“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” Hebrews 11:4
In Hebrews 11, commonly referred to as the “Hall of Faith”, we begin reading that BY FAITH:
Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice,
Enoch was commended as having pleased God,
Noah constructed an ark,
Abraham obeyed when he was called and
Sarah received power to conceive.
In verses 15-16, there is an IF, BUT, THEREFORE syllogism contrasting what could have happened with what did happen because their faith was focused on the right thing:
15 IF they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 BUT as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. THEREFORE God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
An amazing result of their faith is that God is not ashamed to be called their God! Wow! What a great encouragement to know that if we live faithfully God will be unashamed to be called our God. Thus, it makes sense that we should heed the advice of the Apostle Paul when he exhorts us to set our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3
Hebrews 11:17-34 continues to tell us that BY FAITH:
Abraham offered up Isaac,
Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau,
Jacob blessed each of the sons of Joseph,
Joseph made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones,
Moses’ parents hid him for three months,
Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,
The walls of Jericho fell down after being circled for seven days,
Rahab gave a friendly welcome to the spies and
Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight.
One of the things that is most evident in the way these faithful saints are described is the way in which they lived. Each person in the Hall of Faith is mentioned by name but also by action. And their faith was the catalyst for their practical actions and decisions. They were not in the hypothetical category of being “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good,” they were actually the opposite. These saints were so heavenly minded that they were of much earthly good. In fact, the greatest good ever to take place, namely the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of guilty sinners, can hardly be thought of without recalling the faithful actions throughout history of people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and even Rahab.
Hebrews 11 is thus a glimpse of the providential hand of God working out His plan of salvation through the faithful acts of saints who lived with their minds set on heavenly things, namely their heavenly citizenship. This is why they can still speak to us today. Even though they did not receive an earthly prize and see the promises fulfilled in their lifetime, God testifies to the righteousness of the faithful and reminds us of the importance of keeping our eyes on eternity.
So something for us to think about is how will our lives speak when we are gone? Will our lives be marked by “thinking of the land from which we have gone out”, going back to Egypt, so to speak. Or will our lives be marked by faithful actions that “desire a better country, a heavenly one”? Will God use our actions to bring about the eternal redemption of his people who have been prepared for a heavenly city? Will our life continue to speak even after we have departed? I know what I want my answer to be.
By God’s grace, my prayer is that all who read this would think about their legacy, how they want their life to speak, and live their life in such a way that God will indeed be unashamed to be called our God. Amen.