Noah was motivated by faith. Remember 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” There was no physical evidence of an impending flood. In fact, before the flood it is likely that the people of that day had never seen rain. Nonetheless, Noah was faithful and acted out of reverence for God and was obedient to His command to build an ark and save his family.
Noah believed God and was the first man to be called righteous (Gen 6:9). It wasn’t because he built the ark that he was considered right with God. His righteousness was credited because he had faith. The same is true for Abraham and for us today. The Apostle Paul declares in Romans 4:4-5:
“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but ‘trusts’ God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Both Noah and Abraham and all the heroes of the faith mentioned in chp. 11 were made right with God through faith. They stood righteous and justified (sins forgiven) before our Holy God. Moreover, they acted on this faith. Good works while not the foundation, are the consequence of a genuine living faith (James 2:20-24).
Abraham left the certainty he knew in the land of the Chaldeans. Stephen recalls the Scripture before his stoning, Acts 7: 4-5
4“So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.”
Moreover, Abraham believed God wholeheartedly, he acted promptly without hesitation. “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Despite Sarah’s skepticism (Gen 18:12) she is mentioned. Abraham had faith that Isaac would be born as promised, she came to share the same faith. Obviously, Abraham wasn’t going to have a child by himself—she believed and acted too.
Just like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob we Christians live and die by faith. The promises of glorification and eternal life are assurances we have because of our faith and adherence to God’s word. However, we are strangers and aliens in a foreign land. We are here to be living sacrifices, to become holy and pleasing to our God. We persevere and strive to avoid being contaminated by the world. Our ultimate hope and reality is Heaven, and Jesus reminded us in Jn 14: 1-4.
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Abraham did not hesitate to offer Isaac as a sacrifice not because he didn’t love his son. It is very likely that he felt sad about the pain his son would experience. However, greater was his faith than the circumstances. He had a complete confidence in God and knew Him as trustworthy to fulfill His promises. God had already promised that Abraham’s offspring would come through Isaac. Therefore, Abraham stayed obedient and believed God would raise him from the dead. “…and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph had faith that looked beyond death. Morris (1981) said, “Their faith was such that they were sure God would work his will. So they could speak with confidence of what would happen after they died. Their faith, being stronger than death, in a way overcame death, for their words were fulfilled.”
Moses’ parents followed in the faith of Abraham. The king’s edict was for every male Hebrew child to be thrown into the Nile (Exod 1:22). However, Moses’ parents trusted God and hid Moses for three months rather than adhering to the king’s evil decree.
Later, when Moses was about forty years old (Acts 7:23) he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated and identify with the people of God. Why? The pleasures of sin, although enjoyable only last a short time. Compromise and the security of this world are inconsistent with living faith. Again, we see a looking forward to our hope found in Christ. Moses’ understanding of the Messianic hope was limited, although he chose to be associated with people through whom that hope was to be realized. God demonstrated His faithfulness. The focus is on the faith of the Israelites, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea…”
The falling walls of Jericho came down because of the faith of Joshua and those marching (Jos 6). Rahab was a prostitute who put her life at risk to help the people of God (Jos 2:1-21). It is significant that a woman from such a background could become an example of faith. The Scripture is full of life transformations of overtly sinful people God chose because of His great mercy and compassion. God changes people; especially those we think can’t or won’t be changed.
By living faith: more than a few of the faithful mentioned here were imperfect. Morris (1981) quotes Calvin “In every saint there is always to be found something reprehensible. Nevertheless although faith may be imperfect and incomplete it does not cease to be approved by God.”
Gideon among other tasks conquered a Midianite army of 120 thousand! With only 300! men. Barak did not have perfect faith, in fact he needed to be encouraged by Deborah, yet in the end God was faithful and Barak was obedient (Judges 4:1-23). Samson was enticed by Delilah; Jephthah made a foolish vow and stubbornly kept it. He was a mighty warrior and trusted God for victories (Judges 11). David was a man of faith who reflected God’s Heart. Samuel and all the prophets, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised…whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle…”
We see many times in the OT that God made promises to his people and kept them. So, blessings were received along the way. However, the “ultimate” promise/blessing was fulfilled in Jesus.
Examples of women receiving their dead back to life: 1Kings 17:17-24; 2Kings 4:18-37; Luke 7:11-14; and Lazarus, John 11; Dorcas Acts 9:36-41. At other times, people of God endured suffering (e.g., flogged, imprisoned, sawed in two) through faith they looked forward “that they might gain a better resurrection.” This implies that all will be raised, but some for better and some for worse. The apostate or those who refused to believe and be saved will face a grim resurrection.
Outwardly faithful men and women of old were insignificant and unimportant to the world. However, they were more important than the whole world, though they lacked everything the world valued. The heroes of the faith had no material goods to speak of; they cared about faithfulness more than their own comfort.
Finally, the men and women of old were commended for their faithfulness, “yet none of them received what had been promised.” The fulfillment for the saints of old, as for us, is Christ. Redemption is complete in Jesus!
Morris said, “As long as the believers in the OT times were without those in Christ, it was impossible for them to experience the fullness of salvation…. Only the work of Christ brings those of OT times and those of the new and living way alike into the presence of God.”
Lord grant us obedient faith everyday.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1981) Frank Gaebelein (ed)
NIV Study Bible (1985).