Abel – faith worshiping (v. 4): Abel was a righteous man because of faith (Matt. 23:35). God had revealed to Adam and his descendants the true way of worship, and Abel obeyed God by faith. In fact, his obedience cost him his life. Abel speaks to us today as the first martyr of the faith.
Enoch – faith walking (vv. 5-6): Our faith in God grows as we fellowship with God. We must have both the desire to please Him and the diligence to seek Him. Prayer, meditating on the Word, worship, and discipline; all these help us in our walk with God. Enoch walked with God in the wicked world, before the Flood came; he was able to keep his life pure.
Noah – faith working (v. 7): Noah’s faith involved the whole person: his mind was warned of God; his heart was moved with fear; and his will acted on what God told him. Noah’s faith influenced his whole family and they were saved. It also condemned the whole world, for his faith revealed their unbelief. Events proved that Noah was right!
The patriarchs – faith waiting (vv. 8-22): The emphasis in these verses is on the promise of God and His plans for the nation of Israel. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but they had to wait twenty-five years for the fulfillment of the promise. Their son Isaac became the father of Jacob and Esau, and it was Jacob who really built the nation through the birth of his twelve sons. Joseph saved the nation in the land of Egypt, and Moses would later deliver them from Egypt. We have to admire the faith of the patriarchs. They did not have a complete Bible and yet their faith was strong. They handed God’s promises down from one generation to another. In spite of their failures and testing’s, these men and women believed God and He bore witness to their faith. How much more faith you and I should have!
Moses – faith warring (vv. 23-29): Three great themes relating to faith are seen in the life of Moses. First, the refusal of faith (vv. 24-25); Moses could have led an easy life in the palace, but his faith moved him to refuse that kind of life. He chose to identify with God’s suffering people. True faith causes a believer to hold the right values and make right decisions. Moses’ refusal of faith led to the reproach of faith (v. 26a). Moses left the palace life and never went back to that life. He identified with Jewish slaves. Men and women of faith often have to bear reproach and suffering. Finally, there is the reward of faith (vv. 26b-29). God always rewards true faith, if not immediately, at least ultimately. The faith of Moses was rewarded with deliverance for him and his people. Faith brings us out (v. 28), take us through (v. 29), and brings us in (v. 30). When we trust God, we get what God can do; but when we trust ourselves, we get only what weak people do. The experience of Moses is proof that true biblical faith means obeying God in spite of circumstances and in spite of consequences.
Joshua and Rahab – faith winning (vv. 30-31): The account of the conquest of Jericho is found in Joshua 2-6. From a human point of view, Jericho was an impossible city to conquer. Joshua’s first act of faith was not the defeat of the city, but the crossing of the Jordan River. By faith, the nation crossed the river just as the previous generation had crossed the Red Sea. This was a witness and a warning to the Canaanite nations that Israel was marching forward by the power of God. Rahab was a harlot, an unlikely person to put faith in the true God of Israel. She was saved by grace, because the other inhabitants of the city were marked of death. God in His mercy and grace permitted Rahab to live. But she was saved by faith. She was saved unto good works. True faith must always show itself in good works (James 2:20-26).
Not only was Rahab delivered from judgment, but she became a part of the nation of Israel. She married Salmon and gave birth to Boaz who was an ancestor of King David. Imagine a pagan harlot becoming a part of the ancestry of Jesus Christ! That is what faith can do! Rahab is certainly a rebuke to unsaved people who give excuses for not trusting Christ. “I don’t understand very much of the Bible; I’m too bad to be saved; what will my family think?” are some of the excuses I often hear. Rahab knew very little spiritual truth, but she acted on what she did know. Rahab was a condemned heathen harlot! Rahab’s first concern was saving her family, not opposing them. She stands as one of the great women of faith in the Bible.
Various heroes of faith (vv. 32-40): Faith can operate in the life of any person who will dare to listen to God’s Word and surrender to God’s will. Gideon was a frightened farmer whose faith did not grow strong right away (Jud. 6:11-7:25). Barak was a resounding victory over Sisera, but he needed Deborah the prophetess as his helper to assure him (Jud. 4:1-5:31). Both Gideon and Barak are encouragements to us who falter in our faith. It’s not possible for us to examine each example of faith, and even the writer of Hebrews stopped citing names after he mentioned David and Samuel, who were great men of faith.
Man’s estimate of these heroes of faith was a low one; so men persecuted them, arrested them, tortured them, and in some cases killed them. But God’s estimate is entirely different. He said that the world was not worthy of these people. Faith enables us to turn from the approval of the world and seek only the approval of God. If God is glorified by delivering His people, He will do it. If He sees fit to be glorified by not delivering His people, then He will do that. But we must never conclude that the absence of deliverance means a lack of faith on part of God’s children. Faith looks to the future, for that is where the greatest rewards are found. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (v. 6). But this kind of faith grows as we listen to His Word (Rom. 10:17) and fellowship in worship and prayer. Faith is possible to all kinds of believers in all kinds of situations. It is not a luxury for a few “elite saints.” It is a necessity for all of God’s people. Lord, increase our faith!
Hebrews 11:4-40 Reflection Questions:
Where in the gospels does Jesus use Noah’s experience to warn people to be ready for His return?
Which of the patriarch’s faith do you admire the most?
How much do you trust in God versus trusting in yourself?
What are some of your excuses for not trusting Christ fully?