Hebrews Chapter 11
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Just as our physical eyesight is the sense that gives us evidence of the material world, faith is the “sense” that gives us evidence of the invisible, spiritual world.
- Faith has its reasons. We aren’t talking about a “blind leap” of faith. But the reasons can’t be measured in a laboratory, they have to be understood spiritually.
- “Physical eyesight produces a conviction or evidence of visible things; faith is the organ which enables people to see the invisible order.” (Bruce)
- “True faith seeks for a positive message from the Lord. We should clearly differentiate between credulity and faith. Proper faith must be based on studies of the Divine Word and promises.” (Russell)
If you have the substance before you, if you can see it, what use is there for faith? Faith is needed for what we can’t see and can’t touch.
Faith does not contradict reason, though it may go beyond reason. I may objectively prove the Bible is the most unique book ever published, and has impacted society more than any other book. But only faith can prove that the Bible is the Word of God. Therefore, this is a belief beyond reason, but not in contradiction to reason.
Faith is the substance . . . the evidence: Faith is not a bare belief or intellectual understanding. It is a willingness to trust in, to rely on, and to cling to.
Things not seen -- Faith deals with the invisible--our strength for the work of life. A reasonable conviction becomes a basis of hope for the things which God has promised. Based on the logical deductions from known facts--a most reasonable thing.
Heb 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
The great examples of godliness all had different circumstances and personalities, but they all had one thing in common - faith.
Obtained a good testimony: These Jewish Christians had been discouraged, and were thinking of giving up on Jesus and a distinctive Christianity. They needed a good testimony, and so they needed these examples of faith to break them out of discouragement.
A class of God's people not of the Royal Priesthood who suffered for righteousness sake outside the Camp. The noble brethren before the cross, the last one of whom was John the Baptist. From Jacob's death to Christ a few of Israel, exercising faith above and beyond the Law Covenant, were blessed by the underlying Abrahamic Covenant. They will receive a share in the original promise, and be participants in the work of blessing the Gentile world.
Good report -- They were commended, not for perfect works, but for their faith. A testimony that they pleased God.
Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the ages were framed by a word of God, so that the things being seen not to have come into being out of the things that appear.
How were the worlds . . . framed by the word of God? It happened when God simply commanded Let there be light (Gen_1:3). As the Psalmist explains: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psa_33:6; Psa_33:9)
By faith we understand: We did not see this act of creation; we only know of it by faith. We also know this by reason, because we know the world was created, and created by an intelligent Designer. Again, this is faith going beyond, but not in contradiction to reason.
Even in times when it seems when God expects a faith that contradicts reason, closer examination reveals He does not. For example, it might seem contrary to reason for God to expect Abraham to believe that Sarah’s dead womb could bring forth a child. But it is not unreasonable to believe that the God who created life and the womb could do this, and would do it according to His promise. (Guzik)
Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. And by it he, being dead, yet speaks.
Starting with the more prominent of the race who had been faithful to God according to their light down to the time of Christ.
It was not by custom nor by accident that Abel chose his sacrifice. Evidently, he had been seeking the mind of the Lord, and had found it. It is to those who exercise faith, and who seek and knock, that the mind of the Lord is revealed and that only the great sacrifice of our Redeemer's life is acceptable to God.
More excellent -- Acceptable. He was led to offer sacrificially animals which typified the better sacrifices by which reconciliation will eventually be effected between God and humanity. Valuable, because it pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ.
He was righteous -- Abel is mentioned four times in the New Testament, and three of the times particularly styled "the righteous."
Yet speaketh -- Figuratively--actions speak louder than words. The fact that he died because of his devotion to the Lord, speaks of his devotion to God and to principle. God's acceptance still speaks to us in Abel's favor, although he is dead.
Cain’s sacrifice was the work of his hands, while Abel’s was a sacrificed life—how may we relate these sacrifices to our lives?
Which sacrifice is more in line to what you offer?
Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated so as not to see death, and he was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Enoch -- He not only prophesied (Jud_1:14-15), but believed it and it stamped his entire character and made him separate from the world and drew him nearer to the Lord.
Was translated -- Taken away--lifted over from one state or place to another. Enoch did not die. Enoch remained under the death sentence until he was ransomed by our Lord's death. There is no record as to where he was taken; except that he was not taken to heaven. No offer of heavenly life was possible until after Jesus died as man's Redeemer. "No man hath ascended up to heaven." (Joh_3:13)
God may have protected his life through all these centuries as an illustration of how human life could have been prolonged by divine power, if God had not placed the curse of death upon the race.
“By faith”, do you believe Enoch is alive or dead today?
Heb 11:6 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.
This is the basic faith required of any who will seek God. One must believe that He is, and one must believe He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We must believe that God is there, and that He will reveal Himself to the seeking heart.
Paul doesn’t say that it is difficult to please God without faith. He says that it is impossible.
“These two elements seem most simple, but, alas, how many professing Christians act as if God were not living; and how many others, though seeking after Him, are not expecting from Him as Rewarder!” (Newell)
Do you believe?
Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, having been warned by God of things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Noah was warned of something that had never happened before. His faith was shown in not merely agreeing that the flood would come, but in doing what God told him to do regarding the flood - he was moved with godly fear.
- Prepared an ark: Real faith will always do something. The book of James repeats this theme over and over again.
- He condemned the world: We shouldn’t think that Noah was a man who preached sermons of condemnation to the world. Instead, the mere conduct of the godly, without any preaching at all, can feel like condemnation to the world.
By faith Noah -- For a long period Noah's faith was tested even unto the entering of the Ark and the closing of the door before the rains descended and the floods came.
Saving of his house -- God blessed his faith, and made him a channel of blessing to his family.
What does your faith motivate you to do?
Do you include your family in your plans with God?
Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out into a place which he was afterward going to receive for an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he went.
Styled the "father of the faithful" because with Abraham God started a faith family to whom were given many and great promises.
And he went out -- The first test upon Abraham, after he was called, was that he leave his native country to wander up and down through Palestine as a shepherd. Probably in the face of the great displeasure of his relatives.
Not knowing whither -- Not knowing the particulars respecting it beforehand. In this respect typifying the experience of the true Church in coming out of Babylon.
When God tells you to do somewhere—what do you do?
Heb 11:9 By faith he lived in the land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of the same promise with him.
Heb 11:10 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Abraham lived as a “sojourner” in the land God had promised, never owning any of it except the plots that he and Sarah were buried on. Dwelt is the ancient Greek word paroikos, describing a “resident alien” - one who lives somewhere, but doesn’t have permanent status there.
A resident alien or a sojourner is evident. The way they talk, the way they dress, their mannerisms, their entertainment, their citizenship, and their friends, all speak of their native home. If someone is the same in all these areas as the “natives,” they are no longer sojourners - they are permanent residents. Christians shouldn’t get “green cards” for planet earth!
By faith, &c. — Believing that Canaan was promised to him and his seed only as a type of a better country, he acquired no possessions therein except a burying-place, and built no houses there; but sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country — Αλλοτιαν, a country belonging to others, dwelling in tents, as a sojourner; with Isaac and Jacob — Who by the same manner of living showed the same faith. Jacob was born fifteen years before the death of Abraham, as is evident from the account of the lives of the patriarchs given in Genesis. Isaac and Jacob are said to be heirs with Abraham of the same promise, because they all had the same interest therein; and Isaac did not receive this inheritance from Abraham, nor Jacob from Isaac, but all of them from God. In saying that Abraham dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the apostle does not mean that they all three dwelt together in one family, and one place, while they were in Canaan; for Abraham and Isaac had separate habitations when Jacob was born. But he means that, while in Canaan, they all dwelt in tents; and by applying this observation to the two latter, as well as to Abraham, the apostle praises their faith likewise. For, since Canaan belonged to them as joint heirs with their father, by dwelling there in tents as sojourners, they showed that they also knew the true meaning of the promise, and looked for a better country than Canaan. For he looked for — He expected at length to be led on to; a city which hath foundations — Whereas a tent hath none. (Benson)
How entrenched are you in this earth?
Are you looking for something better that God provides?
Heb 11:11 By faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him who had promised to be faithful.
Sarah’s faith was not perfect. She first laughed in unbelief (Gen_18:9-15) and then she learned to laugh in faith (Gen_21:6).
Faith boils down to judging that God is faithful to and able to keep His promises. It was this faith that enabled Sarah to receive strength to conceive seed. God gave the strength, but Sarah had to receive it by faith.
When things seem humanly impossible for you—do you have faith that God is still faithful to fulfil His promises?
Heb 11:12 Because of this came into being from one, and that of one having died, even as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
Heb 11:12 Williams And so there sprang from one man, and that dead as to any prospects for offspring, a people as numberless as the stars in the sky and as the sands beside the seashore.
Because of the faith of Sarah and Abraham, thousands - millions - of descendants were born. Their faith had an impact on more lives than they ever dreamed of.
When one translation is really hard to understand, do you look at other translations to try to get what the verse is really saying?
What is your favorite version to use?
Heb 11:13 These all died by way of faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. And they were persuaded of them and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
The promise of the Messiah was made to Abraham and Sarah, and they believed the promise. Yet they died having never received it, only seeing it in faith.
- They saw the promises afar off, willing to look at and consider the promise of God, even though it seemed so far away.
- They were assured of them: They carefully considered the promise, and assured themselves that the promise had to be valid because it was God making the promise.
- They embraced them: They took the promise and embrace it in faith. How many times in a day do you think Abraham and Sarah thought of the son God promised had them? Many, many times - they embraced the promise.
- They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims: Abraham and Sarah always took the promise with the understanding that this world was not their home; that God had a better and more enduring home for them in the Kingdom.
- If these examples of faith endured through difficulty and discouragement without having received the promises, how much more should we who have received better promises?
I really like the thought above about “embrace them”—Do we embrace God’s promises to us?
Are we strangers and pilgrims on the earth? Does my life reflect that? Does yours?
Heb 11:14 For they who say such things declare plainly that they seek a fatherland.
They seek a homeland . . . they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Their travelling up and down showed that none of the cities or countries through which they passed were wholly satisfactory to them.
Walking in faith is easier when we remember that this world is not our home. It is easier when we remember that on this side of eternity, not everything is settled and every wrong is not righted. That is why they seek a homeland and a better . . . heavenly country.
Faith is very difficult when we live as “practical atheists.” This describes someone who may have a theoretical belief in God, but the belief doesn’t matter in what they do from day to day. When we remember there is a spiritual reality - a heavenly home that is our real home - faith is much easier.
The great theme of our time is naturalism, the belief that only what can be found and measured in nature is “real.” Scientists and educators who believe in naturalism may be content to let us believe in God, just as long as we agree that God is a fairy tale - someone not real. But when we believe in the reality of God and of heaven and of His word, it is completely unacceptable to those who live by naturalism.
Do you desire a better country? Home?
Do you live as a “practical atheist”?
Heb 11:15 GNB They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return.
To have returned -- When they found that God was not yet ready to fulfil his promises. Abraham's continuance in Canaan marked the continuance of his faith.
The journey was not so long or perilous that they could not have retraced their steps. It would have been no more difficult or dangerous for them to do that than it was to make the journey at first. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. They preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, to a return to their native land. The same thing is true of all the people of God now. If they choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its vain pursuits, there is nothing to hinder them. There are “opportunities” enough. There are abundant inducements held out. There are numerous frivolous and worldly friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to have them return to vanity and folly again. They would welcome them to their society; rejoice to have them participate in their pleasures; and be willing that they should share in the honors and the wealth of the world. And they might do it. There are multitudes of Christians who could grace, as they once did, the ball-room: who could charm the social party by song and wit; who could rise to the highest posts of office, or compete successfully with others in the race for the acquisition of fame. They have seen and tasted enough of the vain pursuits of the world to satisfy them with their vanity; they are convinced of the sinfulness of making these things the great objects of living; their affections are now fixed on higher and nobler objects, and they “choose” not to return to those pursuits again, but to live as strangers and sojourners on the earth - for there is nothing more “voluntary” than religion. (Barnes)
Are you longingly looking back to your old life?
Heb 11:16 But now they stretch forth to a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
They were waiting for the time that God intended they should inherit this promise--the land of Palestine--at the establishment of God's Kingdom. It is under this perfect city or government from God, through Christ, that they shall find a country (home) which could never have come under the imperfect city (government) of bondage.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: But for those courageous enough to believe in God, and to believe in Him as real, and heaven and eternal life as real, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
We may speak of the fact that we cannot be ashamed of God; but do we often consider that God may be ashamed of us? When we do not regard God and heaven and eternity as real, there can be a sense in which God is ashamed to be called our God!
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. And he who had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son,
When he was tried -- The test for Abraham was that he should offer in sacrifice his son Isaac, in whom centered all the promises.
Offered up Isaac -- The severest possible test of faith was the command to slay his son with his own hand and to offer him upon the altar of sacrifice.
The verb tense for offered up indicates that as far as Abraham was concerned, the sacrifice was complete. In his will and in his purpose, he really did sacrifice his son. By his prompt obedience Abraham gave proof of his loyalty.
Abraham trusted God's love and believed his wisdom superior to his own, and accepted his authority as paramount to every other consideration. The kind of faith that the Lord desires to find in the spiritual seed of Abraham--a faith that will trust him even where it cannot trace him.
Offered up his only begotten son: Though Abraham had another son (Ishmael, the son of his fleshly attempt to fulfill God’s promise), God did not recognize the other son (Gen_22:1-14) - so Isaac could be called his only begotten son.
As Abraham gave his son Isaac to be sacrificed --so the Heavenly Father gave his Son, Jesus, to be the sin-offering for Adam and his race.
Tests of a similar import, though of different kind, are laid upon the Lord's people today, for the testing of our heart-loyalty toward the Lord.
Are you willing to sacrifice your “Isaac”?
Heb 11:18 of whom it was said that in Isaac your Seed shall be called,
That in Isaac shall thy seed be called; - Gen_21:12. A numerous posterity had been promised to him. It was there said expressly that this promise was not to be fulfilled through the son of Abraham, by the bondwoman Hagar, but through Isaac. Of course, it was implied that Isaac was to reach manhood, and yet notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding Abraham fully believed it, be prepared deliberately, in obedience to the divine command, to put him to death.
God made Abraham the pattern of the justification of mankind, and the father of all believers, for the purpose of their receiving the promises in him. The sacrifice of Isaac was commanded also for the purpose of being a type of the sacrifice of Christ.” Isaac, indeed, was not sacrificed: but Abraham, in the full resolution of obeying God’s command, proceeded so far as to show that if he had not been hindered by God himself, he would actually have obeyed it. For he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, Gen_22:10. Now, though Abraham was restrained from killing Isaac, his firm purpose to offer him was considered by God as equivalent to the actual offering of him, Gen_22:16 : Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son. But if Abraham, at God’s command, was willing himself to slay his only son, how much more willing should we be to part with our beloved children and friends when God himself takes them from us by death?
How does your faith compare to that of Abraham?
How does your faith compare to that of Isaac (who was old enough and strong enough to resist)?
Heb 11:19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from where he even received him, in a figure.
Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead - And that he would do it; for so Abraham evidently believed, and this idea is plainly implied in the whole narrative. There was no other way in which the promise could be fulfilled; and Abraham reasoned justly in the case. He had received the promise of a numerous posterity. He had been told expressly that it was to be through this favorite child. He was now commanded to put him to death as a sacrifice, and he prepared to do it. To fulfil these promises, therefore, there was no other way possible but for him to be raised up from the dead, and Abraham fully believed that it would be done. The child had been given to him at first in a supernatural manner, and he was prepared, therefore, to believe that he would be restored to him again by miracle. He did not doubt that be who had given him to him in a manner at first so contrary to all human probability, could restore him again in a method as extraordinary. He, therefore, anticipated that he would raise him up immediately from the dead. That this was the expectation of Abraham is apparent from the narrative in Gen_22:5, “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you;” in the plural
In a figure --Abraham's son, in whom the promised blessing centered, had first to be a sacrifice before he could bless, and Abraham received him from the dead in a figure. In the figure Isaac typified the true seed, Christ Jesus. Showing that the Oathbound Covenant could not go into effect without the shedding of blood--Isaac died typically.
When Abraham was confronted with a promise and a command from God which seemed to contradict each other, he did what we all should do: he obeyed the command and let God take care of the promise - which God was more than able to do!
Heb 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob: Isaac was really in the flesh, not in faith, when he first intended to bless Jacob and Esau. He wanted to bless Esau with the birthright for carnal reasons (he liked him as a more “manly” man, and he liked the wild game he brought home), instead of blessing Jacob, whom God had chosen.
Yet Isaac came to the place of faith when he discovered that he had actually blessed Jacob instead of Esau, Gen_27:33 says Isaac trembled exceedingly. When Isaac trembled exceedingly, what was he troubled about? He was troubled because he knew that he had tried to box God in, to defeat God’s plan, and that God had beaten him. He realized that he would always be defeated when he tried to resist God’s will, even when he didn’t like it. And he came to learn that despite his arrogance against God’s will, God’s will was glorious.
So, where is the faith in Isaac’s blessing? After Isaac’s attempt to thwart the will of God had been destroyed, when he said of Jacob, and indeed he shall be blessed (Gen_27:33). He knew that God had defeated his puny attempt to box God in, and he responded in the faith that says, “O.K. God, You win. Let Isaac be blessed with the birthright, and let Esau be blessed after him in his own way.” (Guzik)
Do you try to put God in your box?
Heb 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
By faith Jacob -- Israel was impulsed by faith in the promise made to Abraham that God would use his posterity and through it bless all people.
By faith Jacob, when a dying — That is, when near death, believing that God would make good his promise of giving his posterity the land of Canaan; blessed both the sons of Joseph — Foretelling that two tribes should spring from these two sons; and that the tribe of Ephraim, the younger, should be more powerful than the tribe of Manasseh, the elder; and worshipped — Acknowledged God’s goodness to him, which he had so long experienced
The blessing of the sons of Joseph (Gen_48:2), closely resembles the dying act of Isaac already spoken of, and has a similar significance. In both cases, too, human intention is overruled, in that the younger son obtains the higher blessing; and each patriarch accepts alike the Divine intimation to this effect, thus further evincing faith in a power and a will above his own.
Heb 11:22 By faith, Joseph dying remembered concerning the Exodus of the sons of Israel and gave orders concerning his bones.
In Gen_50:24, when he said: God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. He knew God’s promise was true!
Gave instructions concerning his bones: When Joseph died, he was never buried. His coffin laid above ground for the 400 or so years until it was taken back to Canaan. It was a silent witness all those years that Israel was going back to the Promised Land, just as God had said.
All during that time, when a child of Israel saw Joseph’s coffin and asked what it was there for, and why it was not buried, they could be answered, “Because the great man Joseph did not want to be buried in Egypt, but in the Promised Land God will one day lead us to.” (Guzik)
Heb 11:23 By faith Moses, having been 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 commandments.
The statement of the apostle here is, that his parents were led to preserve his life by their confidence in God. They believed that he was destined to some great purpose, and that he would be spared, notwithstanding all the probabilities against it, and all the difficulties in the case.
And they were not afraid of the king’s commandment - Requiring that all male children should be given up to be thrown into the Nile. That is, they were not so alarmed, or did not so dread the king, as to be induced to comply with the command. The strength of the faith of the parents of Moses, appears:
(1) Because the command of Pharaoh to destroy all the male children was positive, but they had so much confidence in God as to disregard it.
(2) Because there was a strong improbability that their child could be saved. They themselves found it impossible to conceal him longer than three months, and when it was discovered, there was every probability that the law would be enforced and that the child would be put to death. Perhaps there was reason also to apprehend that the parents would be punished for disregarding the authority of the king.
(3) Because they probably believed that their child was destined to some important work. They thus committed him to God instead of complying with the command of an earthly monarch, and against strong probabilities in the ease, they believed that it was possible that in some way he might be preserved alive. The remarkable result showed that their faith was not unfounded. (Barnes)
Is your faith strong enough to disregard legal commands that go against God?
Heb 11:24 Having become great, Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
By faith Moses, when he was come to years,.... Or "was great"; a nobleman in Pharaoh's court; or when he was arrived to great knowledge, being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; or rather when he was well advanced in years, being full forty years of age, Act_7:22 (Gill)
Being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter furnished the opportunity of a life of ease and pleasure - such as they commonly delight in who reside at courts. And it doubtless opened before him the prospect of wealth - for there is no improbability in supposing that he would be the heir of the daughter of a rich monarch. Yet all this, it is said, he “refused.” There is indeed no express mention made of his formally and openly refusing it, but his leaving the court, and identifying himself with his oppressed countrymen, was in fact a refusal of these high honors, and of these brilliant prospects. It is not impossible that when he became acquainted with his real history, there was some open and decided refusal on his part, to be regarded as the son of the daughter of this pagan monarch. (Barnes)
Has your faith led you to reject an easy life?
Heb 11:25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time,
This choice had consequences. Moses knew that to go God’s way meant to suffer affliction rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Sin does have its pleasures; but Moses properly saw them as passing, even if they should last our entire earthly lives!
How noble was Moses course, and how much approved of the Lord! It is proper that all who know and love righteousness and justice should take a firm stand upon these principles.
This is a choice that we can make too. Do you choose to be with the people of God and suffer if need be?
Do you choose to reject sin—even if you get some pleasure from it?
Heb 11:26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Esteeming the reproach of Christ - Margin, “For;” that is, on account of Christ. This means either that he was willing to bear the reproaches incident to his belief that the Messiah would come, and that he gave up his fair prospects in Egypt with that expectation.
The general idea is, that he would be reproached for the course which he pursued. He could not expect to leave the splendours of a court and undertake what he did, without subjecting himself to trials. He would be blamed by the Egyptians for his interference in freeing their “slaves,” and in bringing so many calamities upon their country; and he would be exposed to ridicule for his folly in leaving his brilliant prospects at court, to become identified with an oppressed and despised people. It is rare that men are zealous in doing good without exposing themselves both to blame and to ridicule.
Greater riches - Worth more; of greater value. Reproach itself is not desirable; but reproach, when a man receives it in an effort to do good to others, is worth more to him than gold, 1Pe_4:13-14. The scars which an old soldier has received in the defense of his country are more valued by him than his pension; and the reproach which a good man receives in endeavoring to save others is a subject of greater joy to him than would be all the wealth which could be gained in a life of sin.
For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward - He hoped by allying himself with his own people to preserve his share in the Abrahamic promises, In order to have the proper respect for the reward which God promises, it is necessary that we hold it up before us continually.
Are you willing to bear the reproaches of Christ?
Have you already bore the reproaches of Christ?
Heb 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
Moses saw something that was invisible to most men—something that was more important than the splendours of the Egyptian Empire. The first thing he saw was his love for his own people—a sort of patriotism, though the Hebrews were then, as now, a nation without a country. There was the call of the blood surging in the ears of Moses. And that was more persuasive than the call of a foreign luxury. But the next thing he saw was more powerful still, just as it was invisible in an even deeper sense than this call of the blood. This second thing was not a thing at all, but a Being—Moses saw God. And the splendors even of Pharaoh shriveled into nothing in the presence of God. Moses saw Him visionally, and symbolically in the bush; he saw Him by faith, and with the eyes of his understanding; and so believing in His power, faithfulness, &c. did what He did.
Do you see God?
Heb 11:28 Through faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest He who destroyed the first-born should touch them.
We have no reason to suppose that to any considerable extent it was possible for him to comprehend the real meaning of the Passover. It took faith to believe that the blood of a lamb on the door post would save a household from the terror of the angel of death. But Moses had that faith, and led the nation in observance of the Passover.
Do you have faith in God where you cannot trace Him? Where you might not understand why He is having you do something?
Heb 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, which the Egyptians attempting to do were drowned.
The difference between the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the Egyptians who followed them was not courage, but faith. The Egyptians had as much (or more) courage than the Israelites, but not the same faith - and they each had different fates. The Israelites passed through, and the Egyptians were drowned.
Exo_14:22. The Egyptians thought they could walk through the sea as well as the Israelites; they tried, and were drowned; while the former passed in perfect safety. The one walked by faith, the other by sight; one perished, the other was saved.(Clarke)
It may be hard to see the faith of the Israelites with all the complaining they did during the Exodus. Perhaps some of them fed off of the other’s faith as they walked through the sea. Is your faith strong enough to get you through your “Red Sea” challenges?
Are you clinging to another’s faith to get you through?
Or do you just walk by sight like the Egyptians?
Heb 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed seven days.
At Jericho, the people of Israel had a daring faith. There was no turning back, having already crossed the river Jordan at flood stage, which cut off any line of retreat.
At Jericho, the people of Israel had an obedient faith. They did not really understand what God was doing, yet they obeyed none the less. After they were encircled for seven days: At Jericho, the people of Israel had a patient faith. The walls did not fall down for the first six days, yet they kept marching as God commanded. At Jericho, the people of Israel had an anticipating faith. They knew God would act on the seventh day when they shouted. (Guzik)
Does your faith keep you going when it may seem like you are just spinning your wheels?
Heb 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
Rahab (Joshua 2) might seem an unusual example of faith, but her trust in God and willingness to identify with His people, no matter what the cost, is worthy of praise. When the Hebrew spies came to Rahab, she declared He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath (Jos_2:11). This was proof of her faith. It was not strong faith, it was not perfect faith, but her faith was commendable nonetheless.
Clement of Rome, the earliest Christian writer outside of the Bible, was the first the see a symbol of the blood of Jesus in the scarlet cord which Rahab hung outside her window. (Guzik)
Does your faith allow you to stand up for God’s people, who everyone else is against?
Does your faith allow you go tell your whole family, in this same circumstance, about the saving power of God?
Heb 11:32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah; also David, and Samuel and the prophets,
Gideon was a man who boldly destroyed idols, and was mightily used of God to defeat a much larger army of Midianites (Judges 6-7). Yet he was also a man who doubted God’s word to him at first, and repeatedly asked for confirmation.
Barak led the people of Israel in a dramatic victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4). Yet he hesitated and went forward only when Deborah encouraged him.
Samson was used mightily of the Lord to defeat the Philistines. Yet he never lived up to his potential, and had a tragic ending to his life after being enticed by Delilah (Judges 13-16).
Rated as a faithful servant of God, according to the Law. His faithfulness consisted in his loyalty to the divine requirements, to the cause of God and to Israel. His whole life was used in serving his people. (Russell)
Jephthah was used of God to defeat the Ammonites. Yet Jephthah made a foolish vow and stubbornly kept it (Judges 11).
David was a remarkable man of faith. Yet he also failed with Bathsheba and with his own children.
Each one of these were men of faith, yet had notable areas of failure in their life. Still, Hebrews 11 commends their faith, and lists them in the “Hall of Faith.” This shows that weak faith is better than unbelief, and you don’t have to be perfect to make it into God’s “Hall of Faith.” (Guzik)
And of the prophets - They were men who had strong confidence in the truth of what God directed them to foretell, and who were ever ready, depending on him, to make known the most unwelcome truths to their fellow man, even at the peril of their lives.(Barnes)
After giving us a wonderful galaxy, the Apostle seems to realize that he has only well begun the list. A partial roll-call of the heroes of faith-battles in ancient times. (Russell)
Heb 11:33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Some of those who subdued kingdoms: David, Joshua, King Asa, Jehoshaphat, King Hezekiah, King Josiah.
Some of those who worked righteousness: Elijah, Elisha, and all the prophets of God, and King Josiah also.
Some of those who obtained promises: Caleb, Gideon, Barak.
Some of those who stopped the mouths of lions: Daniel, David, and Benaiah (one of David’s mighty men). (Guzik)
Heb 11:34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the strangers.
Some of those who quenched the violence of fire: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3)
Some of those who escaped the edge of the sword: David escaped both the swords of Goliath and Saul, Moses escaped the sword of Pharaoh, and Elijah escaped the sword of Jezebel.
Some of those who out of weakness were made strong: Sarah, Gideon, Abraham, Esther, and King Hezekiah.
Some of those who became valiant in battle: David, King Asa, and Jehoshaphat.
Turned to flight the armies of the aliens - The foreigners - as the invading Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Assyrians, etc.
What has your faith helped you overcome?
Heb 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Women received their dead raised to life again - As in the case of the woman of Zarephath, whose child was restored to life by Elijah, 1Ki_17:19-24; and of the son of the Shunamite woman whose child was restored to life by Elisha; 2 Kings 4:18-37. (Barnes)
Tortured in the ancient Greek language has the idea “to beat with a stick or a baton.”
Some valiantly overcame obstacles and would not compromise their conscience to procure deliverance. Not accepting deliverance - When it was offered them; that is, on condition that they would renounce their opinions, or do what was required of them. This is the very nature of the spirit of martyrdom.
A better resurrection: As Jesus said in Joh_5:29, there is a resurrection unto life, and a resurrection unto condemnation (or trial). These worthies will receive the better earthly resurrection. The remainder of the race will require a thousand years during which to come back gradually to the original condition lost by Adam.
Those of the Old Testament had a hope of the future resurrection—do you? Do you know about the different resurrections?
Heb 11:36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; yes, more, of bonds and imprisonments.
had trial of cruel mockings — As Samson before Dagon, when the Philistines had put out his eyes; and doubtless hundreds of others, whose names and trials have not been recorded; and scourgings — Jeremiah was beaten by Pashur, Jer_20:2; and by the princes, Jer_37:15 : but scourging was so frequent a punishment, both alone and before a capital execution, that it is probable it was inflicted on many pious persons. (Benson)
Bond’s and imprisonment - Joseph was cast into prison; Jeremiah was cast into a dungeon full of mire, Jer_37:16, and Jer_38:6; and the Prophet Micaiah was imprisoned by Ahab, 1Ki_22:27. (Clarke)
And scourging - Whipping. This was a common mode of punishment, and was usually inflicted before a martyr was put to death; see the notes on Mat_10:17; Mat_27:26. For instance of this, see Jer_20:2. (Barnes)
Heb 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.
They were stoned: Zechariah was stoned to death between the altar and the temple, and Naboth was stoned to death by Jezebel’s henchmen.
Sawn in two: According to reliable tradition, Isaiah was sawn in two and killed.
Were tempted: How does being tempted compare with these other persecutions? Some have thought the text was corrupted here, and the writer to the Hebrews originally wrote “branded” or “burnt alive” or “mutilated” or “strangled.” But for those who have known the pains of temptation, it is not unreasonable to think that the writer to the Hebrews regards overcoming temptation as a true triumph of faith.
Were slain with the sword: Such as the eighty-five priests murdered by Doeg, or the prophets murdered in Elijah’s day.
Wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins: Such as Elijah, who wore this kind humble clothing and did not mind the humility or the discomfort. (Guzik)
The apostle here, among other sufferings which they were called to endure, may have referred to the temptations which were presented to the martyrs when about to die to abandon their religion and live. It is very possible to conceive that this might have been among the highest aggravations of their sufferings. We know that in later times it was a common practice to offer life to those who were doomed to a horrid death on condition that they would throw incense on the altars of a pagan god, and we may easily suppose that a temptation of that kind, artfully presented in the midst of keen tortures, would greatly aggravate their sufferings. Or suppose when a father was about to be put to death for his religion, his wife and children were placed before him and should plead with him to save his life by abandoning his religion, we can easily imagine that no pain of the rack would cause so keen torture to the soul as their cries and tears would. Amidst the sorrows of martyrs, therefore, it was not improper to say that they were tempted, and to place this among their most aggravated woes. (Barnes)
The Apostle will remind us in the next chapter about our standing, but we will bring it up here:
Heb 12:3-4 KJV For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Have you resisted unto blood?
Do these examples of faith frighten you or encourage you?
Heb 11:38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth.
The world is not necessarily friendly to people of faith, and the world isn’t necessarily worthy of them either!
In dens and caves of the earth: David, Elijah, and prophets under the leadership of Obadiah were all forced to flee and hide in caves. (Guzik)
Of whom the world was not worthy - The world was so wicked that it had no claim that such holy men should live in it. These poor, despised, and persecuted people, living as outcasts and wanderers, were of a character far elevated above the world. This is a most beautiful expression. It is at once a statement of their eminent holiness, and of the wickedness of the rest of mankind. (Barnes)
Of whom -- All the patriarchs desired to be in harmony with God. They were a noble example of those who laid down their lives for the truth. Their lives were consecrated to God and to righteousness.
Not worthy -- By their sufferings, painful and ignominious deaths, they demonstrated that the world was unworthy of them. Who will yet occupy honorable positions as chiefs among men.
In dens and caves -- In olden times there were bitter persecutions of God's people, and those persecuted were obliged to live in caves and dens of the earth. (Russell)
How can we be encouraged by these faithful “Worthies”?
How can their examples help us to run the race more faithfully?
Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, did not receive the promise,
And these all -- The faithful overcomers of the past. John the Baptist being the last and most highly honored.
A different class from the disciples of Christ of the Gospel Age. To be the earthly representatives of the heavenly Mediator.
A good report -- A good record. Witness. A verdict of "well done;" a testimony that they pleased God. They passed their trial in this life satisfactorily in God's sight; and they will contrast strongly with the imperfect men around them.
Through faith -- Therefore justified, made free from the Law Covenant, as illustrated by the fact that the Red Heifer (which shows their sacrifice) was one that had never worn a yoke.
Received not -- Not yet.
The promise -- The fulfillment of the promise made to them. The things promised to them--earthly inheritance, dominion. The reward of their faithfulness.
"He gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on, yet he promised that he would give it to him." (Act_7:5)
From Genesis to Malachi there is no suggestion of a heavenly or spiritual hope for anyone. They cannot be of the Church class even as they could not follow in the footsteps of Jesus--theirs is to be an earthly blessing.
They are all sleeping and waiting for the resurrection morning. (Russell)
Do you have the faith displayed by these “Worthies” to endure hardships and trust in the Promises of God?
Heb 11:40 for God had provided some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.
Provided -- Reserved. Prepared.
Some better thing -- Higher honors; the heavenly calling, to which the Ancient Worthies were not invited. Our higher reward of "glory, honor and immortality." The attainment of the spirit nature, far above angels, sharers with our Redeemer in his glory and immortality. Joint-heirship with Christ and the work of blessing all God's intelligent creation. As much better as the heavenly inheritance is better than the earthly one. A still better resurrection.
This manifestation of divine grace toward us is not on account of our greater faith, but because we live in the "acceptable time." (Isa_49:8)
"He that is least in the Kingdom is greater." (Mat_11:11)
For us -- Than for them. The New Creation, Christ, Head and Body.
That they -- The humble, faithful, Ancient Worthies. Those noble, loyal, righteous, faithful. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the holy prophets. The Ancient Worthies of the Jewish Dispensation. The worthy ones who lived before Christ's first advent. From Abel to John the Baptist.
They will be the "Princes" through whom the Millennial Kingdom blessings will extend to all mankind.
Without -- The Church must receive her heavenly inheritance first. They cannot get actual restitution until the last member of the testator shall have passed beyond the veil. They must wait until the New Covenant is sealed. Perfection of the Church will be first.
Us -- The Gospel Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride class. The overcomers of the Gospel age. Who are first in order in the resurrection. Sons of God; and heirs. The glorification of the Church must first be accomplished before the blessings through them can proceed to the natural seed of Abraham and all nations. No matter how faithful or loyal Enoch, Abraham, David, Jeremiah and others were, they could not be recognized as members of the house of sons, because they lived before Jesus day.
Should not -- Until the sufferings of Christ are complete. Jesus attested that the Ancient Worthies had not gone to heaven, saying "No man hath ascended up to heaven." (Joh_3:13) Because the blessing of all other classes is to come through the glorified Christ.
Be made perfect -- Restored. Actually justified to life. Resurrection to human perfection. The perfecting will be instantaneous with their awakening from death, their trial having been passed successfully. Since they are to be the children of Christ instead of the fathers, it follows that they could not get their life until The Christ is complete.
They will be Princes in all the earth. (Psa_45:16)
They will be earthly judges, "I will restore thy judges as at the first and thy counsellors as at the beginning." (Isa_1:26) (Russell)
Conclusion: We have even more reasons for faith, more reasons to hold on to faith, than these heroes of the faith did. (Guzik)
Quotes from David Guzik, Charles Russell, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, John Gill, New Albany, and more