18 January, 2022

Nov. 28 | Join the Ranks of the Faithful

by | 22 November, 2021 | 0 comments

Unit: Hebrews (Part 3)
Lesson Text: 
Hebrews 11:1-6, 30-40; 12:1-3
Supplemental Text: 
Hebrews 11:7-29
Determine to put your faith into action.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Nov28_2021.

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By Mark Scott  

Sports figures look to former great athletes (like Michael Jordan) for inspiration. Doctors look to former medical personnel (like Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin) to build on their discoveries. Inventors look to former inventors (like Thomas Edison) for motivation to keep trying. Christians look to their faithful forebears to receive what has been promised by God.

The writer of Hebrews encouraged readers not to give up, to look to faithful examples, and to consider Jesus. Therein we can join the ranks of the faithful. Twila Paris sings, “Come and join the reapers, all the kingdom seekers . . . for the Lord is calling faithful men.”

The Faithful Understand Faith’s Description and Importance
Hebrews 11:1-6

Many people use Hebrews 11:1 as a definition for faith. After all, the word “is” is in the verse. But what kind of “is” is it? The word faith does not mean confidence (that which undergirds) and assurance (refutes adversaries). Perhaps the “is” is more descriptive than definitive. What follows in the chapter are certainly not definitions as much as examples. These examples are from the ancients (elders). They were commended (the Greek word is martureō, and it appears several times in this text).

One event and two people were immediately mentioned. The event was creation. The universe (age) was made by particles that cannot be seen. Faith is necessary to appreciate that. The two ancients were Abel (in contrast with Cain) and Enoch. Abel’s offering was better and spoken well of by God—evidently because it was offered in faith. Enoch walked with God and did not experience death (Genesis 4–5). Others mentioned in our lesson text include Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob/Esau, the sons of Joseph, Moses, and the people of the Exodus.

The importance of faith is seen in Hebrews 11:6. Faith pleases God. The one who has it will believe that he exists and that he rewards people who search for him.

The Faithful Are Commended for Looking Forward
Hebrews 11:30-40

The writer’s list of the faithful continues. Some surprises are on the list. We learn of the people of the conquest (Joshua’s era). We learn of the judges—Gideon (who started well but ended with some arrogance), Barak (who needed lots of help from Deborah), Samson (who was something of a playboy but judged Israel for 20 years and must have done some good things), Jephthah (who was presumptuous with a vow), David, Samuel, and the prophets. The commended are reviewed with what we might call “compressed narratives.” They conquered kingdoms, administered (worked) justice, . . . shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6), quenched the fury of the flames (Daniel 3), escaped the edge of the sword . . . and routed foreign armies. They were all examples of God turning weakness to strength.

The writer mentioned the good things the commended did as well as the things they endured. They endured death (some were raised from the dead—1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37); they endured torture (as in the tightening of drum strings); they endured jeering, floggings, chains, prison, stoning, martyrdom, and many other heinous things. Indeed, the world was not worthy of them. But they were commended for their faith because they looked beyond the present. The implied message for the Hebrews was this: Why would you go back when you have what the ancients could only hope for?

The Faithful One
Hebrews 12:1-3

As the Epistle moved into the final applications, the writer offered one more look at Jesus. The supreme example of walking by faith was Jesus himself. The Hebrews should fix their eyes on him. He is the pioneer (Hebrews 2:10) and perfecter of faith. Just like the faithful before him, Jesus endured much (like the cross). In fact, he scorned (to think down) its shame. Jesus endured tons of flack, but he never lost heart.

Believers have cheerleaders from the past (a great cloud of witnesses—maybe the people mentioned in Hebrews 11) and a glorious Savior in the present. So, like a runner getting ready to run a race, the believer throws off anything that hinders—these could be good things or bad things. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Put faith into action by looking to the Bethlehem baby.

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