Part One: Before the Patriarchs
Hebrews 11, the Great Hall of Faith chapter, begins with a biblical description of faith. Now the writer of Hebrews will expand this description of faith by giving us some examples of it, beginning with Abel and then moving on to Enoch and Noah. Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain.” A major theme in the book of Hebrews is the superiority of Yeshua over the sacrificial system of the day, including a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23). What made Abel’s sacrifice better was that he offered the type of sacrifice that God required, a blood sacrifice, the first of which would have been the animal slain to cover Adam and Eve. By offering the better sacrifice than Cain, Abel “obtained the testimony that he was righteous.” What made Abel righteous was his faith, the evidence of which was offering the sacrifice that God required, namely a blood sacrifice. It is through that offering of a blood sacrifice that the writer of Hebrews says, “Though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
The next person to demonstrate faith was Enoch. Enoch and Abel both demonstrate the kind of faith pleasing to God, one that “obtained testimony” or “obtained witness” that they were righteous and pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch “obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.” The only additional biblical information we have on Enoch is found in the book of Jude, where it says in chapter 14 that Enoch prophesied against an ungodly generation regarding God’s impending judgment. One can speculate that Enoch believed that though he was prophesying against this ungodly generation, God would protect him and keep him safe. For his faith, Enoch was rewarded by being “taken up so that he would not see death.” For his faith Abel was murdered, a very different outcome to two examples of great faith. The writer of Hebrews further describes faith by writing, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Though Abel and Enoch had very different outcomes in their lives, they both pleased God because of their faith. They believed that “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
The last example of faith in this study is Noah. In Hebrews 11:7, the writer says four things about Noah. First, he says, Noah was “warned by God about things not yet seen.” God warned Noah that He was going to judge the ungodliness in the world by bringing about a cataclysmic flood that would wipe out all life on the planet. There had never even been rain, let alone a flood, and yet clearly Noah believed God. Second, it says that Noah “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” Can you imagine Noah hearing God say, “I want you to build a ark.” His response had to have been, “What’s an ark?” God would have replied, “It’s a big boat.” Yet, because of his faith Noah believed God at His Word and accepted what he did not understand. Because of his faith, Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, as well as two of every creature on earth were saved from the flood that destroyed the rest of the world. Third, by obeying God and building the ark for which he would have been soundly ridiculed, Noah “condemned the world.” Those who did not have faith that was pleasing to God perished because they ignored Noah’s warnings. Fourth, Noah “became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” What Noah inherited was the new world after the flood and it would be his legacy to repopulate the earth through his sons—an allusion to the new world to come for all believers in Messiah.