This is one of the most well known passages in the book of Hebrews, and it is often referred to as ‘The Hall of Heroes’. The chapter highlights a number of Old Testament characters and shows how all of them have lived by faith. This same faith is what the author is encouraging in his or her readers as they face hardship and pressure for their Christianity, and it is a must for us as well as we endeavour to live for Jesus in our culture.
The passage begins with a definition of faith (‘assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen’) before showing it played out in the lives of Abel, Enoch and Noah. The acts that they are noted for (an acceptable sacrifice, walking with God and not dying, and responding to God’s warning and building the ark) were all acts of faith, as they made choices in the present on the basis of belief in how God would reward them in the future.
The author then spends quite a bit of time considering the examples of Abraham and Sarah. Obeying God’s call to leave home, living as a stranger in a foreign land, believing God’s promise of an heir despite their old age, and being willing to offer up Isaac. In all of it there was a focus not just on the immediate earthly circumstances getting better, but in the heavenly city they were anticipating. It is this same attitude that also led Isaac and Jacob to act in faith.
The next character highlighted is Moses. His choice was very relevant for the readers (and us) and it was between courting cultural privilege or being willing to bear the name of Christ and suffer reproach. By faith, he knew that even being mistreated for faith was worth more than all the treasures of Egypt.
The author then alludes to many more Old Testament characters in quick succession, and builds the case that throughout the Old Testament, faith has inspired God’s people to be willing to endure times of hardship and suffering. They never saw the fulfilment of the promises to the degree that we have, and yet they still endured. They are examples and inspirations for us as we go through times of suffering for our faith.
Some Key Points:
- If we are to endure suffering for Christ, we can only do so by faith.
- In the Old Testament, there are many examples of people who lived through hardship and sacrifice and who did so by faith.
- Faith involved looking to what we cannot yet see, and trusting in the future promises of God as the basis for our decisions in the present.
- Consider God’s Promises – The reason the characters listed in this chapter could act with such certain faith is that they knew and trusted God’s promises. The more we reflect on those promises, the stronger our faith will be.
- Be Ready For Hardship – Often following God is hard and involves suffering or sacrifice in the present. Realise that this is not unusual, but we have been called to take up our cross and endure whatever comes our way.
- Live By Faith – As you face choices in life, particularly costly ones, look to God and follow the examples of the characters highlighted here in living by faith.