Thursday, August 5

Faith in Action

This entry is a bit different than previous. Most of the entry will be from chapter eleven from the book of Hebrews. I want you to read these words. This will not be a continuous form of entry, but it is something I feel I need to share. Yes, faithfulness is a subject I have covered several times before. (See entries: The Faithfulness of Abraham, The Faithfulness of Gideon) This time, we are going to see what the Word of God says about the saints of the Hebrew Bible. (Picture credit to: Ruh Di Khurak)


We can become more faithful to the one who created and died for us, so that we could be saved - for we cannot repay his sacrifice, but we can put our faith in him. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) This is from Hebrews 11 (NIV), the chapter is titled, "Faith in Action."

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 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. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 'He could not be found, because God had taken him away.' [Genesis 5:24] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. 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.

"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. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past her childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who made the promise. And so from one man, [Abraham] 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. 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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son [although he also had Ishmael], even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' [Genesis 21:12] Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. 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. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so; they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army marched around them for seven days.

"By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were unbelieving. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released do that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faces jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning, they were sawed into two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was no worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

Permit me to conclude with the first three verses of Hebrews 12. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Trusting that you read the above chapter, I will continue. What we are shown here is an image of how we should be. If God asks us to do something, if we feel prompted by God, we need to trust him, to put our faith in him to do what he says he will do. When Hebrews 11 was referring to those who were faithful but did not receive what was promised them, this does not mean they did not receive salvation. This does not mean God did not fulfill his promise to them. On the contrary, all this means is that God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as countless as the stars, and they are. We, to this day, can estimate, but not know the exact number of people on the earth.

Abraham was also promised Canaan, the Promised Land. Abraham's descendants inherited Canaan, just as God promised, when Joshua, more than 400 Years later, led the Israelites into Canaan. God promises us certain things, and whatever he promises will come to pass. 

Troy Hillman 

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