[‘If there is true faith, there will be consequent actions. The writer now launches on a lengthy section in which he shows the variety of actions that can accompany faith, depending on the circumstances which an individual faces. The one mark that is shared by all these activities is that each is unusual. Faith makes some people act differently than others. They will not fit the common mold or drift along with the multitude." IVP New Testament Commentary Series by Ray C. Stedman]
Here in Chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the Jewish believers in Christ to persevere in faith and to not return to Judaism (the Mosaic Law) although they are suffering for their faith in Jesus (Heb. 10:32-39). He wisely uses examples of men and women only from the OT era and most of whom lived before the Mosaic Law (even Moses' testimony of faith is before the Law). Even the Mosaic Law was a means of God's forgiveness by faith and yet the religious leaders had perverted into a system of works. Last week we looked at two men of faith (Abel and Enoch) who lived before the Flood and today we will look at Noah who lived on both sides of the Flood, along with Abraham the father of faith and the beginning of the Jewish nation.
"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he *condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." (*"His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the righetness of the believing world." The Message) Noah descended from the godly line of Seth (who God gave to Adam and Eve to replace godly Abel) and was praised by God. "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God." (Gen. 6:9) He "became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (not by works) and radically obeyed God and built an ark (a boat, ship) in the middle of the Mesopotamian dry land where the people had never heard of a boat and the earth had never seen rain or a flood (Gen. 2:5-6). Not only that, it took him 120 years to build it and he preached righteousness the entire time as he built it (Gen. 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5) and most likely amidst mockery of all the people as no one repented. And Jesus tells us that the same will happen at His return as people refuse to turn to Him for salvation: "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt. 24:37-39). Noah is an example of persevering faith in the midst of a hostile world of unbelievers and an inspiration for us today as hostility against Christianity increases. If we are a minority today think of Noah's enduring faith when only eight people in the entire world believed in God! (Matt. 7:13-14)
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
"And he went out, not knowing where he was going." Although this may seem foolish or radical to us, this is the way of faith for all believers. We too are told to separate ourselves from the world of sin (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17) and go to a place we have never seen (heaven). To do this we like Abraham must stay close to our Guide (Jesus) and learn to hear his voice (John 10:27) so we can follow Him (Luke 14:25-33) for He alones knows the way (He is the way; John 14:6) and He promises to never to leave us (Heb. 13:5).
["A real Christian is an odd number, anyway. He feels supreme love for the One whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible; hears the inaudible' and knows that which passes understanding." A.W. Tozer]
"The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." (Prov.16:9) George Mueller said the first step in hearing God's voice and knowing His will is to lay down our will (see the call of God IH) Our tendency is to ask God to show us His will then evaluate it and validate it if it lines up with our will. We have to lay down our plans; our vacation plan, our five-year plan, and even our retirement plan and like Abraham say to God, "You tell me where to go, what to do and how to use all the resources you have given me and continue to give to me for it all belongs to you not me."
It is also encouraging to recall that Abraham (and others seen in Hebrews 11) made a lot of mistakes (sin) in his walk of faith. He began his journey of faith in a halting way as He went to Haran with his father (he was told to leave his family; Luke 9:57-62) and he remained there (procrastinated) until His father died. (He lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own skin (twice); He listened to his wife's worldly counsel instead of believing God's promise and went into Hagar and bore Ishmael which grew into a nation that opposed Israel. But he remained faithful and correctable to the end as seen in his supreme test of faith to offer Isaac to God as a burnt offering.
Abraham's faithfulness is also seen in his willingness to wait for the recompense of his faithful obedience until heaven even though God Himself had promised him Canaan as his earthly inheritance (which he and his people the Jews will have in the Millennial Kingdom). Without an eternal perspective on life we can get very confused and even angry with God's plan for our life. I often tell people without understanding the Bible from beginning to end it is like going to see a good movie but arriving late and missing the plot and then leaving early without seeing the good ending. The middle makes no sense and without the good ending it is confusing and frustrating at best. So without an understanding of the Fall (the beginning) and God's judgment on man and this world (the middle – this present evil age: Gal 1:4) and the hope of heaven (the good ending that last forever) where all or our faithful obedience to God will be fully rewarded FOREVER, it will be very difficult to remain faithful to God. (I recommend Randy Alcorn's book, If God is Good that explains this very well.)
"[Many, who have a part in the promises, do not soon receive the things promised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance; can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims, traveling toward their home. By faith, they overcome the terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and to all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly and savingl called out of a sinful state, have no mind to return into it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and the stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be." Matthew Henry]
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. ["The one mark that is shared by all these activities is that each is unusual. Faith makes some people act differently than others. They will not fit the common mold or drift along with the multitude." IVP New Testament Commentary Series by Ray C. Stedman] How does your faith in Christ make you unusual, different and uncommon?
2. If we are a minority today think of Noah's enduring faith when only eight people (his family) in the entire world believed in God! Read Matt. 7:13-14 and discuss how this relates to Noah and us as believers today.
3. What emotions do you think Abraham experienced initially and along the way as he left it all and followed God? What steps of faith have you taken and what were some of the feelings you had initially and along the way?
4. "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." (Prov.16:9) George Mueller said the first step in hearing God's voice and knowing His will is to lay down our will. What would inspire someone to "lay down his own will" to follow God?
5. Abraham's faithfulness is also seen in his willingness to wait for the recompense of his faithful obedience until heaven. Without an eternal perspective on life we can get very confused and even angry with God's plan for our life. [" All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and the stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be." Matthew Henry] How fervent is your desire for your heavenly inheritance?