1, 2. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.
The names of those who lived in old time are handed down with commendation because of their faith. If they had had no faith, we should have had no report of them.
3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
The world was not made out of the world. There was nothing to make it out of. It was created simply by the word of God, and our faith knows that. I question whether we should ever get in the matter of the creation beyond what is revealed to our faith. Reason is all very well, but faith mounts upon the shoulders of reason, and sees much farther than reason with her best telescope will ever be able to see. It is enough for us who have faith that God has told us how he made the world, and we believe it.
4. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
He spoke by faith when he lived. Faith makes him speak now that he is dead. What wonders faith can work. The first saint who entered heaven entered there, it is certain, by faith. It was faith that enabled him to present an acceptable sacrifice, and it was faith that presented him to heaven. If the first who entered heaven entered there by faith, rest assured that will be true to the last; and none will enter there but those who believe.
5. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Beloved, if we cannot get a translation as Enoch did, let us not be content without getting God’s good pleasure as he did. Oh! that it may be said of us that we pleased God. Then we shall, one way or another, conquer death; for if we do, we shall triumph over the grave; and if Christ shall come before we die, we shall triumph in the coming of Christ. Anyhow, faith shall be more than a match for the last enemy.
6. But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Do we not sometimes fail in this matter? We try to come to God without believing that he is. We seem to pray to nothing, or to nobody, to a spectre, to a phantom. But that prayer which is accepted is prayer to a real God, of whom we are assured that he is. Do we not also fail in our belief as to the success of prayer? We do not fully recognize that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. He that prays, believing that God will be found by him, shall not pray in vain. Tonight we may well say, “Lord, increase our faith.”
7. By faith, Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear,
For there is a fear which comes of faith–a fear which is the strength of faith’s arms, by which it moves us into action. It is not slavish fear. It is a fit, and proper, and reasonable fear, such as any man must have that believes God’s threatenings. “Moved with fear.”
7. Prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Every act of faith condemns the world. Men who did not believe in God were, some of them, made to feel condemned, and others were condemned, even if they did not feel it, when they saw this holy man building a great ship upon dry land–a ship which he never would launch, but to which God would bring the sea, so that he should float over the waters deep, absolutely secure, whilst others perished. If you want to judge the wickedness of men, you need not set yourself to do it in the first place. Live a holy life, and you will judge the ungodly. I have heard it said that if there is a crooked stick, and you want to show how crooked it is, you need not waste words in description. Place a straight one by the side of it, and the thing is done directly. Noah condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
Very easy to read about that, but not so easy to do it–to tear yourself from home and friends–to go into a totally unknown country, swarming with enemies, solely on the promise that one day that country should belong to his seed. It might be hundreds of years afterwards: but God had called him, and Abraham raised no question, but away he went.
9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country,
Not building a house there–not becoming a citizen of it, but always dwelling there in gypsy fashion.
9. Dwelling in tabernacles
That is, in tents.
9, 10. With Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
He did not build a city. He did not try to do so, “for he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.”
11. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
And that was good judgment, was it not? There is no mistake about that. Whatever difficulties may lie in the way, we may always know that he is faithful who hath promised. You are not past age, my brother. God will bless you in seeking to do good. You are not past age, my sister. Have but faith in God, and then in your old age you may bring many to the Saviour’s feet. He is faithful that has promised.
12. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead,
For he was ordered to be sacrificed. There sprung from one, and him as good as dead.
12. So many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
Or if this text means Abraham, then his body was dead; and yet there sprang of him a seed “so many as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable.”
13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises,
By which is meant, not that they did not receive the promises, but they did not receive the things promised.
13, 14. But having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
They have not come to it yet; nor will they as long as they are here below. They are still seeking a country.
15. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
Abraham, if he wanted to settle down, might have crossed once more the river, and gone back to Ur of Chaldees. But he did not look for a city upon earth. He was evidently looking for one somewhere else. The country that he sought was not beyond the Euphrates, but beyond the narrow stream of death.
16. But now they desire a better country,
Do you feel those desires within your heart? If not, surely you have no faith, for they that have faith in the better country desire it.
16. That is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
He might be ashamed to be called their God if he had unsettled them, and made them long for another city, and yet had never prepared one for them. The longings of the saints are but prophecies of the benediction of God. That which he makes us hunger for, is prepared. The bread of life shall be given us, and that country which he makes us seek, exists, and will be found of us. Wherefore keep your face that way, and let every longing and pining for the home country reassure you that this is not any dreamland, but that there is such a place.
17-19. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed by called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure.
Faith does not always account. She is satisfied with God’s word. But when she does account, then she is great at accounts, for here is a man who had not heard of the resurrection from the dead, yet believing in it. Christ had not risen from the dead. There had been no such chapter for Abraham to read as that wonderful one, the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to Corinthians; and yet his faith seemed to have a revelation within itself. God must keep his promise. Therefore, if I, in obedience to him, put the promised seed to death, God can raise him up, for he must keep his promise. He cannot lie.
20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Blind as he was, he could see more than many that have good eyes, for he had the eyes of faith. There is no end to the blessing that faith can bestow upon others. A believing man can bless his children. I believe in the blessings of good men. Why should I not? If they are believers, they have power with God. Their wishes are prayers. Their prayers are heard. Their blessings then are realities.
21. By faith Jacob when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
That wonderful staff on which he leaned when he came out of Jabbok–that wonderful staff with which he crossed this Jordan in his poverty, but after which he became two bands.
22. By faith Joseph when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
Faith touches all sense of things–even a funeral and bones, too, for faith is good at everything. She can sweep the house and seek diligently. She can enter heaven. She can go to the gates of death. Oh! for more of it!
23. By faith Moses when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
Their faith made them hide him, for that faith laid hold of God, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
24-26. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Exposition on Hebrews 11:1-26 Charles Spurgeon