I do believe many Bible-studiers have written devotionals on faith already. What’s one more?
The purpose of Hebrews chapter 11 is not to celebrate heroes of the Bible, but to inform and encourage believers concerning faith. Since I have heard so much malformation on the subject of faith, I thought it best to share the joyous and sobering results of my Bible Study in this space. These lessons can serve as a daily devotional to any seeking to fully grasp, grapple with, and be gripped by the greater unseen world unto which faith is the door. May you see Him Who is Unseen, here in the words that follow:
The Unseen Reality (a rather philosophical part of the intro)
Anyone familiar with the Bible when asked the question “What is faith?” will probably quote or cite Hebrews 11:1, here in New King James.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
For me, these words have gotten crusted over with interpretations and explanations. What does this really mean? With eagerness I return to the original languages and bring forth another translation, which I believe helps get to the fire behind the words.
Faith is the reality hoped for, and the proof of unseen things.–Hebrews 11:1 (translation mine)
This helps me see some important things about faith right away: that there is a reality that is hoped for, and there are unseen things being proven.
First, a reality that is hoped for. it’s not like a hoped for reality like “I hope that it will be a reality that it will rain later.” It is the reality which is the basis for our hope! It is already real and going to happen. This part of the definition itself affirms a reality in which the believer sets his hope.
Second, unseen things are being proven. Faith is the proof that there is an unseen dimension to all of life. Some scientist friends of mine may take issue to this, but history has recorded many things about unseen forces at work in the world. This part of the definition is affirming the tangible reality that corresponds things which cannot be seen.
These two halves of the definition of faith make faith a tangible and mysterious thing. It may be foolhardy to think I could offer a simplified definition of faith that is adequate but not simplistic. Here it goes:
Faith is the proof of the unseen reality in which we hope.
I want to vouch to all of those reading this that there is indeed an Unseen Reality. There are unseen beings and places and things in this reality. It is governed by rules and people just like the Seen reality in which we all live. It is as real as the physical world, and as we will learn in the verses to come, it also governs the Seen reality in which we live.
Faith is the two-way door from one reality into the other. It is where both realities meet: Because of this, Faith is not just the notion of an unseen reality, nor is it a practice in the Physical world with the acknowledgement that there is a spiritual reality. Neither of these sides of the roof classify as faith. Faith is where the two realities meet and bleed into one another.
Because of this, a person’s whole being must be engaged in the exploration of faith: Any ways of dividing up a person you can try: Body, Mind, Soul, spirit, heart, will, emotions, etc. All of these must be as you the one person presently engaged in this exercise of being. Faith is as deeply personal as the foundation of a person’s being: the reality in which a person exists.
The Way of Approval (The more straightforward part of the intro)
In Hebrews 11:2 we read:
“By this [faith] the elders were testified as approved.” Hebrews 11:2 (translation and parentheses mine).
This means that faith is how we can look back on those who came before as to whether or not they have been approved by God, (as we will talk about later). In the court case of whether not a man is approved by God, Faith is the deciding proof in the following cases which we will be examining. The nature of faith, then, will be our aim to uncover so that we too may be judged as approved as they were. Because:
Faith is the proof that God has approved a person.
These will be the lessons as divided up by number, character, themes, and verses.
- Us–The World and the Word (vs 3)
- Abel– A Better Offering (vs 4)
- Enoch–A Pleasing Walk with God (vs 5-6)
- Noah–Obedience is a Two-Edged Sword (7)
- Abraham I–The Way of Exile (8-16)
- Abraham II–The Death of the Promise (17-19)
- Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph– Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise (20-22)
- Moses–Identifying with God (vs. 24-27)
- Israel–Obedience under Judgement (28-31)
- The Servants of God–The Visible Reality (32-40)
Each section will deal with the Biblical theme, what it shows about faith, and how it involves us.