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Hebrews 11 - Righteousness Before God Is By Faith

INTRODUCTION: Cain and Abel were the first two sons born after the deception of Adam and Eve by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The author of the letter to the Hebrews begins with them, and gives other examples through thousands of years of generations of those who were shown the grace of God because of their faith. But many people have followed their own way in the world and rejected the LORD; and that often is because they don’t believe God exists when conditions in the world are not the way a god of their own making would have them. However, the mercy of the LORD is sufficient to overcome the sin that so easily besets the offspring of the first Adam. But those who are very open about their faith in the true and living God may suffer persecution from non-believers. The author lists some major times of renewal that did not cancel the need for righteous judgment by the LORD again When such times no longer had their effect in the hearts of many people.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the American King James Bible.


A - RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD IS BY FAITH

Hebrews 11 "1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 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. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."

COMMENTS: Belief and trust in the Word of God produces the faith that is the secure reality of things held in a hope that is firm, rather than the common use of the word hope to express a desired outcome that is uncertain. Having faith in God is the evidence of the existence of things not seen or understood from the worldly point of view of self-determination. The author declares that those in past ages who are recorded favorably in Scripture believed by faith that God created all of the physical realm in vast array, and the things he created had not previously existed. He began his list of examples with the very first two offspring of Adam and Eve.

Abel's sacrifice was accepted because it was offered by faith in accordance with that which was prescribed by the LORD. Cain was displeased because his offering of the produce from his field, which was not the required sacrifice, was rejected. But the LORD told him that he would be accepted if he did the right thing. But instead he jealously killed his younger brother Abel, and lied when the LORD confronted him. The author expressed that Abel obtained a witness of his gift of righteousness from God, by his obedience in his sacrifice as recorded in Scripture; and by that "report" Abel still "speaks" though he is dead.

Genesis 4:9-15 describes how the LORD confronted Cain, and verses 16 and 17 record the birth of Cain's son who was named Enoch, but this is not the Enoch who pleased the LORD. Then verses 25 and 26 begins the line of Seth, and states that when his first son was born, men began to call upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 4 "25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. 26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call on the name of the LORD."

Genesis chapter 5 gives the line of Seth down to Noah and his three sons. In that line of descendants, Enoch was the fifth generation after Seth, and he did not die but was taken up to be with the LORD. Since it is impossible to please the LORD without having the faith to firmly believe that He eternally exists and rewards those who diligently seek him, Enoch is one of the most precious examples to all believers.

Genesis 5 "21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. 25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech. 26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: 27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. 28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: 29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed. 30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: 31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. 32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth."

Enoch lived 300 more years after his son Lamech was born. When Lamech was 187 years old his son Methuselah was born, and Methuselah was 182 years old when his son Noah was born. Just as a side note, Enoch had been with the LORD for about 67 years before Noah was born; and each of Noah's ancestors had other sons and daughters outside of the documented line to Noah, with no details given about them. Noah was 500 years old before the birth of his three sons; and when Noah was 600 years old, by faith he followed all the instructions the LORD had given him about a world-wide event that had never been seen before. His household was saved alive with all that was in the ark, and Noah became the heir of righteousness which comes by faith. The rest of all that had the breath of life in the whole world was condemned to death by the global flood brought by the LORD.

Genesis 7 "11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went in to Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. 17 And the flood was forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. 18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly on the earth; and the ark went on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man: 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. 23 And every living substance was destroyed which was on the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth an hundred and fifty days."


B - THE FAITH OF ABRAM BEGAN A NEW PROMISE

Hebrews 11 "8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: why God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure."

COMMENTS: The author skips several centuries after Noah and his family were saved in the ark, and moves on to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, I have inserted the genealogical line through Shem down to Abraham which the author apparently felt his Hebrew readers would have sufficient familiarity without the need for specific listing. Abram was in the ninth generation from Shem, and his birth was approximately 292 years after the birth of Arphaxad using the years shown only as whole numbers in the Scripture text.

Genesis 11 "10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: 17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. 18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. 20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: 21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. 22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: 23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."

Genesis 12 "1 Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you: 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran."

The author of Hebrews first briefly commented on the faith demonstrated by Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. Then he emphasized some examples of their faith, though none of them were perfect as they lived in this fallen world. There is quite a bit of detail in Scripture about the life of Abram who was renamed Abraham by the LORD. He recognized that he was a pilgrim looking ahead to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. When Isaac was born, both Sarah and Abraham were of an age when it would be considered impossible for them to conceive a child. But through Isaac, the LORD promised that their descendants would be innumerable. The LORD put Abraham to the test by instructing him to make his only begotten son Isaac a burnt offering. Abraham was all the way to the point of killing his young son Isaac who was bound on the altar they had prepared. The LORD spoke to him, and rewarded his demonstrated faith by providing a substitute sacrifice. This is a beautiful picture of God's only begotten son Christ, being the provided sacrifice that cancels the finality of death for those who have placed their faith in Him! All of these forerunners in the faith died still looking ahead to the promises which they embraced as the citizenship they would obtain in a heavenly country which God has prepared for them.


C - THE LORD CALLED OUT A NEW NATION AND NAMED THEM ISRAEL

Hebrews 11 "20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, 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 pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of 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 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."

COMMENTS: Isaac gave a blessing to each of his two reconciled sons before he died; even though they had been earlier separated by Jacob's deception, and Esau's plan for violent revenge. When Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, the LORD provided the means over several years for him to become second only to Pharaoh. Later he provided for his father Jacob and all of the family to have territory in Egypt during widespread famine. Before Jacob died, he blessed Joseph's two sons, with the younger one to have more prominence in Israel. Before Joseph died, he gave instructions about the burial of his bones in the promised land when the children of Israel would return. That was a prophetic detail made in faith since a few centuries passed before the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt with Moses. Moses parents hid him from the edict of male children to be killed at birth, and the LORD continued to develop Moses life for his leadership of all Israel to leave Egypt about 80 years later. By faith all of them passed on dry ground when the LORD parted the Red sea, but the pursuing Egyptians were drowned when the waters closed upon them, and Israel did not need to defend themselves. Following instructions from the LORD, Moses established observance of the blood sacrifice offered by priest, the annual Passover, and completion of the tabernacle of God by the pattern shown to him by the LORD. The author then referred to Israel under the leadership of Joshua as they encompassed the walls of Jericho for seven days. Then the walls fell and the city was taken but the harlot Rahab was saved alive because she had by faith hidden in her house on the wall the two spies from Israel. The author did not mention that Rahab (Rachab) became a mother in the line of Christ the "son of David" as shown in the genealogy in Matthew.

Matthew 1 "5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;"


D - FAITH DURING THE PERIODS OF JUDGES AND KINGS

Hebrews 11 "32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of 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, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, 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 in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."

COMMENTS: The author gives a number of names of people who were recorded for their faith in action, and leaves it to his readers if they want to look up more detail from Scripture. When Israel was under oppression by the Midianites (Judges chapter 6 and 7) the angel of the LORD called out Gideon of the tribe of Manasseh, and the LORD gave Israel victory. After that, the country was in quietness 40 years during the remaining days of Gideon. But there were cycles of help from the LORD, followed by the children of Israel falling away from Him because the twelve tribes were not united under any king, and this was characterized in two separate verses in Judges.

Judges 17 "6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Judges 21 "25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

The record about Barak is in Judges before that of Gideon (judges 4:1-14), and there are two women who perhaps deserve more credit than that of Barak. Deborah the prophetess judged Israel at that time, and she told Barak that the LORD God of Israel commanded him to lead men from the tribes of Naphtali and of Zebulun against Jabin's army. Barak said he would go only if she went with him, and she said she would go; but the journey would not be for his honor because the LORD would deliver the life of Sisera into the hands of a woman. He was exhausted and weary as the battle was going very poorly for his troops against Israel, and he sought refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of a Kenite. After he was asleep, she used a tent peg and a hammer to pierce his temple to the ground and he died.

The information about Samson is in Judges chapters 14 through 16 with details that do not particularly make him the best model, but it does show that a final surrender to the LORD is possible even for one who had for too long thought more highly of himself than he ought. Though the author lists Jephthah after Samson, we find him earlier than Samson in Judges. He was the son of a harlot, and his half-brothers thrust him out of the family when they were all adults. But God uses people from different walks of life if they have faith in Him, and he was later called back to leadership for the Gileadites.

Judges 11 "1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife bore him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said to him, You shall not inherit in our father's house; for you are the son of a strange woman. 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers, and dwelled in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. 4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:"

Judges 12 "7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead."

The author suggests that his Hebrew readers also consider some major personalities such as David, Samuel, and prophets of the Word of God. The most important thing to consider for those who have gone before us is the way their faith was empowered by God to subdue kingdoms, work righteousness, and obtained promises. Daniel's faith stopped the mouths of lions from harming him; and the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego kept them from being harmed by the furnace fire of King Nebuchadnezzar. Other names were not given as examples of the severe trials they endured, or the valiant military victories they were given by the LORD. Some people received their dead raised to life again; while others were tortured, not accepting conditional deliverance offered by their enemies; that they might obtain a better resurrection. Then verses 36-40 of Hebrews 11 lists vivid undesirable conditions, but the emphasis is two-fold: (1) they were not worthy of the world because they waited for the LORD, and (2) such as these did not receive the promise in full until the time when all the faithful will have it together with the LORD.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I believe without faith I have nothing else that could possibly please you for I believe that you are the one true God who rewards those who diligently seek to know you. I want to live by faith as a stranger and pilgrim on earth looking ahead for that heavenly city which has foundations laid by the true and living God. And you, Lord Jesus, are the one who has gone ahead to prepare that place for those who wait by faith and secure hope, for the final call that will establish the everlasting reward. I want to offer my praise to you alone for the presentation in the Letter to the Hebrews of the variety of ways you worked through the lives of those who demonstrated faith in God. Thank you especially for the Scripture that described the faith and trust that Abraham had as he was willing to offer his only begotten son through his wife Sarah, knowing that you had promised both of them there would be numerous offspring through him. Abraham believed you could bring Isaac back from the dead, but at the very last moment instead you provided a substitute sacrifice. I thank you Lord, for the manner in which this helps me to think about the sacrifice of Christ Jesus as the substitute sacrificed for my eternal life and for that of all believers. God the Father gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him will have everlasting life. Hallelujah, amen.

Published 10 February 2020