Written by Sheilah Adkins
Hebrews 11 is considered the Hall of Faith chapter. This chapter gives examples of faithful men and women to show us that we also can have great faith. One question comes to mind; why were these men and women chosen to be examples of faith for the Hebrew believers in the first century who first read this letter and for us today?
Pack Up and Go!
Let’s take a closer look at Abraham and Sarah (Hebrews 11:8-19). Abraham’s story begins in Genesis 11:26 with his birth, and ends in Genesis 25:10 with his death and burial. In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham to go to a land that he would show him. Abraham obeyed even without knowing where he was going. Imagine packing up all your belongings and going to a place you know nothing about and have never seen. Moving can be an overwhelming task even with today’s modern ways of transporting items. Abraham left all that he knew to obey God. What an example of faith! But Abraham believed God would fulfill the promise he had made to make him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). He dwelt in the land as a stranger, just like the Hebrew believers the author is addressing. Abraham looked forward to God’s eternal kingdom:
“for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10 NKJV)
The author of Hebrews is encouraging the believers that our time on earth is temporary. This earth is not our home, we are strangers living as if in a foreign country, and Abraham is the perfect reminder of this truth for the readers.
Persecuted and Afraid
These men and women were experiencing persecution and considering going back to Judaism out of fear (Heb 10:32-35). The author of Hebrews tells them:
“But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings… knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.” Hebrews 10:32-35 NKJV.
They had given up much to follow Jesus but it was difficult. Many had lost jobs, family members rejected them, and some were in prison. Plus, the suffering and persecution wasn’t going away, and potentially was going to get worse in the future.He wanted them to look to the eternal kingdom they were going to inherit rather than at their current circumstances.
Abraham and Sarah are included in this chapter as being faithful even though they both did not wait on the Lord to fulfill the promise. They took matters into their own hands; hence, Hagar bore Abraham a son. Although this was culturally proper for a man to take his wife’s maidservant, this was not God’s plan (Genesis 16). The Hebrew believers needed to be reminded to wait upon the Lord. We also need this reminder:
“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 NKJV.
God did fulfill the promise and Isaac was born to Abraham when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. God is faithful and keeps His promises:
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” I Corinthians 1:9 NKJV.
In Hebrews 11:13, the writer refers back to Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Enoch and Abel. They died living by faith but did not receive the things promised but only saw them and welcomed them from a distance as strangers and aliens (pilgrims) on earth. They longed for a better country, a heavenly one. Here again we see the assurance that all their suffering would be fleeting and they should look forward to the eternal inheritance that God has promised:
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2b-3 NKJV
Years after Isaac was born, Abraham was tested again. Isaac, his one and only son, was to be offered as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22:2). God had promised that Isaac would bear offspring. Therefore, we are told that Abraham reasoned (had faith) that God could raise Isaac from the dead. While the Lord delivered Isaac differently, Abraham is an example of a man who had great faith, even when he couldn’t see clearly through his circumstances. Abraham is an example of a man, who walked by faith, not by sight.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb 11:1
In conclusion, Abraham and Sarah believed God would fulfill His promises. Abraham would become a great nation, as many as the stars of the sky, innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore (Hebrews 11:12). He looked to the eternal reward. His faith was great and the Hebrew believers were being encouraged to follow his example.
In his GES 2021 National Convention topic, “Abraham’s Great Act of Faith (Genesis 22) J. B. Bond said “God looks for FAT people, like Abraham! We need to be Faithful, Available, and Teachable like Abraham.” We need to ask ourselves; how can we follow the example of Abraham? I am encouraged by Abraham’s example because he was not perfect, he was human like me, yet he is called faithful. We all have to deal with making choices on a daily basis just as these Hebrew believers had to decide to continue to follow Jesus or to go back to Judaism. We are not called to be perfect but to daily trust and obey God. One of my favorite hymns was written by John H. Sammis, “Trust and Obey”. Stanza four sums up what we should do when we experience trials as the Hebrew believers.
“Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, or we’ll walk by his side in the way; what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; never fear, only trust and obey.”
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