Memorial to the Heroes Of Faith
Text: Hebrews 11:1-40
When the Lord told Joshua to build a memorial from the stones taken from the middle of the Jordan river as they passed over on dry land, He told Joshua the purpose for all memorials.
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
Memorials are meant to remember the past and to shape the future. By remembering those who gave their all, we today are inspired to live our lives in a manner worthy of the service of those who went before us. Memorial Day should serve that purpose for us as Americans and Hebrews 11 was written by Paul to serve that purpose to the Hebrew Christians in his day. It can continue to serve that same purpose for us today.
Paul was building a memorial hall of faith, to convict the Hebrew Christians to stay faithful to Jesus Christ and not draw back into empty, legalistic Judaism. They were under great pressure and persecution to renounce Jesus as their Messiah and Savior and Paul wrote and said, “Look to the heroes of our past, look at their struggles, look at their faith and live your lives today to honor their sacrifice.”
Purpose of Faith - Hebrews 11:1-3
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Paul defines the faith that will motivated and drove the heroes of faith. The same faith that will keep the Hebrews from drawing back, from deserting the cause of Christ. This faith, Paul tells them how the heroes of faith obtained a good report.
Paul says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. In Greek the word translated substance is is hupustasis. RWP says it is that which “stands under anything (a building, a contract, or a promise.) Faith then is the title of things hoped for. It was the deed to the future that God had promised them. Faith made that promise, tangible, something real, a substance that they could hold and that deed to the promises of God moved them to be heroes of faith.
Next Paul talks about the lives of these heroes. He builds a memorial for them, with his words instead of with stone.
The Passion of Faith - Hebrews 11:4-12
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
First Names On the Walls
Paul now names some of those “elders”, these heroes of faith, who obtained the report of faith held title to the future and lived because they knew God’s word and promises were true.
He names Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah
Firstfruits of Faith
I think that in these heroes we see faith’s beginning, growth and ultimate purpose.
Abel’s faith shows us a faith that begins with repentance for he knew that only through the shedding of blood is there remission of sin.
Enoch’s faith demonstrates a faith that walks with God. I love the phrase in the OT that describes the translation of Enoch. “and he walked with God and was not for God took him.”
Noah’s faith tells us that true faith is a witnessing faith. For over a hundred years he built the ark in a world where rain had never fallen. For over a hundred years he preached repentance to a world fatally sick with sin. How could he bear it? Through faith he had evidence that God was sending a flood.
Abraham’s faith points us to a faith that moves at God’s command. God told Abraham to go to another country and leaving all he went because he had heard the report of faith. So he went looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.
Finally Sarah’s faith speaks of the passion of faith. Sarah who laughed at the promise of God for her to have a child, but then believed and when that child was born she named him Isaac which means laughter. She had gone from the bitter laughter of a doubt the joyful laughter of a believer passionate in God’s purpose for her.
The Promise of Faith - Hebrews 11:13-16
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Seeking A Country
Paul now talks about the country of faith’s title deed.
Paul looks at these heroes of faith and says they died not having received the promises but having seen them afar and were fully persuaded and convinced therefore they embraced the vision and committed themselves to God’s calling and then confessed boldly that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. In doing so the Bible tells us that God was not ashamed to be called their God and He waits for them in the city He has prepared, where that promise will be finally fulfilled.
Seekers of the City
Are we today living as they lived, seeking a heavenly country and a celestial city? Have we hearing faith’s good report? Have we grabbed hold of faith’s title-deed? And are we, like these ancient Biblical heroes, looking for a city who builder and maker is God?
This is the promise of Faith. It was God’s promise to them and it is His promise to us. How can you discern if you are living in that promise? How can you know you are seeking that city of God?
Here are the signposts along the life of a child of God who is holding the promise of the title-deed of heaven. We must have repented of sin like Abel, trusting only in the shed blood of Jesus Christ who died in our place. We must then walk like Enoch, daily seeking and growing in the company of our God. We must strive to be a witness like Noah, willing to do what God has commanded no matter if we must do it alone. We must go at God’s command like Abraham, wherever He directs and we must have passion like Sarah, finding joy in God’s gifts.
If we are doing these things then we honor the memorial Paul built in Hebrew 11 and we show that we are people of the promise, seeking that city. I fervently pray that when other look back at our lives, it may said of us as Paul said of the first Heroes of Faith, “God was not ashamed to be called their God.”
I should stop here, right here, right now, but I can’t. I have to finish the chapter because this outline is just too good. You would be even sadder than me, if I didn’t give you all 5 points. We’ve looked at the Purpose of Faith, the Passion of Faith, and the Promise of Faith, now lets continue with the Power of Faith and then conclude with the Penultimate of Faith. I know you can’t wait so lets get to it.
The Power of Faith Hebrews 11:17-31
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Faith’s Empowered Action
Paul now looks at the actions of the heroes and the source of their power to accomplish such great acts.
By Faith, Abraham offers up Isaac, believing that God would resurrect his son to fulfill the promise given him.
By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. Isaac whose blind eyes could not tell one son from the other was still able in faith to see the future of those sons and believe that despite their problems and weakness God would bless.
By Faith, Jacob when he was dying blessed both the sons of Joseph. He worshipped and leaned upon the staff, too weak to stand in his own strength yet this dying man saw blesses from God for the son’s of Joseph.
By Faith, Joseph when he died gave commandment concerning his bones. He told the Hebrews to take his bones from Egypt and rebury them in the Promised Land, believing that one day they as a people would go home and he would go with them.
By Faith, Moses parents hid their son, though Pharaoh had ordered all newborn males to be killed. By that same faith, Moses, after he was grown refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose the suffering of his own people rather than the pleasures of sin for a season.
By faith, Joshua and the children of Israel knocked down the wall of Jericho and conquered the Promised land.
By faith the Gentile, pagan, harlot Rahab lived through the destruction of her city, saved her family and entered into the lineage of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Faith’s Power To Act For God
In all these examples we see that faith, if it is real to us, if it is more than just empty words or creeds, is the power that gives us the ability and the capacity to take action in God’s work and at God’s command. Faith is not abstract, remember it is a substance, a reality and therefore it is not merely an ethereal belief, but because it is real then it must be a followed by real acts.
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
If we are inspired by the Memorial of Faith, Paul has built in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, then we must act as they did, in the power of faith.
I will be able to point to the time of my salvation as my first act of faith. Then to the baptismal waters that showed my faith in my resurrected Lord. I will be able to show how the talents and resources, that God has given me, were empowered by faith and used in His service.
It will be in the power of faith that my children, and my grandchildren will be shaped and molded. Faith will win the battles. Faith will enable my service and my sacrifice. Faith will help me to bear witness of God, and it will be faith that will make my life count even after that life has ended on this earth.
The Penultimate of Faith - Hebrews 11:32-40
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
“What more can Paul say?”
Paul lays the next to last finishing touches to his memorial. He says, “Look at these great men and women of faith! Faith ruled their lives. Faith drove them to action. Faith sustained them in time of trouble. Faith gave them courage in time of catastrophe.”
In verse 28 he says, “Of whom the world was not worthy.” Their faith made them something that this world could not understand and that this world did not deserve.
He concludes by saying, “these all having obtained a good report, (they heard the testimony of faith and then seized the title-deed to the future God promised. Yet they) received not the promise. The end of their life did not bring the fulfillment of the promise from God, but the end of their life was not the end of their faith.
Paul tells us the OT saints did not see the culmination of all that they had believed God for, something was still lacking it was not complete.
What was left then? He goes on, “God having provided some better thing for us that they without us should not be perfect, (not be complete.”) In other words, they were the penultimate Heroes of faith. The hall of Faith’s Heroes is not yet complete.
The More We Must Say
Do you realize what Paul was telling those frightened, weary Hebrew Christians all those years ago? Do you also realize that it is the same thing the Holy Spirit is telling us today?
Here is the final, the ultimate message, God is not finished building Faith’s Memorial. His work didn’t complete with the closing of the Old Testament and these great heroes of faith. God had a part for the Hebrew Christians of Paul’s day to complete and He has a part in this great work of faith for each of us to act on even today.
Listen to what Paul said, “That they without us should not be complete.”
God’s work is not over. There are still great things to be done in the name of God through the power, the passion and the people of faith. We will not have our name recorded in the Bible Hall of Fame, here in Hebrews 11 but what we do for God is being recorded in a book kept eternal in the heavens and that book is still open, the record still being written in a much greater, eternal, Heroes of Faith Hall of Fame.
Today you and I must determine, must choose, what is being written down in the Book of Heaven, the ultimate Faith Hall of Fame In our actions, of and by faith, we are determining what is being written in those pages. Written about us, about our church and about this generation of Heroes of Faith.