This chapter talks about faith and what it is. And it gives several examples of people who exhibited it, and how it changed not just their lives, but people after them, as well. It is a sort of mini Hall of Fame for OT people of great faith.
Why do you suppose the author of this book found it necessary to write this chapter? Of course, we know that the author wrote it because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, but beyond that I think the reason God gave this message for the Hebrews because they were used to relying on the ongoing sacrifices to make them right with God. They were relying on their efforts to conform to the Mosaic Law. In the previous chapters, the Jews were told that Jesus offered Himself as the One sacrifice for all time, and that it was faith in Him that cleanses a person from sin. This notion of faith was a bit of a new concept for many of them. Thus they, and we, are given this chapter.
I like the way this translation of the Bible explains what faith is. It “is what makes real the things we hope for. It is proof of what we cannot see.”
Now, the word “hope” as it is used here is not the kind of hope a child has when he says, “I hope I get a new bicycle for Christmas.” That kind of hope is a sort of childlike wish. The hope spoken about here in Hebrews is the sort of hope that carries with it a sort of assured anticipation of what will be in the future. I don’t wish that Jesus will someday return. I know He will, and it is that hope that allows me to have an unshakeable peace when I think about the future. I have no doubt that it will happen.
Why don’t I doubt? Because I have the faith spoken about in this chapter.
Some people have little faith, some have great faith. Those who have little faith, if they ask for more, will receive it. I know this because at one time I had little faith. But the faith I had told me that the One in whom my faith rested was real. So God, in His matchless grace, brought events into my life that made me see that whatever faith I put in Him was well-placed.
Often times my faith was tested. And when you think about it, when our faith is tested it is often God who is being tested. God says, “Do you have faith that I will do this?” And I say,”I believe, but help my unbelief.” And He proves Himself worthy of my faith in that instance, thus growing my faith.
Like God delivering the people of Israel from Pharoah’s army. God says to Abraham, “Do you have faith that I will provide a way of escape?” Abraham says, “I have faith, Lord, but how are you going to do it?” And then God does the unthinkable by parting the Red Sea. Abraham’s faith was tested, but it was God who did the miracle.
It’s important to understand that our faith is not something that we whip up ourselves. It is God who gives us the faith in the first place, and it is God who increases our faith. Our part in the process is to believe and trust Him. At the beginning of the process, we cannot see the end. Not with our eyes, and not with our reason. But by faith, we know…we have the hope…that God will do as He says He will.
I am not a man of faith because of some great thing that I have done. It’s not because of me, or my parents or the church I go to. The faith I have is because I responded to His call to trust Him. And when my trust was challenged, and when I responded with a, “Yes Lord, I will trust you”, He did something that made me see that, yes, He is there and He is trustworthy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not have a perfect score. I have often failed when given the decision to trust or not. And every time, that has been to my detriment. But even in those times, God has proven that He was there. And He has said, “Are you ready to trust me now?” He doesn’t give up on us when we fail. He just takes us back to school, because He knows where He wants to take us, and He knows the person He wants us to become.
Faith is what makes real the things we hope for. It is proof of what we cannot see. God doesn’t have to hope, because He does see the end, and He lovingly and patiently brings us along until we reach where He already is.