Five Minute Devotions: Hebrews 11
After several chapters of in-depth teaching on the Old Testament priestly system, the author of Hebrews turns to a recitation of Hebrew history meant to encourage these believers in their faith. At the end of Hebrews 10, he or she had called on the believers to persevere, exhorting them to have faith in coming return of Christ. This places the believers at the end of a long line of faith heroes who have exemplified what it means to have faith.
The American author and cynic Mark Twain once wrote: “Faith is believing in what you know ain’t so.” To take it into modern times, Bill Maher has said that “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” That’s not the kind of faith the Bible envisions. The faith from Scripture is peer-reviewed and evidence-based. It is a reasonable faith, based on the lived experiences of so many who came before us.
The whole of Hebrews 11 is intended to show off the fact that we do not stand alone, but are a part of a grand history filled with heroes and rogues who all put their faith in Yahweh. The major figures of the Pentateuch receive mention—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses. He or she does not even neglect to mention the great women of faith—Sarah and Rahab.
Some of the people mentioned are ones we cringe at a bit. Samson—there’s nary a good word about him in his story in Judges. Gideon—he starts off strong but ends up developing a religious cult. And yet the author of Hebrews says they had faith in Yahweh. These are sinful, deeply imperfect people and yet they still merit mention in this great hall of faith.
A Leaping Point
And despite our faith being a reasonable faith, it is still faith. There is still a leaping point. Not a blind leap into the dark, but a reasonable step into the light. The author posits that since we have seen God provide again and again, we can have confidence that our faith is well-placed. But we must still take that step. Intellectual belief is not enough—the demon have that. We must move from the rational into the experiential. We must give ourselves over to that faith.
The conclusion of the chapter diverges from the happy stories of victory into the gruesome stories of persecution:
Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. – Hebrews 11:36-38
The author is unapologetic that following this faith may lead to persecution and death. And he maintains this because he knows—by faith—that a greater reward awaits. With great power comes great responsibility, if one can quote Ben Parker. And every superhero is antagonized by his or her supervillain. Why should it be any different for those in whom the supernatural presence of God dwells?
And yet, the author counts the cost and says it is worth it.
Father, may you deem us worthy to be the latest in this long line of those saved by faith. Give us the patience of Abraham, the holiness of Enoch, and the resolve of Moses.
Many of the people mentioned in passing are deeply flawed people with significant sins. What does that say about who God sees as rich in faith?
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