They weren’t afraid

Faith is confidence in what we hope for, the assurance of things not yet seen. It was through faith that the people in earlier times earned a good reputation.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was made from what was unseen.

By faith Abel brought a better offering to God than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, and God showed approval of his gifts. And by faith he still speaks to us, although he’s now dead.

By faith Enoch was taken to heaven without dying – “he disappeared, because God had taken him away.” Before he was taken, he was commended as a person who pleased God. And without faith it’s impossible to please God, because anyone who wants to come to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned of the coming flood, took notice of God and built an ark to save his family. By his faith Noah condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to another place which he would later inherit, obeyed and went, even though he didn’t know where he was going. By faith he lived in the promised land like a refugee in a foreign country, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited that same promise. But Abraham was looking forward to a city that had already been established – a city that was planned and built by God.

By faith even Sarah was enabled to have a child, although she was barren and far too old, because she believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man, Abraham, who was as good as dead—a nation with as many people as the stars in the sky and the sand upon the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They didn’t receive what was promised, but saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They admitted that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. And people who say such things are looking for a country of their own. If they’d longed for the country that they’d come from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better country – a heavenly one. That’s why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice when he was tested by God. Abraham, who had embraced the promises, was willing to sacrifice his only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your descendants will be reckoned.” For Abraham believed that God could raise him from the dead. And so, figuratively speaking, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau as to their future.

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

By faith Joseph, when he was about to die, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born. They saw that they’d been given a special child, and they weren’t afraid to ignore the king’s command.

By faith Moses, when he’d grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Instead he chose to share the oppression of God’s people, rather than the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought disgrace for the sake of Christ was of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith Moses left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger. He persevered because he kept his eyes fixed on the one who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and applied the blood to the doorposts so that the angel of death would not touch the firstborn of the Israelites.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow them, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after the army had marched round them for seven days.

By faith Rahab the prostitute was not killed along with the disobedient people of her city, because she had welcomed the spies.

And what more shall I say? It would take too long to talk about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. Through faith these people conquered kingdoms, ruled with justice, and gained what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back from death.

Others, however, were tortured, refusing to ask for release in order to obtain a better resurrection. Some were mocked and flogged. Others were chained and imprisoned. Some were stoned to death, some were sawn in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about dressed in the skins of sheep and goats, destitute, oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.

All these people were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. For God had planned something better, so that only together with us would they be complete.


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