We learned when we last gathered that our faith grows through the various trials that God sends our way preparing us for our heavenly roles. Now in our passage we have 3 examples of Faith. It is one thing to trust God in theory when things are going well, but when a situation comes upon us, doubt rises up. In this passage we have 3 examples of common, real people who had nothing incredible in their makeup, yet who, when under pressure, believed God and allowed faith to overcome doubt. In these examples we learn what God really wants from those who love Him and desire to serve Him and find acceptance in Him.
1. Abel (Hebrews 11:4) who lived almost at the beginning of time; when life was not nearly as defiled as things are today. In Genesis 4 we are told that Abel was a keeper of sheep, and that his brother Cain was a farmer, a tiller of soil.
The assumption that many Biblical scholars make is that Cain knew that God required blood and that was why is offering was not accepted, but there is a place for grain offerings in Leviticus 2:1, 4, 14-15. It may have been Cain’s attitude in his offering that caused God not to accept his offering or it could have been that it was not blood. Either way Cain needed to draw near to God in prayer or dialogue to find out what was lacking in his offering. Abel’s offering on the other hand was accepted by God. Cain brought what he thought was right. He wanted to bring an offering that he thought would be acceptable to God.
Abel believed God, in fact some believe this is why Abel was a Shepherd in the first place. Abel came to God on His terms not his own, and with the right attitude of heart. Abel had faith in God, while Cain implicitly did not. Abel seems to have been humble, while Cain appears to be proud and arrogant.
Cain’s pride and arrogance was demonstrated by his anger and actions when his offering were not accepted by God. How could such an offering from a person with that kind of attitude be acceptable to God? In God’s eyes it is not just the material but the moral and spiritual qualities that determine the worth of an offering.
The sacrifices of God, as the prophet wrote, are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:7). I desire mercy and not sacrifice Micah 6:6-8). The result was God rewarded Abel, the one who was faithful, and judged Cain by discerning the intentions of his heart.
2. A minister named Enoch (Hebrews 11:5) – Jude 14-15 is a quote from the Jewish apocryphal book of Enoch which tells us that in his public life, Enoch proclaimed a message of judgment which his generation both resented and resisted. Genesis 5:21-24 (read) gives us some insight into his private life. Apparently, for 65 years Enoch did not walk with God.
But things happened in his life after that. First, he and his wife had a son, Methuselah. Then something happened in his life and he began walking with God. Maybe it was the responsibility of raising a child in the midst of some really ungodly people that turned him around or brought him to God. Whatever it was, when He put God first in his life, it became pleasing to God. It was his obedience and his priorities that demonstrated faith.
3. Noah, the builder (Hebrews 11:7) Of the three of these men, Noah’s story is the most popular and most well known. Unquestionably Noah was considered weird by his contemporaries. Why? Because rain had never fallen, to build a ship to sail on water in a community that was 500 miles from the sea must have caused tremendous ridicule and mocking.
In spite of this he continued in obedience and faith to build his ark. The ark was a vessel so big that it would hold his family and the chosen animals of God and their food supplies. It was Noah’s action that caused him “to become an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” What seemed foolish to others was valued by Noah.
By faith Abel came to God in the way He wanted him to come. By faith Enoch proclaimed God’s word. By faith Noah obeyed God’s will. Each of these men was common and simple, but each lived by faith. Abel demonstrated his faith in his worship of God, Enoch by His walk with God, and Noah by his obedience to God.
Later we will see that Abraham and the others further demonstrated faith through these and other actions. All these men had faith, a confident conviction of future things in which they placed their hope. A conviction in things that was unobservable. Because of this confident conviction they acted in ways that were pleasing to the Lord.
Action is not faith, it is rather the result of faith. And as Hebrews 11:6 states 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 seek Him.