But faith is more than conviction of the reality of the facts that God has unveiled. Faith also exists as response to those facts. The Scripture makes it clear: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (v. 6).
Giving up roots
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
He obeyed when he did not know where he was going (Heb. 11:8–10). He lived in tents because he was a stranger and pilgrim in the world and had to be ready to move whenever God spoke. Christians today are also strangers and pilgrims (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). Abraham had his eyes on the heavenly city and lived “in the future tense.”
He also obeyed when he did not know how God’s will would be accomplished (Heb. 11:11–12)
17-19. From Genesis 22 we see the faith of Abraham in offering up Isaac on Mount Moriah. The faith of Abraham was tested in at least two ways: (1) he was required to offer to God the best and dearest of his possessions; and (2) he was required to offer to God the son of promise. Abraham’s future was assured to him only through Isaac. If Isaac were to die, what of the promise of God to Abraham? In making his offering, Abraham demonstrated in practical fashion his belief that death is no problem to God. Death can be neither barrier nor deterrent to His keeping a covenant promise-God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. Figure. Parable, similtude, as though Isaac were actually returned from the dead; a resurrection.
* Faith enabled the patriarchs (11:20–22). Each father mentioned here looked ahead to a future that was unknown, but yet was guaranteed by God. Counting God’s picture of tomorrow as sure, each ordered the life of his children as if that future were present.
Sometimes it’s easier to let God have control of our lives than to guide our families into full commitment to Him. The sacrifice we’d willingly make ourselves we hesitate to impose on our boys and girls, wishing instead for their “happiness.” Faith gives us a clearer view. We look across the generations and commit ourselves and our loved ones to the realities He says will be.
27 And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said:
“Surely, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field
Which the LORD has blessed.
28 Therefore may God give you
Of the dew of heaven,
Of the fatness of the earth,
And plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you.
Be master over your brethren,
And let your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
And blessed be those who bless you!”
Giving up freedom
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
In Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, we have four generations of faith. These men sometimes failed, but basically they were men of faith. They were not perfect, but they were devoted to God and trusted His Word. Isaac passed the promises and the blessings along to Jacob (Gen. 27), and Jacob shared them with his twelve sons (Gen. 48–49). Jacob was a pilgrim, for even as he was dying he leaned on his pilgrim staff.
The faith of Joseph was certainly remarkable. After the way his family treated him, you would think he would have abandoned his faith; but instead, it grew stronger. Even the ungodly influence of Egypt did not weaken his trust in God. Joseph did not use his family, his job, or his circumstances as an excuse for unbelief. Joseph knew what he believed—that God would one day deliver his people from Egypt (Gen. 50:24–26). Joseph also knew where he belonged—in Canaan, not in Egypt; so he made them promise to carry his remains out of Egypt at the Exodus. They did! (see Ex. 13:19 and Josh. 24:32)
20. Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in the covenant promise made to Abraham, but still future to Isaac, thus concerning things to come (see Gen 27).
21, 22. By faith Jacob . . . By faith Joseph. Evidence of the faith of the patriarchs in the promise made to Abraham. Jacob, by blessing the sons of Joseph, perpetuated the promise and evidenced both faith and submission as he worshiped. Joseph demonstrated his faith in the covenant promise to Abraham by requesting that his body (bones) be buried in the land promise (Gen 48; 50)
Giving up What was Priceless
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
Moses was fortunate to have believing parents. For them to hide their baby son from the authorities was certainly an act of faith. The account is given in Exodus 2:1–10. Moses’ parents were named Amram and Jochebed (Ex. 6:20). Though godly parents cannot pass on their faith as they do family traits, they can certainly create an atmosphere of faith at home and be examples to their children. A home should be the first school of faith for a child.
His parents’ initial faith saved his life (v. 23). Growing up, faith led him to throw in his lot with the slave people of Israel rather than his adoptive royal family (vv. 24–26)
Giving up wealth and passing pleasures of Sin
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
As the adopted son of the Egyptian princess, Moses could have led an easy life in the palace. But his faith moved him to refuse that kind of life. He chose to identify with God’s suffering people. True faith causes a believer to hold the right values and make the right decisions. The phrase “pleasures of sin” does not refer only to lust and other gross sins. The phrase describes a way of life that we today would call “successful”—position, prestige, power, wealth, and freedom from problems.
Moses’ refusal of faith led to the reproach of faith (Heb. 11:26a). The mayor of a large American city moved into a dangerous and decayed housing project to demonstrate the problems and needs of the minorities. But she also kept her fashionable apartment and eventually moved out of the slum. We commend her for her courage but we have to admire Moses even more. He left the palace and never went back to the old life! He identified with the Jewish slaves! Men and women of faith often have to bear reproach and suffering. The Apostles suffered for their faith. Believers today behind the Iron Curtain know what it is to bear reproach. If reproach is an evidence of true faith, we wonder how much true faith there is in our own country today!
Giving up security and safety
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
Finally, there is the reward of faith (Heb. 11:26b–29). God always rewards true faith—if not immediately, at least ultimately. Over against “the treasures in Egypt” Moses saw the “recompense of the reward.” As Dr. Vance Havner said, “Moses chose the imperishable, saw the invisible, and did the impossible.” Moses’ faith enabled him to face Pharaoh unafraid, and to trust God to deal with the enemy. The endurance of Moses was not a natural gift, for by nature Moses was hesitant and retiring. This endurance and courage came as the reward of his faith.
Giving up the ordinary
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
The faith of Moses was rewarded with deliverance for him and his people. (See Ex. 11–13 for the exciting Passover account.) Faith brings us out (Heb. 11:28), takes us through (Heb. 11:29), and brings us in (Heb. 11:30). When we trust God, we get what God can do; but when we trust ourselves, we get only what weak people can do. The experience of Moses is proof that true biblical faith means obeying God in spite of circumstances and in spite of consequences.
If you and I had been writing this chapter, the next section would be Faith Wandering—but there is no mention of Israel’s failure and forty years of wasted time. Why? Because that was an experience of unbelief, not faith! The writer did use this experience in Hebrews 3 and 4 as an illustration of doubting the Word. But nowhere in Hebrews 11 will you find a record of any failure because of unbelief. Faith records only the victories.
What will You Give Up
Almost every difficulty, every challenging experience, every danger, every decision in Moses’ life was faced on the basis of faith’s obedient response. Faith enabled each obedient act, and the pattern of faithful obedience that emerged made Moses the man he finally became.
It’s the same with us. In everything in life we need to be guided and enabled by faith. As we live by faith, we will progressively become the persons God wants us to be.