Hebrews 11:1-16


Hebrews 11:1-29

Good morning church! I want to dig right in this morning because we have a lot to go through. But I first want to remind you of the challenge that Pastor Jim left off with last week concerning what are we doing for the Lord? Are we taking risks? And by risks he didn’t mean jumping out of airplanes, playing with explosives, or not doing your homework before casting your vote. He was talking about being stretched by Jesus, allowing yourself to be taken out of your comfort zone by Jesus, and not just learning more, but putting that faith into action and transitioning from learning to doing.
When we get into our next book the book of James, we will learn that faith alone, without the doing part, isn’t a real faith at all, in fact it is stated much stronger than that, as it says in James 2:17
James 2:17 NKJV
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
So, lets pray and ask the Lord to use His Word in our lives this morning, to move us from a place of being hearers of His Word, to doers of His Word....
Before we get into chapter 11, I want to first look at the bookends, that which comes before it, and that which comes after it. As it is easy for us to forget, that when we have convenient chapter breaks, children to care for in our Children’s ministry, limited attention spans, and over scheduled agenda’s on our days of worship, we can loose the 10,000 foot view or the big picture that the hearers of the original message or sermon as the Hebrew believers would have received this.
The original audience grew up under the law. Jesus came and fulfilled the law. He brought a new covenant made in His blood. They received Him as their Messiah, but not all in their family did. Not all in their community did. And now, after some time had past, what was as first a blessing, had become a burden. It was hard to be a follower of Jesus when pressure was coming from the ones that you love, your support system, your community, to reject Jesus and turn back to the ways of Judaism.
This whole message has been how Jesus is better. What we once had under the law, and the system of sacrifices was good when it was all that we had, but it is no longer enough, now that all of that has been fulfilled in Jesus, so you can’t go back. It’s not enough. So step by step, the author goes through and says Jesus is better than all of that. Better than everything else, everyone else, and Jesus is truly the only way to Heaven.
So the argument has been made, the facts laid out before them, but still there is doubt, and doubt brings fear, and fear... far to often failure. In law enforcement we used to call it analysis paralysis. When you would look at the road ahead and consider all of the options, all of the what if’s and rather than make the wrong move, no move would be made at all. Again, James calls that a dead faith.
So Chapter 10 of the book of Hebrews, ends really with the challenge that Pastor Jim left us with last week,
Hebrews 10:35–36 NKJV
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
Don’t throw away your confidence, gang we need to pray for boldness, which has great reward…we need to endure, to finish strong, and not just learn the will of God, but do it, that we may receive the promise…it continues.
Hebrews 10:37–39 NKJV
37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Have boldness, endure to the end, we aren’t those who draw back, we don’t retreat…arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder we are those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Chapter 11 then begins, and I’ve heard all kinds of pictures painted as to how this chapter should be interpreted. As the Hall of Faith, as exhibits in a historical museum, even as those that look down on us from Heaven that we don’t want to disappoint. This is why our bookends are so important, and why we read the Scriptures within the context with which it’s found.
An argument has been building not to go back. To not loose confidence, to endure to the end with Jesus. Faith is sometimes hard. Faith sometimes requires discomfort, proceeding into the uncomfortable. Chapter 12 verse 1, tells us there is example after example of those who have gone before us whose testimony says, “You can do it!”
Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,...
That is exactly how I see chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, exactly how the bible tells us to look at the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. If you need some confidence, if you’re not sure anyone could stay faithful in times of testing, lets go to the courtroom. Let me call some witnesses, sworn to tell the truth by the Word of God, that will testify about what they have done through faith, not in themselves, but in God. Let’s look at chapter 11 and get ready to call our first witness.
First we begin with a definition of sorts on what faith is.
Hebrews 11:1 NKJV
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Very popular verse. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve had several people trying to encourage me, trying to get me to have faith quote this to me, and if I’m being honest, just on the surface of what it said, I had some trouble understanding what it meant. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Now I’m not always a fan of the living Bible, it’s not a translation, but rather a paraphrase of the bible, but in this particular case, I think it is pretty helpful. It says… What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.
I once heard Pastor Damian Kyle put it like this. Faith is living in the absolute confidence of what God has said even when I haven’t seen the fulness of the promise yet.
So, I believe it because God said it. It doesn’t have to make sense to me, it doesn’t have to be the way I would do things, it doesn’t even have to ever have happened before, it doesn’t have to even seem possible, what makes it true is that God said it, it doesn’t even have to have happened yet, that’s faith.
Verse two then sets us up for the testimony of our witnesses.
Hebrews 11:2–3 NKJV
2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
In the ancient past, even to the days that Hebrews was written, most scientist believed that the world was made from things that were already in existence. And those things being visible things, rather than atomic matter that is not visible. But it is by faith that we believe that the world was framed by the Word of God, because none of these witnesses witnessed that. However the bible tells us in Psalm 33:6 and in Psalm 33:9
Psalm 33:6 NKJV
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
Psalm 33:9 NKJV
9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
For those that like to approach this more like exhibits in a museum. Consider these events: the September 11th attacks, the Boston Tea Party, the Louisiana Purchase, Apollo 11, and the 27th of June in the year of our Lord 1992. Now for you and I, those events and dates are meaningful. They all matter to our country, they are part of our history. Most of them we know, not just vaguely, but we remember details of those events. They all changed the course of the way we live our lives today. If you are an American. If you’re not, or you don’t know your history, you would have to look them up to gain the understanding. The last one was the day this dynamic duo was married.
Each of the witnesses here only adds to their faith, only adds to their encouragement, their boldness, their confidence if we understand what it is that they did. I want you to see that as well. That each of these witnesses are listed in the Hall of Faith, because they did more than just believe, their faith was not a dead faith, but a faith that resulted in works, and by it they obtained a good testimony.
Our first witness is Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, so going all the way back to the story of him and his older brother Cain.
Verse 4
Hebrews 11:4 NKJV
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Now you may or may not know the story, but if we look back to Genesis chapter 4 we find that they both brought an offering to the Lord. Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was tiller of the ground. If you read it it says that the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. Why would God have been pleased with the offering of one brother and not pleased with the offering of the other? Was that because God likes shepherds more than He likes farmers?
No, I don’t think so. Genesis chapter 4 tells us that as a result of God’s response to the offering, Cain became angry, actually, it says he became very angry and his countenance fell. And God is very merciful in his response to Cain. He asks Cain why? Why are you angry Cain? Why has your countenance fallen? And then He asks...
Genesis 4:7 NKJV
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Abel did well. Cain did not. I am completely convinced that they both knew what well was. Abel believed what God instructed, and Cain did it his way, offered the works of his hands. Our verse in Hebrews tells us this. That by faith, by faith, God said it, and he believed it,...
Hebrews 11:4 NKJV
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Cain refused to act in faith, and do well as God commanded. If he did well, he too would be accepted, but instead he got angry with God and he killed his brother. IF we consider this. Abel simply acted in faith. He was persecuted for his faith. He lost his life for his faith. And although that might not be very encouraging to you or I upon first glance, but the writer is telling the Hebrews, look, this is not unique. You are not the first to be persecuted for your faith. If you want to find the beginning of what you are going through, you have to go all the way to the beginning of the book and read the story of Cain and Abel.
Yes, Abel was persecuted, and yes he was actually killed for practicing his faith, but as we read here he obtained witness that he was righteous. How do we know that? Because God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks, and his testimony is speaking still today, October 1, 2023. It was Jesus who said...
Matthew 10:28 NKJV
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Abel feared Him and Cain did not. Abel’s testimony still speaks.
The encouragement to the Hebrews is you are not alone, you’re in great company, keep going.
Speaking of keep going, he moves on now to Enoch. Verse 5
Hebrews 11:5 NKJV
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Another interesting testimony here ready to take the witness stand. The quotation here in our text is from Genesis chapter 5, lets look there so that we can be encouraged by Enoch.
Genesis 5:21–24 NKJV
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Enoch here is the picture, or the example of, faithful endurance. You Hebrews have walked with Jesus for a year or two now, maybe more, but after Enoch begot Methuselah Enoch walked with God 300 years. What a testimony, and Enoch lived in a time that it was difficult to live for God, and he walked with God, had relationship with God. And God took him, he missed his appointed time to die, so I’m not sure that his story is over. We may see him again, possibly as one of the witnesses in the book of Revelation. It was his faith that pleased God. Verse 6 says.
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
What a powerful verse. Not it is difficult to please God without faith, it is impossible! If you want to please God, it begins with believing that He is…and here is where so many Christians miss out, don’t receive all that God has for them and desires with them…He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, walk with Him, seek Him, Get to know Him, and you will be rewarded by God. Have faith, He said it, it’s true.
Now Noah of the Arc, would you enter the witness stand please?
Hebrews 11:7 NKJV
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Consider the faith of Noah. God said it and he believed it. God said I’m going to send a flood. A flood, I’ve never seen a flood God, what’s that? Oh from that many days of rain, hold up God, what is rain? In the days of Noah, it had not yet rained upon the earth. The vegetation was watered by dew that would form under the canopy covering the earth.
Listen when God asks us to take risks it is not to do foolish things. He didn’t build a boat out of rocks, or make a giant surfboard because he thought that would be cool. God spoke, Noah believed, that’s faith. If you read the story in Genesis chapter 6 we see that God actually gave Noah a blueprint and told him exactly how to build this boat. So why is Noah on this list, why is he a witness to the Hebrews and to us? Because he did it. He built the boat.
He built the boat no where near the ocean. He built the boat for 100 years he remained faithful. I think that’s why he’s in here. What is our time limit on trusting God? Can you remain faithful for a week? Two weeks? A year. For a hundred years Noah labored away, while the world mocked him, he warned the world that God was going to destroy every living thing on the face of the earth.
God told him that He would bring two of every kind of animal to put on that boat, and anyone that listened, anyone that had faith could enter, and he worked away and he warned others but on that day, when the rains came... it was Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives. Eight people. Noah is on this list to tell the Hebrews and to tell us, that you can remain faithful even if it means you are the only one in the whole world that is. If you are the only one that believes God, it matters, and it is worth it to remain faithful.
It is one thing to be faithful in the face of God’s reward, but what about in his judgement? What I mean is that Noah is pronouncing God’s warning for judgement, and the world waited and waited and for 100 years it didn’t happen, they became indifferent to it.
Luke 17:27 NKJV
27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
This is a danger to the church today. Indifference. We say we believe in Heaven and Hell. We say we believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father unless it is through Jesus. The Bible tell us that a time of tribulation is coming. A time when God pours out his wrath on a Christ rejecting world. Yet how many have we told this week, or this month? Have we become indifferent? The verse in your bibles before this one says this, verse 26...
Luke 17:26 NKJV
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
This indifference is a sign that we are close, we are there. Our indifference affects those around us. It affects our families. Noah’s faith in action effected his family and they were saved as a result of it. Would your family be saved if the only evidence, or the only example of faith they had to follow, was the faith that you demonstrate in following Jesus? I hope so!
Men, this is all the more important for us. Look again at verse 7 in our chapter, it tells us Noah did this to save his family.
Hebrews 11:7 NKJV
7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Think of how important Noah’s faith was. It saved his wife, it saved his kids, and their wives. You and I wouldn’t be here today if Noah gave up on the Arc. If he quit because he was the only one of his friends that believed, or because his parents didn’t believe, or if he had grown indifferent to the judgment to come.
I was talking to one of our young dads a few weeks ago, trying to negotiate that balance of kids sports and church, and wanting their kids to be able to participate in things, but also demonstrating the important of their faith, not just by talking about it, but having faith in action. Showing up. Serving the Body of Christ. Not being indifferent. Compare the life of Noah to the life of Lot. Righteous lot. Right, that is what Lot is called in the New Testament.
But Lot brings his family into Sodom. Noah built the ark for the saving of his household and far too often, men we don’t consider the impact of our actions on our families. Lot survived Sodom, but his wife didn’t, most of his family didn’t. His two daughters made it out, but things did not go well for them after that.
I can’t tell you how many men I have seen that at one point were faithful in serving the Lord. Active in their church, that over time because they became indifferent, or interested in other things, and they dropped out, walked away, with no regard how their actions impacted those that were watching. Their wives, their kids. Our faithful witness affects those that are in our lives. Noah’s faith saved his family and look at the end of the verse, it also condemned the world. How?
Because he was faithful, he demonstrated that if he and his kids could do it, then anyone could. Therefore they were without excuse for not being faithful and they were condemned. Verse 8
Hebrews 11:8 NKJV
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
I want you to consider the faith of Abraham. How many of you have found that the older you get, the less and less you like change? We will look at it in a second, but understand, Abraham was 75 years old when he was called to go out. It is in Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 12:1–3 NKJV
1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
OK, God, but what about the family I have here? Where are we going? You want me to get out of my village? No, out of your country. Away from your family, your support system. That sounds scary God, where are you sending me? To a land that I will show you. Verse 4 says, so Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken to him…God said it, Abram believed it, and he did it. Although not completely on the leaving the family behind, he took his nephew Lot along.
But imagine the faith it would take at that age, or any age. To step out in faith, not knowing where you were going to land. That is a real step of faith. God is telling the Hebrews and us, you don’t need to see the finish line, you just need to trust me, keep your eyes on Me.
Let’s keep going with Abraham.
Hebrews 11:9–10 NKJV
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Abram left security, left comfort, moved to a foreign country and lived in tents. And he looked forward in faith, believing God for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.
Hebrews 11:11–12 NKJV
11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
If you read the story of Sarah and Abraham in Genesis 17 and 18, you’ll see that she was 90 and he was 99. She could not conceive, she was barren, but by faith she received strength to conceive. The impossible was possible, because she believed God, not at first, at first she laughed when she heard it, but she judged God faithful, he said it, and then she had faith to believe.
I love the truthful and brutal description of Abram here…from one man as good as dead. As far as being in his child bearing prime, he was as good as dead. Lets keep going a couple more verses.
Hebrews 11:13–16 NKJV
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Neither the faith of Abram, nor the faith of Sarah was perfect, but the One who they believed in was. This tells us that they had plenty of opportunity to return. But they didn’t because they had a better desire, a heavenly country and that gave them an eternal perspective. Abram left his family, left his land, left the comforts of home for eternal purposes, a house not built with hands.
The message to the Hebrews is no matter how tough it gets today, or tomorrow, hang in there because better days are coming and they will last forever. Remain faithful for the sake of eternity. That your life will continue to speak as a witness for others. I know we aren’t done with Abraham, but I want to explore that one a little bit, so lets break there and save the rest for next week.
Pray with me church.
Grace and Peace
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