We don’t know who he was because he didn’t sign his name.
Was it fear that drove him to anonymity in an age of persecution?
Or was it humility?
Whoever wrote the letter we now refer to as “Hebrews” certainly knew the Old Testament scriptures, and 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.
In Hebrews 11:6, the author restates his two-pronged description of faith:
- Believing that He exists;
- Believing that He rewards those who seek Him.
Belief that God exists in Hebrews 11:6 corresponds to “conviction of things not seen” in verse 1.
Belief that God rewards those who seek Him corresponds to the “assurance of things hoped for” in verse 1.
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.
- Enoch walked.
- Noah worked.
- 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 to fulfill every one of His promises?
I am being helped in my pondering of Hebrews 11 by Debbie Wilson’s new book, Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small. As Wilson examines the faithful men and women of Hebrews 11 fame, she is also challenging her readers to “consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7b) An examination of each of those faith-filled lives reveals flawed individuals who, nonetheless, finished well–not because of their own sparkling character, but because of a faith that was anchored solidly in the God they trusted.
I don’t know about you, but I need the reminder (on the regular!) that God specializes in handing out grace when his children fail and showing up with limitless strength when we fall. A deep dive into the stories of Abel, Enoch, Moses, Abraham, and other Old Testament heroes of the faith illuminates the glorious gospel truth that it is Jesus and not our own solid pedigree who makes the life of faith possible.
Many thanks to Leafwood Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grace and peace to you,
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small or Little Women, Big God: It’s not the size of your problems, but the size of your God, simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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