My formative Christian years were spent embracing what has popularly come to be known as “the health and wealth” gospel. I was told that if I had the right amount of faith, I could get God to do my bidding and provide me fabulous toys and inexhaustible wellness. Hebrews chapter 11 was a go-to source for the teaching of this persuasion. Over and over again I would be challenged with the anthem: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! By FAITH they obtained the promises!”, which by application meant that through the exercising of faith I would obtain the (presumed) promise of a new model automobile. If I was still driving a rusty Pinto, it was my fault for not having enough faith to bring my desires into existence.
How did we draw that conclusion from Hebrews 11? Very simply. We NEVER read it in one sitting. We never put it all together to get the sweep of the story, nor did we ever place it in the larger context of the whole book. We dunked into it like we were bobbing for apples, coming up with a prized proof text in our teeth and demanding God’s unconditional surrender to what we “discovered”.
Needless to say, I don’t read Hebrews 11 that way anymore. I certainly won’t teach it that way this weekend. Nor will I break this lengthy chapter up to provide bite-sized sermons about Old Testament Heroes. *You’re sounding a little curmudgeonly Rob.* – Sorry. I don’t mean to. It’s just that I’m pretty passionate about getting at the heart of what the writer is communicating in this chapter. It’s really very cool, but not what many people suppose. I really believe this is a chapter that needs to be read in one sitting to get the sense of emphasis I believe the writer intends.
You should read Hebrews 11. As you do, remind yourself of the overall point of this letter: encouraging Jewish believers not to give up their faith in Jesus as the Messiah because Jesus is greater than the Old Covenant system they had known. They were discouraged because they were facing persecution (as we learned in chapter 10) and Jesus hadn’t yet returned – so Hebrews 11 presents a case for holding on by faith.
V6 of this chapter gives us the primitive core of a life of faith. How would you paraphrase what the writer is saying? Describe what that would look like in your life.
In this long list of characters, what is the consistent situation that must be faced by those who are holding on by faith? V13,19,22 and 39 can give you a hint. What direction does faith look? What impact did their faith have on how they viewed this present life?
How was Moses’ faith expressed according to v24-25? How does that influence our understanding of faith as it relates to the choices we make in this present, fallen world?
Man….I’m sorta’ stoked about this chapter. Hope you can make it this Sunday as we explore it together!
Also, here are the songs we’ll be singing: