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Lowell Brueckner

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Carried by Faith, Part I



(An expositional study of the book of Hebrews)

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”  Habakkuk 2:4, quoted in Heb.10:38, Ro.1:17, and Ga.3:11

 Chapter 11

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

2. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

3. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.


The substance and evidence of godly faith

 The prophet, Habakkuk, contrasts the just soul with the soul of the puffed up… literal Hebrew, swollen: Here, I will mention leaven, which is always negative in biblical symbolism, because it swells beyond the substance, into which it is mixed. Therefore it fitly symbolizes pride, hypocrisy and deception. The unbeliever is self-righteous and self-sufficient. The soul, which is justified by faith, is one which is simple and truthful, humbly casting himself on God. That means that he believes or trusts in Him.

 In verse 1, we have a definition for faith. Faith is that, which gives substance to the invisible things, for which the believer hopes. It is all the evidence needed for the unseen things. The New Testament deals with spiritual things, which are invisible, and faith is needed to provide substance and evidence to them. Intellect and scientific proof will fall short in the search for them and thereby, the ones, who try to build a religion on these two foundations, will never achieve their goal. Countless millions have made the attempt. 


 Besides being substance and evidence for the invisible, we would like to gain more knowledge of this important element that brings us into the Kingdom of God and is the key to successfully living a Christian life. Examples are very helpful in forming a more precise understanding of any truth and Hebrews 11 is a chapter of examples of faith in chronological order. By faith are the two introductory words for every example.

 We need to understand that the faith, which we will study by examining it in the lives of the Old Testament saints, is a very particular kind of faith. That statement suggests that there are other sources of faith and we do not want to confuse them with what we see in this chapter, because we will never come into the Kingdom of God with a lesser kind. The New Testament writers took the faith-statement by Habakkuk to mean that a soul becomes just or righteous through faith.

 In fact, in Habakkuk we see a certain faith in the contrasting example, which he gives to true faith. It is human faith, entrenched in fallen man, which rises within him and causes him to believe in himself. We might also call it self-confidence or a good self-image. It is a source for the dreams that human beings hope to achieve. Every human has a measure of natural faith and it is needed to simply go through life. We can give simple examples of faith in a chair, in order to sit down, faith in a taxi driver or pilot to take us to our destinations, etc. Many more could be mentioned, but I think that you get the drift of what I am saying. This faith, however, cannot lift us into the heavenly, the spiritual or the divine realm.  

 The apostle James informs us of another source of faith in James 2:19:  “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” This is the faith of devils and every Christian knows that demonic faith brings no evil spirit close to God. It is counterfeit faith, which we see exercised by demons throughout the gospels. They recognized Christ and sometimes cried out, when He entered into their presence. Just this morning in my devotions, I read of the Gadarean Legion in Mark 5:1-20, who begged Christ to send them to a herd of swine. He gave them their wish.  

 There is a faith, which is not inherent in natural, fallen man. It is a very particular kind of faith, of which Jesus taught his disciples. They implored him, “Increase our faith.” Jesus’ response is most significant, because He did not speak of a need for more faith, as they requested, but for a peculiar kind of faith, depicting His teaching through a tiny mustard seed: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’, and it would obey you” (Lk.17:5-6). This faith comes “by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Ro.10:17). I will only mention the fact that even the hearing, of which the apostle writes, is a special kind of hearing. Finally, I will add, that Mark 11:22 could easily be translated, “Have the faith of God!”  

 I believe that this chapter will show us that God gives faith, in order that His will can be performed. It is certainly not given in order to accumulate possessions or any personal gain. His purposes are done in the realm of the supernatural and that is where supernatural faith is required. It is by this faith that the Old Testament elders obtained a good testimony (2). It is supernatural faith that dares to believe in a supernatural six-day creation. Notice that invisible, spiritual things predated the physical things, brought the physical into being, and ruled over them (3).

 4. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

5. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “And was not found, because God had taken him”, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

6. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.


Faith brings righteousness to the believer and pleasure to God

 The first example takes us back to earliest times, when the first sacrifice by a human being is recorded. Abel had no pattern to follow, except that which was given by YHVH Elohim Himself, by which He made clothing for Abel’s parents. He did it by faith, beyond human knowledge, whereas Cain’s soul was swollen and offered God the fruit of his own labor. Abel sacrificed a lamb, recognizing his own sinfulness, his blood speaking to the entire world of man’s need for a sin sacrifice. It was excellent faith that produced a more excellent sacrifice and through it, Abel also speaks to us of the righteousness that is obtained through faith (4).

 With the super-faith that some have claimed and some continue to claim, I have not yet heard of any taken away like Enoch was. There had never been a case like it before and only Elijah’s rapture followed it. I begin to get an idea from these first examples of something happening beyond the will of the participants.

 Like the faith of the Roman centurion, who recognized the power of the word of Jesus, because He was under the authority of the Kingdom of God, Abel’s faith took him far beyond anything that we could rationally explain. Then, I would suggest that there have only been two raptures in human history, because God willed them for His own purposes and faith operated in Enoch for that purpose.

 The Holy Spirit takes us to the heart of God, so that we might catch a glimpse of the importance of faith. If Enoch would have needed a tombstone, these would be the words etched into the granite: He pleased God (5). Abel’s testimony was that righteousness is obtained through faith and Enoch’s deathless departure testifies of God’s pleasure, gotten through faith. Since he was not found, I wonder how long people searched for him. You remember that the sons of the prophets wanted to send out a 50-man searching party to look for Elijah. Elisha knew it was foolish, but they put so much pressure on him that he finally consented. They looked for three days without success, to which failure, Elisha responded, “I told you so” (2 K.2:15-18). He knew that God took Elijah.

 Enoch pleased God by faith and so did Abraham. God gave Abraham a promise and Abraham believed
Him and trusted Him to fulfill His word. God said, “That’s all I’m asking from you”, and He declared him righteous. Faith is the vehicle that takes us to the grace of God that brings eternal salvation, because it gives Him pleasure. There is nothing outside of faith that gives Him pleasure and therefore there is no other means of salvation. Faith not only believes that God exists, it believes to the point that it launches a diligent search that is never satisfied, until He is found (6).

 7. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

8. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

9. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;

10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

12. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.


From godly fear to heavenly inheritance


Noah is next and his testimony is that faith motivates through godly fear. He believed God’s warning of a coming flood and went to work building an ark. Nobody had ever seen rain before, but Noah’s faith gave substance and evidence to the word of God. Godly faith brought godly fear. It is serious motivation, wouldn’t you say, that will hold you to a job for 120 years? While he worked, he preached righteousness to a lost generation (2 P.2:5). Only Noah’s family believed and entered with him into the ark. The absence of faith in that day, needed a contrast in order to be revealed. Noah’s faith stood out and condemned the unbelieving world. It said, “This is what faith does, it hears and believes the voice of God and fearing, it obeys His command, by which this family will be saved.” Noah believed and found grace in God’s eyes (Ge.6:8) and as Abel and Enoch, he was made righteous by faith (7).  

 The purpose of God through Noah was to destroy and then repopulate the earth. For that, Noah received faith. When the time came for God to choose a nation, which would become His people and, through which the Christ would come into the world, he began with Abraham. Joshua preached, “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.”

 Abraham left an advanced civilization, in its time, to go… he didn’t know where. Without that knowledge, he left his city, his family and his ancestors’ gods… by faith. Faith gave that unknown place substance (8). People of faith continued to do the same throughout the Bible, including in New Testament times. We won’t take the time to tell of Philip, Peter, and Paul’s adventures by faith.  

 Faith becomes very intense in the next verses. Without a map or any system of direction, God led Abraham into the land of promise. God defined to him the borders and told him that this was the land for himself and his descendants. We might think that immediately we would get out his shovel and start digging foundations for a house for Sarah and himself and more for his nephew’s family and for his many servants. He would need folds for his sheep and barns for his cattle and camels. He does nothing of the kind, but lives like a nomad in the inheritance that he received from God. The only things that he put into the land were the stakes for his tent. He taught his son and grandson to do the same and that characteristic brought him great intimacy with the Almighty (9, see Ge.18:17-19).

 What is behind this lifestyle and unworldly lack of motivation in failing to claim, what is his own? We was waiting… waiting for a city that faith had revealed to him and given substance. It was the heavenly Jerusalem, whose builder and maker was God (10). Once the eyes of faith gazed on that city, he was destined to be a stranger and pilgrim anywhere on earth. He was waiting to go to heaven!  

 Everything we are seeing here is unearthly, spiritual and supernatural. Faith is required in order that any part of God’s will might be carried out. Well, it’s His purpose to form a nation and, of course, you can’t form a nation without citizens, so a population is required. What potential does Abraham offer, in order to found a great nation?

 You know the story, but you need this story to get inside of you and form your world view. We have an old couple… the wife, Sarah, past the age of childbearing. Of course, she was sterile anyway and had never had a child. This is the Lord’s choice to begin the formation of a nation, which actually came into being and is still on the earth in 2021. He was doing His supernatural work by a faith, which was placed in the heart of this woman, Sarah. She knew that God was faithful and she trusted Him and His promise (11).

 Men can only write these stories in fiction, but the Lord writes them with the lives of real people. There is no history like His story and no book like the Bible. Read the words of the Holy Spirit: Therefore from one man and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore (12).

 As we go back to this history in Genesis, we might not see a great faith manifested through these people at all times. Sometimes there was laughter, caused by doubts, and actions taken that were not at all works of faith. That is just the point. We must understand that we are not talking about human faith, but of something that finds its roots in God and cannot fail, despite the failures of men and women.

 13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

14. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.

15. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.

16. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

17. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18. of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”

19. concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

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


Something bigger than human plans are being accomplished

 All that God had begun with the people that we have observed, so far, would not reach its fulfillment for many centuries, but notice three verbs that describe their attitude towards them: 1) They were assured of them. They knew the God, who gave the promises, and they were sure that one day there would be a people, who would experience the glorious reality of their completion. 2) They embraced them. Their zeal was not squelched, because the promises were distant. They threw their arms around them, in wonder, enchanted by their reality. 3) They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. God’s promises so occupied their minds and hearts that it transformed their lifestyle. It was a living confession that they could not be satisfied anymore with the things that the world had to offer them (13).

 Peter described particularly the attitude of the prophets, who spoke of the gospel days:    “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into” (1 P.1:10-12). And we, upon whom the ends of the world have come… Can we be indifferent and half-hearted? God help us! It was certainly a mighty lesson for the Jewish “Christians”, who contemplated abandoning the faith.

 They were looking for a homeland, beyond the inheritance of their Promised Land (14). Their citizenship, as ours, was in heaven, “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php.3:20). Paul told the Galatian church: “The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Ga.4:26). Not only did they look with great anticipation to the future, they also had to forget the things, which were behind them. If they wanted, they could have returned, but none of them did (15); these all died in faith.


All the saints are getting restless,

They’re not bound by shackles forged of earthly gold;

Since the day they knelt at Calvary,

They’ve been pilgrims ever wandering,

Just looking for a place to rest their souls.

 This section is all about heaven, my friends, and there was a time, when Christians kept their eyes focused in that direction. Their hymnology reflected it. My parents used to sing, “When I take my vacation in heaven, what a wonderful time that will be.” Then they would follow with “Over in Glory, we’ll not shed a tear; no disappointments, no heartaches, no fears.” Among the Native Americans in Oneida, Wisconsin, my dad would close each service by everyone holding hands in a circle and singing, “’Til we meet, ‘til we meet, ‘til me meet at Jesus’ feet.” Take us back there, Heavenly Father!

 God is ashamed of people, who might call themselves Christians, but who are so foolish that, having the promise of Him preparing an eternal city for them, they are taken up with the things of this life (16). I have two commandment for us to ponder very seriously. 1 John 2:15,17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him… and the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” James 4:4: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

 What some consider to be a sad story, I find to be among the most glorious of the Old Testament. God commanded Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah and offer him in sacrifice. This was the son of the promise and, as you can well imagine, Abraham’s heart and future was bound to this, his only legitimate son. But he loved God more, and faith works by love (Ga.5:6). He would surely obey God and he knew that He would not fail him.

  Isaac was in the Lord’s eternal purposes and therefore, if he offered him in sacrifice, God would have to resurrect him. God promised him that he would be the father of nations and that in Isaac your seed shall be called. So he rose early in the morning, took Isaac and some servants with him and came to Mt. Moriah. Hear the word of faith to his servants! “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Ge.22:5) Figuratively, says the Holy Spirit, God did raise him from the dead and give him back to Abraham (17-19).

 Verse 20 is a clear indication of a faith that is bigger than the greatest faith ever manifested by a human being. You’ve got to see this. It concerns Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau and if you know the story at all, you will remember, upon whom Isaac willed to bestow his highest blessing. It was upon Esau, but faith is given us by God in order to fulfill His will and not ours.

 By that faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, and it is exactly the opposite of what Isaac meant to do. Have you ever discovered that God had something in mind for you, which you were not expecting at all, and He turned your situation, with your intentions around, in order to accomplish His purpose? What we are seeing here is not Isaac, exercising faith, to carry out his will in their future. Not at all; we see something bigger working in Isaac. We see him being carried by faith to accomplish the eternal purposes of God.  


(We will continue with the last half of chapter 11, as soon as possible.)





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