One of the revealed truths in this book, is that of the unseen world being the real world. The natural is but a copy of the spiritual. Therefore we know that the copy is temporal until the real is manifest. God seeks to bring us from the temporal to the eternal, from the seen to the unseen, from the copy to the real thing. Early in this chapter we are told that the visible world was actually made, created, formed, or whatever verb you wish to use, from forces which are invisible. They are not seen with the natural human eye, of cornea, lens and iris, which forms images and sends them to the brain to be interpreted to our real self within. This is a physical process which itself is but temporary, functioning solely in a physical environment. God, however, exists in an environment not seen by that wonderful mechanism which we call the eye. He has always existed in that environment. He created the visible things, including the eye from things invisible. Yet shall we conclude that God is blind and dwells in darkness, and from that darkness created the eye. Not at all, He dwells in light, from which the human eye is blind. If we are to “see” or comprehend eternal and divine things then we need, another kind of vision. We need to see as God sees. The environment in which we function is called “LIFE”. We would describe our existence by saying “I have life, therefore I am alive physically” If the visible is a copy of the invisible then there must be an equivalent of this thing we call “LIFE” in the spiritual. There is, - and it is FAITH. In the physical we could say “I have “LIFE”, therefore I am alive physically” In the spiritual we would say I have “FAITH” therefore I am alive spiritually. But what kind of faith? Faith does not exist in a vacuum, it must be set upon something. The faith that equates with the life of God, is the faith that is centred in God. Jesus said to his disciples "Have faith in God". Such faith would remove mountains or pluck up trees. So having faith in God is tantamount to having the faith of God. That is the faith that does great works. God brought the universe into being simply by speaking. Jesus said if we had the same faith we would also do the impossible by merely speaking to a mountain or a tree. When we compare that kind of faith with what we call our faith today, we all have to confess there is more than a slight difference. However, here in this chapter we read of men of faith in the Old Testament and the great works that they did by faith. It was not the works that pleased God, but the faith that did the works. God delights to see his children exercising His life in them. Therefore, we see certain “strange” words in the first verse. They are strange because they are words which are often used in opposition to faith, or used by those who don’t believe, to question the faith of those who do. For example they say “what EVIDENCE have you got”; or “unless I can feel it or handle it, I don’t believe it”. They require “substance”. This is quite understandable for in a physical visible world we require such securities. But in the invisible world, Faith is “SUBSTANCE”. Faith is “EVIDENCE”. To the natural mind, the first verse is just crazy talk. Would the unbeliever accept as proof of the invisible, something else invisible? Hardly. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen”, However the writer is surely equating faith as having something very real, and indeed it is. Those who get this kind of faith KNOW, within themselves of its reality. As the Scotsman said; “It’s better felt, than telt”. Once we have the life of God in us (the right kind of faith) we really know. The believer needs no evidence from the natural world, it is evidence enough. It is substance!. God, our spiritual father, seeks to teach us that in the environment in which He dwells faith is as rock, or as Rees Howells use to say “faith is current coin.” The Hebrews were being encouraged to “endure,” or keep believing. It is easy to believe if the visible world confirms it. That is not the faith of God. To believe physical evidence before your very eyes is just common sense. But to believe is not so easy, when things around us, seen with the physical eye, don’t provide any visible evidence; The Jews had lost their faith due to tribulation. No doubt they reasoned in their natural human minds, “How could God be with them if such things were taking place.” (see Romans ch. 8 v 28 - end). They were encouraged to endure, as Abraham did, as Moses did, as David did, and many more, by seeing the “invisible.” If they had reacted to what they saw, “the visible” things would have been very different. By way of illustration, - supposing someone left you a castle in Scotland, but you were unable to ever go there. How would you believe that you had this castle. Probably because a solicitor would give you the deeds to the place. You may never see the place but because you hold the deeds in your hand with your name on, then you would feel assured of your ownership and inheritance. This chapter seeks to tell us that if we have faith here and now, then that is the evidence or substance of things not seen. Those who truly believe certainly know the difference between mental credulity and real faith. When one has real faith there is a deep feeling, of assurance within. Even in the natural it is a very real thing. It is not just leaping in the dark or hoping blindly in the future. It is a favourite jibe of unbelievers regarding faith, that it is a “leap into the dark”. However this is surely wrong on two counts; 1. The unbeliever is inferring that he is in the light already. 2. Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a step from darkness into light. When you begin to believe, all the lights go on. The life of God is real. Faith is real. We know when we are alive and we know when we have the faith of God. Faith operates in this way not only for our salvation but in our everyday life and its needs. If you seek God for something, you may not know if it is His will or not. But if you seek his will through the Word, He will confirm it to you by some promise or scripture that it is His will. When you get the promise, the next thing to do is to stand upon that promise. Better still, kneel upon it and pray on it until you receive the real “believing,” that God has heard and that God is going to do it. When you get that rock like faith, you will be so filled with the joy of anticipation; you will probably confess later that it is greater than the joy of realisation when the thing comes to pass. The whole point of prayer is to cause our spiritual life (faith) to grow. If you pray for £5000 and God supplies it next day and the following day you spend it, - then so what? Where is the spiritual effect in all that? But if within that process you are kept waiting and your faith, like a bulb planted upside down in the darkness of the soil, searches eagerly for the light, then you will grow and mature spiritually. Not only to your own spiritual satisfaction but also to the praise and glory and pleasure of your Heavenly Father who wants you to grow in spiritual things. He desires your spiritual richness rather than material richness. If he can make you more spiritually rich by withholding material wealth, then he will do so. If you pester him enough he might give you what you ask for but send “leanness” to your soul as he did with the Israelites. God does not look upon us and require good works essentially, nor holiness essentially, nor courage essentially, but Faith. All the other things are given to those who believe. The scripture poses this question; “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” So with the basic understanding of why this chapter was written, i.e. to encourage the Jews to continue to believe, we can make some quick observations of the chapter. The writer begins as early as possible to find examples of faith. Had he been able to mention Adam, he would have done so, but unbelief in the word of God, was Adam’s sin. Immediately after the fall, God set up his “school” to teach men of His requirement for faith. Abel offered up a sacrifice and Cain offered up one. One was accepted one wasn’t. God accepted the one which had faith in it. Cain’s was an offering of “works” for it was the product of his sweated labour. Abel offered an animal. Cain got very offended when his gift was not accepted. You may remember that God said to Cain “If you do not well, Sin lies at the door”. In the old fashioned shorthand language of the bible I am sure we don’t see the real loving words of God. I believe that a clearer understanding would be to see that God merely told him “Why are you upset, I am only trying to teach you something. If you haven’t done well enough to be accepted then there must be something wrong. All you have to do is go away and bring another gift until it is accepted then you will know what I am looking for.” The writer joins Abel with Enoch in this assumption, that both men must have had faith, for without faith it impossible to please God. Both men pleased God and were accepted, so they must have had faith. “Those who come to God must believe that He is, “ This is the basis of all God seeking. We all need God. God is not obvious to the natural environment. We cannot see him, handle him nor touch him. But we can comprehend him and know him nevertheless. The first essential is that we believe that He is. Not that He is good or that He is great, or that He is anything else, merely that HE IS. His name is "I am that I am" Let me illustrate; Supposing I said to you “there is a thousand pound hidden in that field or in that building;” If you had any hope of finding it then the first thing you would have to do is believe that it existed. If you didn’t, you would not even begin to search. If you searched for an hour or two, you could give up in unbelief that it was there. But for as long as you believed it was there, you would continue to believe. In fact something even more illuminating would be that the more you searched the more faith you would have; How? Simply because if you truly believed in the first place then as you searched half the building without success, you would be more certain that it was in the other half. Then as you had completed the search of three quarters of the building, your anticipation of finding would increase as you knew it must be in the final quarter area of the building. As the search increased so your faith would grow. That is the reasoning of this verse. If you believe “He is,” then if you seek him God will be your reward. Noah’s faith was on the basis of a warning and command, rather than a promise. He was promised salvation if he obeyed. Godly fear is a worthy attribute of any believer. It is not a fear of God that destroys or terrifies to distraction. God would not have that of us, indeed He is not to be feared in that way. He is not a monster out to satisfy his own whims and unpredictable appetites. Godly fear is a fear of the same value as holiness or sobriety. It is a holy fear, therefore, it is a healthy fear. It is the kind of fear we are better off for having. Abraham is the classic believer. Galatians and Romans, ground the gospel upon this man’s faith. It is such faith that holds the bible together as one book, and reveals an unchanging God yet with two agreements - old and new testaments; The same yesterday, today and forever. The word “church” means literally “the called out ones”. Abraham was the first of the “called out ones” . He was called out of Ur of the Chaldees through his father to an unseen land. Later, on the journey when his father died in Haran, then God called Abraham out of Haran. We are his offspring. The city Abraham was looking for was not one he was to build himself, for it already had foundations. God had set the foundations and was the builder of the city. This is all spiritual language for our benefit, who, as pilgrims in this barren land are called to endure, and continue believing till we reach the true Jerusalem in glory. (To grasp the full import of Abraham’s faith, see our web study notes on Galatians.) Sarah’s faith was also remarkable. Genesis ch. 18 records that both Abraham and Sarah laughed. It was not a laugh of mockery, otherwise God could not have blessed such unbelief, rather the laugh of natural humour at the ridiculously impossible. It was no doubt the laugh of faith. Certainly laughter is part of God’s curriculum for us. We should be happy about what God has promised even though it may seem ridiculously wonderful. The joy of anticipation ! v.12; “Him as good as dead”. Note how many times in this chapter references are made to death or dying. God’s life is resurrection life. Resurrection is based upon death. It is almost inevitable that a situation should seem hopeless before real faith can become operative. Later Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, believing that if God brought him from the dead (the womb) in the first place then God would raise him from the dead in the second place. Many a Christian would do well to emulate such faith in times of loss. For supposing someone steals or robs your earthly goods, then two thoughts should bring peace. One is that if God supplied the things in the first place, He can surely provide them in the second. Secondly, if He didn’t provide them, then you might question why you had them. If we argue that we worked for them and God didn’t supply them then they were not of faith so having lost them we should rejoice in the opportunity of acquiring them by faith the next time. Reference to Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all show how they looked to a future based upon the spiritual blessings from God. The blessings they had received they passed to their descendants, thus expressing their faith in the promises being fulfilled even though they themselves were reaching the end of their own life. Jacob even forced himself up from his death bed, in order to pass this blessing on. How strongly he must have believed, and how important it must have been to him, to bless his grandchildren. With his last effort of strength he exercised his faith. Joseph also believed in the promises being fulfilled for he made plans for the future, by ordering that his bones be taken with the Israelites to the promised land when they left. Sometimes it takes faith to believe that the Lord will return in a few years from now. Such people will make no plans for the future. They will not build or extend their churches for they believe that it will prove futile, because of the imminent return of the Lord. The key to this dilemma is to do whatever one feels right to do in faith. Those still building churches when the Lord comes will be building in faith, knowing that should the Lord tarry then future blessing would need accommodating in new buildings. Is it not true that in the realms of faith and trust, two people can do identical things, yet one could be acting in faith, while the other in unbelief. Further to the examples just mentioned, supposing a preacher heads two hundred miles to preach at a certain church. While travelling a thick fog descends upon the motor way. He then is faced with a dilemma, - should he continue or pull up and may be head back home. He could pull over and cease travelling, for fear of losing his life in a crash. He may be doing that in unbelief, not fully believing that God would protect him according to his many promises in the Psalms. However, there are those who have an unwritten law within them, never to tempt the providence of God by putting themselves in physical danger. Such a person could pull over in faith that the Lord had caused the fog, thus it was obviously not His will for the preacher to go to the meeting. God would provide another preacher quite easily. The reverse of that scenario, is the preacher who journeys on through the fog. Like the other person he could act either in unbelief or faith. He could move on in unbelief that God was in control and that He could not easily supply another preacher, or He could continue in faith that God would be with Him and protect him. So you see, it is not so much what we do, as to whether we act correctly, but whether we act in faith or not. Sadly many cannot see these two ways of looking at things and tend to deny the faith of any who do things that they would not do. In the last resort it is the Lord who judges us, for He alone knows whether we are acting in faith or not. Though some believe that the Lord is likely to return within the foreseeable future, wisdom should dictate that we allow those who are young to still plan their lives in the faith and belief that there is an earthly future for the Lord’s work, well into the 21st century and beyond. MOSES; Much could be said of the faith of Moses, sufficient merely to comment firstly on the faith of godly parents. While all other children were being slaughtered and there was no possible chance of theirs surviving either, they made a plan which God honoured and sent the only person in the country who could have safely engineered the protection of this Hebrew child, i.e. Pharaoh’s daughter. On a lighter, note here is a riddle; Is it not true to say that Moses was not only the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he was also the daughter of Pharaoh’s son. The riddle is true in either case, as you will no doubt discern but the real truth is that he was not the son of either, he was only brought up as the adopted son. His true identity he refused to deny or sacrifice. How easily we can lose our identity in this world. We are not of this world and Jesus told his disciples, not to seek after those things which the heathen seek after, but to be different. Sadly all too often a Christian’s lifestyle, ambitions and philosophies are no different from that of the worldling. The four Hebrew lads in Babylon, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were all subject to the same pressure in that foreign land. But they refused to wear Babylonian clothes or eat their food or worship their gods. Though they were given Babylonian names against their will, yet they kept their identity, though they stuck out like sore thumbs, and suffered as a consequence. Suffering is oft the consequence of such witness. Peter concealed his identity at the fire of denial when challenged by a young girl. Moses however, chose suffering with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season in Egypt. We also show our faith BY THE CHOICES WE MAKE. In the sixties in Everton, Liverpool, a young man who was challenged by the gospel call, was heard to reply that he didn’t want to become a Christian for he had other plans. He wanted “to enjoy sin”. He joined the navy and when home on leave was seen to stand outside the local pub, mocking his former mates who had accepted the call, as they were coming home from church. However his enjoyment of sin was only for a season. When he was but twenty one, he put his head in a gas oven and killed himself. Moses showed his faith because he reckoned on the reward; This brings into focus the purpose of this chapter. Faith sees a glorious future. The Hebrews were being exhorted to endure in faith. Certainly it may not be easy, but that is no reason to give up. Young people sometimes attend night school studies, while their friends are out enjoying themselves. For they reason that in the end they will be better off as far as pleasure is concerned, than those who would enjoy pleasure rather than study while they are young. They are exercising faith. They are showing what they believe by their actions. Verse 26, uses what could be regarded as a strange turn of phrase; i.e. “the reproach of Christ”. What, you may ask, did Moses have to do with Christ who did not come on the scene till 1500 years later? The answer is this; as surely as we look back in faith in what Christ has done, so the Jews who believed and pleased God, looked forward to Christ with similar faith. (Christ means “Messiah”, and the hope of their faith was the ultimate coming of their promised Messiah) Thus we see that faith under the old agreement was just the same as faith is under the new agreement. All God has ever looked for is faith in Christ, who is the substance of his word and promises. In 1 Cor. Ch. 10 we have similar strange verses. Referring to the rock in the wilderness as Christ, from which the Israelites drank. The inference in those verses is that they were all on the same road as Christ, though Christ came later. We are on the same road, though Christ came before us. This beautiful chapter binds the bible together as one book. They all did wonderful works, but it was not their works that God was pleased with as much as their faith, by which they did the works. The last verse of the chapter states clearly that the believers under the old agreement were never complete in their faith, for they never saw their promises fulfilled. We, the church today, are the fulfilment of those promises. The coming of the Messiah for whom they lived in preparation of his coming, has come. We are therefore by our faith completing their faith. We all have salvation by faith in Christ. That does not mean that all the Jews were saved, just as today all who profess to be believers are saved. Today we have many who say they believe in Christ, but really they are still trusting in their own good works or religious piety to save them. So it was under the old agreement. God knew then and still knows now, those who are really trusting, and those HE justifies. God does the justifying, we do the trusting. We spoke earlier of godly fear. Once again we recognise the faith of fear in Moses. It has been rightly said, “Fear God and fear no-one”. Moses feared not the wrath of the king but rather the wrath of God. Similarly the early church when told to refrain from preaching Christ went out and declared his name more vigorously, because they said they ought to obey God rather than men. Moses had seen the wrath of God upon the Egyptians, who did not partake of the Passover. The gospel (good news) as outlined in Romans is based upon the bad news concerning the wrath of God which has been revealed from heaven against all ungodliness. The Passover, the ark of Noah, and the Gospel are strong towers into which the righteous, fearfully run for shelter and salvation. The Red Sea parted for the children of Israel to walk through by faith. They could have withdrawn or refused to go through, simply on the grounds that what they saw before their eyes was unbelievable. Like the three young men in the fiery furnace, like Daniel in the lion’s den, so to walk through the waters was an act of faith. All their reasoning and previous education told them they were in terrible danger. God honoured their faith. What their eyes told them was to stay on the Egyptian shore. But their faith, though in fear and trembling, may be, took them through to the other side in safety. The Egyptians tried to do the same, but failed. Their faith to cross was not faith in God. Reference is made to the Walls of Jericho but none to Joshua. Reference is made rather to Rahab, who was saved by faith. Was it an earthquake that knocked the walls down? Was it the power of God’s hand that made them crumble? Was it Joshua? No it was his faith and the faith of the people who endured, walking round thirteen times in all, as the Lord had commanded. Like Noah, this marching seemed to be an act of ultimate folly. So likewise the gospel is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are saved it is the power and wisdom of God. We also will appear fools to live lives centred on a future which is invisible, and spiritual As the chapter continues the writer ponders on the thought of all that could be said concerning faith in the Old Testament. To speak of faith in the Old Testament and not mention David, Samson, Gideon and such like might seem like painting half a picture, but no, the point had been made. There was sufficient incentive for the Hebrews to begin to walk the life of faith once more. These heroes of the Old Testament all confirm the power of faith, but also endorse the inevitable that obstacles have to be overcome, opposition has to be subdued and mountains have to be moved. Many did such things by their faith, but others who faced manifold suffering, lost their lives rather than surrender their faith. Some were tortured for their faith and could have easily brought their suffering to an end, by renunciation, but no! theyconsidered the resurrection a better prize than deliverance. Reference is made to those sawn in two. Could this perhaps be a reference to Isaiah, who like all other prophets, was persecuted. Tradition tells us that Isaiah was sawn in two. The parallel thought suggests that his book was also sawn in two. For it is clearly in two distinct parts, 39 chapters in the first part about Judgement and 27 in the second part concerning Salvation. So much so that scholars would declare that there must have been two Isaiah’s because the two parts are so different. However, herein we see the inspiration of scripture, for Isaiah is a miniature bible, with its 66 chapters emulating the 66 books of the bible with similar division of Old Testament (39 chapters) and the New Testament (27 chapters) and each having a similar message, of Judgement and Salvation. Also the central chapter of the second half is Isaiah ch. 53- all about the cross. One thing that we can draw from this chapter is that merely being a Christian will guarantee some form of opposition or tribulation. But that is all within the plan of God, for tribulation does an excellent job within God’s economy. Romans ch. 5 v 5 says that “tribulation works”. It produces or manufactures endurance. Those who come through with endurance receive the stamp of God’s approval upon them and those who receive such approval have the “hope of the glory of God.” - the glory which we have all come short of through sin (Rom 3:23.) Those who can believe when all goes well, do not bring much glory to God, but those who believe that God is with them and that God loves them when everything about them suggests the opposite, provide God with ample reason to rub Satan’s nose in the ashes of his defeat. Both under the new and the old agreements those who have believed have been persecuted. One might ask quite rightly, why should just the simple matter of what you believe, bring about such persecution. However the reasons are hidden to the natural eye. Jesus said they hated him without a cause and the world would hate his disciples for similar lack of cause. It is not the people who oppose but the spirit in the people. That spirit recognises the spirit in us, and even if we at times doubt may be, our own divine nature because of our adverse or “god-less” circumstances, yet we can take comfort that the opposition recognises us enough to attack us and seek to destroy our faith. “Take heed ,” said Jesus “when you are popular, but rejoice when you are persecuted, for they persecuted the prophets that were before you.” Like iron re-enforces concrete, so we see the cast iron solidarity of the whole of the scriptures from the last verse in this chapter. Faith is reinforced by tribulation. Those of old endured, so how much more should we, having had a far better covenant delivered unto us to believe. Those contemporaries of the saints who lived for ease and pleasure, and the things of this world, are known no more. Their lives were lived for nought, but those who were in tune with the will of God and the promises and purposes of God, now enjoy in glory the fruit of their faith, and the dividend of their investment. These old time heroes now in glory look over the battlements of heaven like a crowd of cheering spectators, sat high in the stands at an athletic meeting to cheer us on. “Go on” they cry, “do not give up. It is worth it in the end!”
Receiving promises” One of the great phrases in ch.11 is that by faith some people under the old covenant “received promises”. God looks for people to whom he can give His promises. He would not want to waste such promises, so he looks for people with faith. If someone gives you a five pound note, it is really just a promise. If you believe the promise you will spend it. Just because a promise is written in the word of God does not mean that we can expect God to honour it on all occasions. For one, it would not be practical, but the bible is the Sword of the Spirit. It is not our sword. Like a golfer’s caddie hands the appropriate club or iron to a golfer, so the Holy spirit will produce a promise from the word, appropriate for the need of the hour. But if the Spirit knows we will not truly believe it, He is hardly likely to give the promise. God looks for people with faith today to whom He can give His promises. Without it, it is impossible to please Him. Faith is the life of God, he looks for it in men and women today. There are lots of “cranial christians” about,- full of head knowledge, little of heart; those who seem not to believe anything unless it is confirmed by scientists or doctors. Little wonder that such never seem inclined to count the promises of God relevant to their daily needs and lives.
BOARD SUMMARY: CH 11 Heroes of Faith Note the “REALITY” of faith- “substance” “evidence” Note that generally their faith was set in the future. Note that many showed their faith by the choices they made. Note that they all died, still believing but not having seen. Note that Moses “saw the invisible”- v 27. Note that some did not want deliverance from their tribulation knowing that they would obtain a better resurrection Note that we are the fulfilment of what they believed for but did not see (v 40)