Today’s Bible reading

Read Hebrews Chapter 11

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

-Hebrews 10:39-11:1

More thoughts for meditation

In the second half of chapter 10 and chapter 11, our author moves into the present. All of the preceding argument was to establish the perfection and completion of the revelation of the Son of God and the work Jesus has done for us. So now, it’s time to live it.

It seems that the recipients of this letter were tempted to second guess their commitment to the Way of Jesus. It is likely that they were experiencing some sort of persecution socially and politically. The Jewish communities outside of Israel (sometimes called the diaspora) were tight knit and essential for survival. Not fitting in to the dominant culture of a Roman colony had very isolating consequences. The Jewish communities supported one another. These Jewish Christians were even more isolated because following Jesus soon became a point of departure from the established Jewish community that did not decide to follow Jesus. So the temptation to turn away from Jesus was more than just a spiritual choice.

Our author outlines the eternal consequences of such a decision, but ends chapter 10 saying, “But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.” And chapter 11, probably the most famous part of Hebrews, is a beautiful description of what being a “faithful one” really is. You could spend a long time studying the stories of each of the people mentioned (that’s a good idea!).

Persecution was not new for Jews. Verses 37-40 describe unnamed Jews who suffered before Jesus’ day, after Israel had been occupied by foreign powers. It was not until this persecution began under Antiochus Epiphanes (b. 215 BC – d. 164 BC) that resurrection became the explicit hope of most Jews (except for the Sadducees see Matthew 22:23). It was implicit in scripture, which Jesus points out in that same discussion about resurrection with the Sadducees in Matthew by quoting Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Christ takes the “I am” that God speaks to Moses for all it means—“I am”—present tense. God IS the God of Abraham. The resurrection was promised even then because if God is still the God of Abraham, 300 years after he died, then Abraham’s destiny must not be death. There must be a present tense somehow now for Abraham, just as there is a present tense for us and all the heroes of faith our author remembers in this chapter. We can’t ever see it before we go the way they have gone, but our hope is real—our faith is real. We are the faithful ones too.

Suggestions for action

What tempts you to forget your faith, to refuse to hope, to run away? We don’t have an Antiochus Epiphanes or a Roman emperor persecuting us, but it’s not a stretch to consider the social isolation that comes from real faith—faith that shapes our lives (decisions, careers, habits, schedules, relationships). Name some sacrifices you have made to follow Jesus. May they motivate you to hold fast. You can’t give up! Not after all that!