We don’t know who he was because he didn’t sign his name.
Was it fear that drove this anonymity in an age of persecution? Or was it humility?
When we studied Hebrews 7, we marveled together at the author’s ability to connect the dots between Melchizedek and Jesus, our High Priest forever, based on the power of an indestructible life. Whoever wrote this letter we now refer to as “Hebrews” certainly knew the Old Testament scriptures, and once again in chapter eleven he’s connecting the dots between a concept — faith — and the way he sees it lived out in the recorded lives of Old Testament saints.
Hebrews 11:1 provides a two-pronged description of faith:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- The assurance of things hoped for. By faith, we are sure of God’s promises and are enabled to live in a hope that is so real it gives absolute assurance.
- The conviction of things not seen. According to John Piper, this Greek word rendered as “conviction” in our ESV appears nowhere else in the New Testament. Used elsewhere, it means “argument, evidence, reason, or proof.” This is helpful when coupled with Hebrews 11:3:
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
In the mind of this Hebrew writer, faith is a kind of spiritual seeing that enables the believer to know that God exists and to live in the reality of Psalm 19:1 in which the sky above our heads, the detailed architecture of a pine cone, the majesty of a fluking whale, and the sweet whorl of downy hair on the crown of a baby’s head all bear the fingerprint of God.
The “elders” he speaks of in verse two (and then goes on to describe for the remainder of the chapter) were living proof of the assertion of Hebrews 11:6:
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
He would have found this truth in Habakkuk 2:4, and then he draws it out into an anthem, honoring the faithful throughout redemptive history, for since the fall, it has been God’s intention to honor faith and to regard works as evidence of that faith.
But the author does something else in Hebrews 11:6. He restates his two-pronged description of faith:
- Believing that He exists;
- Believing that He rewards those who seek Him.
The description of faith in the book of Hebrews steers my thinking toward a better understanding of who God is, but also guides my “living by faith,” for I see that God is not interested merely in what I do. Abel worshiped and Enoch walked. Noah worked, and the Patriarchs all waited for a glimpse of the promised land, but it wasn’t what they did so much as why they did it. Motive is everything in the kingdom of God. This week I will be asking myself questions about why I do what I’m doing, and I invite you to join me.
Is my worship, my manner of living, my work, and my understanding of the promises of God coming from a heart of faith?
Does the way I exercise my faith put God’s reality — His beauty — on display?
Am I communicating an accurate picture of God’s intense desire to reward and His unrivaled ability of fulfill every one of His promises?
Only two weeks left in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book. These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s last week’s blog post.
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