Hebrews 11: Part II
In our last lesson we looked at the first three verses in Hebrews 11 as we looked at the definition of faith and what it does. Now I want to connect the dots between verse 1, and the bridge verse in verse 2 to verse 6 with the illustration of two men, Abel and Enoch, we read about in verses 4 & 5 which will help us put it all together. Faith begins with things hoped for which tells each of us there is something in our life which is missing. We are discontent; we are dissatisfied and long for something better. As we remarked, there are two ways in life: the Narrow Way and the Broad Way which intersect at the corner of Things Hoped For. The intersection is also the intersection of the Quest for Happiness and the Quest for Truth. What decision we make at this crossroad is the most important decision in life. “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths; ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for you souls.” (Jeremiah 6)
We will reap what we sow. Our decision here will tell us what we will inherit. We read we needed endurance, perseverance to receive our inheritance. First we were told in Hebrews 10: 35-“Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Then the very next verse tells us: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” We also looked back at a verse in Hebrews 6:11& 12, which told us: “We want each of you to show diligence to the end in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” So now in Hebrews 11, the author begins to provide us with examples and illustrations who through faith and patience inherited the promises of God. These are written for our examples, so we may imitate them and inherit the promises of God.
Here is the pattern: 1. Enduring confidence in God; 2. Doing the will of God in the power of that confidence; 3. Receiving what was promised. And in today’s society and culture – we need endurance like never before. You must find your pace and your place so you can finish the race.
THOSE WHO GAINED APPROVAL
Verse 2 tells us: “For by it the elders obtained a good report.” KJV “This is what the ancients were commended for.” NIV The faith described in Hebrews 11:1 tells us faith is two things: it is being sure of God’s promises; and it is believing in, being convinced that things not seen do in fact exist. For by this type of faith these men gained approval by God- they pleased God.
Abel is our first example. Abel and his brother Cain were the first two offspring of Adam and Eve. Abel’s faith was in something which is the most important lesson we must learn. The blood sacrifice teaches us a life must be laid down, sacrificed, before one can have the life of God. Abel believed God’s Word and as a result came to God by God’s prescribed way. Cain did not. Cain thought he would do it His way and one way was as good as another for coming to God. Jesus would later tell us He is the Way and no man comes to the Father except by Him. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted, Abel’s was. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor.” (Genesis 4: 4, 5) Abel’s offering was approved because he made the offering by faith.* It is not just what we do that matters, but how we do it.* Do our actions express the assurance of things hoped for? After Adam and Eve’s sin and fall from the Garden, God opened a new way for the children of men to return to Him in worship. After the fall, God must be worshipped by sacrifices, the shedding of blood. Cain was the first born and Abel was the second. We read in Genesis 4, Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the ground. We read ‘in the process of time, Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground and Abel also brought of the first born of the flock.’ The Lord looked with favor; respected Abel’s offering but did not look with favor on Cain’s. Cain had not come the way God told him he must come. Cain was angry. God gives Cain a second chance and also gives us a grave warning about sin- which is disobedience to God. “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, and to rule over you.” Sin is waiting at the door, knocking and wanting to come in and rule over your life.
Abel lived by faith and died for it- which sets the pattern we are to imitate. He was not intimidated by his brother, who evidently was a bully with an uncontrollable temper. Abel left behind a witness of the type of faith described in Hebrews 11:1. And so we see the first martyr of faith. Abel becomes the first inductee into the Hall of Fame of Faith.
Next illustration we are given is Enoch. Enoch was the father of Methuselah. We are told he was 65 years old when Methuselah was born. Then we read in Genesis 5: “After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. And Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him.” The NIV says Enoch was no more for God took him. And in Hebrews 11: 5, we are told, “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. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”
Now when we read the Old Testament accounts of these men, we will not see the word, ‘faith’ in either of their stories. The writer of Hebrews is leading us to a truth revealed in the next verse, in Hebrews11:6. The accounts of these two men in Genesis 4 and 5 tell us: God looked with favor (respect) at Abel’s offering, and it simply tells us Enoch walked with God for 300 years.
Enoch is an interesting man, especially for the time in which he lived. A population explosion was beginning. Whereas, Genesis 5 records this population explosion, Genesis 6 reveals the results- wickedness of man was great on earth, with evil on their minds continually. Enoch was also a prophet because the name he gave his son, Methuselah means- ‘when he dies it will come.” This spoke of the flood which would come in the days of Noah. It would be throughout Methuselah’s life conditions on earth went from bad to worse.
Now ‘walk’ in the Scriptures both Old Testament and New refers to our lifestyle, the way we live. For example in Ephesians 2 we read: “ And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.’
- Just a thought: Can you visualize how God had placed a sign by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which read: No Trespassing, having told Adam the penalty for trespassing would be death. The enemy of our soul entices us to trespass, disobey God by deceiving us. His deception is there is no penalty for trespassing and there is only pleasure to be had. He reduces the risk to increase the interest and we are conned by the prince of lies and deceit.
Enoch had an encounter with God. It occurred after the birth of Methuselah at age 65. This encounter changed his life and his direction and from that day for the next 300 years he walked daily with the Lord. He is also a picture of the Rapture as he is taken away bodily, without tasting physical death before the rising tide of sin and wickedness crested. It was coming like a tsunami and it would wipe out the population of the earth except for Noah and his family. Enoch’s testimony is a quiet one. It is a testimony to the possibility of a living a quiet, godly life in a corrupt and careless age. Was Enoch saved by good works? No. In fact we will read in Hebrews 11:39- all of these in the Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame were commended for their faith.
So Hebrews 11: 5, tells us ‘he was commended, that he pleased God.’ This leads us to the logical conclusion stated by the writer of Hebrews in verse 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.”
Let’s state the obvious: Only with faith will our obedience please God. Therefore if Abel pleased God and Enoch pleased God, we can only conclude they pleased Him because they had faith. Their obedience, their works, came from faith in His Promises. This is how these men and women of old please God and obtained a good report. They believed God existed and they believe God was a rewarder.
Do you see that Abel and Enoch had faith and acted by faith? Without faith it is impossible to please God. Remember faith in God is the substance, the foundation of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
First we must believe God exists. Second we must believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Notice seek Him, not the reward). God is pleased with these two aspects of faith. You believe He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. God is pleased with us when we believe these two things about Him.
God is real. God is a rewarder.
This is what faith does: faith comes to God with the confidence He is; and faith comes with confidence God will be a generous giver. This is why we are told not to throw away our confidence in Him. God has given evidence in His creation to all of mankind, He exists. If man will then take the next step to seek Him, they will be rewarded by finding Him. Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7) It starts with asking. Prayer is how we communicate our needs and desires to God. God has all knowledge so He already knows what we need whether we ask or not, but prayer is the means God has chosen to bring about those answers. James writes ‘we have not, because we ask not. We also have not because we ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. The more time we spend in prayer and God’s Word the more we will know what to ask for in accordance with God’s Word. At other times, as Christians, we ask for things which God knows are not what we need and can harm us rather than help us. Why would God, a Loving Father give us something which would not be good for us. Jesus said if earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more can our Heavenly Father give. Our prayers reveal our dependence upon God and this pleases Him- for without faith it is impossible to please God.
Seek and you will find. What is it believers must be seeking? God Himself. “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.’ (Psalm 34:10) Seek the Lord with your whole heart- Jeremiah 29. God is not playing ‘hide and seek’ with us. God longs for you to see Him as He really is. Seek His Word for His promises and they will be found. “If you cry out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2) “I love those who love me and those who seek me will find me.” (Prov. 8: 17) “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Seeking God’s kingdom means putting God’s plan before our own; and seeking God’s righteousness means our priority is personal holiness and ongoing sanctification.
Knocking on the door means there is something we want behind the door and we want to come in; so we knock and keep on knocking until the door is opened. ASK, SEEK AND KNOCK. Asking is verbal, bringing my requests and petitions, my needs and desires to God. Seeking involves my mind, a focusing of my heart to discover God’s will. To know the way, the truth and the life. Knocking is faith in action. All three are necessary and when we do and keep on – Jesus says we will be given, we will find and it will be opened to us.
It pleases God when we come to Him in faith, when we come to Him in the way He has instructed, just as He did with Abel. When we live our lives like this – when we display our love and confidence in Him, the Father of Lights in whom there is no shadow or turning, then we become the light and salt we are called to be. Enoch was a light in a world which was growing darker. His son Methuselah would be the grandfather of Noah.
Methuselah witnessed to the patience of God, who is longsuffering. This is why Methuselah lives longer than any man on earth, because God is not willing that any should perish but would come to repentance.
His son Lamech would be the father of Noah, our next inductee in the hall of fame.
Noah will be an excellent example of one whose faith enabled him to believe God for things not yet seen. We will want to take an in depth look at the conditions of the world in the days of Noah, for the Lord Jesus told us , as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the time of His Second coming. It was time of spiritual decay, shameless depravity, social dilemmas, and strong delusion. The world was described as this way in Genesis 6: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”