In the opening of this chapter on faith, we learned about the nature of faith. Faith gives us assurance and conviction over things of the future and things we cannot see. We also learned that faith is the only way to please God. The author cited examples of the ancients to illustrate the meaning of faith. In this study, we will consider still more examples of people of faith and ponder what lessons we may draw from them.
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- Faith of Abraham (11:17-19)
- Faith of Isaac and Jacob (11:20-21)
- Faith of Joseph (11:22)
- Faith of Moses’ Parents (11:23)
- Faith of Moses (11:24-28)
- Faith of the Israelites (11:29-30)
- Faith of Rahab (11:31)
- Faith of Other Ancients (11:32-38)
- Triumph through faith (11:33-34)
- Sufferings through faith (11:35-38)
- Rewards of Faith (11:39-40)
How was God’s command to Abraham a test?Hide Answer
Abraham had waited for the promise, and he finally received it. But now God tested his faith by asking him to surrender what he had received (17). It is one thing to wait for something you love very much, it is quite another to give it up after you have received it! God’s test was also designed to see how much Abraham feared God and whether he would obey Him unconditionally (Gen 22:12).
What did Abraham believe when he offered Isaac?Hide Answer
He believed that even if Isaac died, God would be able to raise him up from the dead (19).
What did Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph believe upon their death?Hide Answer
They believed in God’s promises to Abraham concerning having numerous descendants and possessing the land of Canaan.
Why did Joseph specifically instruct his children to bury his bones in Canaan?Hide Answer
He believed that God would surely fulfill His promise and bring the Israelites out of Egypt back to Canaan (Gen 50:25). Joseph’s instructions are all the more remarkable when we consider the fact that he had spent most of his life living in Egypt.
What did faith enable Moses’ parents to do?Hide Answer
Faith gave them the courage to defy the king’s command at the risk of death, for they trusted in God’s promise that He would preserve and deliver His people. Such courage is something unbelievers cannot possibly have.
Has your faith enabled you to do the same?
What choice did Moses face? Compare the options.Hide Answer
Being called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (24) vs. becoming a Hebrew slave; Enjoying the passing pleasures of sin vs. suffering affliction with the people of God (25); Inheriting the treasures of Egypt vs. enduring the reproaches of Christ (26).
Why did he choose the much more difficult path?Hide Answer
He looked to the reward (26). He saw Him who is invisible (27).
What strikes you about the words “the reproach of Christ” in this context?Hide Answer
It may surprise us to note that Moses, who lived before Christ, chose to suffer for Christ. But this confirms Christ’s preexistence before He birth into this world. In retrospect, the writers in the New Testament would link the events of the OT directly to Christ, for the salvation history pointed to the Savior and His salvation (cf. 1Cor 10:1-4). In this sense, Moses’ choice to suffer for God was a choice to suffer for Christ.
What was Moses’ view about suffering for Christ?Hide Answer
He esteemed it greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. In other words, he placed the highest value on suffering for Christ.
Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” As a believer, how is your eyesight different from unbelievers?Hide Answer
As believers God is the most important factor in all our decisions. While the people of this world make choices based only on what can be seen, we base our choices on Him who is invisible, for we walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor 5:7). Through our eyes of faith, we are able to see the the reality of God’s promises, even though others cannot see it.
What should result from this different eyesight?Hide Answer
If, like Moses, we can see Him who is invisible, then we would endure as we wait for God’s promises to come true. We would choose what is eternal rather than what is temporary, even if our choice means suffering.
What can you learn from Moses about your values in life?Hide Answer
Moses had a life that the people of time could only dream of. As an heir of the most powerful king on earth, he had access to the highest education, the greatest treasures, and all forms of pleasures. But by faith he chose to suffer with the people of God because he looked to the reward. If we have faith in God, our goals in life should be different from those of the people of the world. We will consider Jesus Christ our greatest treasure, and we will forsake everything that stands between the Lord and us (Php 3:8). By faith, we will regard the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world.
How can faith help us forsake the pleasures of sin?Hide Answer
Through faith, we know that sin is passing, and that we have to stand before God’s judgment seat to give an account for our sins. This knowledge and conviction of the future enables us to make the wiser choice—suffering temporarily for obeying God in order to receive eternal glory rather than enjoying temporarily but reaping eternal condemnation.
What did Rahab believe when she received the spies (Josh 2:9- 13)?Hide Answer
She believed that the Lord was God in heaven above and on earth beneath, and she knew that the Lord had given the promised land to the Israelites (Josh 2:9,11).
What is significant about this particular witness of faith?Hide Answer
She was a gentile and a harlot. Even a sinner and one who had no part in God’s covenant like Rahab was saved by faith along with the people of God. This tells us that God does not remember the sins of a repentant sinner who has come to Him in faith. He justifies them freely through faith regardless of their background or past.
How is the list in 33-35a different from that in 35b-38.Hide Answer
The first list is about triumph, whereas the second is about persecutions.
What lesson on faith do you learn from the first list?Hide Answer
By faith in God’s promises, we can do great things. If God has purposed to carry out something, we know that no obstacle can hinder His will. Faith gives us the strength and courage to face all odds and do the impossible in order to accomplish God’s will.
What lesson on faith do you learn from the second list?Hide Answer
Faith in God does not guarantee a favorable outcome. In fact many of the people of faith went through severe trials and even gave up their lives for the faith. Faith can cost us our comfort, popularity, possessions, and even our lives. But that is what true faith is about—being willing to give up what is seen for what is unseen. Furthermore, faith means trusting God to the end, even through the most severe sufferings. Our faith should not reside in temporary material blessings but in our heavenly inheritance.
What did these people of faith receive?Hide Answer
They obtained a good testimony through faith (39).
What did they not receive? Why?Hide Answer
They did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us (39b-40).
What do the terms “Something better” and “made perfect” refer to (cf. 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:9,11,23; 10:1,14)? What was it that these people of faith did not receive but looked forward to?Hide Answer
As we have seen in previous chapters of Hebrews, “the good things to come” denote the salvation of Jesus Christ and the blessings that it brings, and to be “made perfect” refers to justification which results from the atonement of Jesus Christ. The word “we” or “us” are Christians. What the author is saying here is that the believers of the OT, although they were commended by God for their faith, did not live to see the coming of the Messiah. It is only when Christ had come to fulfill salvation that they received the promise of justification and remission of sins, and they do so with believers in the NT era.
Note: In one sense, some of the people of faith did receive the promises of God (33). But what the author has in mind in 39 is “the promise,” not promises in general. This promise, therefore, is the ultimate promise—the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.