Hebrews 11: The Ancient Worthies, Examples of Faith

Nov 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews 11: The Ancient Worthies, Examples of Faith

Heb. 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now we are coming to the good news. Paul expended time, patience, and effort to teach that weariness, a lack of endurance, and drawing back can be overcome by observing the lives of the Old Testament faithful.

“Faith is the substance [the basis or foundation] of things hoped for.” Something can be spiritual or ethereal, yet to the individual, it is very real. For instance, hope, if it is strong, is like seeing that which is invisible. What did Jesus require of those who desired to be healed of their physical infirmities? He required faith, the principle being “according to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). However, of those he healed, very few became disciples. Of the ten lepers, only one returned to thank him.

In another incident, when Jesus went through Jericho and saw two blind men, the crowd tried to quiet them, but the two cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David” (Matt. 20:29-34). It was unusual that after Jesus healed them, they followed him. Several women also manifested faith by following Jesus. He went ahead, being in front, and the women followed behind with the disciples.

Faith is what God is looking for, because “without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). After consecration, “the just shall [henceforth] live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). They will continue to walk in faith. “Be thou faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10). Christians are to maintain their faith when they add virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (2 Pet. 1:5-7,10,11). Those who do “these things” will get an abundant entrance into the heavenly Kingdom. Paul gave invaluable information to the Lord’s people according to their hunger, desire, and capability.

Heb. 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

The “elders” are the Ancient Worthies.

Heb. 11:3 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 was defining faith. Incidentally, he provided different definitions of faith depending on which epistle we are studying, and other apostles also gave their opinions about faith. Verse 3 brings in two basic components of faith.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” To think of the “worlds” as the physical realm is only the surface reading. It is true that God framed other universes, but the real faith He is looking for is different. The Greek word aionian, translated “worlds,” means “ages” (plural).

The ages “were framed by the word of God.” What is “the word of God” in this context? The reference is not to the Logos because Paul said that the ages were made for Christ, not by Christ. The thought that the Logos was God’s agent in creation has been indoctrinated in Christian minds for centuries. Regarding the physical realm, for example, Genesis 1:1,2 reads, “In the beginning … the earth was,” but in making earth’s surface habitable for man, God said on the first Creative Day, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3,5). Note that God spoke these words,  not the Logos, and He spoke on the other Creative Days as well. Thus the reference in verse 3 is to God’s spoken “word,” which is very powerful not only in the material universe but also here in regard to the ages.

Comment: Psalm 33:6 reads, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Reply: Yes. Many think Jesus is the co-Creator because of the expression “word,” and it is true that Jesus was the Logos, the mouthpiece of God, but not in creation. God alone is the Creator, and He created not only the planets but also man, Adam, and the animals.

Comment: The Diaglott interlinear makes this distinction clear by saying the ages were adjusted “by a word of God.” Right away we realize that God’s “word” was the spoken command. The Christian world has been so indoctrinated that they misconstrue God’s role in creation.

Comment: Verse 3 seems to be speaking of the Chart of the Ages, and the ages were prepared by “the word of God.” Through faith, we believe not only that Noah existed in the past, that 1,656 years separated Adam and the Flood, etc., but also that the Kingdom will be established in the future.

Reply: The balance of chapter 11 proves what Paul specifically had in mind, but when verse 3 is considered by itself, it is saying that the ages were framed by the spoken word of God.

Now let us talk about faith. When Jesus said to those who desired to be healed, “According to your faith be it unto you,” their faith was pleasing to God and Jesus, but that was natural faith.

Spiritual faith can only be exercised by those who consecrate, as we will try to demonstrate.

Thus there are two kinds of faith: (1) natural faith as a gift and (2) spiritual faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of faith, which opens up into another realm, comes after the Holy Spirit works on the individual. Paul said that not all men have natural faith (2 Thess. 3:2). He was not saying that all those without faith are wicked but simply that some people do not have the quality of natural faith.

Prior to consecration, we knew there was a God by the evidence of things we saw, such as the heavens. Seeing order in the universe, quietness, beauty, flowers with delicate fragrances, various fruits and vegetables, a variety of domesticated animals and how they can be helpful servants to man, we said, “We know there is a God.” However, many see the same things yet have no faith. With their lack of faith, they conclude that the various aspects of nature came by chance and evolution, that different molecules and genes just happened to hit one another and mate and develop, that man evolved from some gorilla in the past which finally stood erect and walked in an upright state, etc. To say these things came from an amoeba or some molecule shows a lack of faith. Most scientists are probably in the category of infidels, in that they believe there is a God but do not believe in a revealed God. They feel that God is too great to be interested in man personally. But in witnessing the beautiful things in nature, natural faith says there is an intelligent Creator and considers man blessed to be one of His creations.

God is pleased with natural faith, for He can work on it. Not all have this gift, for it has something to do with genetics and family background. If those with natural faith obey God’s drawing to Jesus and respond favorably, then each step taken toward the Tabernacle Court with its Brazen Altar, Laver, and First Veil is pleasing to God, and He can work on that base.

The change to spiritual faith is a fruit. After a person consecrates, he still has natural faith and appreciates nature, but now he goes into another realm. The Pastor pointed out that there are three large dispensations: the world before the Flood, the present evil world, and the world to come. Natural faith can see the world before the Flood and the present evil world, but spiritual faith sees the future. Every example Paul gave in this chapter of Hebrews was of individuals who looked into the future. God created the larger ages and also the smaller ones (the Patriarchal, Jewish, Gospel, and Kingdom ages), but the future dispensation now becomes very important. Spiritual faith, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is based on our obedience; that is, it grows.

The first act of obedience is when we repent, confess our sins, try to make restitution as much as possible for past sins, and consecrate. Henceforth, for each step of obedience to God’s instructions as given through Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets, we are rewarded with increased spiritual faith. The big distinction is that natural faith is based on things seen, whereas spiritual faith is based on things not seen. Thus there are two contrasting faiths, or perspectives.

Chapter 11 begins to show us unseen things. With regard to the Old Testament, it takes spiritual faith to believe that God ordered the surface of the earth to make it habitable for man from the condition of darkness, emptiness, and a covering of water. Spiritual faith is required because God’s work during the six Creative Days is not seen with the natural eye. Stated another way, only those who are spiritual believe the Genesis account of creation. When we get that understanding, we are at a midpoint. As we obey and consecrate, the Genesis account of creation opens up, as well as God’s purposes in the different dispensations and ages, but what do we especially look for? We look for the unseen things that are yet future. Faith in the  future is especially rewarded. It takes faith to understand that the ages were framed by the word of God, for faith comes with the illumination of the Holy Spirit after consecration. From that time forward, we are interested in the heavenly call and in running a race for the future.

In summary, verse 3 goes deeper than just the Creative Days. In trying to reason with us, Paul started at the beginning. Before consecration, we saw the heavens and believed by natural faith that there is a God, but we did not understand the Genesis account of creation. As we proceed with chapter 11, we will see the deeper intent, which was Paul’s real focus. He called attention again to verse 3 but in another way. Chapter 11 will be very rewarding because it helps us to see what progress we have made and what still needs to be done in developing a Christlike character and attaining our future prospects.

Heb. 11:4 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.

How did Abel, by faith, offer “unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain”? Abel noticed that a sacrifice required the death of a lamb in order to be satisfactory. To see that the shedding of blood was necessary helps to begin a definition of faith. There are a number of different definitions of faith in the Bible, but we are concentrating on Paul’s definition here in chapter 11.

Q: What preceded this incident to develop Abel’s faith? Did Adam offer animals in sacrifice?

A: Not much information is given about Adam. However, we do know that when he and Eve transgressed, they sensed their nakedness, whereas previously they did not have a feeling of guilt. God provided the skins of lambs to cover their nakedness.

One definition of faith is obedience—obedience to the Word of God. To be an acceptable worshipper of God, a person looks in the Scriptures for ways to please Him. Of course the Scriptures were not available in Abel’s day, but he would have been told about the experience of his parents. If we extrapolate from the little information that is furnished, we can reasonably understand how Abel’s “excellent sacrifice” might have come about.

The first point to consider is why Abel offered a sacrifice on that occasion. Apparently, it was customary to do so—and probably on an annual basis. No doubt Adam established a calendar of dates and events. Cain was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, and certainly Abel was older than a teenager at the time of the “excellent sacrifice.”

We believe that the sacrifice was an annual custom to commemorate the act of forgiveness on God’s part when He clothed Adam and Eve. The penalty for the transgression was death, but from the outward appearance, they did not die instantly.

Comment: By the works of their own hands, Adam and Eve tried to put fig leaves together to cover their nakedness, but God intervened with more appropriate clothing.

Reply: The fig leaves were not a sufficient covering, for in size, they were like a loin cloth, whereas the skins provided more coverage. The skins were probably put over one shoulder and held together with a “belt.” When worn in this fashion, they covered the torso.

As individuals try to worship God in the best way they know how based on His Word, that effort brings a measure of appreciation on God’s part. He is pleased with sincere efforts of obedience according to the understanding that is available. In verse 4, Paul simply stated that “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent [acceptable] sacrifice.” However, in that simple statement, there is a sermon as to what faith is.

Comment: To be a tiller of the soil required a lot of effort on Cain’s part. In speaking of loving one another, the Apostle John referred to Cain when he said, “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Both Paul and John seemed to know more about Cain than the Scriptures tell us.

Reply: The recorded information is brief, but we can reason on what happened.

Adam and Eve probably witnessed how the animal was slain, how it was flayed, and how the garments were made. As already suggested, they would have compared the resulting garments with the fig-leaf garments they had made. And of course there are other lessons as well. For instance, the fig leaf (representative of the fig tree) represents justification by the Law.

Abel’s offering of a lamb could be called a burnt offering. Of course the animal was wholly burnt without the details of how to distribute the organs, etc., that were given much later under the Mosaic Law. Adam and Eve and their sons must have been left alone to use their own reasoning and not told too specifically what to do. A lot of labor was involved on Cain’s part in growing produce, fruit of the ground, especially since the ground was cursed as a result of Adam’s transgression. Therefore, he was miffed to see that Abel’s offering, which was relatively simple, was more acceptable than his own offering when such industry and effort had been involved.

Comment: Abel’s sacrifice was not the product of his own hands, as was Cain’s. The birth of a lamb is from God in that He perpetuates the offspring without man’s effort. Even though a seed is also from God, man’s efforts are required to bring forth a crop.

Reply: Yes. Abel was a herder of sheep, and Cain was a tiller of the ground. Cain’s efforts represented that justification under the Law is by works. Both individuals offered a sacrifice, but a lamb was a sacrifice in more ways than one. For instance, for a person who is very sensitive and responsive to the animals to then put one to death would require faith that God, in providing skins through the death of an animal, was showing what should be done. Adam and Eve felt they should do likewise in order to please God. Today we recognize annual dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. Adam and Eve and their children did likewise in commemorating annually with a singular “sacrifice” what God had done for them.

Q: Why is the word “gifts” in the plural? God testified of Abel’s “gifts.”

A: The burnt “offering” was just one offering. Although we have been discussing an annual commemoration for a particular purpose, the burnt offering was used on other occasions for different purposes such as a thank offering, a vow offering, or a heave offering. Abel put more thought into his offering than did Cain; he looked for God’s actions and movements in history. The point is that in chapter 11, the initial practice of offering a slain animal is called an exercise of “faith” on Abel’s part. Even though Cain also wanted to please God, his offering pictured not only justification by the works of the Law but also doing things in his own way and according to his own imagination, rather than in God’s way. Cain should have been looking for  what would please God the most. The sacrifice of a lamb was a very simple offering, but it cost something emotionally and entailed the loss of an animal. God was pleased.

It is interesting to know that Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb was an example of faith. As we read about the individuals who are named in this chapter, all of whom exercised faith, we want to understand what they did that was so remarkable in God’s sight. The thinking behind the act, rather than the act itself, was what God especially appreciated. Probably Cain reasoned that he did more work than Abel, yet Abel got the credit.

Comment: Instead of asking God for the reason, Cain was jealous of his brother.

Q: If this particular offering was annual, was the commemoration in the fall of each year because that is when Adam transgressed?

A: Yes.

No doubt Abel offered animals as a practice. Therefore, we cannot use human reasoning by itself—how we measure effort—because if we measured the effort, it would seem that Cain did more. So it is not our human reasoning—what we think—that is pleasing to God but the thinking behind the offering. The same principle operates when a prayer from the heart is more valuable than a prayer from the lips because the latter can be relatively superficial, whereas a prayer from the heart, which is emotional and even wrenching sometimes, is far more meaningful, as in the case of penitence, for example.

From the human standpoint, a comparison of the works would seem to be more logical and proper but not from God’s standpoint. This principle applies to the Christian life. Therefore, we have to be careful in our judgment and try to do things in a better way if possible. The spirit and the thinking of Abel in offering the lamb were far more important than anything Cain did.

Comment: The heart condition of the two was very important. Abel’s heart was good, and Cain’s was evil.

Reply: That is true on this occasion, but we cannot establish a law about the heart being most important because people act emotionally. Both head and heart must be right before the Lord. Of course with a repentant sinner, emotion is extremely important—tears, contrition, and humiliation—but not on other occasions. For example, emotionalism may be along the lines of family preference instead of principle and preference for God. Therefore, we must be careful with regard to both the heart and the head.

Living the Christian life is a balancing act. Chronology is important, but if we are not careful with our knowledge, we will begin to judge ourselves in comparison to someone else. We do not know our own standing with God, let alone someone else’s. Another person’s standing may be superior to ours because we may be judging the great works that are being done. As Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils?

and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). Each occasion has to be judged in a proper light, and usually we, as humans, do not judge that way. We react more or less automatically—almost like a reflex action—whereas Jesus in his earthly ministry seemed to sense the right thing to do on every single occasion. He knew just what to say and what to do.

We marvel at him, for with us, fatigue and stress warp our judgment and thinking. In summary, the heart is more important on some occasions, and the head is more important on other occasions. It seems that Abel had a little of both. Not only did he have a spirit of reverential awe, but also he gave thought to what God had done.

How do we know that Abel’s offering was more acceptable to God? A miraculous fire probably came down and devoured the lamb. On several occasions in the Old Testament, God showed Himself to be a “God that answereth by fire,” for example, in Elijah’s contest with the false prophets of Baal and also in the acceptance of Gideon’s cakes (1 Kings 18:24; Judg. 6:21).

We are inclined to think that Adam made a calendar. Having been created direct by God, he was superior in intelligence, so he probably started the calendar, which Noah carried over in the Ark. The genealogy records of Genesis are remarkable in that they list the birth of an individual, his age when a child was born, and how many years he lived subsequently. When the two specific time periods are added together, we know, for example, how old Adam was when Seth was born and how long he lived afterward. Adam lived for a total of 930 years.

Comment: Even after Adam sinned, there was communication between God and man, for God (through the Logos) said to Cain, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:6,7).

Reply: Obviously, many things happened that are not recorded. The fact the account states, “Enoch walked with God,” indicates communication and conversing back and forth (Gen. 5:22).

And God communicated with Noah. However, very little information is specifically given. We would like to know more about certain individuals in the lineage, but that is impossible at the present time.

Comment: Genesis 4:3,4 reads, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel … brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” For the term “in process of time,” the King James margin has “at the end of days.”

Reply: The “end of days” signifies an annual observance, the time when an event was commemorated yearly.

Comment: That would make sense, for a particular kind of produce or fruitage comes forth from the ground at a certain time of the year.

Reply: There are two kinds of fruitage. Grains (barley, wheat, rye, etc.) are the earlier harvest, and fruit from trees (peaches, apples, grapes, etc.) comes later. The reference is usually to what comes from the trees, especially since Adam died in the fall.

Comment: The Apostle John called Cain’s works “evil,” indicating he was responsible for his unacceptable offering (1 John 3:12). Cain “was of that wicked one [Satan].”

Reply: He exercised his own thinking, and Christians do this too, usually by taking a liberal view to make an exception in moral behavior, or conduct. In any event, Abel pleased God.

There was some manifestation of God’s acceptance of his offering in contradistinction to Cain’s offering. Incidentally, the word “evil,” which is a big subject, has different connotations. For instance, even storms are called “evil.” God told Israel, “If you do such and such, the ground will be like iron, and the heavens will be like brass. The sun will be hot, and nothing of verdure will grow.” But that was not moral evil.

Thus Cain acted in what he thought was a superior way. Great deeds have been done down through history, and we marvel at certain sacrifices, but they are not what God is looking for.

Obedience is based on knowledge.

“By which he [Abel] obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.” How did Abel obtain this “witness”? His sacrifice was miraculously consumed. The plural “gifts” suggests that other events had occurred prior to the lamb offering; that is, Abel’s righteousness was not one act but a habit of doing that which was right and good.

“And by it he being dead yet speaketh.” What is the thought here?

Comment: Jesus referred to the righteous blood of Abel in Luke 11:51. “From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, … verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.”

Thus there was an awareness that righteous blood had been spilled down through history.

Reply: Yes, Jesus’ words imply a certain degree of understanding.

Comment: Although Abel is dead, his offering of a proper sacrifice continues to “speak” through the written record, showing the importance of animal sacrifice.

Reply: Even some Christians misunderstand the purpose of animal sacrifice, but what is done according to God’s will is true, right, and good. Therefore, man has to adjust his thinking to God’s frame of thinking.

Verse 3 defines faith as “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

Earlier we tried to show that there are two dimensions to that text. The more obvious explanation is that we see suns, planets, and galaxies, but faith gives credit to God as having made them. As individuals, we have faith, even though we did not actually see God creating them. In advocating the Big Bang theory, scientists try to go back so many light-years with the Hubble telescope, but even if that theory were correct, what happened before the Big Bang?

We believe that the things we see in the heavens and in nature came into being by the “word of God” because He tells us multiple times in Scripture that He made them. When Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, the entire Old Testament was available to him, so he had much understanding of what had happened in the past. Very often in the Hebrew, it is difficult to distinguish past tense from future tense. Sometimes both are meant.

Heb. 11:5 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.

What was so wonderful about Enoch’s having faith by being translated?

Comment: God must have offered to translate Enoch, and by faith, he agreed to go to an unknown location, much as Abraham did many years later when he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Reply: Yes. When God proposed going to a new place, Enoch knew he would be separated from his former situation. In other words, he knew that a cost was involved in obeying, for he would be leaving behind friendships and family relationships. He trusted that wherever he would go would be best because God had initiated the instruction. To obey required much faith on Enoch’s part. Verse 5 ties in the act of translation with his faith.

Q: Noah was “perfect in his generations,” and he came through Enoch’s lineage (Gen. 6:9). Were Enoch, Lamech, Methuselah, etc., all perfect?

A: They were “perfect” in the sense that they were justified by faith to friendship with God.

However, some individuals were more outstanding than others, namely, Abel, Enoch, and Noah. In addition, Methuselah seems to have been outstanding because the Flood was held off until the moment he died. It was as though God specially recognized him. Methuselah was the longest living person, for he died at the age of 969.

The statement “Enoch was translated” means that he was taken from one place and transferred to another place and situation. The clause “that he should not see death” is usually misunderstood. We can be reasonably sure that Enoch saw death with his eyes, for he came quite far down the stream of time—roughly a thousand years—from the creation of Adam.

When we list the ages as recorded in Genesis, those living at that time would certainly have known about contemporaneous events. Moreover, they all lived in a relatively small area. Of course Cain was pushed out to another district, but the others were more or less in a favored habitat. Therefore, we feel that Enoch saw people die; that is, he saw the effects of death. Notice that humans were not specified in verse 5, and certainly he saw the death of animals. The correct thought is that Enoch saw death but did not experience it himself. The word “see” has several meanings. For instance, a blind man who hears something may say, “I see,” meaning “I understand.” Thus there is seeing with visual sight, seeing in the sense of understanding and mentally perceiving, and seeing from the standpoint of experience.

Verse 5 ties in beautifully with the thought of the preservation of the Garden of Eden because Enoch was translated to a place where he could live indefinitely. The Scriptures state that man was expelled from the garden lest he partake of the tree of life and live in spite of the death penalty, all other things remaining the same (Gen. 3:22,23). In other words, if a person had access to the Garden of Eden, he could live indefinitely as long as he ate of the fruit of the tree of life. This information opens up other subjects, for example, genetics and the fact that there is a death gene. A relationship exists between diet and genetics, and God alone has the key to that relationship. Not only is there a key to life in the genes, but also the death gene can be shut down like a computer. The death gene is working all the time in the present life, and it is just a matter of time until the Grim Reaper acts on an individual, figuratively speaking.

The tree of life is a grove, and evidently, a mixture of different kinds of fruit grows in that grove. Stated another way, the grove consists of a combination of trees. It is interesting that God made the herbs for food, as well as the trees, and that man did not eat meat until after the Flood. Thus man had a vegetarian diet for more than 1,600 years. Adam and Eve did not remove any seeds or shoots from those trees when they left the Garden of Eden. If transplants from those trees were taken outside the garden, then theoretically man could live forever apart from Eden. But the grove of life is locked inside the garden until the due time, for “Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, … keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).

Hence it is logical to conclude that the Garden of Eden was preserved because God foreknew that Enoch would be translated to that location. Angels were stationed at the entrance to keep man away indefinitely until the proper time in the future.

Q: Will cuttings from that grove be planted by the Third Temple?

A: We have suggested that possibility.

Comment: It is possible that the trees drop seeds in the Garden of Eden, and those seeds could be brought forth after the Little Season when God so indicates.

Reply: Yes. Until that time, the trees will be off-limits for the human race except for the Ancient Worthies. We are in the realm of speculation, but the thoughts seem reasonable.

“Enoch was translated that he should not see death.” The fact he “was not found” shows he  had a bodily translation, much as Elijah bodily “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). Since their bodies were not found, Pastor Russell reasoned that Elijah is now alive with Enoch on another planet. We would make the amendment that they are alive in the Garden of Eden. Philip was also bodily translated (Acts 8:39,40). After he witnessed to and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord caught [him] away,” and he was “found at Azotus.”

“For before his translation he [Enoch] had this testimony, that he pleased God.” No doubt Abel  also had a testimony that he pleased God but in connection with a particular sacrifice, an act.

Incidentally, in addition to his translation, Enoch was a preacher of righteousness like Noah, for he prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14,15).

Heb. 11:6 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.

An earlier definition of faith was “understand[ing] that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (verse 3).

Believing that both physical creation and the ages were framed by the “word of God” is an exercise of faith for us as Christians. Abel and Enoch were also definitions of faith, but before listing additional individuals, Paul gave another dimension of faith in verse 6.

Of course we believe in an intelligent Creator, and it is interesting that an early chapter in the First Volume is entitled “The Existence of an Intelligent Creator.” The belief that God exists is natural faith, but natural faith is not enough to please God. For example, the United States is considered the most religious country in the world because about 95 percent of the population believes there is a God, but how many are true Christians? Verse 3 specifies that what we see in the heavens proves the existence of an intelligent Creator, yet many astronomers, who look at the heavens daily, are infidels.

Comment: Astronomers are 100 percent dependent upon the order of the universe. They cannot calculate anything without believing in its order.

Reply: Yes, but they claim that the order came from chaos, that chaos produced the order.

However, it was God’s Spirit and power, the aurora borealis, an electrical influence, that fluttered over chaos and made the earth habitable.

The new dimension of faith in verse 6 is that not only do we have to believe God exists, but the next step is to believe that He is the “rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” James was talking about this subject when he said that a living faith does works (James 2:17-22). However, he was not saying that we are justified by works—works are merely a proof of our faith. But even that is not the faith which most pleases God. Works are an evidence of belief, so many sincere Christians do a lot of good things and work hard in trying to obey the royal law of God—they help the poor and the homeless, etc.—but that is not what God is looking for.

Paul’s saying that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” gives a new slant on the faith of Abel and Enoch. Their faith acted on their belief and brought obedience. Thus sandwiched in between Abel and Enoch, the first two examples, and other Ancient Worthies who are subsequently singled out is the statement of verse 6 that “without faith,” it is impossible to please God because we are to believe not only “that he is” but also “that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”—as Abel, Enoch, and the others did. There is a big difference between just believing there is a God (or believing that Jesus died on the Cross) and faith. To please God, we must consecrate, which is believing into God and believing into Jesus Christ; this diligent seeking is spiritual faith.

Comment: The following is from a former study: “Verse 6 was inserted after two Ancient Worthies (Abel and Enoch) had already been named. The insertion indicates that up to that time, not many had such faith. In other words, verse 6 was inserted to show the paucity of faith that existed. As time went on, the deeds of God and His workings among men began to instill more and more faith from a historical standpoint.” It is startling to think that so close to the perfection of man, there was such little faith. Even though earth’s population was very small in comparison to today, we would expect more individuals to have spiritual faith at that time.

Reply: There have been a lot of believers in the Gospel Age, but to act on belief is to submit the  heart to God with a contract. Sometime in our life, we kneel down and confess to God not only that we are a sinner, that we recognize our undone condition, and that we have committed sins in the past, but also that we have been moved by the knowledge of Jesus Christ to accept him as our personal Savior. The love of Jesus constrains us to become obedient to want to do the Lord’s will. That confession may be done privately or publicly, but usually it is best to do both with the symbol of water baptism being a public demonstration, or evidence, of what has taken place in the heart. Therefore, to believe that God exists is natural faith, but to make a consecration is spiritual faith. Consecration manifests the desire to serve God by committing our life to Him so that our life is no longer our own. God measures us by how well we live up to that desire—just as He measured the Ancient Worthies of past ages.

Heb. 11:7 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 Noah, being warned of God of things [plural] not seen as yet.” What “things [were] not seen as yet”? It had never rained, there had never been a flood, and never before had all drowned except eight people. With regard to the future Flood, Noah was “moved with fear.”

Comment: According to the Diaglott, Noah was “piously afraid,” so the “fear” was reverence.

Reply: Yes, it was “reverential fear [or awe].” Fear has its place as a warning, but we do not want the watchdog to bark every minute of the day. Noah had approximately 100 years of opportunity to witness before the Flood came. However, we do not think he spent hours witnessing each day because he had such a monumental task to accomplish. Considering the amount of trees to be cut and beams to be prepared, the size of the Ark, the labor that was required, and how few participated in the work, Noah did not have much time to preach righteousness except when others came to him. When others made fun of him while he was busily engaged in building the Ark, he was forced to retaliate in the sense of responding as to what the danger really was and their lack of faith and obedience.

Comment: Not only were his sons not old enough to help him when he first received the command to build the Ark, but they had not even been born.

Reply: No doubt God gave the plans for the Ark to Noah, just as He later gave the plans for the Tabernacle to Moses, the plans for the Temple to David, and the plans for the future Temple to Ezekiel. It seems reasonable to assume that Noah had to study the plans and think of where to get source materials, how to transport the building materials, what place would be most convenient for constructing the Ark, etc. Because of the task at hand, Noah must have been a large, strong, tall man very much like Moses.

“By faith Noah … prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” Noah’s children were a comfort to him because they believed him and participated in his faith. For the three sons to take on this all-absorbing task, which engaged a great deal of their time, we know that faith was instilled in them. Their wives, too, would have been busy preparing food. Thus the entire family was involved in the project, and it took a number of years and much work gathering and preparing the materials before they could fully participate in the actual construction of the Ark. Notice that the account says Noah “prepared an ark,” rather then “built an ark,” because a lot of thought was behind the building.

Q: Would others such as Lamech, Noah’s father, have helped?

A: Undoubtedly others would have helped, at least in the earlier period when the sons were not available. Lamech and Methuselah would have been participants.

Another point is that the ancients had a knowledge of leverage, which is not known today.

Similarly, Italians seem to be gifted in masonry, for example, in the laying of stone walls. When they pick up a stone, they know by feel where the center of gravity is, and thus they can place it in a wall without mortar so that it will last and permit the drainage of water. At any rate, the ancients seemed to possess the gift of leverage, as in the construction of Baalbek in Lebanon, for example.

“By faith Noah … prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world.” It would be interesting to see how Noah and his family reacted, as well as to see the shame of the others, when the Flood was imminent and it started to rain. If the people tried to get in the Ark, we can imagine the scene and the panic as they encountered the covering of bitumen, a slimy tar.

“By faith Noah … prepared an ark … by the which he … became heir of the righteousness which  is by faith.” When we read about Abel, Enoch, and Noah, we can see a pattern developing, even though the circumstances of each looked quite different. A similarity in actions gives us a wonderful definition of a living faith—a faith that is acted upon.

Heb. 11:8 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 Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed.” Abel, Enoch, and Noah obeyed, and now Abraham also obeyed. Abraham was in Ur of the Chaldees when God called him to leave and go to an unknown place of promise (Gen. 11:28,31). Abraham “went out, not knowing whither he went.”

We can afford the luxury of thinking on some of the omitted details. The identification Ur “of the Chaldees” tells us that there was another Ur. The original message to Abraham was not specifically explained. When he arrived in Haran with his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and Sarah, the account tells us that God had previously called him. “They came unto Haran, and dwelt there…. Now the LORD had said unto Abraham [back in Ur of the Chaldees], Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 11:31; 12:1). Abraham did not know where he was going. He simply obeyed the command to get out of his father’s house and go to an unknown land God would show him. Similarly, when we made a consecration to God through Jesus, we did not know many of the details at first, so we, like Abraham, went out by faith. We did know that God has a plan, that there is a heavenly calling, etc., but as the years have gone by, we have been rewarded with a little more detail concerning the promise. It is encouraging to consider that in a world of unbelief, we took the remarkable step of consecration and began to walk in the narrow way. When we reflect on Abraham’s life, certainly one of the wonderful things he did was to sever  his ties back in Ur. In those days, it was dangerous for people to travel with their goods. On the limited roads, travelers were sitting ducks for banditry, especially if they did not know about notorious places for ambush. Therefore, daily Abraham manifested faith, as well as the drive to continue on, not knowing where he was going. It was an exercise of faith to trust God, the One who had called him, that somehow things would work out. Incidentally, on a tour to the Middle East, we visited Haran, and on a very old stone building, of which only ruins remain,we saw the word “Charan,” which was the proper spelling in that particular locale.

Heb. 11:9 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:

“By faith he [Abraham] sojourned [tabernacled in tents] in the land of promise.” He lived a nomadic existence, traveling from place to place and even going down to Egypt. Although Abraham died without receiving the promise, he secured it by faithfulness and will inherit the land in reality in the Kingdom.

Abraham “sojourned … as in a strange country.” Not only did Abraham need to have a strong faith, but that faith had to be continually exercised because events that happened seemed to be preventing the promise from taking place. Just as Abraham’s faith grew as time went on, so our faith should grow with more understanding. A strong faith tells us that “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). God does not tell us all of the details concerning our future.

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” is the principle (Matt. 6:34). As the hymn “He Knows” so beautifully expresses, “So on I go not knowing, I would not if I might; I’d rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light.” Abraham, one of the leading exemplars, was the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:12,16).

Comment: Christians, too, sojourn “in a strange country.”

Abraham dwelled “in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were contemporaries for a while. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old, and Jacob was born when Isaac was 60 years old (Gen. 21:5; 25:26). Abraham lived until age 175, and he was 160 when Jacob was born (Gen. 25:7).

Isaac and Jacob were “the heirs with him [Abraham] of the same promise.” When this promise was reiterated to Isaac, Abraham was mentioned: “I am the God of Abraham thy father” (Gen. 26:3,4,24). When the promise was repeated to Jacob, both Isaac and Abraham were mentioned:

“I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:13,14).

Comment: The Diaglott inserts “the” before “promise”: By faith, Abraham “sojourned in the land of the promise.”

Reply: The bottom line is that in spite of all the problems, Abraham was willing to go wherever God would lead. In time, as disclosed by the Apostle Paul, God’s message to Abraham was, “You did not get the land down here, but I have something better for you.” Thus long before Abraham died, he knew about his heavenly inheritance at the end of the Kingdom Age.

Heb. 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God”; that is, he felt that the environment around him in Ur had no foundation. There is a lot in mythology about the land and society he came out of. Abraham’s experience was somewhat like that of a Christian. When, before consecration, we realized the sin that was in us and saw the environment around us and our own undone, deplorable condition, we subconsciously wanted to be lifted up, and we hoped for something better. We searched for God if haply we might find Him (Acts 17:27).

Comment: Another similarity between Abraham and the consecrated of the Gospel Age is the hope of ultimately obtaining a spiritual resurrection.

Reply: No doubt, as time went on, Abraham realized he was due for a future inheritance, but he did not have that information when he left Ur, anymore than we know everything at the time of our consecration. As we progress in the truth over the years, we begin to see things more clearly. God’s Word is like silver refined seven times, and we are dumbfounded to see details we had not noticed before. Similarly, when God spoke in Genesis 17:8,19, we do not think Abraham realized the depth of meaning in the phrase “and to thy seed after thee.” His initial response was, “I will go wherever God leads me.” Originally Abraham was thinking along earthly lines, but later he was informed of a heavenly reward ultimately.

What is the difference between God’s being a “builder” and a “maker”? The sequence indicates that it is one thing to start to build, and it is another thing to finish successfully what was started.

Thus the term “maker” means to complete the construction process. We pray that this will be our experience as Christians, for we are being built now in the present life, and hopefully, we will finish our course in the proper mode.

Heb. 11:11 Through faith also Sarah 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.

Q: Is the implication that if Sarah had not had the faith to really grab hold of the promise, she would not have had Isaac? She “received strength to conceive seed” through her faith. Of course God, knowing the end from the beginning, realized she would have that faith, but nevertheless, her faith was important in order to have that promise fulfilled in her.

A: Since Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, Sarah would have been 90. On the surface, it was more of a miracle for a woman that old to have a child than for a man to be a father at 100. However, the implication is that Abraham became impotent after the birth of Ishmael, which occurred when he was 86 years old (Gen. 16:16). Between age 86 and 100, Abraham evidently found out he was impotent. Therefore, he was almost convinced that Ishmael was the heir of promise. Having realized a radical change in his virility, he had to exercise faith that he could have another child. In addition, he needed great faith to believe Sarah would have a child. He exercised that faith and obeyed, and in due time, Isaac was born.

We can imagine how happy Abraham was at the time of Isaac’s birth, and he never dreamed that later he would be asked to slay Isaac. We can see how great Abraham was, and had he lived during the Gospel Age, he would have been part of the Little Flock. However, God knows what He is doing. His dealings with any of us are not a matter of justice, but having promised us a crown if we are faithful unto death, He will fulfill that promise.

Comment: Romans 4:19 nicely expresses the faith of Abraham: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”

Reply: Not only did Abraham not consider “his own body [which was] now dead [impotent],” but he exercised faith with regard to Sarah. He realized he was past his prime for fathering a child, so for his faith to be valid, a miracle had to occur. In other words, he had previously tried unsuccessfully to father a child. At first, since he had a son with Hagar, he may have thought the problem was with Sarah.

Abraham’s quality of faith was remarkable. Faith is only one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, but it is one of the most important ingredients. The just “live by faith”; therefore, the exercise of faith is a growing condition (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). The seven or eight major fruits of the Spirit are boiled down to three: faith, hope, and love.

“Hope maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5). Many confuse hope with overconfidence about being faithful unto death; that is, many who will not be in the Little Flock are very confident. True faith is based on understanding; it is not just credulity but is substantive. In our immaturity, we may think we have developed remarkable faith when, in fact, that is not the case. Consider Paul, who said he would not be like one who puts off the armor. He admonished others to be careful along that line, yet at the end of his course, he could say, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8). That type of hope, which came at the end of his life, will not make ashamed. Hope was exercised in Jesus’ own life, as manifested in certain statements, yet there was a time of doubt and trial in the Garden of Gethsemane and also on the Cross. But these experiences were necessary, particularly the one on the Cross (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”), because he had to take Adam’s place. Although the latter experience was of short duration, Jesus died of a broken heart, yet his final cry (“It is finished”) was one of confidence, triumph, and victory. Accordingly, Christians experience ups and downs, but generally speaking, we can see, where recorded, the development and growth that took place in the Lord’s children of the past.

Jesus’ Gethsemane experience was of longer duration. He agonized for at least an hour and perhaps for two hours. Agonizing and importuning are important factors in our growth, for crystallization of character comes about through tumultuous experiences from time to time.

“Sarah … was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” When she overheard the angel telling Abraham that in a year, a child would be born, she laughed, but that reaction was just temporary. Therefore, we cannot judge by one’s emotions. The moment of initial incredulity quickly changed to faith. God could read her heart.

Comment: In embarrassment, Sarah denied that she had laughed.

Reply: Sarah was in the tent when she laughed inwardly, but the Logos knew what had happened (Gen. 18:12). Therefore, when he, speaking for God, asked Sarah why she had laughed, that question may have been the little spark that changed her incredulity into faith.

Sometimes a word in season can have a remarkable effect for good.

Comment: When we first look at matters from the natural standpoint, they seem impossible, and that is why Sarah laughed. She felt she was too old, but when she realized that God would perform a miracle on her behalf, faith took over.

Heb. 11:12 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.

We are spoiled to a certain extent because, living way down in history, we have a vast understanding of things that have happened since Abraham’s day. Today about 6 billion people live on this planet, but in the time of Abraham, there may have been only 50,000 people. In fact, when he fought the five kings, he had an army of only 300 or so men, yet he defeated the others and rescued Lot. The number of people who have lived subsequent to Abraham’s day far exceeds 6 billion. Of course not too many lived prior to the Flood, even though that event occurred 1,656 years after Adam. The point is that billions may be of the lineage of Abraham. All who live today are of both Adam and Noah, but from the standpoint of Abraham’s children, there could be billions—an “innumerable” multitude, as it were.

The expression “stars of heaven” sometimes has a spiritual connotation, but in other instances, the term means “innumerable” (Gen. 26:4). But in regard to the promise to Abraham, we see that there is more to this term than first meets the eye.

Comment: The Great Company is described as “a great multitude, which no man could number” (Rev. 7:9).

Reply: Under the symbol of Rebekah, the Church will generate future life (Gen. 24:60).

Although the Bible does not go into detail, it likens Jesus to the Second Adam and the Church to the Second Eve. The procreation of the race in the Kingdom Age will be a regeneration. The race that previously existed will be resuscitated, but what about future beings on other planets in the universe? Since few details are recorded in Scripture, we would be getting into a realm that is beyond our comprehension at present.

Heb. 11:13 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.

The statement “these all died in faith” is sometimes used to disprove the thought of Enoch’s still being alive. However, verse 13 does not mention Enoch, and verse 5 specifically said, “Enoch was translated that he should not see death.” Thus Enoch was listed as an exception. In other words, if the one who is talking makes an exception and then sums up his argument with the statement “these all died in faith,” that would mean except for what was previously stated.

Verse 13 is also saying that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah, who died “in faith,” did not receive the promises but saw “them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Applying this principle to the Christian, one is not to be a silent believer. Christians are to confess the promises to fellow brethren, as well as to others as opportunity arises.

Comment: If verse 13 ended with the words “and embraced them,” we could say that the Ancient Worthies were seeing the earthly promises afar off. The added clause “and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” indicates that their real (or ultimate) hope was heavenly.

Reply: The hymn with the words “I’m a pilgrim and I’m a stranger” expresses the hope of laying up “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt” (Matt. 6:20).

Heb. 11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

These Ancient Worthies “declare[d] plainly that they seek a [heavenly] country.”

Q: Would Abel have had a heavenly hope?

A: Yes, he probably did. Although many things are not recorded, we can reasonably infer that the Ancient Worthies knew more than the Bible states. There are other ways of proving this thought, for more was stated about some of the Ancient Worthies, and clues are in the Psalms and in some of the later books of the Old Testament.

Comment: Not only is Enoch excepted from the statement “these all died in faith,” but in addition, Elijah is not mentioned in chapter 11. Therefore, we are left with the statement that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).

Reply: Nowhere do the Scriptures say Elijah died, so we conclude that he, too, was translated and is still alive.

Heb. 11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

Paul now reasoned from a human standpoint. When a person is born and reared in a certain country, he often wants to go back and renew contacts and find his roots in old age—and even to be buried there. From another standpoint, a person may become homesick when parted from a loved one. However, Paul was referring to something else when he mentioned that if the Ancient Worthies had been mindful of the country whence they came, they would have had opportunity to return. Paul was writing from both a pragmatic and a spiritual standpoint, and how different the two are!

Comment: The older generation of Israelites in the wilderness proved unfaithful because they looked back to the leeks and garlic in Egypt and wanted to return to the land in which they were born (Num. 11:5; 21:5).

Reply: Yes. Those who had the proper spirit were satisfied to be pilgrims and strangers on the earth and did not want to return to Egypt. In other words, faithful individuals had a spiritual hope and longed for a better resurrection, but the nation as a whole did not have this desire.

Heb. 11:16 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.

Verse 16 explains what was just mentioned. The Ancient Worthies were indeed strangers and pilgrims who desired “a better country,” that is, “an heavenly [country].” “Wherefore God … hath prepared for them a city.” Normally, a city represents a government, and in ancient times, it was a place with order and security. The principle of human nature seems to be that there is safety in numbers. Not only were cities walled, but also they were usually built in strategic locations that were convenient for both commerce and defense. Thus a city was a symbol of a “government,” but that term was rather broad. Accordingly, in the spiritual change of the Ancient Worthies, there may be some distribution beyond one specific location.

“God is not ashamed to be called their God,” nor is He ashamed of them. His feeling toward His human servants, the Ancient Worthies, is similar to the feeling Jesus has for his followers.

As the Scripture states, Jesus “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).

Heb. 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

The illustration of Abraham’s faith that was discussed earlier in the chapter pertained to his obedience to God’s call to leave Ur of the Chaldees. He willingly pulled up stakes and left  familiar surroundings to venture forth to an unknown land. Now verse 17 is referring to a separate and later landmark of faith in his life. When Abraham offered up Isaac, his son was at least 25 years old, but by inference, it seems likely that he was 30 because he pictured Jesus.

Here Isaac is called Abraham’s “only begotten son.” In later life, we have felt that this term needs some modification, namely, his “dearly loved son” or his “darling son.” The same is true of Jesus, who is not the “only begotten son” of God in the sense of being His only direct creation, for God directly created other beings as well. Without going into a multitude of proofs at this time, we will just say that Lucifer is specifically mentioned. In addition, Christians are begotten of the Father, and the New Creation is just as real an entity as any natural creation.

Heb. 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Abraham obediently set forth on a journey to what he believed would ultimately result in the slaying of not only the son he dearly loved but also the one in whom the promise was made.

The trying of Abraham’s faith was intense, and his natural (or parental) feelings were involved as well. We do not usually dwell too much on the depth of other people’s feelings unless they are very close to us, in which case we have more and more empathy, but we can see the tremendous test that Abraham successfully passed. He was truly a crystallized character. Could there be any test more trying than what Abraham was asked to do?

Abraham’s faith was established even above the natural emotional standpoint of sacrificing a son because he first had the promise of a better land, and then he showed his faith. He proved beyond question that the promise meant more to him than anything else in life. If Abraham had been called in the Gospel Age, he would have been a brilliant star in the spiritual Church.

Heb. 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Abraham had faith in the promise that God would raise Isaac from death. In his willingness to slay Isaac, Abraham reasoned not from his own standpoint but from the standpoint of his confidence in God. What God told him to do, he would do. Abraham got up early in the morning and went on the journey (Gen. 22:3).

Comment: Like Jesus, Isaac willingly submitted to his father.

Reply: That is true, although Abraham hid the matter from Isaac until near the time for the sacrifice.

Comment: In the type, God provided a ram, so Isaac pictured the Lamb of God. Also, the ram represented a burnt offering, and because of Isaac’s willingness, God accepted him as if he had actually been offered. And if we go a step higher, Abraham, who had the knife, represented God, who “killeth, and maketh alive” (1 Sam. 2:6).

Reply: With regard to those who are truly obedient to the Lord to the extent of their ability, the more He tries them and they are faithful, the higher the reward and the greater the love and esteem of the Father. God wants the best for the consecrated, but sometimes the best for an individual is a very severe or bitter experience. The desire is that one will faithfully respond to the experience in a scriptural manner.

“From whence also he [Abraham] received him [Isaac] in a figure.” As has been mentioned, when the two thoughts are combined—the sudden appearance of a ram in a thicket and the fact that a ram was frequently used as a burnt offering—the ram was substituted for Isaac (a type of Jesus, the Lamb of God) to become the burnt offering.

Heb. 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

God blessed not only Jacob but also Esau. In other words, “by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come,” and God recognized that blessing. It is true that Esau forfeited his birthright for a mess of  pottage and that the momentary satisfying of his appetite was more important than the birthright, even though he later mourned its loss and beseeched Isaac upon seeing that his father had unknowingly bestowed the  blessing of the firstborn on Jacob. Esau realized that he had lost the firstborn blessing. Along natural lines, the inheritance of the firstborn was a double portion, and Esau sensed that loss keenly because he was of a natural mind. Isaac then conferred a blessing on Esau, which God recognized. The blessing included “the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above” (Gen. 27:39).

Years later, when Jacob returned with a bountiful gift, fearing that Esau would still have a root of bitterness and that he would start a conflict, Esau declined the gift because he was satisfied with his temporal possessions. However, Jacob insisted that Esau accept the gift. God answered Jacob’s prayer for peace (Gen. 32:9-12).

Comment: Even though deception was involved, God honored the giving of the firstborn blessing to Jacob, yet retribution came later.

Reply: Yes. As we understand the matter, necessary retribution for wrongdoing was carried out in the present life for the Ancient Worthies in past ages, and it is carried out in the present life for Christians in the Gospel Age. This principle is illustrated in the life of Jacob. He experienced a lot of disappointments, and the same was true of David. As God sees the need, matters are squared in the present life, especially in the case of injuries to others.

We have seen people change and some of the most desirable individuals fail. An example is Lucifer, whom God approved personally as being perfect. In fact, God was not satisfied to say he was perfect in beauty but said he was like the sum total as far as being an ideal son in appearance and in temperament, yet he fell through pride. It is really very strange that when we have had a long Christian life, we see some fall by the wayside—almost like Samuel with regard to Saul. In the beginning, Saul, who stood head and shoulders above the other Israelites, was so humble and timid that he hid in a haystack, but he changed. A wrong environment changes a person. No matter how good he was, if he does not remove himself from a bad environment, he gets contaminated because of the exceedingly infectious quality of sin.

Perhaps all of us in our Christian life came perilously close to going over that line, to being changed—until we got frightened. In our past life, we had a scary experience, but thank God, He puts fear in the heart so that we see the wrong, the inclination, or the danger and make a change. No matter how good and strong and courageous we are, we can be deceived. The deception can come about in a way that appears to be sudden, but usually the slipping away is gradual. It is possible to come to the point of no return.

When we analyze David’s and Jacob’s lives, there are a lot of things to think about. Jesus said, “Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28). Therefore, in spite of some of the things Jacob did, he finally stood the test, and God could see what was due to Adamic weakness. However, we are not in a position to see the fine line between Adamic weakness and willful sin. Sometimes the two come very, very close, but we are not to cross over the line. That is why we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Abandon us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We think almost all of the Lord’s people have that experience sometime in their Christian life. The Scriptures contain both warnings and encouragements. The bottom line is that we have to hang in there and be faithful to the Lord and His promises and make straight paths for our feet.

The expression “concerning things to come” is significant. Of course Esau did get a blessing, but he is not to be considered as one of the Ancient Worthies. The one being commended was Isaac. In other words, Esau was an exception to the blessing of faith that Isaac possessed.

Heb. 11:21 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, when Jacob was dying, he blessed both of Joseph’s sons. (When Isaac was dying, he blessed both of his sons, Jacob and Esau.)

The Holy Spirit crossed Jacob’s hands, so that he gave the chief blessing to Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son. Joseph tried to change the hands back, but Jacob said, “I know it, my son, I know it” (Gen. 48:17-19). Joseph and Isaac each had a preference for one of their sons, but the question is, What was the Lord’s preference? Both of Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, got a blessing from a natural standpoint, just as both Jacob and Esau got a blessing from a natural standpoint. Jacob and Esau each had many sons and a multitude of flocks.

In summary, we ask, Who shall stay God’s hand? He will reward whom He thinks is proper.

Some puzzling things come up in our study of the Word of God, but we are to go by His thinking. Then, lo and behold, the day comes when we can see the wisdom of something that has troubled us.

Comment: With both Jacob and Esau and then Ephraim and Manasseh, the younger son received the better blessing.

Q: What is the thought of the statement that “by faith Jacob … blessed both the sons … and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff”? The word “leaning” is supplied. The Diaglott has “bowed down also on the top of his staff.” Why was this detail included?

A: The “staff” was important, for it was like a scepter of authority. It was not unusual for the chief bedouins to have a leading stick, or staff. With the Arabs, a scarf of a particular color put around the head indicated rank. Clans and tribes in Africa have symbols of headship.

Heb. 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

How did Joseph know about the Exodus? In Genesis 15:13-16, Abraham was given information about 400 years of affliction. When Joseph died in Egypt, a number of years still had to be fulfilled before his bones could be taken to the Promised Land. Incidentally, based on clues in Scripture, we place Job in the time gap between Joseph and Moses. Also, based on principle, God has a representative, or witness, on the earth at all times.

“By faith Joseph … made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” During the entire 40 years of the Exodus, the Israelites were carrying Joseph’s bones.

The Pastor succinctly and acutely observed the distinction between the Patriarchal Age (of individuals) and the Jewish Age (of the nation of Israel). In addition to those who are listed in this eleventh chapter as being Ancient Worthies, we know of perhaps just as many whose names were omitted. Paul purposely did not make the listing too long, but in the Patriarchal Age, the Ancient Worthies must have been very outstanding individuals, for example, Shem.

Heb. 11:23 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, Amram and Jochebed, who were not fearful, hid Moses for three months following his birth and then put him in an ark. With strong faith, not only did they preserve Moses’ life, even though there was a death sentence on all Hebrew male babies, but also they put him in an ark, which was like a raft, and sent him out into the unknown. Evidently, the circumstances were well thought out. For example, they had to figure out how the Nile current was flowing so that the ark would rest in the bulrushes, and of course the Lord overruled the matter.

Comment: Moses must have been an unusually beautiful baby (Acts 7:20), and although the details are not recorded in Scripture, Jesus as a perfect babe would have been extraordinary in appearance. Here was another similarity between the two individuals.

Reply: When Pharaoh’s daughter, who was childless, saw this exceedingly fair male baby in the ark in the bulrushes, her heart melted. In addition, the Lord would have worked on her emotions. There were many similarities between Moses and Jesus, as prophesied by Moses.

“The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken [in the Kingdom Age]; … I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deut. 18:15,18). Even if the number is in the millions, it is surprising how relatively few Jews have believed in Jesus. Only a very small percentage have had faith. The Lord’s people may be poor in many ways, but they are rich in natural faith at the start of their Christian walk, and the hope is that they will grow in spiritual faith.

Natural faith, a gift that some are born with, is solely the product of Providence; it is sometimes called a talent. The Apostle Paul said, “All men [the majority] have not [natural] faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Spiritual faith, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is developed over time.

Q: What is the thought of Moses’ being “a proper child”?

A: As a babe, Moses was beautiful to look upon. In other words, his unusual appearance set him apart from other male babies.

Comment: For Moses to be successfully hidden for three months means he was a content and quiet baby.

Reply: Yes, he was probably well-behaved.

Comment: The hope of a Messiah was real to Jews who had faith. Therefore, when Amram and Jochebed saw the Hebrew male babies being killed, they may have prayed earnestly about the seed of woman, hoping that perhaps Jochebed would have the honor of bearing this baby.

When Moses was born, his extraordinary appearance seemed providential, and they thought that he could be the promised Deliverer.

Reply: Yes. They did not know for sure, but they felt that he could be the Deliverer. Tradition indicates that Amram was an unusual individual.

Comment: Moses was profited by the faith of his parents.

Heb. 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

Heb. 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

When did Moses probably “come to years”? Certainly he was an adult, as justified by his conduct, when he slew the Egyptian overseer who was mistreating a Hebrew, and that would have been around age 40. “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren” (Exod. 2:11). The fact that Moses’ sympathies were with his people, the Israelites, indicates parental guidance and influence to some extent, for although he was schooled in all the wisdom of Egypt, surely the Egyptian libraries did not have much information about Jews (Acts 7:22). Therefore, this information would have come primarily from his mother, showing that parental influence during the tender years can be very beneficial in the rearing of children.

The point is that Moses knew all the implications and dangers of revealing any affection or sympathy for the downtrodden Israelites, of which he was one. In what way did he refuse “to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”? If he had wanted to be the next Pharaoh, he would have openly indicated, by words and deeds, his loyalty to the current Pharaoh and to Egypt.

He declined to do that, but evidently, he had tact like Daniel, who was a foreigner yet occupied a high position. Some people are gifted in using tact and knowing how to say the right thing while, at the same time, having the wisdom not to tell lies. According to tradition, Moses became a general in the army of Upper Egypt, but he eventually chose to be identified with the Jewish race, as manifested in his intervention in the struggle between the Egyptian and the Hebrew. As a result, he had to flee for his life.

Thus Moses chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God [the Hebrews], [rather] than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Jesus stated a principle that applies in any age: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). The Ancient Worthies of the Old Testament had tests similar to those of the Christian. Turning his back on the rich endowment of Egypt, Moses chose instead the downtrodden race of his own people and the promises of God.

Moses’ parents must have briefed him on Jewish history. In the past, people had not only longer lives but also better memories. Probably Moses was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter at 12 years of age, but by that time, he had learned much about God and his own race. Evidence of Moses’ outstanding memory is the Book of Deuteronomy, which he spoke in one day at the end of his life. As he discoursed for hours and hours, his words manifested his awesome understanding of the principles of God.

Heb. 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

When Moses came of age, he esteemed “the reproach of [for] Christ [to be of] greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Certainly Moses was consecrated. Perhaps his parents had told him that Joseph wanted his bones to be taken back to Israel because of his firm belief that the Israelites would be redeemed from Egypt.

Comment: The second part of verse 26, “For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward,” ties in with verse 6, “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Comment: The Diaglott has, “He looked off [away] toward the reward.” Moses definitely looked ahead to the reward of faith in the future.

Reply: He had faith in the promises of God. Similarly, the Christian trusts that if he is faithful unto death, God will give him “a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). All of the promises to the seven periods of the Church down through the Gospel Age ended up with great encouragement. The true Christian Church has the “one hope” (Eph. 4:4).

Heb. 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses “forsook Egypt” by faith when he left at the time of the Exodus. He did not fear the wrath of Pharaoh, even though he spoke to him face to face. Moses “endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” No doubt when he spoke to Pharaoh, he had courage, confidence, and strength of spirit—plus a few miraculous signs to show him.

If a person shows a little trembling or timidity, he can become a victim. For example, a friend and coworker was threatened a couple of times in broad daylight right in front of City Hall because he was lame. People saw that they could rob him. Animals do the same thing in looking for the very young or the old as prey. Undoubtedly, Moses’ faith was evidenced when he spoke to Pharaoh. He had no fear at that time, yet earlier, when he was in the wilderness, his attitude was, “Pharaoh is such an awesome authority figure that I am not capable of speaking to him.” Although God appointed Aaron as Moses’ mouthpiece, there were times when Moses spoke. Incidentally, if Moses had been rewarded earlier, he might have ended up a failure, but his 40 years of experience in the desert wilderness were a marvelous schooling.

Comment: Moses had faith while in Egypt up to age 40. However, he did fear Pharaoh and had to flee for his life after slaying the Egyptian.

Reply: Jesus gave similar counsel to his disciples: “If your message is received unfavorably, leave that city and go elsewhere.”

Q: Did Paul specially choose the word “invisible” in verse 27 because the Egyptian religion was a religion of sight with three-dimensional objects to worship? He seemed to be contrasting Moses’ faith in the invisible God with that which was visible.

A: Yes. This exercise of faith on Moses’ part occurred before he went up on Mount Sinai and was given a symbolic vision of God. As a mature individual at age 40, he chose to suffer the reproach of the people of God. When he fled into the wilderness, the only recorded visual experience happened at the burning bush just before he returned to Egypt.

Comment: Paul continued to give examples of the definition that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Reply: Except for Abel (and we do not have enough information about him), the Ancient Worthies who are listed were looking for a city or a land. Enoch was translated far away.

Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees to go to the Land of Promise. Joseph looked forward to his bones being taken back to Israel. We believe Abel also had this hope, but the Bible is silent. The Christian also hopes to go to a land, a heavenly land.

A common theme of the exercise of faith is that those who have made a consecration are on the right path. They are in the way, and they are to keep in the way and make straight paths for their feet, watching and praying with all diligence.

Heb. 11:28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

Where was Moses’ faith specially manifested by his keeping the original Passover? All of the Israelites were made aware of the requirements to keep the Passover. If Moses’ faith had not been strong, he could have feared that the information would get back to Pharaoh, and then the obedient Israelites would have been sitting ducks for the Egyptians. With unwavering faith, Moses kept the Passover as instructed by God. The firstborn in every house of the Egyptians died when the destroying angel went through the land, but the Israelites were spared (Exod.12:12,23). Incidentally, the light of the full moon aided the Israelites to meet in Rameses, the rallying point for their escape from Egypt. At Succoth, the second stop on the route of the Exodus, God provided a cloud that shielded them from heat by day and was luminescent by night. That cloud stayed with the Israelites for the entire 40 years in the wilderness. The Lord helped them wonderfully.

The bottom line of faith is obedience and loyalty. We obey because that is what God’s Word says, even if we do not understand the reason. What is foolishness to the world can be the wisdom of God to His people.

Heb. 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

Moses is included in the “faith” of verse 29, but now he blended in with the Israelites. “By faith they [Moses and the Israelites] passed through the Red sea as by dry land.” When the Israelites were brought to the shore of the Red Sea, they were initially stopped by the water. Moreover, they were hemmed in by mountains on both sides, and on the hill behind them were Pharaoh and his 600 chosen chariots (Exod. 14:7-10). The Israelites did not have faith until Moses spoke to them in his wonderful statesmanship style, whereby he remained calm and used very plausible language; then he lifted up his rod, and the sea parted. Looking at Moses, hearing him, and seeing the sea open, the Israelites then exercised faith that the sea would not come back and swallow them up. In other words, at first, with the exception of Moses, the people manifested anything but faith, but once the sea opened, their faith was sufficient. Some remarkable things have been done in critical periods of history, and so the Bible says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11). On this occasion, God marvelously helped His people in spite of their failings, and Moses’ behavior instilled faith. When the Lord opened the sea, the Israelites became a changed people.

The Egyptians drowned when they tried to overtake the Israelites in the Red Sea. Seeing the Israelites crossing the Red Sea dry-shod, the Egyptians felt they could do the same. Without hesitation, they entered the sea with their chariots, but their bravado was based on a false confidence. Thus what became the salvation of the Israelites (and the few non-Israelite sympathizers who accompanied them) resulted in the demise of the Egyptians.

Q: There are a few instances in Scripture where people of faith went over a body of water on dry ground. In addition to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea under Moses, Elijah and Elisha went over the river Jordan after smiting the waters, and the Israelites crossed under Joshua with the Ark of the Covenant to enter the Promised Land. What does the dry ground represent in antitype? Each case was an instance of faith.

A: Crossing over dry-shod was a miracle just as when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee. In fact, even Jesus had to exercise faith in order for the water to become hard like cement so that he could walk on a “sidewalk,” as it were, in the midst of a boisterous sea with wild waves and roaring wind. With the exercise of faith comes a reward. When the Israelites saw the Red Sea open, they exercised faith to follow Moses across the sea. God did His part in causing that which by nature would be anything but dry land. The seabed could not be too sandy, or the wheels on the Israelites’ wagons would have dragged. Also, the crossing, which had to be completed by dawn, took place at a wide part of the sea. No doubt a lot of the “dry land” came about through evaporation, but in addition, the waves froze like a wall. We need to read slowly to absorb the astounding happenings. The Israelites went from a state of fear and panic to a condition of faith. The God of the universe instilled faith in His people through an operation of mysterious forces.

However, incredible as it seems, the Israelites soon forgot this great miracle and murmured repeatedly in the wilderness, even expressing a desire to return to Egypt. The murmurings of the older generation showed a lack of faith. To the contrary, faith needs to be enduring—“be thou faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10).

Heb. 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

By the faith of Joshua and the Israelites, “the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” For that period of time, there was unity. The people obeyed Joshua’s command to repeatedly circle Jericho in silence (Josh. 6:10). To have thousands of people go around the city without conversing, which took perhaps four to six hours each time, was remarkable. (Of course the Israelites resumed talking when back in camp each night.)

Despite the obedience on this occasion, dissembling occurred later. The word “dissemble” is interesting, for it is like the opposite of “assemble,” which would be a unity of faith.

For the seven days that the Israelites kept circling Jericho, they saw high, thick walls. The city appeared impregnable, yet the people knew they were going to attack it. Joshua would have informed the Israelites that after seven circuits on the seventh day, they were to shout and then go straight forward, striking for the center of the city. The people had faith that when they shouted, the walls would fall down and thus make it possible to confront the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

Joshua must have been very similar to Moses. During the 40 years in the wilderness, he was being trained as Moses’ successor.

There is a mysterious power that is associated with faith. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). The falling of the walls of Jericho is an example of a seemingly impossible act that was accomplished—almost like the removal of a mountain. However, as in this case, faith must have substance, and that substance is the authority of the Word of God.

To encompass a city for six days and then encircle it seven times on the seventh day is quite a long time. When the Israelites completed the seventh circuit on the last day, it would have been late in the day, near nightfall. An earthquake was timed to correspond with the shouting.

Heb. 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

In connection with the fall of Jericho, “by faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not.” Rahab had a past of being a harlot, but was she a harlot after she consecrated?

No! Of all the inhabitants of Jericho, only Rahab and her immediate family were spared. She was like a foreigner outside of Israel proper, yet she became a proselyte to the Jewish faith. She was rewarded with a place in the lineage of Messiah, being the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz (Matt. 1:5).

As an evidence of her faith, Rahab “received the [two Israelite] spies with peace” and later put a scarlet cord in the window (Josh. 2:1-22). When she reasoned with her family, they listened. Unwavering faith is greatly to be desired. If faith starts to become wobbly, then prayer and fasting are necessary for restoration. Many Christians go through experiences where they are near the point of going astray, but the Lord gives providences to wake them up. If the providences are heeded, the individual is marvelously rescued. No doubt in some instances, the Lord will just ignore those experiences as far as recording the lives of those Christians. In other words, as we live our life, it is being recorded—the soul is a reality—but it is being edited.

In fact, that is how the saints can judge the world. In replaying the record of an individual’s life, those of the Little Flock will be able to fast forward the tape and then stop it repeatedly, including and deleting portions as the Lord instructs. In the Bible, we see the failings of some of the best people, for example, David. It is good to think on some of the failings and recoveries so that we do not get discouraged to the point of despondency and forsaking the narrow way.

The Lord gives us all kinds of warnings. Jesus said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Paul warned against letting things slip (Heb. 2:1). He also pointed out the danger if we forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25).

Heb. 11:32 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:

Gideon did several things by faith. The most startling incident involved the 300 (three bands of 100 each). The test for selecting them was the manner in which they drank water, lapping it up like a dog with eyes looking forward. The 300 did not just drink to satisfy their thirst (to get the truth in the antitype) but looked ahead for what they were supposed to do (wanting to know the message of the hour). Accordingly, the faith of Gideon and his men was their looking forward to the battle when there were only 300 against a large host of Midianites. God rewarded Gideon’s faith by allowing him to overhear one of the enemy tell of a dream in which a barley loaf came down and flattened a Midianite tent. The Midianite said, “That is the sword of Gideon, who will defeat the host of Midian” (Judg. 7:9-15).

Barak is listed but not Deborah, yet we know she was also an Ancient Worthy. Samuel’s whole life was dedicated to God. He walked to various places under different conditions, judging Israel righteously and uncompromisingly. Much of David’s life is recorded, but the highlights we usually think of are his slaying of Goliath and his refusal to slay the Lord’s anointed when he had two opportunities to kill King Saul.

A number of incidents in Samson’s life may seem puzzling, but he was very wise and had a strong sense of righteous indignation. Like the others, Samson is commended for his faith, which culminated in his death when he pulled down the pillars in the Temple of Dagon.

Likewise, the faith of the feet members will result in their destruction.

In regard to Jephthah’s faith, we usually think of his unwise vow when his daughter came out to meet him and, consequently, had to remain unmarried and a virgin for life (Judg. 11:30-39).

However, the Scriptures also mention Jephthah’s faith and courage.

Heb. 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

Daniel “stopped the mouths of lions” when he was thrown into the lions’ den, yet when his enemies were cast into the den, their bones were crushed before they reached the bottom of the pit. Since the lions were already hungry when the Lord’s angel stopped them from hurting Daniel, they were exceedingly hungry when Daniel’s enemies were cast into the den.

Deborah was one who “through faith subdued kingdoms,” for in connection with her advice to Barak, she evidently noticed his unusual humility that needed encouragement. When pushed, he displayed remarkable qualities.

Verses 33-38 are not duplications of individuals already named. Paul was trying to show that in addition to those specifically listed, there were many, many other Ancient Worthies—especially if there are to be 144,000. Paul omitted a lot of names, for his purpose was to give just enough information to encourage us to live a life of faith and works in the present life.

Heb. 11:34 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.

The three Hebrew children “quenched the violence of fire.” Since a number of individuals “escaped the edge of the sword,” it is hard to particularize.

King Hezekiah was made strong “out of weakness.” When Rab-shakeh, an Assyrian general, loudly taunted Israel and Israel’s God, Hezekiah prayed for help, and Isaiah sent a message that strengthened him. Also, when King Hezekiah was dying and beseeched God, he was given 15 more years of life (2 Kings 20:1-11). Jeremiah, too, was made strong, for initially he had said, “Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jer. 1:6).

Jonathan “waxed valiant in fight” (1 Sam. 13:23–14:15). When there was a Philistine garrison up above, Jonathan and his armor bearer fought against great odds in the strength of the Lord.

King Jehoshaphat “turned to flight the armies of the aliens” when he appointed singers to go out before the army and the Lord fought the battle (2 Chron. 20:17-24).

Heb. 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

The Bible tells of two “women [who] received their dead raised to life again.” 1 Kings 17:17-24 tells of the widow of Zarephath, whose son Elijah resuscitated, and 2 Kings 4:32-37 relates the account of the Shunammite woman, whose son Elisha raised. The Elijah account states twice that the soul came into the child again; that is, the soul was put back into the body (1 Kings 17:21,22). Therefore, the soul is a separate entity.

When a person dies, the soul leaves. We do not think God is interested in a person’s last breath, nor is He interested in the body, which decays. However, He is interested in the soul. This subject, which has been grossly misunderstood by millions of people, needs clarification.

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” Here is another generalized description of unnamed individuals. Many types of suffering and persecution were endured so “that [through faith] they might obtain a better resurrection” as Ancient Worthies.

Heb. 11:36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

Heb. 11:37 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;

Heb. 11:38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Naboth was stoned in connection with the seizure of his vineyard for Ahab through Jezebel’s manipulations. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned for standing above the people and saying, “Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD…? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you” (2 Chron. 24:20,21).

According to tradition, Isaiah was “sawn asunder.” Many Ancient Worthies were tempted and slain with the sword. John the Baptist and others “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins.” Still others “of whom the world was not worthy” were destitute, afflicted, and tormented for their faith. “They [plural] wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” If there were 144,000 Ancient Worthies, these verses have to be generalizations. Although we can sometimes insert a name, others suffered similar  experiences.

Heb. 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

Heb. 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Paul was giving an object lesson and making a comparison between the Ancient Worthies and the Christian. The Ancient Worthies, who were exemplars of faith, died without receiving the reward promised. If these faithful ones of the past, who had a lesser promise, were so faithful, there is something wrong with the Christian who does not appreciate the full significance of the high calling, which is a better promise, and bend every effort to run the race successfully.

Q: Why does verse 35 use the term “a better resurrection”? Is the thought that the Ancient Worthies endured afflictions, “not accepting deliverance,” so that they would obtain a better resurrection?

A: Yes, they remained faithful unto death, knowing they would be rewarded. They realized that the more they accepted the persecutions which came their way, the higher their reward  would be. The Old Testament hinted of a resurrection for the world of mankind, but that is adifferent resurrection than the “better resurrection” of the Ancient Worthies.

The implication, too, is that some of prior ages compromised their faith in some way but did not lose everything. Therefore, they will get life, although in a lesser capacity than the Ancient Worthies, who knew they would be rewarded for superlative faithfulness. As a Gospel Age example, an individual in Wycliffe’s era caved in through persecution, but when he was later confronted with the same trial, he put out his arm to have it burned off in the flame. This time he did not manifest pain but showed resoluteness, having asked the Lord for forgiveness for his previous weakness. One lesson is that whatever failing a person has, he should not give up the hope of life. Another example is Peter, who denied the Lord three times prior to Pentecost but later became a bulwark in the Church. Sometimes what appears to be a fatal weakness can be changed. The instruction is to be faithful unto death, so if we have an experience of weakness, we still have time from that point forward until death to try to be faithful.

However, a caution is necessary. Although retrievals do occur, we must not rely on them as an excuse for not fighting a weakness, for such rationalization would probably make the sin more abhorrent in the Lord’s sight. If we fail in a trial, we should ask for forgiveness and pray for strength to steel ourselves for any future experience.

Q: If we compare verse 39 with verse 13, using the Diaglott, what would be the reasoning? Verse 13 reads, “All these died in faith, not having received the promised blessings [plural].”

Verse 39 states, “And all these having been attested by means of the faith, did not obtain the promised blessing [singular].” Does verse 39 also indicate that the Ancient Worthies did not receive the spiritual part of the Abrahamic promise, the chief blessing of the high calling?

A: Yes. In this eleventh chapter, Paul tried to shame the Christian. He was saying in effect, “Consider the faithfulness of the Ancient Worthies, yet they did not receive the promises.”

(Many promises were given to the Ancient Worthies from a plural or collective standpoint, for even if each Ancient Worthy received only one promise, there would be 144,000 promises.) Making the promise singular in verse 39 is a form of irony, for if there were such faithful ones in the past, we should at least be faithful unto death.

“God having provided some better thing for us [the special promise of the high calling], that they [the Ancient Worthies] without us should not be made perfect.” It is astounding that the Ancient Worthies, apart from us, “should not be made perfect.” They did not receive their own promise at death, for everything will occur in the proper order, starting with “Christ the firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:23). The Ancient Worthies must wait until the “church of the firstborn,”

the Little Flock and the Great Company, no longer need the mortgaged blood of Jesus. Then the Ransom will be released for the world. Incidentally, resuscitation, which is different from resurrection, does not affect that mortgage, for the death penalty still exists with resuscitation.

Embedded in this chapter, which extols the faithfulness of the Ancient Worthies, are reflections on particular individuals we are to consider. Therefore, the purpose of chapter 11 is to help the Christian. Verse 2 of the next chapter crowns the thinking by urging the Christian to look “unto Jesus.” Paul’s point was, “Not only is the faith of the Ancient Worthies commendable, but consider Jesus, the favorite Son of God. Consider what he experienced, yet he was perfect.” Paul’s reasoning should shame us if the old man in us is trying to find a way out.


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