Lesson Twelve—Hebrews 11:1-22 The Saints… Superior to All Men

Just as title deeds are the evidence of possessing property we may never have seen, so faith is the assurance or substantiating of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If God has said it, that settles it. Faith rests upon the sure foundation of the Word of the living God.

Walking in the course of this world there is no need for the exercise of faith. The whole world walks by sight or feeling. The just live and walk by faith. But our faith needs to be strengthened, and one great encouragement is to look back upon the course of those who have traveled the path before us. This is what we do in chapter 11 of Hebrews.

In the close of chapter 10 we were saddened to see some who were dropping out of the line, leaving the company of the saints, stepping out of the path to perdition. We are not of that class—we are of those who believe “to the saving of the soul.” In chapter 11 we are called upon to look at some of the nobles in the Grand Army of the Redeemed. They are seen as they are on their way to glory, a band of pilgrims, leaving the world and all that is in it for something they have never seen. The motive power for such strange action is faith. Faith makes the unseen world very near and very real.

In this magnificent array of Old Testament worthies, we will notice seven men in the book of Genesis. In each of these men we have a different aspect of faith.

1. In Abel We See Faith That Saves (v. 4)

We must begin at the beginning if we are to walk by faith. That is where Abel began. The blood marks the beginning. Notice four things in regard to Abel’s faith.

Abel’s faith took in the fact of sin. He did not ignore it as did Cain. He came as a guilty sinner bringing a sacrifice. Cain came “as a gentleman to exchange compliments with God.”

Abel’s faith recognized the only acceptable sacrifice for sin. His lamb was a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Abel’s faith was a justifying faith. He was accepted in the offering that he brought. By his sacrifice he obtained witness that he was righteous. Thus it is with every sinner who trusts in Christ’s atoning blood. Faith rests where God rests, in the accepted work of His beloved Son.

Abel’s faith was a living faith. By it, though dead, he is still pointing out to men the only true way of approach to God.

2. In Enoch We See Faith That Sustains (vv. 5, 6)

Enoch walked with God. Having come to God through His Son, accepted in all the value of the sacrifice He made, we go on with Him. The will of God was the rule of Enoch’s life. He lived to please God, and God was pleased to reward him. He gave him a “testimony” and a “translation.” Faith enabled Enoch to walk above the world, and he was taken out of it. At home with God here, God’s house became his dwelling-place. Death had no hold on him. It is possible some of us may be translated as was Enoch. May we also have the testimony he had.

3. In Noah We See Faith That Separates (v. 7)

If we go on with God, we cannot go on with the world. When God gave Noah a sight of coming judgment, he said, “I cannot settle down here.” So he built his ship on the dry ground and became the laughingstock of the community. They could not see what he saw, and they thought him a fool. Faith made Noah a stranger to all around him, and gave to him the hope of coming glory.

4. In Abraham We See Faith That Satisfies (vv. 8-19)

Abraham took the promise of God and was satisfied with it. He gave up everything when God called him, though he got nothing. He had that which is better than everything here, the prospect of the glory of that city that is the goal of all God’s pilgrims. The sight of that glory made Abraham content to be a pilgrim, and nothing could induce him to leave his tent. Lot may forsake him, choosing rather the cities of the plains; Abraham seeks a better land, a city whose Architect and Builder is God. The difference between the two men was in the direction in which they looked. Abraham looked up. Faith fills the eye and the heart with the future. Faith’s vision is keen, it pierces the false glow of this world’s glory as well as its dark mists. Faith concentrates on God. This we see in Abraham. Sarah’s faith is seen in the getting of Isaac. She believed in a God of resurrection. Abraham was called to give him up. With utmost confidence in God, implicit trust in His love, he surrendered his all. He did not lose by trusting God—no one ever does. Abraham received his son to his bosom as from the dead, with a joy that surpassed and recompensed all the sorrow he had experienced. What a picture of God’s love in giving His beloved Son!

5. In Isaac We See Faith That Suffers (v. 20)

In Isaac we have the setting aside of the will of the flesh. The path of faith ever crosses that of nature. Isaac’s faith is seen in his blessing Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. His natural sight was gone, but the eyes of his heart were opened. He could penetrate the veil that hid the future, and speak of future things. The blessing he desired for his eldest son, Esau, he gave to Jacob. But when Esau would have him reverse it, he answered, “I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed.” That act shines out under the eye of God. It was above and beyond the power of nature.

6. In Jacob We See Faith That Strengthens (v. 21)

Jacob’s life was a stormy one, but he had a glorious sunset. What a failing saint he had been in the past, but when nearing eternity, there was the blessed experience of faith. His hands were lifted up in blessing upon the heads of Joseph’s sons. A pilgrim all his life, he was still a pilgrim amid Egypt’s glories. He leaned upon his staff, the symbol of his pilgrimage. Thus he was strengthened in his soul and he worshiped.

7. In Joseph We See Faith That Surpasses (v. 22)

Joseph’s life was most lovely in every detail; yet at its close there was a special outshining of faith. His life of faith furnished the background for this special act of faith. With his hand on all that a natural man could value, the very throne of Egypt his, he could not rest outside of the land God had promised to His people. He turned from all that his eye could see to what was real to faith alone, and gave commandment concerning his bones. The bones of Joseph accompanied the children of Israel in all their wilderness journey, as a constant reminder of his death, and of their promised inheritance. It was to them a pledge that God would bring them in.

The second list of the heroes of faith is taken from the time of the Exodus up to the time of Joshua and the fall of Jericho, from the gloomy days of slavery in Egypt to the glorious days of triumph in Canaan. Seven instances of faith are given. In each of them is seen the trial and triumph of faith amid adverse circumstances, and the attempt of the enemy to thwart the purpose of God. Moses takes the leading place in this second cluster of stars in the firmament of faith. First of all, we are brought back to the time of his birth.