Reading through the Bible together
Chapters 11 provides the evidence for the assertion in chapter 10 that the “righteous one shall live by faith” by providing an impressive list of examples of people of faith from Israel’s history.
So, by faith, Abel “still speaks,” Enoch did not “see death,” Noah saved “his household,” Abraham both conceived a son when he was already dead—as far as having children is concerned (Rom 4:19)—and received his son back from the dead when he offered him as a sacrifice to God. By faith Moses survived the king’s death edict, escaped the “anger of the king,” and later escaped the destroyer. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea and conquered Jericho. These stories show that faith gives life. They contrast with the story of the Israelite faithless desert generation (Heb 3) who lacked faith and died.
The author also asserts that faith provides understanding. Verse 3 says: “by faith we understand.” Thus, evidence is not the determinant factor for understanding but faith is. After all, the desert generation had all the evidence they needed but failed to understand.
The rhetorical structure of this chapter also has a powerful surprise for us. The repetition of the phrase “by faith Abel …,” “by faith Enoch …,” “by faith Noah …,” etc, builds a momentum that climaxes in vs. 31, “by faith Rahab …”
Really? Do you mean that Rahab, the prostitute, is the climax of this chapter above Enoch, Abraham, and Moses? Yes, and I love it. Rahab’s confession of faith in Joshua 2:10–11 is one of the most beautiful in the Scriptures. I believe, however, that Rahab was chosen for another reason. Rahab separated herself from a faithless, disobedient generation that would be destroyed. She did not see the plagues of Egypt, nor the Red Sea being opened, or the column of fire, or the water flowing from the rock. She heard and believed.
We may have not seen Jesus ourselves or experienced powerful miracles but we are invited to believe and have life.
Felix H. Cortez
Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary