Hebrews
1-4 To Live By Faith (I) 5-8 To Live By Faith (II) 9-16 To Live By Faith (III) 17-23 To Live By Faith (IV) 24-30 To Live By Faith (V) 31-40 To Live By Faith (VI)
To Live By Faith (I)

1Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the men of old gained approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 4By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

You’re at the beginning of a wonderful and an enormously encouraging chapter. Plentiful examples of persons, who has lived by faith, are written down in this chapter. Their lives have proven the power and the working of faith. Therefore the whole chapter speaks about nothing else than faith. All these examples are quoted by the writer, in order to show the Hebrews and also you what a person who lives by faith, is capable of.

This faith is not different from the one that brought you to God and with which you put your confidence in God for the forgiveness of your sins. That was the beginning of your faith. But faith always remains active. Faith in God is: trusting Him, regarding Him as faithful; having the assurance that He helps and that He does what He says. The future becomes present by faith and in that way the invisible also becomes visible. And the difficulties you are faced with are the challenges for faith. Difficulties are, as it were, food for faith; difficulties are the very causes for faith to prove itself.

V11Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.. This verse has also been called the definition of faith, but I think that this is not correct. Faith is not to be defined. Faith is the effective power in view of the future and in view of the present. Faith fixes the eye forward, to what has been promised and is absolutely sure that it will be achieved: it “is the assurance of [things] hoped for”. Faith fixes the eye up, to God and Christ: it is “the conviction of things not seen”. In other words: faith looks forward and upward.

In the verses 1-71Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.2For by it the men of old gained approval.3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.4By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.6And 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 seek Him.7By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. you see that faith is the most important thing in the relationship between man and God and indeed from the beginning till the end. It deals with creation, sin and offering; life and walking to the pleasure of God; the testimony towards the world; the judgment over the world and finally the millennial kingdom of peace. In all these aspects the Son is central. Creation shows the Son as Creator. The offering shows the Son as Redeemer. A life and a walk to the pleasure of God is perfectly seen in the Son. In the world He perfectly testified Whom God is. The Son will judge the world and He will also establish the millennial kingdom of peace.

Furthermore creation points forward to the recreation of which the Son is the heir. On the basis of the offering all things will once be submitted to the Son. In the taking of Enoch (verse 55By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.) you see the picture of the rapture of the church, the heavenly people of God. The church is related to the Son and partakes of everything that is the part of the Son and what He will receive in the millennial kingdom of peace. Noah (verse 77By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.) is a type of the earthly people in the millennial kingdom, of the believers who will inherit the world through judgments.

The common thread through everything is faith. This theme connects everything together. When you summarize the verses 1-71Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.2For by it the men of old gained approval.3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.4By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.6And 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 seek Him.7By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith., you can say the following. Faith sees: that the visible things came from what is not visible; that the offering is the only ground in order to exist before God; that a walk to the pleasure of God is possible by believing that He is (looking upward) and that a new world is awaiting (looking forward).

V22For by it the men of old gained approval.. This is the faith that “the men of old”, the faith heroes from the Old Testament, the former generations of Israel, had. They demonstrated again and again that they were sure of what they hoped for and were convinced of what they did not see. Therefore they received the testimony from God. God gave in their conscience His approval. God still does that in everyone who lives in daily confidence in Him whatsoever the circumstance.

V33By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.. After the first two introductory verses you get examples of the effect of believing. The first example implies that only by believing you are able to understand how the worlds were framed, namely by God’s Word. There is here no mention yet of faith heroes from the Old Testament. Here it is about you, about your insight in the preparation of the world. Everything you see, is not made of something else that is seen, but emerged from the Invisible. This principle goes for everything that has to do with the practice of faith. In the life of faith nothing emerges from something that is seen around us, but only emerges from the unseen God Who also framed the worlds.

God has spoken and therefore all the visible has emerged. That’s how it works when God speaks. His speaking is full of authority and effect. He commands and it is (Gen 1:33Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. etc.; Psa 33:99For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
). In that way He “prepared” the worlds (the world of the stars, the world of angels, the world of men), which means that He has put them in order, classified them; He put everything in its right place. The only way to “understand” this or to see it spiritually (inwardly) is by faith. Faith determines that God placed everything exactly there where He wanted it to be (Rev 4:1111“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”). There is no mention of a gradual development (evolution) at all, concerning creation.

In this third verse all the erroneous arguments of the human spirit, who have endlessly looked for and are still looking for the existence of things, are being judged and eliminated in one phrase. The one invented system is still more foolish than the other in order to explain the things that become perfectly simple when faith acknowledges God. The universe is not a cause that is creating. It has been created itself and it functions through a law which God has imposed on it.

V44By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.. God uses His creation as a platform on which the working of faith is being displayed. Then He created man on that platform. With that man He created He wanted to have fellowship, to have contact. Through sin that has entered the world, this fellowship is cruelly disturbed. Due to this man was not able anymore to draw near to God. But even worse: man who fell into sin could not exist before God.

God should remove him from this platform. But in His love and mercy God gave a way. He made a Lamb available as a sacrifice for the fallen man, so that on this righteous ground he could still exist before the face of God. And now in Abel the example of the power of faith in the sacrifice is being presented.

Abel had the insight of someone with a conscience that was taught by God. He acknowledges God’s judgment over sin. He goes to God and confesses to be a sinner. But he comes with a substitute: an offering which he, as it were, places between himself and God. In this way he obtains the witness that he was righteous. This witness is in accordance with the righteous judgment of God. God had to exert judgment. He judged the offering and due to that Abel could go free. Not only the offering is being accepted, but Able himself too who came with the offering.

When you draw near to God through the offering of the Lord Jesus, God witnesses of the offering that it is righteous and He also witnesses to you that you are righteous. Your righteousness has the value and the perfection of the offering, which means of Christ Who offered up Himself to God. To God you are now according to the perfection of the work of Christ. What that means you already have read comprehensively in this letter.

So the first faith hero is Abel. In him you see a believer who actively presents himself to God on the ground of a substitutionary offering. Also his brother Cain is mentioned. He also brought an offering, but the offering of Abel was better or more than that of Cain. Abel’s offering had added value. The added value was the fact that Abel killed an offering according to the example that God had given after the fall of man (Gen 3:2121The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.), while Cain came with his own good works that also came from a cursed earth.

Abel’s offering was, as it seems, not because of a special sin, but he offered it up because of the awareness that man could only exist before God on that ground. The offering of Abel was accepted. Possibly the fire from God fell on it, visibly, like what happened at the tabernacle (Lev 9:2424Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw [it], they shouted and fell on their faces.), at the temple (2Chr 7:11Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house.) and with the offerings from David and Elijah (1Chr 21:2626Then David built an altar to the LORD there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And he called to the LORD and He answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.; 1Kgs 18:3838Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.).

Cain acknowledged the existence of God and desired to gain His favor, but he did not acknowledge to be a sinner. He turned his back to God. The difference between the persons who brought the offerings is faith. Abel’s faith and his offering made God declare him righteous.

Abel had to pay his life of faith with his death by the hand of a murderer. His testimony on earth was ended that way, but the message that was sent through it did not. That echoes through the ages in a way that was not possible in another way. God uses the work of satan entirely against the will of satan for the further glory of His Name.

Now read Hebrews 11:1-4 again.

Reflection: What do you do with faith? How does that affect you?


To Live By Faith (II)

5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6And 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 seek Him. 7By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 8By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

V55By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.. In the example of Abel you have seen that the death of an innocent substitute was the means that God accepted you. With Enoch you see a next step. He who is declared righteous, walks in faith. The name Enoch means ‘taught’. He who is taught in the value of the offering, learns how to walk by faith and is being taken away through that same faith. As a principle you are freed from the power of death through the offering of the Lord Jesus. Everything that belongs to the old man, is taken away by that offering (Rom 6:66knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;). The devil, who had the power of death, is destroyed (Heb 2:1414Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,). The victory over death is that perfect that if it pleases God you can go to heaven without passing through death.

That happened to Enoch and that’s what will happen to the church at the rapture (1Thes 4:15-1715For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.). Elijah also went to heaven without dying (2Kgs 2:1,111And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.11As they were going along and talking, behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.). Enoch and Elijah both lived in a time of great ungodliness. Like Elijah Enoch was a prophet of judgment (Jude 1:14-1514[It was] also about these men [that] Enoch, [in] the seventh [generation] from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,15to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”). In the first place this judgment came by the flood. But its prophecy extends to the end of time, the return of Christ. A person who lives with God, obtains understanding of the future where Christ is the Centre.

Now it is said of Enoch here “that he was pleasing God”. When you read in Genesis 5 what is said about Enoch, you read that He walked with God (Gen 5:2424Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.). As he does more often the writer quotes in this letter the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. In the Septuagint ‘walking with God’ is translated into ‘pleasing God’. The writer copies that under the guidance of God’s Spirit. That implies that ‘walking with God’ is synonymous with ‘pleasing God’.

When you think of walking you should think of the whole way of living. Enoch involved God in all aspects of his life. God was the object of his walk. It also has been presented in such a way that Enoch in his walk with God had come that close to heaven that God said: ‘Come in now.’ I believe that we should also be like that as members of the church. We ought not to be surprised by the rapture of the church, but it ought to be along the lines of a walk with God. A walk with God can only bring you closer to heaven.

Enoch obtained the witness of God that he pleased Him “before his being taken up”. His faith was revealed during his life that preceded his being taken away.

V66And 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 seek Him.. Without faith a walk like that of Enoch is impossible. A person who does not believe is absolutely incapable of walking in a way that God looks at with joy. The walk of Enoch pleased God because that walk reminded Him of the walk of the Lord Jesus when He was on earth. (To God the future is present.) Therefore He reports it. This is how it ought to be with every believer (1Thes 4:11Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us [instruction] as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.).

You can only walk with God when you believe “that He is”. That is something different and goes much further than believing that He is there. Demons also believe that God is there, that He exists (Jam 2:1919You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.), but that doesn’t affect their evil resistance against God at all. To believe ‘that God is’, means that you really experience His presence in your life and that His presence is the main thing in your life. It means that you believe that He is interested in your walk and knows about your walk. You draw near to Him and you seek Him because you trust Him and know that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Seeking fellowship with the Lord is being abundantly rewarded.

V77By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.. The characteristic of the faith of Enoch is that he had a hidden relationship with God. With Noah you see how his faith made him a public witness of God towards the world. God gave Noah an indication about things he couldn’t observe with his natural eyes (yet). God told him about the flood He was planning to bring upon the world, because of the incorrigible and evil conduct of man. When Noah heard that, he became a preacher of righteousness (2Pet 2:55and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;; 1Pet 3:1919in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits [now] in prison,). At the same time he continued to listen to God.

The result of that was that he not only preached, but he indeed took action. His testimony existed of a deed of obedience. On God’s command he built the ark. That was a remarkable testimony that he didn’t expect anything from this world anymore, for it was going to perish by the waters of judgment. By building the ark he also showed that he fixed his hope on a new world. He could see both the judgment and the new world only by faith. That made him “an heir of the righteousness” that is characteristic for a world that is purified from evil through the judgment of God. He was going to inherit the world as a truly righteous man (Psa 37:2929The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
).

This example was to encourage the Hebrew believer (Heb 2:55For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.) and us. The Hebrews were possibly asking themselves why they were a minority if they were right. The example of Noah was meant to encourage them. Only eight people were saved (1Pet 3:2020who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through [the] water.), while the rest of the world perished. Noah and his family are therefore a picture of the Jewish remnant. They represent the remnant of Israel that will go through the great tribulation (presented in the flood) and with the coming of the Lord Jesus will enter the millennial kingdom of peace. These events will follow in the history of salvation after the rapture of the church that is presented in Enoch.

It was not fear and anguish that made Noah to build the ark, but his respect for God’s Word. In the same way your walk in faith should also be as a result of the respect that you have for what God has said. From your walk it will be apparent how you respond to what God says to you in His Word.

Another remarkable thing is that Noah does not only prepare an ark for himself, but for his household. This implies that God wants to save a person and his whole household. That is an extra responsibility for the head of the family.

This particular verse about Noah delivers a number of aspects of faith that are worthy of being mentioned:
1. First there is the ground of his faith: he is warned by God.
2. Then you read about the territory on which his faith is focused: things that were not yet seen.
3. Then you notice the practice of his faith: he was moved with reverence for God.
4. Then you see the work of his faith: he prepared an ark for himself and his household.
5. Then the result of his faith follows: he saved his household.
6. His whole conduct was a witness of faith: he was judging the world.
6. Finally he received a reward of faith: he became an heir of righteousness.

You could say that in the verses 1-71Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.2For by it the men of old gained approval.3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.4By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.6And 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 seek Him.7By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. in the several events and people the general principles of faith are being presented. In the section that now follows, the verses 8-228By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.9By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign [land], dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;10for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.11By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.12Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, [as many descendants] as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.13All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.15And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.16But as it is, they desire 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.17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son];18[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”19He considered that God is able to raise [people] even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.21By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff.22By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones., the main point is the perseverance of faith. The examples show believers who walk as pilgrims in the power of faith that God shall fulfill His promises, even though that fulfillment still seems to be so far away.

You read in this section seven times the expression “by faith”. The examples that the writer brings forward are the patriarchs who were very familiar to the Hebrews. Concerning Abraham you read four times about faith. That was
1. with his call and obedience (verse 88By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.),
2. in connection with his sojourning (verses 9-109By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign [land], dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;10for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.),
3. when it comes to life from death (verses 11-1211By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.12Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, [as many descendants] as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.) and – after a parenthesis in the verses 13-1613All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.15And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.16But as it is, they desire 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.
4. when he is being tested (verses 17-1917By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son];18[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”19He considered that God is able to raise [people] even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.).

The other three times are
1. about the faith of Isaac who by faith proves his knowledge of God’s ways (verse 2020By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.),
2. about the faith of Jacob at the end of his path of faith, which was full of experiences (verse 2121By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff.) and
3. about the faith of Joseph who looks forwards to the redemption of God’s people (verse 2222By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.).

The application on the Hebrews and also on you, is clear. Each faith hero from the past illustrates certain aspects of faith that should also characterize the Hebrews. It altogether refers to the future age and particularly to the heavenly side of it.

V88By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.. The previous faith heroes were not called to abandon anything, but Abraham has to do that. When God calls him, he goes, even though he doesn’t know where he will end up. The faith of Abraham shows a full confidence in God. He had nothing to focus on, he knew nothing nor a name of anything or any particularities of the land he was guided to. God was sufficient for him. He did not ask: ‘Where do I go?’ His faith was not mixed with his own calculations. He trusted on the word of the God Who cannot deceive.

The life of Abraham is the great example of the New Testament believer (Rom 4:1111and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,) who is also called (Rom 8:3030and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.; 1Cor 1:22To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their [Lord] and ours:; 1Pet 2:99But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;). The crucial point of the calling is the promise. To obtain the promise you have to give up everything. You only do that when you trust that He Who calls you, is everything and that He has a better world for you: a world filled with His glory in Christ.

The obedience of Abraham was immediate. It was not rooted in any charm of what was presented to him, but in the glory of Him Who spoke (Acts 7:22And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,).

Now read Hebrews 11:5-8 again.

Reflection: Which aspects of faith do you encounter in this section and which of them are of importance to you?


To Live By Faith (III)

9By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign [land], dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, [as many descendants] as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire 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.

V99By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign [land], dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;. When Abraham arrives at the place where God guided him to, he doesn’t receive anything (Acts 7:55But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and [yet], even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM.). That is a new faith exercise. That same faith exercise you have too. You have converted and know that it implies that you belong to the Lord Jesus Who has all power in heaven and on earth. But what do you see of that at this moment? At this moment you are a stranger on earth without civil rights. This is not your home. An English song we very often sing with youngsters reflects it well: ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through’. You could surely look forward to what’s coming when the Lord Jesus will take the world into possession. Then you will possess the world together with Him.

Until that time the promise of that possession gives you the strength to live here as a stranger. The sojourning of Abraham is being underlined because he dwelt in tents. A house is the symbol of a permanent residence, while a tent indicates the temporary character of a dwelling place. Also his son Isaac and his grandchild Jacob were living like that. They also, as fellow heirs of the same promise, have not received what was promised. In case Abraham expected that they would receive the fulfillment, it would then be a new exercise of faith.

V1010for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.. Abraham is not discouraged by that. He stays focused on what the Lord has promised. Although he has nothing, his affections have a firm character. He longs for a better land and clings directly and completely to God. When you trust in God and give up everything for His sake you will always gain more and you will learn more from the ways of His might. Abraham has learnt by faith to look for something beyond a fulfillment in his days that is better than a possession on earth. Hadn’t he seen the God of glory (Acts 7:22And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,)? That caused an unprecedented, and in the Old Testament not revealed, extent to his faith. That’s what you see here. Abraham looked farther beyond an earthly nation and an earthly land. He saw a heavenly city, that is the heavenly center of the future age, the millennial kingdom of peace.

It is a “city which has foundations”. This stands opposite to dwelling in tents on earth. Of that city God is both the “architect” (or technician, creative artist, designer, somebody who designs building plans) and the “builder”. Then it must be a perfect city. This cannot be other than that every grandiosity of nowadays cities, designed by imperfect people, fades and loses every appeal thereby. It must be very desirable and pleasing too to live in God’s city. Every citizen will feel at home there. All things of and in that city bears the character of its Designer and Builder.

V1111By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.. Here the question is whether it is about the faith of Abraham or about that of Sarah. For a long time there has been the thought that it is about Sarah, though it seems not impossible that it is about Abraham. Because I find it difficult to make a well-founded choice, I would like to say something of both.

When Sarah heard the message that she was going to give birth to a child, she did not immediately prove to have faith in the promise (Gen 18:1212Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”). After all, she was ninety years old (Gen 17:1717Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear [a child]?”) and therefore too old to even be able to become pregnant. But in the description of the birth of Isaac you read that is was Yahweh Who took care of Sarah and He did for her as He had spoken (Gen 21:1-21Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised.2So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.). It therefore also looks like Sarah after all indeed had faith in the promise of God. In his first letter Peter supports that thought by presenting her as a woman who trusted in God (1Pet 3:5-65For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.). Her faith drew its strength from the faithfulness of God to His promise. Therefore she gained strength to receive the seed of Abraham.

But from this occasion also the faith of Abraham becomes apparent. Of him you don’t read that he had any doubt about God’s promise. In fact you read that he did not doubt the promise of God (Rom 4:19-2119Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb;20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.). He himself was very well aware that conceiving a child was impossible. After all, he was a hundred years old (Gen 17:1717Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear [a child]?”; 21:55Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.). However, for his faith that was not a hindrance at all to trust God that He was able to provide him with descendants. No, on the contrary, because the fulfillment of the promise of descendants was physically impossible, he focused himself on God alone. Abraham accounted God to be faithful and able, for He had promised it.

V1212Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, [as many descendants] as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.. Therefore this one man (“one” is masculine in Greek and therefore must refer to Abraham) received innumerable descendants. Of this one it is also underlined that he was “as good as dead”. That emphasizes that God gives life from death. The son of Abraham, the son of the promise, comes, as it were, from the death and by that therefore also all his descendants.

This points forward to what God has done with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is the beginning of an entirely new situation, the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises altogether that will find their accomplishment in the millennial kingdom of peace. Then the descendants that are in the heavens (“stars”) and on the earth (“sand”), will enjoy God’s blessings altogether in full size.

V1313All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.. As it is said, the writer interrupts his argument in verse 1313All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. to continue that in verse 1717By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son];. In this interruption he makes some remarks about the faith of life of the patriarchs. They not only lived in faith, they died in faith too. During their life they did not receive what was promised to them. Nevertheless they did not lose what was promised when they died. They took that along with them into their graves. “Having seen them … from a distance.” Their faith saw forward and they embraced in faith what they saw in faith. They also witnessed to that. They “confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth”, which means that they openly came out for this faith; they did not keep it for themselves (Gen 23:44“I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”; Psa 119:1919I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
).

In their way of life you see that they had no home on earth, but that they were strangers and visitors there. They did not demand their rights, for they didn’t have any and they neither pretend to have any. That is totally different with many Christians.

V1414For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.. The confession of those who died in faith was not a lip confession which was contradicted by their practice. In their practice you saw what they confessed with their mouth. They clearly showed what they were looking for, which means that they were longing for, a homeland. You only do that when you’re sure that you haven’t arrived there yet.

V1515And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.. Their pursuit did not make them think of returning to the homeland they had left. The lusts of the flesh, the attractions of the world, the obligations of family relationships, the daily business worries of life, could have altogether been in different ways and on different times enough reason for them to return, but they did not.

The difference between Lot and Abraham is a good example of this. Lot went on the journey with Abraham to the land that was promised by God. But he had no desire for it. If he has arrived there, but sees another beautiful area, he chooses that one (Gen 13:10-1110Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—[this was] before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.11So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other.). Abraham could have returned, for he was not thrown off his country. He freely departed from there. Nevertheless, Abraham remains longing for the city of God.

V1616But as it is, they desire 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.. The patriarchs did not desire to go back to their old homeland, but they were looking forward to a heavenly, that is a better homeland. By longing for that, they honored God. He offered them a better prospect and they believed what He said. Their faith was that great that they became aware that His promises meant more than the literal description it indicated. Behind the description of the wonderful promises they saw Him Who will fulfill them and Who is at the same time the center of it.

Many things in Christendom are ‘better’ than in Judaism, whereby now also ‘a better country’. This country is not heaven. It is about the resurrection. It is the place where the resurrected and glorified saints will live to eternity. Within the framework of this letter this heavenly country is the ‘future world’, or ‘the future age’, and actually the heavenly side of it. This is the millennial kingdom of peace, the day of the Lord Jesus, which the patriarchs have been looking forward to (Jn 8:5656Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw [it] and was glad.”). The faith of the patriarchs saw reality, not just something vague.

God is not ashamed of such believers. He joyfully bears their name as ‘family name’, so to speak. It is after all true when you read that He is the ‘God of Abraham’. Do you think that He would joyfully bear your name as ‘family name’ also? He surely would if you also see the reality of that heavenly country and heavenly city and if you live up to that. His city is ready to welcome you. God took care of that. It is the inheritance that is prepared in the heavens and that is well reserved for you there (1Pet 1:44to [obtain] an inheritance [which is] imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,).

Now read Hebrews 11:9-16 again.

Reflection: Which characteristics of faith are reflected in Abraham’s life and what can you learn from that?


To Live By Faith (IV)

17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son]; 18[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” 19He considered that God is able to raise [people] even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. 21By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. 23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

V1717By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten [son];. After the parenthesis of the verses 13-1613All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.15And indeed if they had been thinking of that [country] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.16But as it is, they desire 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. the writer is now going to say something about the individual patriarchs and how they believed God. The first is again Abraham. You have already paid attention to several proofs of his faith. Those are impressive proofs, don’t you think? But the writer quotes now an example of his faith, which is of an unprecedented size. This proof of his faith is again related to the son he and Sarah received.

When he and Sarah were too old to beget children he persisted in believing that God was still able to give him a son. God after all promised that, didn’t He? And because God is faithful to what He promises, it is a matter of waiting for His time to provide in what He has promised. For him it became a reality that what is impossible with men is possible with God (Mk 10:2727Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”). But now God is asking him to offer up his son. That is a test of unprecedented gravity.

The first time he was promised a son, which he received by faith. Now God is asking him to sacrifice this son, though this son was the heir through whom God was going to realize His promises. This couldn’t be true?! This test of his faith was yet much heavier than the previous one. Still Abraham offered his son up as a burnt offering when God asked him to (Gen 22:1-101Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”2He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.4On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.5Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.7Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”8Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.9Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.). With this offering Abraham put all promises he had accepted on the altar. He was promised to have descendants and also a land, but he gave this all back to God in Isaac when He asked for it. He offered up “his only begotten son” (Gen 22:22He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”).

V1818[it was he] to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”. He did not do that impulsively. He pondered on the question God asked him. He must have struggled with the question how God could ask him that. It did not match with the former commitments God made with him, did it? God was going to realize His promises through Isaac, wasn’t He? And not through another son, for example Ishmael, was it? No, God explicitly mentioned the name of Isaac when He said: “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” Therefore he had considered, that is: he had formed a conviction by consideration and calculation.

Then the conclusion was that there was only one possibility and that is that God was going to raise Isaac from the dead. Therefore he says in Genesis 22: “And I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Gen 22:55Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”). That means that he believed in the power of God, a power that great by which He can “even” raise dead people.

Therefore Abraham’s faith is that great, because we don’t know if Abraham had an example of someone being raised from death. Because of his consideration on what God had said about His might to carry out His word he came to this conclusion. A genuine faith is absolutely no ‘wishful thinking’ or a visualization of things to get what you want, as long as your imagination is strong and persistent enough. A genuine faith always clings to some statement of God in His Word. God is being honored by such a faith.

V1919He considered that God is able to raise [people] even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.. When Abraham tied up his son Isaac on the wood and took the knife to slay his son he did not know that God was going to tell him that he did not need to offer Isaac up (Gen 22:11-1211But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”12He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”). To God the proof was delivered of the faith of Abraham in Him as the God of the resurrection. In a certain way Abraham received Isaac back from death. It is true that God spared Abraham a pain that He did not spare Himself. God gave His Son in death.

To the Hebrews this example of Abraham’s faith is of great encouragement. After all they also lived that long in faith that their miraculous national inheritance was a gift from God. Now they are to abandon that. They moved away out of it, but what they had abandoned was still alluring them. To really separate from it and to abandon it it is necessary to believe in a God Who had better promises for them than everything they had abandoned.

V2020By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.. Also Isaac has done things that were only possible through faith. He has blessed his sons concerning future matters. From the blessings he blessed each of his sons with, his faith in God’s promises becomes apparent. It appears from the blessing he blessed Jacob with that Jacob is in the line of the promises. He transfers the blessing of Abraham to Jacob: the promise to posterity and to the land.

He also blesses Esau, but with another blessing. From the blessing to Esau it appears that Isaac kept him out of the line of the promise consciously. That too testified to his faith. Although in his weakness he preferred Esau to Jacob, regarding the blessing, he associated to God’s thoughts. It is important not to be guided by human weakness in your judgment on God’s promises, but by God’s thoughts. Then you will always end up well.

V2121By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, [leaning] on the top of his staff.. With Jacob his faith also appears from the blessing he blesses with. Jacob too blesses two sons. They were not his own sons, but they were two of his grandchildren, the sons of Joseph. And like Isaac he blesses the younger with a greater blessing than the elder. Those are the sons of Joseph, the elected among his brethren (Gen 49:2626“The blessings of your father
Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
; Deu 33:1616And with the choice things of the earth and its fullness,
And the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.
Let it come to the head of Joseph,
And to the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
) and who was declared to be the firstborn (1Chr 5:1-21Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.2Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him [came] the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph),). In the blessing of both his sons Jacob gave Joseph the double blessing of the firstborn (Deu 33:1717“As the firstborn of his ox, majesty is his,
And his horns are the horns of the wild ox;
With them he will push the peoples,
All at once, [to] the ends of the earth.
And those are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
And those are the thousands of Manasseh.”
). Joseph is a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus, the Firstborn Whom God will bring into the world (Heb 1:66And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”) soon.

In relation with Joseph Jacob becomes a worshipper. In faith he sees how the counsel of God and His ways, lead to the fulfillment of His counsel, coinciding in the true Joseph. It is God’s intention that the Hebrews and we honor and worship Him for the fulfillment of His counsel and the ways He goes for that. The rod of Jacob is the symbol of his long history. He leant on it as a pilgrim and as a cripple. At the end of his life he still leans on it, not to walk anymore though, but to worship. Our life path comes out with the Lord. Then we shall worship Him for all the grace with which He surrounded us, in order to bring us into the land He promised us.

V2222By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.. Was Jacob’s faith related to the person of the true Joseph, the faith of Joseph was related to God’s people and God’s land. In faith he saw the redemption of the people from Egypt and the entrance into the land of Canaan. All the glory he had in Egypt became nothing, compared to the coming glory of Israel under the government of the Messiah Whom he saw forward in faith. He wanted to be there and with that in view he commanded that his bones were to be taken from Egypt to the promised land. What a proof of his faith in the resurrection!

The Hebrews also had to learn to forsake the world (of which Egypt is a picture) and to look forward to everything they gained through their relation with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And that applies also for you, doesn’t it? His death is your death and His resurrection is your resurrection. In His resurrection all will be made alive who are related to Him to share in His kingdom (1Cor 15:20-2820But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.21For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead.22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,24then [comes] the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.26The last enemy that will be abolished is death.27For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.).

V2323By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.. The section we have had, has shown faith in action with the view to the future, which means faith as the “assurance of [things] hoped for” (verse 1a1Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.). In the next section in verses 23-3823By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,25choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,26considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.29By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though [they were passing] through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.31By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.32And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,33who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed [acts of] righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.35Women received [back] their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;36and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated38([men] of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground., the writer presents a number of examples of faith that clarify how faith operates as “conviction of things not seen” (verse 1b1Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.). In other words: after faith that looks forward, we now have faith that looks upward.

Faith that looks upward trusts that God is present in hardships and that He gives strength to endure. Here you see the energy of faith that rests in God in the midst of circumstances. This faith overcomes the power of the devil and the charms and difficulties of the world.

The first example is that of Moses. A comparison between the faith of Moses and that of Abraham makes the difference between ‘forward faith’ and ‘upward faith’ wonderfully clear. You may say that the faith of Abraham was related to the future world and that of Moses to the present world. The faith of Abraham looked forward to the future world and the faith of Moses overcame the present world. The similarity is that neither has experienced the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lives.

Before he goes into details regarding the faith of Moses, the writer refers to the faith of Moses’ parents. By their faith they encountered the command of the mighty pharaoh. Ordinarily people are to obey legal law, but this is a situation that God is to be obeyed rather than men (Acts 4:1919But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;; 5:2929But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.). The faith of the parents discovered in this child something exceptional to God. “They saw he was a beautiful child”, not beautiful just like that, but beautiful to God (Acts 7:2020It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home.). Therefore they did not deliver him into the hands of murderers, but they hid him at home.

That was not an easy thing to do, especially because their home was, as it seems, very close to the palace of the king. Nevertheless, they counted on it that God was going to take care of him.

This is a beautiful example for all young parents who are aware of the bloodthirstiness of the world wherein they live and wherein their children also have to learn to find their way. Faith counts on God for protection and makes effort to protect and guide the child on its life path.

Now read Hebrews 11:17-23 again.

Reflection: Which aspects of faith confidence in God, regarding the future, are presented here? What do you learn from that for the practice of your faith life?


To Live By Faith (V)

24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though [they were passing] through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

V2424By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,. By faith the parents of Moses overcame the fear for the world. Moses grew up in a totally different environment and situation than his parents. Nevertheless you see in his life that the same faith is active that you’ve seen in his parents. Because his circumstances were that different, his faith appeared differently. His great enemy was the favor of the world and his faith overcame that enemy.

You see that the first years of his education by his God fearing parents has had profound effect on him. Therefore when he “had grown up” – that indicates both his maturity and his high position at the courtyard of pharaoh – he refused “to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. This refusal is not a sign of ‘ungratefulness’ for everything he had enjoyed at the courtyard. He was stolen and was turning back to his roots, because that was the place where God wanted to use him and not at the courtyard.

Natural feelings or rational considerations did not keep him at the courtyard. He did not reason that God had regulated everything so wonderfully that he ended up in such an influential position. That couldn’t have been for nothing. He could have used his influence at the courtyard in favor of his people, couldn’t he? But Moses did not want to be a favorite of the pharaoh while his people were being oppressed and killed. He wanted to be with his people, to be one of them.

It was put like this once: ‘The providence of God brought him at the courtyard of pharaoh and his faith brought him out of it.’ With the expression ‘the providence of God’ is meant that God guides events and circumstances. This is how Moses ended up at the courtyard of pharaoh. But the departure of Moses is not a result of the providence of God. Moses departs from the courtyard of pharaoh on the basis of a choice that is based on his faith.

V2525choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,. Moses refused something, but he also chose for something. In faith he chose the path of God’s people. He was convinced that the future was to that nation and not to Egypt. Visibly he chose for the worst he could choose: for the most despised people of the country; for unwanted strangers who were oppressed and had to do heavy slave labor. The people themselves were at their wits’ end.

Moses saw the sorrow, the shame and the suffering of Israel in the light of God’s choice. Faith chooses always where God has chosen for. It always stands on the side of God, even though the choice seems to produce only losses. Faith chooses for God, because it knows God’s intentions of goodness for His people and it knows that He saves them for the day of might and glory.

Moses could have enjoyed sin, for sin is something you can enjoy. But he was conscious that sin is only temporary, passing and never gives real satisfying joy. The sins that are meant here are not what we call ‘gross sins’, but sins that are coherent to a successful life in the world. Think of enjoying respect, of having might, influence, fame and wealth.

V2626considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.. You will only forsake those sins when you replace them for something different and something greater. That is what Moses did. He exchanged the treasures of Egypt for “the reproach of Christ”. He found the reproach of Christ “greater riches than the treasures of Egypt”. What an insult for pharaoh and what a victory for Christ! But what would you prefer? That your name is engraved on an Egyptian tombstone or that you’re noted in the book of God? It is evident what Moses has chosen. Therefore he became a famous man of God instead of a mummy.

Moses made that choice, because he fixed his eyes on nothing else than “on the reward” alone. He looked ahead to the heavenly land of promise. In that light he learnt to discern between the material treasures of Egypt and the spiritual treasures in Christ. Therefore to be with Christ on earth means to be reproached, but in Him God made all the promises yes and amen (2Cor 1:2020For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.). Therefore when you choose for the suffering of reproach of and with Christ you’re on the right side and on the right path to the right aim. Reproach goes hand in hand with the path to the fulfillment of the promises.

V2727By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.. Faith is the inner power that enables to overcome both hindrances (the wrath of the king, the Red Sea, Jericho) and the lusts (the pleasures of sin, the riches of Egypt). Faith realizes the mediation of God without seeing Him and in that way it liberates from all fears for the power of man. That faith caused Moses to leave Egypt, after he killed the Egyptian man.

In the book of Exodus his departure is described as being on the run. He fled out of fear for pharaoh, because he killed the Egyptian man. At the same time the killing of the Egyptian man was the public confession of Moses that he belonged to God’s people. Seen from that point of view he forsook the courtyard in faith, “not fearing the wrath of the king”. The slaying of a man made him flee, the faith in God and his solidarity with the people made him leave. He openly acted as an Israelite and was therefore exposed to the same wrath of the king as the people were.

However, he did not fear the wrath of the king, because he was seeing “Him who is unseen”, Who is endlessly much greater than the king of Egypt. He “endured” as seeing Him Who is Invisible all those years that he was in Midian. All this time he carried on trusting God to fulfill His promises. For you here also is the power to persevere on the path of faith, together with the other members of God’s people who also had to endure the reproach and wrath of the world.

V2828By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.. As a final achievement of Moses’ faith the writer mentions the celebration of the Passover. It is remarkable that the celebration of the Passover is not ascribed here to the faith of Israel but to that of Moses. Could it be that the writer wants to make clear that Israel celebrated the Passover on the basis of Moses’ faith?

The celebration of the Passover by Moses in Egypt was a unique deed. All other times that it was celebrated later on, happened outside the country, by a redeemed nation and as a remembrance. That one first time happened because of the actual threat of the judgment of God. God had given this means to escape from it. It seemed despicable and useless, but in reality this was the only way that true protection could be realized against the judgment. Only he who believed God did use it.

Attached to the celebration of the Passover was “the sprinkling of the blood”. The sprinkling did not happen in Egypt; there the blood was ‘put’. The putting of the blood happened only once and later on it was changed for the sprinkling in the offering service. The meaning in both cases is to put under the value of the blood, in order to be protected against the judgment in this way. In Egypt the firstborn were protected against the judgment. As firstborn also the Hebrews and all believers (“the church of the firstborn”, Heb 12:2323to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of [the] righteous made perfect,) have escaped from the judgment on the basis of the blood.

V2929By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though [they were passing] through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.. Next are two facts of faith concerning God’s people. The first fact happened at the beginning of the journey through the wilderness and the second fact happened at the end of it. The journey in the wilderness itself is not mentioned. That was in fact not the result of faith, but on the contrary, the result of unbelief.

Faith brought them out of slavery and in the land of the promise. The people did not only need the Passover lamb to be absolutely free from the judgment, they also needed to pass through the Red Sea to be definitely and absolutely liberated from Egypt. When Israel was passing through the Red Sea, it was because of faith. When the Egyptians did that, it was the arrogance of the flesh. The enemy is being swallowed by the judgment exactly at the same place where the people find their redemption. The place where the judgment occurs is also the place of redemption. You see this on the cross where Christ died.

V3030By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.. When the redemption is accomplished and the liberation is achieved it does not mean that the difficulties are conquered. But for God the difficulties have disappeared. What is a difficulty to man, to God it isn’t. Israel has experienced it when they entered the promised land. Jericho was the obstacle for Israel to occupy the land. In that way there were hindrances for the Hebrews (and there are for you) on the path of faith that are to be conquered on the road to the promised land. Those victories are also only achieved by believing in what God says.

When the walls of Jericho fell down, it was not because they just encircled the city for seven days. The walls fell down because they encircled the city on the basis of faith in God’s Word. After seven days the walls were still that thick and impregnable like on the first day. But they fell down only after seven days because they had believed in God.

Now read Hebrews 11:24-30 again.

Reflection: What characteristics of faith do you see in this section and what can you learn from it?


To Live By Faith (VI)

31By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. 32And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed [acts of] righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received [back] their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38([men] of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

V3131By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.. Not only is the faith of the people and its effect seen at Jericho. The capture of Jericho is also the cause for the revelation of the faith of one individual from that city. The faith of Rahab shows that she chooses for the people of God, while the power of her people was still fully maintaining and there was nothing to be seen of the assumed victory with the people of God. But Rahab felt that God was with them. That determined her choice: a choice that was against the natural choice for her own people. In that way she is an example for the Hebrews who also had to choose for the apparently weak people of God and against their unbelieving, disobedient fellow countrymen.

What Rahab does, looks like treason, but it is a deed of faith. In that way she turns away from the world and from a life in sin, in order to join the people of God. Her people knew from the great deeds of God, but they did not want to bow their knees to Him (Jos 2:1010For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.). They resisted and rebelled. She disassociated herself from that. She made peace with the people of God by taking action to protect the spies. In that way she identified with them and disassociated herself from her fellow countrymen who are here called “those who were disobedient”. By accommodating the spies, she put her own life at risk. She related her own fate to that of them. Her faith was abundantly rewarded. She even received a place in the book of generation of the Lord Jesus (Mt 1:55Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.).

V3232And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,. The writer could be going on like that, but he doesn’t pay attention to details anymore. He would lack for time if he did. Guided by the Spirit he mentions in general sense a number of examples. In those examples it becomes apparent how persevering their faith has been in many ways and how it has enabled many souls in several ways of suffering to keep on going. One thing they all have in common: no one of them has received anything of what has been promised, as that also applied to the Hebrews to whom this letter is addressed.

Because the writer of the letter only mentions the names, I therefore don’t want to address in detail the history of the persons he mentions. You should read their history. Then it will often become clear to you why he mentions them. Sometimes it will also surprise you, after you have read their history, that he mentions them. But when God’s Spirit quotes names of believers from the Old Testament in the New Testament, it is – with one exception (that of Elijah, Rom 11:3-43“Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”4But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”) – always in a positive way. God sees further than what is described in outward history. He sees what is in the heart for Him, even when its practice sometimes stays behind.

Let us take a look at the list. When the people are in the land, the time of the judges commences. Four of them are mentioned. Gideon and Barak have done their faith job in little strength. Also Samson and Jephthah have dealt in faith, but their work was obviously not flawless. In both couples the most important one is mentioned first, while chronologically the order is the other way around. Of all judges it is common that their liberations were only temporary. None of them were able to create a lasting peace.

After the time of the judges the time of the prophets and kings follows. Of the prophets Samuel is mentioned and of the kings David is mentioned. Here also the chronology is reversed. First David is mentioned, then Samuel. David was the king after God’s heart and Samuel was his forerunner.

The prophets spoke to the conscience of the people. They rather died than preaching a lie and they rather went with a good conscience to heaven than that they lived with a bad conscience on earth.

Although David was a king after God’s heart, he too didn’t manage to bring the people into the rest (Heb 4:7-87He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”8For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.). The ultimate rest was for him also a matter of faith, whereof the fulfillment was going to happen through Him, Who was both his Son (Mt 1:11The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:) and his Lord (Mt 22:41-4541Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question:42“What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They *said to Him, “[The son] of David.”43He *said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying,
44‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET”‘?
45If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”
).

V3333who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed [acts of] righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,. After these names a number of deeds follows that were done by faith. I will try to add an example to each deed:
1. “conquered kingdoms”: judges and David;
2. “performed [acts of] righteousness”: maintaining righteousness by judges and kings;
3. “obtained promises”: this is possibly obtaining what was promised, but also to be promised something;
4. “shut the mouths of lions”: Daniel (Dan 6:22-2322My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”23Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.), Samson, David, Benaiah;
5. V3434quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.. ”quenched the power of fire”: the three friends of Daniel (Dan 3) who indeed quenched the power of the fire, but not the fire itself, for others were consumed by it;
6. “escaped the edge of the sword”: David, Elijah (while others were killed by the sword, verse 3737They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated);
7. “from weakness were made strong”: Gideon, Jonathan; they proved that the weakness of God is stronger than men;
8. “became mighty in war”: Asa, Jehoshaphat;
9. “put foreign armies to flight”: many judges and kings;
10. V3535Women received [back] their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; “Women received [back] their dead by resurrection”: the widow of Zarephath, the Shunammite.

In the just mentioned situations faith appeared to be effective in favor of the believers and sometimes even in a miraculous way. Now examples of situations follow wherein faith is also effective for those who heavily suffer and are even killed. This suffering and death would be foolishness if death was the real end of everything:
1. They “were tortured, not accepting their release”: enduring cruel torture, while to faith an unacceptable offer to cease the torture is being refused; they believed in “a better resurrection” and were looking forward to that;
2. V3636and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.. “experienced mockings and scourgings”; Jeremiah, heroes from the Maccabees;
3. “chains and imprisonment”: Jeremiah; Joseph;
4. V3737They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated. “were stoned”: Stephen, Zechariah, Naboth;
5. “were sawn in two”, according to tradition: Isaiah by king Manasseh;
6. “were tempted”: were put under severe mental or physical pressure to deny their faith; were forced to compromise or to abjure something, in any case to deny their Lord;
7. “were put to death with the sword”: mass murder by the sword (Dan 11:33b33Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for [many] days.; Acts 12:11Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.; Jer 26:2323And they brought Uriah from Egypt and led him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with a sword and cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people., while other escaped from the sword, verse 3434quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.;
8. “went about in sheepskins, in goatskins”: Elijah, John;
9. “being destitute”: hunger and thirst;
10. “afflicted”: were ruled by strangers;
11. “ill-treated”: general torture;
12. V3838([men] of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.. “of whom the world was not worthy”: the world didn’t show any value to people who lived like that;
13. “wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground”: they accommodated many heroes of faith who had no home, with a hiding place, while those were hunted for as if they were savage animals.

V3939And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,. God has seen and noticed that all these believers persevered in faith till the end. They didn’t receive on earth what they were promised. They still don’t have, even not in paradise where they are now.

V4040because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.. They shall obtain what is promised only when the Hebrews and we also will obtain it. And when will that be? When Christ comes and establishes the millennial kingdom of peace. That is “something better” what God has forecasted. The ‘better’ is always related to Christ as the glorified Man in heaven. He obtained that place there from God, while He is rejected on earth.

To that Christ you are related, while you live on earth. Abraham lived in faith on earth with a heavenly mind in his heart, while he was looking forward to a heavenly city. But he was not related to heaven through a Christ Who is really seated there in glory and he didn’t share the rejection of Christ on earth. That is our share. Therefore the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the greatest among those who preceded (Mt 11:1111Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen [anyone] greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.). Therefore God has waited to fulfill His promises. He didn’t want the Old Testament believers to be made perfect without us, which means to come to the wonderful place of taking part in the kingdom of Christ.

It is the privilege of all believers of all times to partake in the kingdom of Christ. But it is first of all the privilege of those who have partaken in the rejection of Christ. Those are only the believers who are partakers of the church and not the believers from the time of the Old Testament or from the time after the rapture of the church.

The writer doesn’t go into detail about the special position of those believers. That is not the issue in this letter. From other letters we know that the church is related to the Lord Jesus in a special way (e.g. Eph 1:10-1110with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is,] the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,). In that way all who have lived in faith will be made perfect and God will fulfill His unchangeable promises to each of them.

Now read Hebrews 11:31-40 again.

Reflection: How did people manage to do such deeds of faith? How do you manage to do such deeds of faith?


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