Today I want us to read one of my favourite passages from the letter to the Hebrews; chapter 11. In case you don’t have time to read it all, I’ve extracted a selection of verses, but if you have longer it’s well worth reading the whole thing.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
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.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
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 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 had marched round them for seven days.
The letter writer has referenced a long list of examples (the above is less than half of it!) of people described in the Old Testament who have shown great faith in God. It continues a theme running throughout all the letters we have looked at where the early Christian teachings were centred around the Old Testament, in particular the first five books which make up the Jewish Torah. This is perhaps not surprising, but it marks a change from today where it’s easy for our focus to be more on the New Testament.
I really like the introductory definition of faith in the first verse; “confidence in what we hope for”. I’ve encouraged you a number of times in the last few weeks to consider how strong your faith is, and how confidently we hold our beliefs. Whatever your answer, you might find this passage an inspiring list of people who have given their entire lives to God’s service. It’s hard to think of more extreme examples than being willing to lose or give over a child as in the cases of Isaac and Moses.
What’s the greatest thing you have done ‘by faith’? How does a belief and trust in God shape your life?