Hebrews 11J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
11 1-3 Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old. And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God’s command—that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible.
Faith is the distinctive mark of the saints of the old agreement
4 It was because of his faith that Abel made a better sacrifice to God than Cain, and he had evidence that God looked upon him as a righteous man, whose gifts he could accept. And though Cain killed him, yet by his faith he still speaks to us today.
5-6 It was because of his faith that Enoch was promoted to the eternal world without experiencing death. He disappeared from this world because God promoted him, and before that happened his reputation was that “he pleased God”. And without faith it is impossible to please him. The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that it is worth a man’s while to try to find God.
7 It was through faith that Noah, on receiving God’s warning of impending disaster, reverently constructed an ark to save his household. This action of faith condemned the unbelief of the rest of the world, and won for Noah the righteousness before God which follows such a faith.
8-10 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the summons to go out to a place which he would eventually possess, and he set out in complete ignorance of his destination. It was faith that kept him journeying like a foreigner through the land of promise, with no more home than the tents which he shared with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs with him of the promise. For Abraham’s eyes were looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.
11-12 It was by faith that even Sarah gained the physical vitality to become a mother despite her great age, and she gave birth to a child when far beyond the normal years of child-bearing. She could do this because she believed that the one who had given the promise was utterly trustworthy. So it happened that from one man, who as a potential father was already considered dead, there arose a race “as numerous as the stars”, as “countless as the sands of the sea-shore”.
All the heroes of faith looked forward to their true country
13-16 All these whom we have mentioned maintained their faith but died without actually receiving God’s promises, though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality. They freely admitted that they lived on this earth as exiles and foreigners. Men who say that mean, of course, that their eyes are fixed upon their true home-land. If they had meant the particular country they had left behind, they had ample opportunity to return. No, the fact is that they longed for a better country altogether, nothing less than a heavenly one. And because of this faith of theirs, God is not ashamed to be called their God for in sober truth he has prepared for them a city in Heaven.
Abraham’s faith once more
17-19 It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, made a sacrifice of Isaac. Yes, the man who had heard God’s promises was prepared to offer up his only son of whom it had been said ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’. He believed that God could raise his son up, even if he were dead. And he did, in a manner of speaking, receive him back from death.
The faith of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
20-22 It was by faith that Isaac gave Jacob and Esau his blessing, for his words dealt with what should happen in the future. It was by faith that the dying Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons as he bowed in prayer over his staff. It was by faith that Joseph on his death-bed spoke of the exodus of the Israelites, and gave confident orders about the disposal of his own mortal remains.
23-29 It was by faith that Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, for they saw that he was an exceptional child and refused to be daunted by the king’s decree that all male children should be drowned. It was also by faith that Moses himself when grown up refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He preferred sharing the burden of God’s people to enjoying the temporary advantages of alliance with a sinful nation. He considered the “reproach of Christ” more precious than all the wealth of Egypt, for he looked steadily at the ultimate, not the immediate, reward. By faith he led the exodus from Egypt; he defied the king’s anger with the strength that came from obedience to the invisible king. By faith Moses kept the first Passover and made the blood-sprinkling, so that the angel of death which killed the first-born should not touch his people. By faith the people walked through the Red Sea as though it were dry land, and the Egyptians who tried to do the same thing were drowned.
30-31 It was by faith that the walls of Jericho collapsed, for the people had obeyed God’s command to encircle them for seven days. It was because of her faith that Rahab the prostitute did not share the fate of the disobedient, for she showed her faith in the true God when she welcomed the Israelites sent out to reconnoitre.
The Old Testament is full of examples of faith
32-38 And what other examples shall I give? There is simply not time to continue by telling the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jeptha; of David, Samuel and the prophets. Through their faith these men conquered kingdoms, ruled in justice and proved the truth of God’s promises. They shut the mouths of lions, they quenched the furious blaze of fire, they escaped from death itself. From being weaklings they became strong men and mighty warriors; they routed whole armies of foreigners. Some returned to their womenfolk from certain death, while others were tortured and refused to be ransomed, because they wanted to deserve a more honourable resurrection in the world to come. Others were exposed to the test of public mockery and flogging, and to the torture of being left bound in prison. They were killed by stoning, by being sawn in two; they were tempted by specious promises of release and then were killed with the sword. Many became refugees with nothing but sheepskins or goatskins to cover them. They lost everything and yet were spurned and ill-treated by a world that was too evil to see their worth. They lived as vagrants in the desert, on the mountains, or in caves or holes in the ground.
39-40 All these won a glowing testimony to their faith, but they did not then and there receive the fulfilment of the promise. God had something better planned for our day, and it was not his plan that they should reach perfection without us.