The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hebrews 11

Heb 11:1

Heb 11:1 –- 12:28: Faith.

Heb 11: Examples of faith, to encourage his readers to emulate these heroes and heroines of faith, who on the basis of what they knew about God and His promises had the courage to move out into the unknown, with their hearts set upon, and their lives controlled by, a great unseen reality.

Vv 1-3: The nature and importance of faith.

FAITH: The word "faith" ("pistis") is used more often in Hebrews than in any other NT book, occurring 24 times in the present chapter alone. Faith in Hebrews involves active obedience rather than a passive belief in the truth of God. (Cp the close relationship between unbelief and disobedience in Heb 3:18 -- 4:2.) This obedience obviously also involves trust. Thus the word faith in Hebrews approximates "faithfulness" (cp Heb 10:36-39).

BEING SURE OF: "Assurance" (RSV) -- emphasizing the subjective aspect of faith; the "confident anticipation" (CHeb 203). On the other hand, the AV has "substance" -- emphasizing the objective aspect, the solid ground upon which the faith of the individual may rest.

"The Gr 'hypostasis' occurs elsewhere in Hebrews in two places. In the first of these (Heb 1:3) the word has an objective sense and is translated 'being' by NIV: 'the exact representation of his being.' In its second occurrence (Heb 3:14) the word may have a subjective sense and is translated 'confidence' by NIV: 'the confidence we had at first.' Even in this passage, however, an objective sense is possible... The objective sense is probably to be favored in the present passage because it is more in keeping with the normal meaning of the word and the main thrust of the chapter. A third option, similar to the objective meaning of the word, has been suggested on the basis of the use of the word in contemporaneous secular papyri, where it means 'title deed' or 'guarantee' " (NIBC).

WHAT WE HOPE FOR: "Behind NIV's 'what we hope for' is the strong Christian word for 'hope' ('elpizomenon'), which involves not wishful thinking, but confident expectation (cp Heb 6:11; 10:23; Rom 8:24f). The reason for the confidence of this hope -- and indeed of our faith itself -- is the faithfulness of God (cp Heb 10:22f)" (NIBC).

CERTAIN: Gr "elenchos" occurs only here in the NT. The AV has "evidence", which is better: the Gr has the idea of "proving" (subjective), or "a means of proof" (objective). "Many commentators have interpreted this word as referring to the subjective certainty or 'conviction' of faith (cp Heb 10:22). But here too the objective sense is to be preferred, parallel with the first statement (so interpreted). The action produced by faith is a manifestation or a proving of the reality of things not yet seen.

The objective interpretation of these two words is in agreement with one of the major emphases of the entire chapter, that is, that faith is active in obedience. But when faith manifests itself in this way, the unseen and the hoped–for become real. Faith expressed in this way can be said to objectify what is believed. This in turn strengthens faith itself (which is why faith and obedience must accompany each other)" (NIBC).

WHAT WE DO NOT SEE: It is the expression of faith rather than the conviction of faith that is the author's point in this chapter. The obedient response of faith substantiates what is promised. Effective faith, although directed to future realities, also in a sense makes the future present. Faith that is authentic recognizes the reality of the unseen and allows itself to be governed by that reality. In a similar vein, Paul can write, "so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:18). And he adds a little farther on, "we live by faith, not by sight" (2Co 5:7). What our author provides here is not so much a technical definition of faith as it is a description of what authentic faith does and how God provides evidence in the practice of faith that what He promises will eventually come to pass. The future and unseen realities can be made real by Christians through faith. "We may paraphrase this verse in the following words: 'Faith through its active character gives substance to, that is, expresses the reality of, things hoped for; it demonstrates the truth of things not yet seen' " (NIBC).

Though the foregoing stresses the FUTURE aspect of "what is not seen", the point in this phrase may as likely be "what is not seen" because it is PAST. "Things" is "pragmaton" -- a thing done, a work or transaction accomplished -- and hence something which God did in the past, and which later generations have learned from the divine testimony (Rom 10:17). This would, of course, be the point of Heb 11:3 which follows: "faith" looks back into history, and discerns the visible hand of God acting to achieve His will, and it also looks forward into the future with confidence that that unseen Hand will yet bring that divine will to perfect fruition.

Heb 11:2

THIS IS WHAT THE ANCIENTS WERE COMMENDED FOR: These "elders", both men and women of the past, are to be brought forward as specific illustrations (the "cloud of witnesses": Heb 12:1) beginning in v 4, so that the present verse can serve almost as a title for the remainder of the chapter.

Heb 11:3

BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE UNIVERSE WAS FORMED AT GOD'S COMMAND, SO THAT WHAT IS SEEN WAS NOT MADE OUT OF WHAT WAS VISIBLE: The author begins his great catalogue with a reference to the origin of the created order, for here he finds an illustration of the very principle in faith that involves unseen reality coming to concrete expression. The "universe" (lit, "the ages") was brought into existence at God's command (lit, "by the word of God"; cp Gen 1; Psa 33:6,9). The event of the creation itself points to an unseen reality of exceptional importance that is prior to and indeed generates the world we can see. Our understanding of the creation of the universe through the word of God is itself by faith. That is, here too we reckon the truth of an unseen reality, despite the account of creation given in Scripture. From the creation we may indeed know of God's power (Rom 1:20).

Heb 11:4

Vv 4-40: Examples of faith, with related exhortations.

BY FAITH ABEL OFFERED GOD A BETTER SACRIFICE THAN CAIN DID: Cp Gen 4:2-16. Abel's sacrifice was a blood sacrifice (cp Heb 9:22), in remembrance and imitation of the "sacrifice" by which his parents were provided a covering for their nakedness (Gen 3:21). Altho not specifically said, it may be assumed that this was the type of sacrifice commanded -- and that Cain chose, instead, his own way, feeling it was 'just as good' as Abel's way: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Pro 14:12).

BY FAITH HE WAS COMMENDED AS A RIGHTEOUS MAN, WHEN GOD SPOKE WELL OF HIS OFFERINGS: Lit, he "was well attested," referring to the account in Genesis, as is clear in the deliberate allusion to the words of the LXX of Gen 4:4, that "God spoke well of his offerings".

AND BY FAITH HE STILL SPEAKS, EVEN THOUGH HE IS DEAD: The first murder produced the first martyr, and Abel's innocent blood was not forgotten (Heb 12:24; Mat 23:35; cp Gen 4:10). Having died for his faithfulness, Abel continues to speak the message of faith -- figuratively speaking, "his blood cries out from the ground"! (This appears to be the source of the symbolic language of Rev 6:9,10: "I saw under the altar the souls [lives, or blood, as in Lev 17:11] of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' " Like the later martyrs portrayed in Rev, the faith (and sacrifice) of the first martyr assured that God would remember him, and raise him from the dead to eternal life.

Heb 11:5

V 5: Though it might at first look appear otherwise, it may be taken as fairly certain that Enoch died: he is, after all, one of the early witnesses of faith to which Heb 11:13 refers: "All these people were still living by faith when they died." Death reigned (over all, presumably) from Adam to the time of Moses (Rom 5:14) -- which would include Enoch. He did NOT ascend to heaven (John 3:13; cp Gen 5:24).

Enoch received special visions of the Last Days (Jude 1:14,15).

Where, exactly, did he go, and what, exactly, happened to him? To this there is one good Bible answer: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children" (Deu 29:29). There are certain things which we just cannot know.

BY FAITH ENOCH WAS TAKEN FROM HIS LIFE: "Taken" is "translated" in AV: "metatithemi" = transfer, remove, transplant, change sides. To be removed from one situation or condition or physical location, and transported to another.

SO THAT HE DID NOT EXPERIENCE DEATH: To "experience" is to comprehend, ie wi complete understanding. Like Moses, Enoch was put to sleep in midst of full vigor -- so as not to "see" disease, violence, and/or old age (cp v 13; Xd 119:48).

Enoch's fate is mentioned in Gen 5:24: Enoch testified against the "ungodly" (Jud 1:14,15), ie Lamech, his counterpart in Cain's line: a man of violence (Gen 4:23,24). Perhaps Lamech sought to slay Enoch, and God removed hm from harm -- hidden in Garden of Eden, to walk with God in even closer fellowship, as a "reward" (Heb 11:5,6). (BS 10:152,153).

What happened to Enoch? In both Gen and Heb 11:5 Enoch is treated differently than his contemporaries. Did he die? Probably "Yes!": 1Co 15:22: "as in Adam all die"; and Rom 5:14: "death reigned from Adam to Moses." Also, Heb 11:13: "these all died in faith", and the five people mentioned earlier included Enoch.

If so, then what about the statement: "he was not, for God took him"? This suggests disappearance or removal, as does Heb 11:5 and the word "translated" (= transferred, or changed as to status: ie Heb 7:12). Possibly Enoch was taken away from a potential life-threatening disaster to another place to live out his life. Heb 11:4,5 sets Enoch alongside Abel who died by the hand of an assassin; both experienced God's overshadowing care, yet one suffered and the other was delivered.

HE COULD NOT BE FOUND: "Enoch's removal would prove a nine days wonder, his disappearance giving occasion to much talk. Search parties sought for him, expecting to find him either dead or alive; but without success... We might see here some parallel with what will happen in the day of the Lord's advent, when some are 'taken.' It will occasion the same surprise, and similar results. And it will precede the judgment which corresponds to 'the days of Noah.' Faith in God involves two things, says the apostle, as in his brief, pregnant way he treats of matters revealed in the OT; belief in the existence of God, and that God has a purpose with man. Faith touches the unseen, and shews itself in the confidence that God is. It touches also things hoped for, and therefore matters of promise. In this its relationship to the Word of God is seen; for things promised are known in and by the Word of God, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God" (CHeb 217,218).

GOD HAD TAKEN HIM AWAY: Or "translated him" (AV). From Gen 5:24, LXX. Cp similar wd in Col 1:13: "and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves". "Translated" from the dominion of sin and death to the dominion of righteousness and life!

Heb 11:6

AND WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD, BECAUSE ANYONE WHO COMES TO HIM MUST BELIEVE THAT HE EXISTS AND THAT HE REWARDS THOSE WHO EARNESTLY SEEK HIM: Faith is the complete acceptance of all God has promised (Rom 10:16,17); it is the means of salvation (Eph 2:8).

"Faith is honouring to God: and faith requires time for its exercise. God had made 'great and precious promises' to the fathers: and He tried them by not specifying time and causing them to wait long. 'And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise' (Heb 6:15). Let us not weary under a similar test: 'a patient continuance in well doing' is the revealed rule of our acceptance (Rom 2:7), and this means a long time of waiting with nothing to rely on but confidence in the pledged word of Yahweh, ie, faith, 'without which, it is impossible to please Him' (Heb 11:6). By such a process, we shall be prepared for a place among the tried sons of God, with whom we shall be enabled to say at the last, 'Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation' (Isa 25:9)" (WP 35).

REWARDER: The noun "rewarder" ("misthapodoteas") occurs only here in the NT, but the related noun "reward" ("misthapodosia") occurs 3 other times in the NT: Heb 2:2; 10:35; 11:26.

Heb 11:7

V 7: Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2Pe 2:5). He and his family, in the ark, were saved thru water -- the like figure of baptism (1Pe 3:20,21). The days of Noah were a parable of the Last Days (Luk 17:26,27).

BY FAITH NOAH, WHEN WARNED ABOUT THINGS NOT YET SEEN, IN HOLY FEAR BUILT AN ARK TO SAVE HIS FAMILY: The author thus returns explicitly to the orientation of faith toward the unseen and the future (cp v 1). This is a dominant theme in Heb 11. In this specific instance, and in contrast to all the others in this ch, the unseen and future involve the threat of imminent judgment rather than Last Days blessing.

In Noah's case, the "things not yet seen" would include rain!

BY HIS FAITH HE CONDEMNED THE WORLD AND BECAME HEIR OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH: The faith of Noah served to highlight the unbelief of the world and thus to demonstrate the propriety of its condemnation. Noah in turn became an heir of God's salvation (cp Heb 6:17). The language is at first glance the language of Paul (cp Rom 3:22,24; 4:13). Noah's faith expressed itself in action (cp Gen 6:9,22; 7:1); righteousness is fundamentally a matter of faith in the unseen, leading to appropriate action. The key is not in the "believing" alone, but in faith as the cause of proper conduct.

Heb 11:8

Vv 8-12: In the OT Abraham is the man of faith par excellence. According to Gen 15:6, "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Paul can describe Abraham as "the father of all who believe" (Rom 4:11; cp Gal 3:9). Our author understandably gives more space to him than to any other of the examples he brings forward. Three major episodes from Abraham's life come into view: the departure to the holy land (vv 8-10); the later fulfillment of the promise of descendants (vv 11,12); and, in vv 17–19, the sacrifice of Isaac. In all of these, faith is wonderfully illustrated. It was faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a human perspective were insurmountable. Our author's "by faith" formula is applied to Abraham four times: vv 8,9,11 (also including Sarah), and v 17.

BY FAITH ABRAHAM, WHEN CALLED TO GO TO A PLACE HE WOULD LATER RECEIVE AS HIS INHERITANCE, OBEYED AND WENT, EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT KNOW WHERE HE WAS GOING: In this first example (drawn from Gen 12:1, 4) the essence of faith is beautifully and simply expressed: to step out into the unknown, following the unseen God! Abraham leaves the known and the familiar to be led wherever God leads him. He acts on the basis of God's promise alone, heading toward the unseen and unknown (cp the definition of faith in v 1). Abraham is thus controlled by God and His covenant promises -- involving an eternal inheritance in the land of Canaan. This is exactly what faith entails and what our author wants his readers to emulate (cp Heb 13:13).

Our author puts together faith and obedience in a way similar to Jam 2:14-26.

Heb 11:9

BY FAITH HE MADE HIS HOME IN THE PROMISED LAND LIKE A STRANGER IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY; HE LIVED IN TENTS, AS DID ISAAC AND JACOB, WHO WERE HEIRS WITH HIM OF THE SAME PROMISE: Despite the fact that he came to the land of Canaan, he did not settle there as though that were his final goal. Indeed, he continued to live as a pilgrim or wanderer in this world (Gen 23:4) even in the land of promise, a dweller in tents (eg, Gen 12:8; 13:3; 18:1), rather than more permanent structures. In the speech of Stephen in Acts 7 the same point is made. When Abraham went out to the land, God "gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground" (Acts 7:5).

And in this manner of life and philosophy Abraham was followed by his son and grandson (to be mentioned again in vv 20,21), Isaac and Jacob (cp Gen 25:27; 26:3), who were literally fellow–heirs of the same promise (cp Heb 6:17).

Heb 11:10

FOR HE WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO THE CITY WITH FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE ARCHITECT AND BUILDER IS GOD: The reason for this attitude of Abraham, so strange by the world's standards, is now made clear. He knew that what God ultimately had in store for his people transcended security and prosperity in a parcel of real estate on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. The author now uses the metaphor of a city -- no doubt with the Last Days image of the New Jerusalem in mind (cp v 16; Heb 12:22; 13:14; Rev 21:2,10; Gal 4:26). Alternatively, he can speak of a heavenly country as its equivalent (v 16). The city looked for by Abraham is described as one with foundations (cp Rev 21:14,19; Isa 28:16; Eph 2:20; 2Ti 2:19) -- that is, one that is stable and lasting -- a city whose architect and builder is God himself. This will receive elaboration in vv 13–16.

ARCHITECT AND BUILDER: Two rare nouns in the NT. The first of these, "techniteäs" ("craftsman," "designer"), is found elsewhere in the NT only in Acts 17:29; 18:3; and Rev 18:22; the second, "demiourgos" ("maker," "creator"), occurs only here in the NT.

Heb 11:11

BY FAITH ABRAHAM, EVEN THOUGH HE WAS PAST AGE -- AND SARAH HERSELF WAS BARREN -- WAS ENABLED TO BECOME A FATHER BECAUSE HE CONSIDERED HIM FAITHFUL WHO HAD MADE THE PROMISE: The second example of Abraham's faith (drawn from Gen 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1–7) involves the fulfillment of God's promise of descendants. Abraham put his trust in God's faithfulness. This trust enabled Abraham and Sarah to accomplish the humanly unthinkable (cp Abraham's response, Gen 17:18; and Sarah's in Gen 18:12; 21:7). Thus despite his (and Sarah's) age and Sarah's (and his) barrenness, Abraham "received power to beget".

The mg alternative reading, that "Sarah was enable to bear", is not the preferred, since the Gr for "beget" always refers, elsewhere, to the male and not to the female. This is not meant to deny that Sarah also believed, as did Abraham -- for she surely did, despite a hint of early doubt.

Heb 11:12

AND SO FROM THIS ONE MAN, AND HE AS GOOD AS DEAD, CAME DESCENDANTS AS NUMEROUS AS THE STARS IN THE SKY AND AS COUNTLESS AS THE SAND ON THE SEASHORE: The result of faith in this instance was that from this one man, who was "worn out," "impotent," or as good as dead, came forth an abundance of offspring. This abundance, now seen as fulfillment, is deliberately described in the language of the covenant promises to Abraham (see Gen 15:5; 22:17; 32:12). God was faithful to his promise, and it was by their faith that Abraham and Sarah experienced God's faithfulness. Our author's argument here is very similar to Paul's in Romans 4:16-25. There Paul refers to God as the one "who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" (Rom 4:17). He too describes Abraham's body with the expression "as good as dead" (Rom 4:19), using the sw as the author of Hebrews; and he describes Abraham's attitude in these words: "being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Rom 4:21).

AND HE AS GOOD AS DEAD: In this Abraham typifies Jesus Christ, who was cut off out of the land of the living, without generation, and yet would live again to see his multitudinous seed also (Isa 53:8,10).

Heb 11:13

Vv 13-16: The transcendent nature of hope. Our author interrupts his inventory of paragons of the faith and their specific triumphs of faith in order to elaborate the material of vv 8–10. The perspective set forth here, wherein one lives in this world as an alien, is of the essence of faith as it is first described in v 1. The things hoped for, although not yet seen, control the life of the person of faith. The OT saints looked for the reality God had promised.

ALL THESE PEOPLE WERE STILL LIVING BY FAITH WHEN THEY DIED. THEY DID NOT RECEIVE THE THINGS PROMISED; THEY ONLY SAW THEM AND WELCOMED THEM FROM A DISTANCE. AND THEY ADMITTED THAT THEY WERE ALIENS AND STRANGERS ON EARTH: The paragons of faith mentioned thus far, like those about to be mentioned (cp v 39), died without receiving "the promises". They died, having lived their lives under the controlling influence of a reality distant and not yet experienced. Their believing response to what lay in the future is described by the author in the picturesque language of their having seen it from a distance and having welcomed it (John 8:56). It was their orientation toward the promises that enabled them to regard their present status as only temporary and to describe themselves as aliens and strangers on earth (Gen 23:4; 47:9; 1Ch 29:15; Psa 39:12).

THEY ONLY SAW THEM: KJV adds: "and were persuaded of them, and embraced them".

ALIENS AND STRANGERS ON EARTH: The story is told about some Christians who were traveling in the Middle East. They heard about a wise, devout, beloved old believer, so they went out of their way to visit him. When they finally found him, they discovered that he was living in a simple hut. All he had inside was a rough cot, a chair, a table, and a battered stove for heating and cooking. The visitors were shocked to see how few possessions the man had, and one of them blurted out, "Well, where is your furniture?" The aged saint replied by gently asking, "Where is yours?" The visitor, sputtering a little, responded, "Why, at home, of course. I don't carry it with me; I'm traveling." "So am I," the godly Christian replied. "So am I."

Heb 11:14

PEOPLE WHO SAY SUCH THINGS SHOW THAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A COUNTRY OF THEIR OWN: Their true home accordingly lay elsewhere (ie, not in this present evil age -- even if in the same physical location), and thus they sought for themselves a special "homeland".

Heb 11:15

IF THEY HAD BEEN THINKING OF THE COUNTRY THEY HAD LEFT, THEY WOULD HAVE HAD OPPORTUNITY TO RETURN: Abraham and his family could, of course, have returned to Mesopotamia if they had continued to regard that land as their true home. But this was not what was in their thoughts or what governed their lifestyle. This stands in sharp contrast to the generation that wandered in the wilderness and failed to enter God's rest (Heb 4:6), but who instead desired to return to Egypt. Nor should any kind of "going back", or "apostasy", be in the minds of the readers (see Heb 10:39). It was not their absence from Mesopotamia that caused Abraham and his family to refer to themselves as strangers and exiles, but the fact that -- even in their new land, the land of promise -- they were STILL strangers and exiles, because the right TIME had not yet come!

Heb 11:16

INSTEAD, THEY WERE LONGING FOR A BETTER COUNTRY -- A HEAVENLY ONE: What they looked for was a heavenly place. Not necessarily a place IN heaven, but a heavenly place.

Our heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), by a heavenly Father (Mat 18:35), thru a heavenly word (Joh 3:12), presents to us a heavenly status (Eph 2:6), as we await a heavenly image (1Co 15:48,49), to be a heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22), in a heavenly country (Heb 11:16), within a heavenly kingdom (2Ti 4:18). All this constitutes Christ's bre as a heavenly people of God!

"It is remarkable that some people cannot discern the difference betw 'a heavenly country' and heaven itself. The earth, which we are told is to be eternal abode of the righteous (Pro 10:30; Psa 37:9; Mat 5:5; Rev 5:10), will truly be a heavenly country when the God of heaven, by means of His Son from Heaven, removes the curse now resting upon it (Gen 3:17; Psa 67:6; 85:12; Isa 35:1; Rev 22:8)" (FGJ).

THEREFORE GOD IS NOT ASHAMED TO BE CALLED THEIR GOD, FOR HE HAS PREPARED A CITY FOR THEM: Cp Exo 3:6 (and its quotation in Mat 22:32; Mar 12:26; Luk 20:37). God is faithful to His promises. Their expectation (which involved the hope of a resurrection to eternal inheritance of the land of promise) may thus be referred to as an already existing reality. Indeed, it is already being experienced, in hope, by the ecclesia (Heb 12:22), as well as something yet to come in all its fullness (Rev 21:2).

The author again refers to a city that God has prepared for them (mentioned earlier in v 10).

Heb 11:17

Vv 17-19: The third and perhaps the most remarkable example of Abraham's faith is now set forth: the offering of Isaac.

BY FAITH ABRAHAM, WHEN GOD TESTED HIM, OFFERED ISAAC AS A SACRIFICE. HE WHO HAD RECEIVED THE PROMISES WAS ABOUT TO SACRIFICE HIS ONE AND ONLY SO: The story of the testing of Abraham's faith related here is drawn from Gen 22:1-14 (cp Rom 8:31,32). Although Abraham had bound Isaac and, in obedience to God, was about to slay him as a sacrifice, God intervened at the last instant.

HE WHO HAD RECEIVED THE PROMISES: Which were all to be fulfilled, by the way, in and thru that special son He had been called upon to offer (v 18)! How could such a thing be? How could God fulfill His promises if Isaac were to be offered? Yet with God nothing was impossible!

Heb 11:18

EVEN THOUGH GOD HAD SAID TO HIM, "IT IS THROUGH ISAAC THAT YOUR OFFSPRING WILL BE RECKONED": This quotation is drawn from Gen 21:12 and may be literally translated as "In Isaac will your seed be named." Abraham endured a most severe form of testing but through it demonstrated his faith, that is, his absolute, unshakable confidence in the reliability of God's promises.

Heb 11:19

ABRAHAM REASONED THAT GOD COULD RAISE THE DEAD: From Abraham's point of view, God's power was such that, if necessary, the sacrificed Isaac could be raised by God "from the dead".

"Reasoned" ("logizomai") means to "count as true." It occurs only here in Heb, but is used frequently in connection with Abraham in Rom 4.

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, HE DID RECEIVE ISAAC BACK FROM DEATH: Lit, "from whence he received him in a parable." This may mean no more than that since Isaac was as good as dead at the point of being sacrificed, it is "as though" he had been raised from the dead. There may, however, be a deliberate allusion here to Isaac as an anticipation of the resurrection of Christ. For, like Abraham, God sacrificed His only son, whom he has now received again from the dead through the resurrection (Rom 8:31,32; cp John 3:16). Thus the binding of Isaac may foreshadow not only the sacrifice of Christ but also his resurrection.

Heb 11:20

BY FAITH ISAAC BLESSED JACOB AND ESAU IN REGARD TO THEIR FUTURE: Lit, "concerning things to come". Isaac, who received the same covenant as Abraham, spoke confidently of the future (Gen 27:28,28,39,40) because he trusted God's promises. He therefore stands with his father in the lineage of faith.

"Blessed" ("eulogeo") in this context refers to the Hebrew custom of passing the promise, and the privileged position that goes with it (cp Heb 6:14), from one generation to another. Thus a father who is nearing death blesses his son or grandson (as Abraham blessed Isaac, Gen 25:11; Isaac blessed Jacob, Gen 27:27-29; and Jacob blessed Joseph, Gen 48:15, and Ephraim and Manasseh, Gen 48:20).

In the case of Isaac, this was a triumph over natural desires: Isaac had desired to pass the blessing along to Esau, who was his favorite -- but he trembled upon realizing that his unrighteous desires had been subverted by God Himself, and the blessing conferred upon Jacob: "And indeed he WILL be blessed!" (Gen 27:33), is his exclamation of marveling, at how God had worked providentially to bring about His will, despite the intentions and efforts of Isaac himself.

Heb 11:21

BY FAITH JACOB, WHEN HE WAS DYING, BLESSED EACH OF JOSEPH'S SONS: The reference to the blessing of the two sons of Joseph, rather than to the blessing of his own twelve sons (Gen 49), is probably by the prompting of the preceding reference to Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau. Jacob, however, unlike Isaac, deliberately sought to bless the younger of the two, Ephraim (Gen 48:15-20).

AND WORSHIPED AS HE LEANED ON THE TOP OF HIS STAFF: The last clause in this verse is taken practically verbatim from the LXX of Gen 47:31. Although the LXX has Jacob leaning upon his staff (followed by AV and NIV), the Hebrew of Gen 47:31 says he "bowed himself upon the head of the bed" (RSV). The words for "bed" and "staff" consist of the same three consonants ("mth") vocalized differently: "mittah" is "bed", and "matteh" is "staff". The Masoretes of the early Middle Ages chose the vowels for "bed," and so it has come to us in our Hebrew Bibles. The physical object leaned upon is of little significance; what matters is the attitude and pose of worship that points to Jacob's faith: here was a man who was aged and weak, yet even as he was forced to lean upon something else for support, his real "support" was Almighty God Himself!

The best guess? Prob "staff", because: (1) a staff points to frailty of age, and a pilgrim worship (cp staff in hand: Exo 12:11), and (2) a staff sym rulership, as in Jacob being a shepherd and ruling over his flock -- his sons, grandsons, etc.

Heb 11:22

BY FAITH JOSEPH, WHEN HIS END WAS NEAR, SPOKE ABOUT THE EXODUS OF THE ISRAELITES FROM EGYPT AND GAVE INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HIS BONES: As in the two preceding examples, we again are presented with a glimpse of a hero of faith who is close to his death (lit, "dying"). Thus these examples illustrate vividly the statement in v 13 about dying "in faith." Because of his faith in the faithfulness of God, Joseph had knowledge of the future and was able to speak of (lit) "the exodus of the sons of Israel" and give directions (lit) "concerning his bones" (see Gen 50:24-26), which like Jacob's, were to be brought to the promised land. These instructions were duly accomplished, according to Exo 13:19 and Josh 24:32. The man who had under his hand the vast wealth and power of Egypt was nevertheless really only concerned about a poor pilgrim people, and a poor, despised land -- because the God of heaven, whom he worshiped, had chosen this people and this land for His very own!

Both these incidents reveal the patriarchs' preoccupation and fascination with the land itself -- the land of Canaan, the land of promise, the land of the Kingdom of God to come!

AND GAVE INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HIS BONES: "For 40 years those bones had been a source of encouragement, and a silent exhortation, to those who would hear -- and his faith had been fully vindicated. God had brought them out, and He brought them in.

"We do not follow a coffin: we know of an empty tomb, which speaks eloquently of resurrection. We follow not a dead man's bones: we follow the living Lord Jesus christ, who, by his death, has brought us out. One day he will return, and by his grace, he will bring us into the rest that remains for the people of God. Until that day we must endeavour to follow the example of Paul in Phi 3:13,14; 'Forgetting those things which are behind (Egypt), and reaching forth unto those things that are before (the Kingdom), I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of god in Christ Jesus.' Can we possibly do less?" (A Harvey, Xd 138:256).

Heb 11:23

BY FAITH MOSES' PARENTS HID HIM FOR THREE MONTHS AFTER HE WAS BORN, BECAUSE THEY SAW HE WAS NO ORDINARY CHILD, AND THEY WERE NOT AFRAID OF THE KING'S EDICT: The very life of Moses was dependent upon faith from the beginning. As a newborn baby, he was saved by the faith of his parents. It was at great personal risk that they disobeyed Pharaoh's commandment that sons born to Hebrew parents were to be put to death (Exo 1:22), yet they were not afraid. They trusted God and his faithfulness, and for three months they kept their son hidden (Exo 2:1,2).

THEY SAW HE WAS NO ORDINARY CHILD: The reference to the child as, lit, "beautiful" (Gr "asteios") is drawn from the LXX (Exo 2:2; cp Acts 7:20). In the latter passage, Moses is said to be "beautiful before God" suggesting that Gr "asteios" means something more than mere physical beauty -- ie, that he was "acceptable" or "well–pleasing" to God, or "fair to God" (Acts 7:20, AV mg). Moses' parents may have somehow understood that God had a special purpose for their son.

Heb 11:24

Vv 24-27: "So who is Moses? Is he an Egyptian, or is he an Israelite? In fact, he is a man with a dual identity, a man for whom two opposing destinies will beckon. He cannot be both; he may choose only one, for the two paths before him are mutually exclusive. It is this dichotomy inherent in the account that receives rich exhortational development [here]... There are two reasons why this issue of identity is such a powerful one. The first is its aptness for the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Moses prefigures. He was the Son of God and the Son of man; every day he had to decide to which he identity he would be true.

"But, in second place, Moses' identity crisis is one that is typical of us all. We see in Moses the human dilemma in relation to God. There is the natural way and the spiritual way. We have the choice to hearken to the voice of God and the choice to shut our ears. The choice for us lies wide open, just as it did for Moses" (MV, Tes 71:110).

Vv 24-26: Now the author illustrates how faith enables personal self–denial in the choice of suffering rather than pleasure. Moses refused what would have been the dream of most: to be part of Pharaoh's family. Instead he chose to identify with the suffering of his people (Exo 2:11-14; cp Acts 7:23-28). To stay in Pharaoh's court would have meant the enjoyment of pleasures, that is, immediate gratification. This choice would have involved Moses' turning his back on the needs of his people and hence had to be described as sin. The key to Moses' behavior, so strange by the world's standards, is stated in v 26. He was motivated by "his reward". This is the same word used in Heb 10:35, also in a context referring to suffering. With that ultimate or transcendent reward in view, Moses believed that to suffer reproach "for the sake of Christ" (by which must be meant: 'the hope of a coming Messiah') led to greater wealth than the best that Egypt could offer. Given the continuity of God's saving purposes, however, when Moses suffered reproach for his loyalty to the people of God, in principle he may be said to have suffered reproach for loyalty to "Christ" (cp Heb 13:13).

WHEN HE HAD GROWN UP: Or become "mature" (Diag); "mighty in word and deed" (cp Exo 2:11; Acts 7:22,23). Acts 7:23 mentions the age of "forty".

REFUSED TO BE KNOWN AS THE SON OF PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: Poss at some sort of formal adoption ceremony, or even recognition in line of Pharaohs, and heirship of throne. By faith, Moses made a definite choice, refusing some specific honor.

Heb 11:25

HE CHOSE TO BE MISTREATED ALONG WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD RATHER THAN TO ENJOY THE PLEASURES OF SIN FOR A SHORT TIME: "For a short time" is Gr "proskairos" -- sw in 2Co 4:17,18: " For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Heb 11:26

HE REGARDED DISGRACE FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST AS OF GREATER VALUE THAN THE TREASURES OF EGYPT: The KJV translates, "reproach OF Christ". The connection with "Christ" may be this: that the "reproach" experienced by Moses when he was rejected by the brethren he came to save (Acts 7:25: "Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not "; cp Exo 2:11,12) was THE SAME SORT OF REPROACH experienced much later by Jesus Christ.

Heb 11:27

BY FAITH HE LEFT EGYPT, NOT FEARING THE KING'S ANGER: Like his parents (v 23), Moses was unafraid of the mighty Pharaoh. This passage refers not to Moses' flight from Egypt after killing the Egyptian but, as the context suggests, to his leading the people of Israel out of Egypt in the exodus (Exo 12:51). When Pharaoh stormed, "You will see my face no more!" Moses replied, "You have well said..." (Exo 10:28,29; cp Exo 12:37; 13:17,18). Moses went out from the "house of bondage"; and the writer to the Hebrews tells the early Jewish Christians to do the same; in the first instance the "house of bondage" is in Egypt, but in the last instance it is Judaism itself!

The main reason this passage does not seem to refer to Moses' initial flight from Egypt is because the narrative (Exo 2:14) says specifically that he WAS afraid at that time. It is possible, however, to read this passage to signify that Moses -- after an initial wave of fear -- nevertheless gathered his courage and resolve, and -- no longer fearing, but rather understanding the purpose of God more fully -- "left Egypt, no longer fearing the king's anger"; perhaps he was even told by God that he must leave Egypt for the time being, and went forth in faith (Exo 2:15; Act 7:29).

Yet another alternative is that Moses "left" Egypt -- not physically, but spiritually -- from the moment he chose to identify himself publicly with Israel.

HE PERSEVERED BECAUSE HE SAW HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE: Again alluding back to the opening verse of this ch, the author describes Moses' accomplishment through faith as seeing Him who is "invisible". The mention of perseverance may be taken to refer to the entire sequence of events that culminated in the exodus itself. Moses was motivated by his conviction of the reality of what is unseen. In keeping with the thrust of the entire ch, it is probably the transcendent hope that is in view, which, to be sure, in the final analysis depends upon the existence of God (v 6) and His faithfulness.

Heb 11:28

V 28 moves from the general to the specific, the means by which the deliverance of the Israelites was effected. Faith made the Passover (Exo 12:12-30) a possibility. Because of the sprinkled blood, the delivering angels hovered over and protected the firstborn of Israel from the destroying angel -- while the firstborn of Egypt were being killed. It was Moses' faith that caused him to obey God. He acted in confidence with respect to God's faithfulness. The result was the deliverance of the Israelites and the punishment of the Egyptians.

Heb 11:29

BY FAITH THE PEOPLE PASSED THROUGH THE RED SEA AS ON DRY LAND; BUT WHEN THE EGYPTIANS TRIED TO DO SO, THEY WERE DROWNED: The people exhibited the same kind of faith as Moses did. They were confident that God would deliver them and thus prove Himself faithful to His promises. It was this faith that enabled them under Moses' leadership to pass through the Red Sea in the miracle of the dividing of the waters (Exo 14:21-29; cp Psa 78:13). But the Egyptian pursuers had no such faith and thus came to their end when they tried to follow the Israelites. Thus the events of the exodus -- that central deliverance of God's people in the OT -- were possible only by faith.

THE RED SEA: "The sea of reeds" according to the Hebrew text of Exodus (cp Exo 13:18). The deliverance is celebrated in the "Song of Moses" (Exo 15).

Heb 11:30

BY FAITH THE WALLS OF JERICHO FELL, AFTER THE PEOPLE HAD MARCHED AROUND THEM FOR SEVEN DAYS: The second example of the faith of the Israelites as a people (cp v 29) is found in the conquest of Jericho. Joshua might well have been mentioned in this verse, as a man of faith in this enterprise; his name is presupposed. By faith Joshua and the Israelites marched around (lit, "circled") the walls of the city (Josh 6:12-21). They trusted God to do what He said He would do through this otherwise apparently foolish behavior. By their faith and obedience God thus accomplished His purpose through them.

Heb 11:31

BY FAITH THE PROSTITUTE RAHAB, BECAUSE SHE WELCOMED THE SPIES, WAS NOT KILLED WITH THOSE WHO WERE DISOBEDIENT: It is perhaps something of a surprise to find Rahab, a non-Israelite, mentioned alongside the great names of righteous Israelites (cp Jam 2:25). But she too, most remarkably, had come to have faith in the God of Israel, perhaps by hearing of the victories of Israel and the power of Israel's God (Josh 2:11). She acted in faith when she "received the spies in peace". In doing so she put her own life in danger, but the outcome was that she and her family escaped the destruction that came upon the city and its disobedient inhabitants (Josh 2; 6:17,23). Despite her unrighteous profession to that point, Rahab manifested the faith that counts upon the reality of the unseen.

The story of Rahab became popular in Jewish tradition. She became a beloved figure as the first proselyte to the Jewish faith. She is even found in the genealogy of Christ in Mat 1:5 as the mother of Boaz (who married another famous non-Israelite, Ruth). Rahab's house was an ideal hiding place for the two spies, since in addition to being readily open during the evening, it was built into the city wall.

Heb 11:32

Heb 11:32-40: In these few short verses we are introduced to that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1), those who in ages past witnessed to the eternal truths which they believed, and were martyrs of the God they served. As this chapter is written in a basically chronological sequence (beginning with Abel -- v 4), we should expect most of the particulars in these last few verses to belong to the later history of the faithful. (See Article, "Of whom the world was not worthy" .)

In these verses we have two types of faith, related to one another, but showing different aspects: (1) In vv 32-35a we see the victories of faith in action -- against the world; men of God triumph over outside forces, and the armies of the alien. (2) But in vv 35b-38 we see the victories of faith in action -- against sufferings, against oneself, against temptation from within.

The examples of faith in this verse are not in chronological order. Is there some reason why Samuel is last, and why he is aligned -- apparently -- with the prophets?

This is the only occurrence in the NT of the names Gideon (Jdg 6:11–8:32); Barak (Jdg 4:6–5:31); Samson (Jdg 13:2–16:31); and Jephthah (Jdg 11:1–12:7). These were judges who saved Israel from foreign enemies, in circumstances requiring faith in God's promises to them. All four saved Israel in extraordinary ways: Remember Gideon's "army" of only 300, and Samson's "jawbone of an ass", as well as the tent-peg of Jael in the days of Barak. Such incidents illustrate that God can save by few or many, and by very insignificant means if He so chooses. This He does so that man may not glory in himself but rather in the Father. And the lesson to us is that we may similarly find the weapons of faith, and fight the battles of the Lord, in some minor way which the proud mind of the flesh would never suggest. Let us "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God."

Heb 11:33

CONQUERED KINGDOMS: Jephthah? This could also be an allusion to the victories recorded in Joshua and Judges, but may include also David's victories. And Jesus, who by faith chose a kingdom not of this world, and therefore won the privilege of subduing all worldly kingdoms!

ADMINISTERED JUSTICE: Acting as righteous "judges" -- in stabilizing the nation of Israel, and teaching and practicing right principles, despite oppositions. The faithful judges and kings (Samuel being the best representative -- 1Sa 12:3,4) who without regard for present advantage or crowd-pleasing consistently made the right decisions in the cases brought to their attention.

Or Jesus, the preeminent righteous Judge?

GAINED WHAT WAS PROMISED: David? Jacob with the angel? Or Jesus: "For the joy that was set before him" (Heb 12:1,2).

Perhaps, better, "obtained" (AV) or "received" the promises -- ie, accepted God's promises of good things to come, and took them to heart, and lived their lives thereby, even though such promises were yet future.

These men of faith all obtained the fulfillment of certain lesser, and temporal, promises during their lifetimes. But these small promises, which they could enjoy as realities then, only pointed forward to the promise which has not even yet been fulfilled.

SHUT THE MOUTHS OF LIONS: Samson (Jdg 14:6), David (1Sa 17:34-36), or most conspicuously, Daniel (Dan 6:22). A fourth man of faith was the mighty man Benaiah, "who went down and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow" (2Sa 23:20).

Or Jesus, who shut the mouth of "death"!

The Scriptures tell only of these four instances of lions being slain or subdued. Why four? If we remember that lions symbolize the Gentile nations, bestial in their lusts, then we have here a picture of the four world empires together, to be tamed and subjected by Christ and the saints, so that in symbolic language they "shall eat straw like the ox" (Isa 11:6,7).

Heb 11:34

QUENCHED THE FURY OF THE FLAMES: Moses? Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3:1-30)?

ESCAPED THE EDGE OF THE SWORD: Several of the prophets, for example, Elijah (1Ki 19:2-8) or Jeremiah (Jer 36:19,26). Joseph and Mary, in Egypt. "Put up thy sword; he who lives by the sword will die by the sword!" Or even, in Christ, "circumcision [the sword] avails nothing."

WHOSE WEAKNESS WAS TURNED TO STRENGTH: This brings two incidents to mind: (1) Samson's strength was miraculously restored to him while he languished in Philistine chains. Pulling down the great temple of Dagon, he "destroyed more by his death than by his life" (Jdg 16:28-30), a remarkable picture of Christ's sacrifice by which man's greatest enemy was destroyed. (2) The righteous king Hezekiah was "sick unto death", yet was revived through prayer and faith, and went up to the Lord's house on the third day (2Ki 20:8), another brilliant foreshadowing of Christ's death and resurrection. Let us remember that in times of human weakness we may nevertheless be strong in faith to perform God's will; God has said to one of our brethren: "My strength is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Thus we are pointed to Jesus, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, so that out of that "weakness", and by his faith in his Father, he might be "made strong" in the conquest of sin and death. The motif of "from weakness to strength" is found frequently in the NT (eg, Rom 4:19-25; 8:26; 1Co 1:27-29; 2Co 12:9,10; Eph 6:10; Phi 4:13).

WHO BECAME POWERFUL IN BATTLE AND ROUTED FOREIGN ARMIES: Barak? Gideon? David? Or Jesus, in the wilderness with the "devil".

Heb 11:35

WOMEN RECEIVED BACK THEIR DEAD, RAISED TO LIFE AGAIN: Almost always the case that women (not men) are mentioned re resurrections: 2Ki 4:36 (the Shunammite woman); 1Ki 17:17-24 (the widow of Zarephath -- a Gentile; Act 9:41; Joh 11:22,32; 20:15; Mar 5:40. Was it because: thru a woman death entered world? (WGos 238).

OTHERS WERE TORTURED AND REFUSED TO BE RELEASED: Rather, "BUT others were tortured", as we have here a contrast. Here begins the victories of faith in suffering. ("Tortured" is "tympanizo", from "tympanum", a drum. The sufferer was stretched out upon an instrument like a drumhead, and beaten to death with sticks and rods.) The remainder of the writer's references here are to incidents in which the natural mind would be hard-pressed to find a victory of any sort: "For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:36).

The outworkings of faith may bring present good, but faith will also bring trials and tribulations, as God acts to chasten His children. This preparation has its necessary part in God's overall scheme; the elaborates on this theme in the next ch: "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, 'My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.' If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?... Now no chastening seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb 12:4-11).

The Jewish Christians faced trials at the hands of their natural brethren because they chose to remain separate from the institutions and traditions of the Mosaic Law, seeing it as a system ready to vanish away (Heb 8:13). This is the same situation which we must now face -- alienation and disfavor from the world. A mad society is entering its death throes, and those who will not fall in with its excesses are hated.

SO THAT THEY MIGHT GAIN A BETTER RESURRECTION: Women of faith received their children raised to life, but this was only a resurrection to a continuation of mortal life. That for which these "others" hoped was an awakening to life eternal -- truly a "better resurrection".

Possibly there is also this thought: those who were cruelly tortured had only to forsake their faith in order to escape death. This would have been a "resurrection" of sorts, for they would have received back their lives which had been almost forfeited. But such a renunciation would have meant loss of that "better resurrection" to immortality.

Heb 11:36

SOME FACED JEERS AND FLOGGING, WHILE STILL OTHERS WERE CHAINED AND PUT IN PRISON: Joseph in Egypt (Gen 39:20), and Jeremiah -- the hated prophet -- put in stocks and lowered into the miry pit (Jer 38:6). In such trials these men rejoiced, even as Paul sang hymns of praise from his dungeon cell.

The mocking and scourging here is reminiscent of the language describing the treatment of Jesus according to the passion narratives (Mat 27:29-31; Mark 15:20; Luke 23:11,36; John 19:1; cp Mat 20:19; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:32). This may be in the author's mind when he writes Heb 12:3.

Heb 11:37

THEY WERE STONED: In OT times we have Naboth, ordered to be stoned by the wicked Jezebel so that his rightful property might be stolen (1Ki 21:7-10). And (by tradition) we have Jeremiah, stoned to death in Egypt where he was carried against his will. Also, Zechariah (2Ch 24:21; cp Mat 23:37). Not to mention Paul himself -- who was stoned and left for dead.

THEY WERE SAWED IN TWO: All ancient sources attribute this to Isaiah -- in such a manner slain during the reign of Manasseh, "who slew much innocent blood".

Some mss (cp AV) add: "they were tempted", or "put to the test".

How does this fit in with the sufferings listed here, since temptation is the common lot of all -- and therefore not necessarily a special affliction? The author must be speaking here of the temptations of the faithful to give up their beliefs in the face of great trials. Again, to put this letter to the Hebrews in its proper perspective, we must realize that he was writing to Jews who were being persecuted by their nation (in some cases, even by their families) because of their strange new ideas. How easy it would have been in such circumstances to just give in, and to forsake the assembly of the saints (Heb 10:25)!

THEY WERE PUT TO DEATH BY THE SWORD: Roman execution of the apostle Paul, and other Christians.

THEY WENT ABOUT IN SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS, DESTITUTE, PERSECUTED AND MISTREATED: Those who went about in sheepskins and goatskins and were forced to live in the wilderness in caves and holes in the ground are probably not the prophets, such as Elijah (2Ki 1:8), though he is their prototype, but again the Israelites persecuted by Antiochus during the Maccabean era. This fits well with the description of them as destitute, persecuted and mistreated. They fled to the wilderness, according to 1Ma 2:29-38, because of the evils Antiochus brought upon them. This happened moreover, the author points out, to persons of whom the world was not worthy (v 38). The underlying irony is found in the incongruity of God's faithful servants being forced to live like animals.

SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS: The rough, coarse garments of the prophets -- especially Elijah (1Ki 19:10,13; 2Ki 1:8) and his first-century counterpart, John the Baptist (Mat 3:4).

Can we not imagine such men as these? Hardened by long years of wandering and privation, roughly clothed in the skins of the poor, standing steadfast against the wind and the rain (just as they stand before their enemies' taunts). Men made perfect by their experiences, by the trials of their faith: "What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet" (Mat 11:7-9).

Were such men as these too stern? Too narrow-minded? Too devoted to an ideal? Were these men not quite "liberal" enough, or easy-going enough, to suit our fancy? Let us look at such men, look deeply into their eyes -- let us try to get a glimpse of that animating, invigorating, driving force... that tremendous, word-begotten faith that lifted them out of their present situations and into that glorious future of promise.

Heb 11:38

THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY OF THEM: The proud and vain and foolish world scorned these men as of no consequence -- "despised and rejected, men of sorrow, and acquainted with grief". But the world's opinion was the exact opposite of God's. Those whom they considered unworthy of their notice except as the object of ridicule and cursing were, in reality, too good for them.

Let us notice this: the separations forced upon the faithful, even their trials, were from God. God separated them. This separation (that we, in our shortsightedness, sometimes resent) is a privilege. It is a supreme privilege that we are not counted in the company of the world that is destined to pass away.

THEY WANDERED IN DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS: How Jesus must have loved the mountains! Often did he spend the entire night in prayer upon the hills of the Promised Land. We remember how Abraham chose the hills and waste places of Palestine, rather than the fruitful plain of Sodom.

"I will go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not" (Song 3:2).

Christ cannot be found in the cities of sin, nor in the "broad ways" of the earth. He is found instead on the lonely paths, in the wilderness, in the mountains, the paths frequented by such men as Abraham and Moses and David. Christ is found in such places, where the noise of man is quieted, and the still small voice of God may be heard.

Whenever our Saviour had something special to reveal to his disciples, he carried them out into the mountains. Let us follow Christ into these same localities -- the "mountains of separation". Let us leave the "city" behind us. Let us "go forth unto him without the camp". Let us give ourselves a fair chance to listen, and Christ will speak to us also.

AND IN CAVES AND HOLES IN THE GROUND: See Rev 6:15 -- altho in a different context. Palestine, from its hilly character, abounds in caves -- to which the persecuted saints were to flee when the "abomination of desolation" stood before the city (Mat 24:15,16). "O my dove," says the Saviour, "Thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places" (Song 2:14). But here, even in immediate danger, the men of faith may feel secure -- their lives are "hid with Christ".

Heb 11:39

THESE WERE ALL COMMENDED FOR THEIR FAITH, YET NONE OF THEM RECEIVED WHAT HAD BEEN PROMISED: Abraham, to whom the promise was made, did not receive in this life the fulfillment of that promise (Acts 7:5). Abraham was one of the men of faith who wandered upon the mountains, who "looked for a city" (Heb 11:10). He believed in the resurrection, as he showed in offering his son Isaac (Heb 11:19; Gen 22:8-14). And he told his son, "God will provide the sacrifice." Abraham saw the day of Christ (John 8:56), the "Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). But he knew that he would not benefit from this until after his death. He received not the promise in this life, but he fully expected to do so in the future (just as we do).

Heb 11:40

GOD HAD PLANNED SOMETHING BETTER FOR US: This phrase may be translated, "God having foreseen..." These two phrases, "God provides" and "God sees", are again companion thoughts in Gen 22. This account of the offering of Isaac should be carefully studied in its context and its typical lessons. It is a beautiful portrayal in shadow of God's offering of His only-begotten Son. Abraham tells his son, "Yahweh will provide Himself a lamb", as he contemplates the sacrifice of Isaac's anti-type, the true seed Christ. As a memorial the place of the altar is named "Yahweh-Jireh" ("It -- Christ -- shall be seen"). The LXX of Gen 22:16 is quoted by Paul in Rom 8:32: "He that spared not His Own Son, but delivered him up for us all..."

The perfect sacrifice of the Father's only Son is the "better thing" which God has provided for our salvation. (Or else, the "better thing" is Canaan in the age to come, God's future Kingdom, as opposed to Canaan in earlier days, God's past kingdom!)

Christ is better than the sacrifices of the Law (Heb 10:4,14). The justification which Christ brought by his death and resurrection leads to the "better resurrection" and the inheritance of the promise in its glorified millennial state, better than its imperfect past condition -- when at any rate it could be inherited only for a brief span of mortal life.

SO THAT ONLY TOGETHER WITH US WOULD THEY BE MADE PERFECT: All are justified by the blood of the Lamb. Christ's sacrifice atoned for "past sins", as well as those which followed after (Rom 3:25-26; Heb 9:15; Acts 13:39). All the faithful will be made perfect together, by the same means.

But notwithstanding the promise to the saints of being perfected, we have while in the flesh continual experience of imperfection. We must strive to be perfect in conscience before God, even though we are imperfect in nature. That which is perfect is not yet come, but we wait for it.

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