of things hoped for" is a translation of one word in the original language (Greek elpidzomenon - Present/Middle/Participle of elpis or "hope") points us toward what we hope for, look forward to, trust in for life. Elpis or hope is a verb which means, "'to put one’s expectation and trust for the future in someone or something. It means to hope for something to come to pass, or to expect to be able to do something.' It is a verb which deals with the future in an anticipatory and positive way. Elpizō thereby brings the power of the future into the present to give meaning and motivation. Hope involves expectation, trust, and patient waiting."  The message of Hebrews 11 is that when God is accepted by faith as part of our hope for the future, we can live victoriously no matter what that future holds.
The movie Rocky Balboa (2006) is about an aging boxer dealing with the internal sense of life's meaning within who finds the answer to that problem through one last fight; to put the animal to rest. Rocky's grown son is at first very much opposed to his father's decision to take another fight, even if it is only an exhibition. His son complains about not being able to escape the shadow of his famous boxing father. His son complains that his father is too old to fight again. In a great scene Rocky takes some strong verbal body blows from his son and then provides a flurry of his own. His words illustrate the importance and power of faith in life. Rocky states:
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!
Hope is faith for the future. If we didn't have faith for the future each moment would be filled with paralyzing fears. Fear is the foe of faith. Fear is ultimately the loss of faith. People with phobias have lost faith to live in certain situations or in the presence of certain things. Faith enables us to move forward. Fear stops us dead in our tracks. Fear is the foe of faith. Faith, and particularly faith in God, is how fears are overcome. What is your faith versus fear meter reading?
Third, faith is an ingredient of our worldview. Paul goes on to refer to faith as, "the evidence of things not seen." This speaks to us further about hope or faith for the future. The idea is faith is a way of looking at life. Someone has said, "We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. That is the "evidence of things not seen." "Evidence" (Greek elegchos) refers to conviction, evidence, proof, the evidence arrived at by testing. The faith Paul is speaking about in this chapter is faith as a lens through which to view life. If you look at life through a merely secular lens you have only your imperfect self and imperfect others to rely on. But if you look at life through the lens of faith in God, then "nothing will be impossible" (cf. Matthew 17:20; 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37; 18:27). This is the kind of faith that makes all the difference in the world in terms of your quality and meaningfulness of life.
Everyone's worldview involves faith. Atheists who deny the existence of God do so by faith. They may deny this but until they can exhaustively investigate and disprove every possible piece of evidence to the existence of God their claims are faith claims. Secularists live by faith in humanity. Scientists live by faith in scientifically repeatable evidence. Like Atheists, until they can exhaust every possible explanation of the supernatural, spiritual, the miraculous they live by faith too. All religions involve faith of some kind. Faith is a necessary ingredient of all worldviews because human beings do not know all things. Until humanity knows all things about all things, it proceeds by faith in what it knows. Therefore whatever worldview one has, it involves faith. .
2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
Fourth, faith is necessary for a meaningful life. The faith exhibited by a person is what gives them a good quality of life. A faithless person, fearful of exciting their room or home or being a part of life is not going to amount for very much. Faith on the other hand is the power to risk loss to reach our destination. Faith enables people to overcome the inevitable challenges encountered in life. Faith keep us moving forward.
Heroism is faith to risk life and sacrifice on behalf of others. Achievement is the fruit of faith willing to risk and overcome failure. Integrity and character is faith to remain true and loyal to commitments even when it costs personal opportunity or personal comfort. The elders of the Old Covenant had a good testimony, one pleasing to God, because of their lives of faith. Hebrews 11 is about people who had faith in God, to take a hit and keep moving forward in Him toward Him.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Fifth, the meaning and purpose of faith is realized when it is placed in God in Christ. Faith by itself is useless. Faith becomes purposeful based on the object in which it is placed. Faith can be misplaced. We can have faith that we can fly and even jump off of a building to prove it. But the messy splatter we become when we hit the ground exposes the futility, falseness and failure of such faith.
Faith finds its highest meaning and purpose when it is placed in God. Evolution in its various forms is an attempt to explain away God as the Author of His creation. The Bible opens with the words, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Ultimately this is a statement which challenges us to put our faith in God. It reveals that God is the Creator not a big bang or set of fortuitous accidental circumstances. The world view of Humanism puts humanity at the center of the universe and humanity as the sovereign of the universe, to the exclusion of God. Satan tempted humanity to turn from God to himself and humanity succumbed to pride and turned their back on God. The result over time has developed into a choice to view the world from God's perspective or from humanities' perspective.
Faith is God's ordained means to help us understand the order of the universe. The faith challenge to us is whether or not we will believe, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which are visible." The word "framed" (Greek katartidzo) means to complete thoroughly, restore, repair, put in order. The question before us is do we trust that God alone orders our universe? Are we willing to rely on God's word to order our lives and this world?
Faith particularly and specifically finds its highest purpose and meaning when placed in God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Some people have faith in faith. This is what we see in the secular world. "Faith" in anything is exalted as the objective of this fallen world. But God does not see faith as an end in itself. For God faith is a means to an end. God has manifested the revelation of Himself in the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). By faith in Jesus we are saved from our sin and enter into an eternal relationship with God in Christ (John 3; 17:3; Romans 5:1ff.). God provides humanity with the capacity for faith by creating us in His image (cf. Genesis 1:26). Faith is God's gift to humanity; it is what sets humanity apart from the rest of God's creation (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9). And it is through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that the solution for sin in the cross of Christ is provided and through faith the redemptive reconciling work of Jesus is appropriated into our life (cf. Colossians 1:19-23). Faith is futile and meaningless apart from having its purpose fulfilled through faith in Jesus for salvation and living.
This framing does not simply mean that God took already in existence and put them all together. The second portion of this verse clearly states, " so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." God created exnihilo or out of nothing. God alone is eternal, not that which was created. The universe is not eternal. God alone is. And God alone called something to be out of nothing. God created an orderly universe. Sin infected this universe with disorder and brought such things as disease and disasters. This world fallen in sin, by God's grace, still has a semblance of order. Humanity can only find order and meaning with God. One day God will scrap this world and create a new one (cf. Revelation 21-22). Until then, if we want to find meaning in the confusion, order in the midst of chaos, if we want to experience restoration and have our lives repaired, we have to turn to God in Christ. And we do that by trusting by faith in Him.
We might also add here that the Bible was far ahead of its time stating that what we see is made up of particles and space that is unseen. With the advent and advances of microscopes that can peer deeper and deeper into the minutiae of life, what we find is there are great unexplained amounts of space between matter. The deeper we look the more space we find. Scientists grapple with how matter is held together. Electrons orbit around a nucleus of protons and neutrons and there are also sub-particles and matter this author can't begin to mention in any appropriately scientific way. But the question remains, "How is matter held together?" If by faith we go to "the word of God" that frames or orders the world we find that, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:16-17). I am perfectly satisfied and content to take those words by faith and say all matter and everything in this universe is held together by Jesus. What would you be willing to say?
From creation we look now at examples of faith in human history. What we will find is that faith if filled with examples of people who persevered in life through faith in God. And this same faith finds its culmination in faith in Jesus Christ.
The Faith that Pleases God - Hebrews 11:4-40
The importance of faith expressed in the chapter can be summed up in verse 6 where Paul is inspired to state - " But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." God created this universe including all humanity. God is in sovereign control and rule over this universe including humanity. God by virtue of Who He is, God holds in HIs hands the eternal destiny of each person every created. it is impossible to please God apart from faith that God exists and that He is benevolent toward His creation; that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That is the foundation and reason for this chapter on faith.
Faith finds fulfillment and purpose in Jesus. How is this expressed in life? In the Old Testament Jesus had not yet been fully revealed. Righteousness before God was based on people living by faith in what God had revealed to them at the point of their living. By looking at the Old Testament examples of those who lived by faith we see the nature and types of faith that pleases God. What follows is the kind of faith we should live with in our relationship with God in Christ.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
First, the faith that pleases God is the ingredient that makes our offerings to God acceptable. Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God because it spoke of the Lamb of God Jesus and because it was offered in faith. Cain's offering of vegetables spoke of his own efforts and was not offered in faith but relied on his works. Abel's faith offering was accepted as "righteous" while Cain's offering was dependent on his own works and not righteous. Through this early historical righteous sacrifice of Abel we continue to learn (compare Genesis 4).
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Second, the faith that pleases God brings us close to Him. Enoch is an example of one who by faith bypassed death. By faith he walked so close with God that God took him. His testimony before God was that "he pleased God." "Pleased" (Greek euaresteo) means to well fit, to please, to reconcile, to make peace with, to reconcile with. The faith of Enoch perfectly fitted him ino a relationship with God. The faith Enoch lived with toward God pleased God and put him at peace and reconciled to God. Trust (faith) is necessary for a relationship to live and thrive. Because Enoch had faith in God, because he trusted God, their relationship flourished to the point where God simply ushered him right into heaven. It's as though God was so pleased with his relationship with Enoch that he said, "You know what Enoch my friend, let's just skip the rest of your life down here and just spend it together in eternity starting right now." God's pleasure involves His love. The pleasure of God here implies that faith put in Him releases to us His love in a very immediate way.
This leads to the truth affirmation that "without faith it is impossible to please Him." "Impossible" (Greek adunatos) means impotent to do, weak, unable, powerless, impossible. No matter what we do, if it is not in faith it doesn't please God. This is because, like with Enoch, to walk in faith is to walk with God. To walk in faith that pleases God means:
1. To walk in faith means to come to God - "for he who comes to God" - By faith we come to and approach God. Faith comes to life as we consider God and seek Him out. As we seek Him out He reveals Himself to us. Faith therefore involves and is birthed when we come to God.
2. To walk in faith means to believe in His existence - "must believe that He is" - We come to God because we respond to His gracious revelation of Himself in creation (e.g. Psalm 19; Romans 1). We look at the creation and see its design. Faith grows as we deduce a Designer from His design in creation.
3. To walk in faith means to diligently seek God as One who is findable and worth finding - "and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" - Why come to God? Because He will reward us with conversation, revelation, illumination, and understanding, because we believe and trust He will reward the diligent seeker. "Rewarder" (Greek misthapodotes) means a remunerator, rewarder, one who pays wages. "Diligently seek" (Greek ekzeteo) means to diligently seek out, crave, worship, carefully seek after, inquire. To walk with God means to seek Him out with the belief He will be found and that finding Him is a great reward. It's worth your time and effort to seek out God.
This is not a works righteousness but a work of God in us to find Him (e.g. John 6:29). We can take credit for being saved as much as a drowning man can take credit for being rescued. We wouldn't be looking for God unless He was drawing us to do so (cf. John 6:44). The Holy Spirit awakens sinners to their sin and need of a Savior (John 16:8-11). And no one would find God unless He made Himself findable (Luke 11:9-13).
These three things mentioned are what makes faith pleasing to God.
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Third, the faith that pleases God involves godly fear and obedience. The account of Noah and the Flood is found in Genesis 6-9. The world had degenerated into a demonic, violent, immoral and totally sinful world (Genesis 6:1-7). God determined to bring a catastrophic world judgment on the world. But Noah was walking with God. It says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (Genesis 6:8). He found grace because by faith He was walking and looking into the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:9-10).
God spoke to Noah. He told him of the judgment He was going to bring. Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5). He no doubt preached during this time calling people to repent. But they apparently did not listen. God instructed Noah to build an ark and he obediently did so. Noah and his family were saved by his humble obedient walk of faith. Noah, by faith, did everything God instructed him to do and so had a good testimony before God.
I like the application Bible Teacher Jon Courson observes here saying:
Twenty years before his first child was born, Noah planned the construction of the ark with rooms for his sons and his sons’ wives. In other words, by faith, he said, “My sons and their wives are going to be saved. And I’m providing a place for their salvation.”
Every parent should have this verse underlined and by faith say, “With the hammer of intercession in one hand and the nail of instruction in the other, I believe You will use my meager labor, Lord, to save my family.”
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Fourth, the faith that pleases God follows God step by step. God called Abraham and because Abraham was already walking in faith he was alert to the voice of God and able to hear Him. God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and "To a land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1-3). God didn't give Abraham a road map. They didn't have GPS in those days. No, God simply told Abraham to get up and go and Abraham, one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible, simply got up and by faith followed the Lord (e.g. Genesis 12-25; Romans 4).
Abraham went out in faith following God, "not knowing where he was going." When we move we oftentimes want a plan of action. We want a one, five or even ten year plan for life. The problem with that is that it isn't the way God works. we can make plans, but God always reserves the right to change them (Psalm 33:10-11; Proverbs 16:1-2). "There are many plans in a mans' heart, nevertheless the LORD's counsel - that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). Proverbs tells us planning is good and leads to blessing (Proverbs 21:5). There's nothing wrong with planning. But we must always be willing to surrender and submit our plans to God's plans. The steps of a good faithful man are ordered by the LORD (Psalm 37:23). And even if a good man falls numerous times, God will raise him back up (Psalm 37:24). We need to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). Walk with the LORD by faith. Acknowledge Him every step of the way and He will direct you. That's what Abraham did. That's what we should do too.
How was Abraham able to just pick up and go? How was he able to risk everything and follow the Lord? It has to do with his perspective on life. It states of Abraham, " for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Because Abraham's final destination and his end all objective was not in this world, but was "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" he was able to not worry about loss in this world.
But more to the point was the fact that Abraham wasn't looking for something out of this world; for a place built by God. Therefore, Abraham knew from the start that he wouldn't find what he was looking for in this world. And because of that he couldn't be disappointed. We often question and fear being disappointed when we leaven one place for the next. But if we go understanding that what we are looking for is out of this world, then we don't have to worry about being disappointed. People who live for this world will be disappointed. Or, all the satisfaction they have to look forward to is what meager morsels of satisfaction they find in this world. But if you look ahead, if you look up to the heavens with expectations and ambitions to receive what God has built, then you are headed for joy unspeakable and fullness of glory.
Again Jon Courson comments:
You’ll never be a man or woman of faith if you’re looking for fulfillment here. No matter your ministry, your geographic location, your job, or who you marry—you’ll not find it here. Like Abraham, don’t look for a city that has foundations on earth. Look for eternity, and you’ll experience heaven in your heart, and you’ll be blessed in your soul wherever you are.
Had Abraham looked for a city on earth, he would have been stuck in Ur forever. But at some point, God by His grace allowed Abraham to understand that everything on earth is in preparation for heaven. If you don’t see Abraham as a model of faith, you’ll be perpetually paralyzed and completely frustrated. You must understand that God only leads you one step at a time. He doesn’t tell you what lies around the bend. And even when you get around the bend, you must understand it’s not going to be what you were hoping for because what you really crave is heaven.
In spiritual life, the Lord will take you as far as you want to go—and not one step further. If you choose to take one baby step and stop, God will still love you because His love for you is not based on anything you do or don’t do. But if you choose to walk by faith from Ur of the Chaldees all the way to the land flowing with milk and honey, He’ll be with you every step of the way.
People wonder why some folks are so spiritual, why others seem particularly blessed, why others are mightily used. It’s not that God is playing favorites. It’s just that those who seem to have a special relationship with God are simply those who chose to keep going. Whether it’s in expression of praise, gifts of the Spirit, or aspects of ministry— however far you want to go in spiritual life, God will never say to you, “You’re going a little too far. You’re getting a little too spiritual.” Never.
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
Fifth, the faith that pleases God does not have to be perfect. When we look at Hebrews 11 we can discover a lot by who the Spirit inspired to be included in this chapter as examples of faith. Sarah is mentioned here. But she was no means perfect in her faith. She grew impatient with God's plan and concocted a plan involving Hagar, and Egyptian slave girl. This led to the birth of Ishmael and a historical contention (Genesis 16). She also laughed at God's plan to give her and Abraham a son when they were far beyond child bearing years (Genesis 18:12). Have you ever laughed at the thought of something God put in your heart or wanted to do? She did. She laughed with a lack of faith.
Sarah, laughing-lack-of-faith-Sarah is included in this Hall of Faith chapter. The point here being that this is not a chapter about people who had a whole lot of faith. It is a chapter about how God was able to do mighty things through those who just had enough faith to walk with Him and press on with Him. This is a chapter about those who simply believed in God and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Your faith doesn't have to be perfect to be used by God. If you have faith, just a little faith, even as much as a mustard seed, you can move the mountains God wants you to move (Matthew 17:20).
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Sixth, the faith that pleases God doesn't turn back. Abraham never really saw his offspring number as the stars in heaven. He did receive the miracle child Isaac (whose name means "Laughter"). And in his son, and through Abraham's eyes of faith, he saw hoped about what God would do. He "died in faith, not having received the promises."
If Abraham would have, "called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return." If he would have started to recall what he left behind, he might have succumbed to temptation to look back. Let us take a lesson from Abraham. Once he left, he didn't look back. It does not good to look back with regret. The reality of past hardships tend to become more palatable over time and distance removed. Keep your eyes on "a heavenly country." Keep pressing forward not looking back and in it will be said of you, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." (cf. also Philippians 3:13-14).
The children of Israel, years in the future from Abraham, were delivered from hard labor and slavery in Egypt. God did a mighty, mighty work to secure their exodus. But once liberated and going through some wilderness, the people began to complain and yearned for a return to Egypt like a dog returning to its vomit. It was only the strong leadership of Moses that kept them moving forward (e.g. Exodus 15; 16; 17; 32-34).
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Seventh, the faith that pleases God surrenders all things to Him. The greatest evidence of God's faithfulness to Abraham was the birth of his son Isaac (Genesis 21). The greatest test of Abraham's faith was offering Isaac back to God! God gave Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. But then God used Isaac to test Abraham's faith. And Abraham was willing to surrender even Isaac to God, arguably the most precious thing in his life (Genesis 22).
How could Abraham be willing to offer Isaac up to God in sacrifice? Isaac embodied all of God's promise to Abraham. Yet Abraham was able to give him up. How? Because Abraham in faith put no limits on God and what He could do. Abraham had come to a "concluding." "Concluding" (Greek logidzomai) means reckoned, calculated, took inventory of the situation, counted, considered. Abraham walked in faith, a faith that was able to assess a situation in light of God's capabilities and not mere human limitations. And from a perspective that factored God into his life equation Abraham came to the conclusion that "God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in figurative sense."
Abraham had walked with God for many years now. He had seen over many years the faithfulness of God. He had seen how God could and would deliver him even in the face of great odds (Genesis 14). He has seen how God was gracious to him and members of his family even when they got off track (Genesis 16; 19; 20). He had seen how God's promises came to pass, even if they required a long period of time to be fulfilled (Genesis 21). Because Abraham had a faithful and living relationship with God, when it came time to trust God in such an excruciating way, Abraham had the faith to do it. God had always had Abraham's best interests at heart. God has always been faithful. So when it came to this peculiar request of God to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham by faith trusted God.
Now notice something here. What God asked Abraham to sacrifice was not something bad, it was something good; His promise. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Perhaps Isaac had become a idol to Abraham and Sarah. As such an incredible, real and tangible example of God's blessing to Abraham and Sarah maybe they began to worship or live for or through their son instead of living for and through the LORD. Maybe they began to live for Isaac instead of live for the LORD. Whatever the reason, we need to hold everything, even God's promises, with open hands before the LORD. Ministry, a heaven sent mate, a heaven sent heir, a heaven sent career, nothing should ever take the place of God on the throne of our heart. Nothing should ever challenge God's place or our ability to obey the LORD. We, like Abraham, need to be in a position to go when the LORD says go and stay when the LORD says stay. Are you willing to sacrifice even God's blessings and promises? By faith you should be. By faith you can be. And I hope by faith you will be.
Because of Abraham's faith God was able to portray in the history of scripture an incredible shadow or prophetic picture of how millennia later, on that same Mount Moriah, God Himself would offer in actuality, His own only Son Jesus on the cross to fulfill HIs eternal redemptive promise. Abraham was able to become a part of God's redemptive plan because of his heart of surrender by
faith. When we trust God and step out in faith, He is able to do mighty things through us. When we trust Him, He uses us in His redemptive plans.
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 worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
Eighth, the faith that pleases God is meant to be passed on. Isaac passed on a blessing to his sons Jacob and Esau. And Jacob then passed on a blessing to the sons of Joseph. Now we know from scripture that Jacob became the succeeding patriarch not Esau. Esau was a fleshly man driven by carnal desires. We also know that Jacob was imperfect; a very fleshly man too; a dishonest and self-centered man (cf. e.g. Genesis 25-27). And yet God perpetuated His blessing through imperfect people. We shouldn't withhold blessing merely because of imperfections. Like Isaac and Jacob we pronounce blessing on our children, in faith and hope, entrusting them to God and that in the end they will walk with Him.
Jacob later pronounced blessing on Joseph's children. Ephraim and Manasseh had been born in worldly Egypt. Joseph their father had no doubt raised them up in the counsels of the Lord. But their upbringing was less than ideal. Yet Jacob was moved by God to include them in the tribes of Israel (Genesis 48-49). All of this shows us that we need to be following God in faith and passing on blessings to our children in faith. This is true even when circumstances are muddied or not ideal. God has a way of taking the ingredients of our life and painting a beautiful tapestry.
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
Ninth, the faith that pleases God hopes for the fulfillment of God's promises even after we have died. Joseph knew in faith that God's plans involved God's people being in the Promised Land. This he believed even if for a time they had needed to take a detour to Egypt. Joseph had learned in life that even when men meant evil toward him that God could turn evil intentions to His good (Genesis 50:20). Therefore, even though Joseph himself would not see a return to the Promised Land, he instructed that his bones be taken and buried in the Land. Joseph spoke and planned in light of God's plans (Genesis 50:22-26). That is faith that pleases God.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
Tenth, the faith that pleases God maintains a positive prospect and hope toward others. The parents of Moses, Jochabed and Amram, hid him from the Egyptian order to destroy him (Exodus 2). By faith their son Moses was special to them. By faith they felt Moses was worth saving. By faith they hoped God's hand was on Moses and that God would in some way use him. How do you feel about your children? How a parent views their child can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy, for either good or bad. One commentary states aptly:
I suggest it was through the eyes of faith that Jochabed and Amram said of their son, Moses, “This child is going to be special” (see Exodus 2:2). So, too, Mom and Dad, if you think your child will never amount to much, that he’ll always struggle or that she’s not quite up to par—that’s simply a lack of faith because faith is the substance of things not yet seen. If you see your kid as a problem child, this will be understood within his soul, and it will greatly hinder what God can do in and through his life. Such was not the case with Amram and Jochabed. Knowing Moses was special, they went to great lengths to make sure his life was spared.
Moses was used greatly by God. That greatness began with parents who saw him as "beautiful" from his first breath. The positive parental environment Moses was birthed into, despite the threat to his life from Pharaoh, paved the way for Moses to come to know God and become a person who would be a great instrument to bring glory to God.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
Eleventh, the faith that pleases God chooses to be used by God. Moses is one of the greatest figures in all of scripture. He was a mighty man of faith. Faith is what connects us to God's provision and resources. Faith is what opens us to God's outpoured promises. And faith involves a choice. We must by faith choose to believe God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We see this crystal clear in the life of Moses. Note the characteristics of this man Moses' incredible faith that enabled him to be so mightily used by God:
1. Moses man of faith chose humility - "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter" - Moses wasn't interested in prestige or worldly qualifications. When it came to choosing between acceptance of the world or faithfulness with God, he chose the LORD. He wasn't swayed and lured into the pride and impressive credentials that came with associating with the royal family. Moses chose to be humble. He would not forsake his Jewish roots. Moses would not be something he knew he was not. For Moses the most important thing was being faithful to God. The Bible says you can't love the things of this world and the Lord (1 John 2:15-16). Are you willing to forsake the world to follow God?
2. Moses man of faith chose to suffer - "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin," - Moses chose to forsake the privileges that came with being a member of the royal house and instead to suffer with his people. Moses was loyal as any man of faith should be and is. Moses did not choose the easy road. He did not choose the road of comfort. Being a man of faith meant he would travel the road of what was right even if it meant he must suffer. What road are you on?
The phrase "passing pleasures of sin" tells us that there is pleasure in sin. Sin wouldn't be tempting if it didn't provide some pleasure. The truth is that there is pleasure in sin. But any pleasure associated with sin is "passing."Pleasures associated with sin are only temporary. Moses knew this. Moses, man of faith, was not driven by pleasure. Moses was driven by and attracted to faith in God even if it meant suffering.
3. Moses man of faith chose to have an eternal perspective - " esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward." - Moses didn't know of Christ but the Spirit communicated to him the eternal priority associated with Christ. Moses didn't live for the riches of this world. Moses had a heavenly perspective. By faith he chose to live for God's higher eternal purposes. Moses accepted that God was working toward a higher heavenly purpose. Moses vision was not landlocked. He kept his eyes of faith on God. Because of this God brought deliverance, fulfillment of eternal purpose, and workings that were historically glorifying to God.
Where did Moses get his heavenly perspective if he was reared and trained in Egyptian schools? We know that Divine providence led to Moses being cared for by his own mother while under the roof of Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:1-10). His mother therefore had an influence on his upbringing. But Moses very possibly took advantage of the educational resources found in Egypt as well. The Lord provided for and protected him from the junk of Egypt and equipped to be all he needed to be to do all God would call him to do. That is the way God works. God is able to work despite a secular environment. God is in control!
4.Moses man of faith chose to be courageous - " By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king" - Moses respected and revered God more than he feared any wrath of man. The man of faith will always choose faith in God over fears of men. Moses demonstrated great courage throughout his life. That didn't mean he was never afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear, only the mastery of it. Moses overcame his fears by faith in God. And at some point in our walk of faith, if we are to move forward and be used for God's glory, we must, by faith choose to please God rather than people (e.g. Galatians 1:10).
5. Moses man of faith chose a God-centered world view - " for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" - Moses did not allow himself to be limited by a mere horizontal perspective on life. Moses saw his world from God's perspective; through the eyes of God. That's why God chose and called Moses to deliver His people. Moses viewed the world from a perspective that included God and was governed by God. Because Moses viewed his life circumstances in a way that included God, there were no impossibilities only possibilities. Moses lived to revere and glorify God. When you see your world through God's eyes, then nothing shall be impossible!
6. Moses man of faith chose to be washed in the blood - " By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them" - Moses was the man through whom God presented the first Passover. The Passover demonstrated the seriousness of sin and that blood was necessary for the atonement of sin. Moses obeyed God and instituted the first Passover. This speaks of the coming Christ Jesus, the Lord's Supper, and the Lamb of God who came and took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Moses was the man of faith through whom God began that message.
This ordinance of Passover was the beginning of God's revelation toward a New Covenant. The Passover sacrifice was a picture of the sinfulness of humanity, the seriousness of this all pervasive sin, and the sacrifice of life and shedding of blood as God's means to atone for sin. Moses was the man of faith God chose to introduce this ordinance of Communion and atonement. Moses was the one God chose to institute a system of shadows and symbols to communicate to humanity the substitutionary sacrificial atonement for sin the ultimately would come at the cross of Christ. What a privilege!
7. Moses man of faith chose to step through the sea and experience God's deliverance - "29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned" - It took faith to be God's leader. It took faith to field the complaints of God's people when God's leading led to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle; a very literal dead end. And it took faith to turn to God to deliver him and his people from the vengeful ravenous wolves of the pursuing Egyptian army. It took faith to hear God's instruction above the cries of the calamitous people. It took faith to raise his staff and trust God to separate the Red Sea barrier before them. It took faith to step out and trust God to allow them safely though the Red Sea. And it took faith to once again raise the staff of faith and see the pursuing enemy Egyptian army engulfed by God in the Red Sea. Moses chose in faith to trust and obey God and saw all of this great historic work of God come to pass. God works historically through those who trust Him faithfully.
Moses was the first to be used by God to introduce baptism; a rite symbolizing deliverance, death to the old life, and newness of life. The parting of the Red Sea is a type or shadow of baptism (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:2). Baptism is a symbol of dying to the old sinful worldly life and being raised to newness of life (e.g. Romans 6:1ff.). When we are plunged under the waters of baptism we are saying, "I'm dying to the world, my worldly ways, and all my past sins. I'm being raised to a new life in Jesus." Moses was the man of faith God chose to introduce this rite of baptism. What a privilege!
These are seven characteristics that Moses the man of faith gives us an example of. We would do well to study them and seek to follow a journey of faith like Moses did.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.
Twelfth, the faith that pleases God involves trusting in God's extraordinary ways. The walls of Jericho were a formidable obstacle to taking the Promised Land. God's plan was to each day for seven days have the army of Israel, led by priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, march around the city. On the seventh day, they were to march seven times around the city and shout and the walls of Jericho, according to God, would come down (Joshua 6). A bit unorthodox. It's likely the people of Jericho watching all of this laughed God's people to scorn. But they weren't laughing when the walls came down!
God works in extraordinary ways. God works in ways we don't always understand. If we aren't walking by faith we might hesitate to obey or we might get off of His way. When that happens we really will look foolish. It's always foolish to not factor God into life's equation (e.g. Psalm 14:1f.). But we need to walk with God and heed His instructions. The disciples were once fishing all night long with no bites. Jesus came, told Peter to cast his net right where he failed to catch any fish. Peter didn't feel Jesus knew what He was talking about, but to be polite, Peter obeyed. And you know what, Peter and the others caught a haul of fish that almost broke their nets. Just follow and obey Jesus, and get ready for a haul of blessings (cf. Luke 5:1-11; John 21:1-6).
Got any enemy territories that need defeating in your life? Got any walls that need to come down? It's time to march and trust God to bring them down. Just trust and obey and watch those walls sway and then fall. Defeating the enemy strongholds and living in victory in the Promised Land of the Spirit all comes through faith in Jesus. Truly trust and obey for there's no other way.
31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
Thirteenth, the faith that pleases God imperfect people. Are you ashamed of your personal history? Do you think God can't use you? Rahab was a harlot who had faith in God (Joshua 2). She made the Hall of Faith over the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel to name a few. She had only heard a few rumors about what God had done for His people. But faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Rahab made good use of what she did know and when the opportunity to be part of God's plan arose, she dove in heart first. How about you, are you limiting what God wants to do in and through you because of your past? Why not simply present yourself to God as a living sacrifice and see what He might do (Romans 12:1-2). He might have a Book of Acts adventure ready for you.
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Fourteenth, the faith that pleases God provides the means to victory over life's circumstances. Gideon is another man who began with little faith in God but who defeated his fears with faith in God and God mightily used him (Judges 7-9). Barak (Judges 4), Samson (Judges 13-16) and Jephthah (Judges 11) were all judges who God used to deliver His people with. But they too were imperfect people. God uses ordinary people to do His extraordinary work. Through faith God enables the weak to overcome the obstacles and enemies in life.
Those who hold to a word of faith heretical doctrine are quick to acknowledge that through faith kingdoms are subdued, righteousness worked, promises obtained, lions mouths shut, fires put out, the sword escaped, weaknesses made strong, valiant battles fought and won and that women received their dead back to life. But they stop there!
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
Fifteenth, the faith that pleases God provides the means to victory in life's circumstances. God's word doesn't stop at the first sentence in verse 35. It goes on to say, "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." That is part of what faith is able to do too!
Mocking, scourging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, sawn in two, temptations, slain by the sword, wandering in animal skins, being destitute, afflicted physically, tormented, an homelessness, all of these are just the tip of the iceberg that people of faith encountered and walked through. The world isn't worthy of such faithful saints.
We might wonder how we would do in such situations, but we can't know what we would do based in theory. God gives grace and faith at the point of need not in theory. By faith we trust in the faithfulness of God that He would provide whatever we need to be all that we need to be to do all He requires we do, for His glory, until He returns.
Whatever our circumstance or situation, faith is what connects us to the potent power of God. And whether we are ordained by God to survive or give our lives, it's all in His hands. And by faith we entrust ourselves to Him, just like the people in this great Hall of Faith chapter.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Sixteenth, the faith that pleases God perseveres to the end even if His promise is not realized. All of these people of faith lived in a time before the culmination of God's promise, the New Covenant in Christ could be received. They persevered even though the complete fulfillment of God's promise wasn't experienced by them. For them, God's word was good enough. Their eyes of faith trusted that God was faithful and true to His word. If His promise did not come to them in this life, then it would surely come in the next. Sometimes we have to trust God though His promise isn't manifested when we expect it to be. We should always take God at His word. His timing is eternal. Our timing is limited. While we are involved in HIs plans that does not mean we will see the completion or fulfillment of them in our lifetime. The faithful saints of the Old Testament are all an example of the persevering nature of the faith that pleases God.
We may wonder and even yearn to have lived in such Biblical times. We may toy with the thought of what might have been if we were alive in such days. But wait, Paul says we now live in a better time, the time of the New Covenant provided in Jesus Christ! We now have Jesus living in us by the Holy Spirit. We walk in His presence and enjoy His company. We are never alone. Hallelujah! No one mentioned in Hebrews 11 can testify to that.
God has an adventure for us too. Maybe He's planning a new wing to His Hall of Faith. By faith we can live out our era's chapter of the Book of Acts. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Believe that God exists. Jesus is alive! And He is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him. Seek Him out and He will be found by you. Please the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name! He has done great things! And He will do more great things. Have faith and walk with Him.
 Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1495). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1496). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1497–1498). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.