The Letter to the Hebrews: a commentary & meditation 
"Without faith it is impossible to please God"

Scripture: Hebrews 11:4-7
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by  accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still  speaking. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.
Meditation: Every age and culture has its heroes -- men and women who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of something greater and more noble. The author to the Hebrews gives us a list of noble men and women of old who were noted for their great faith and trust in God. Cain and Abel were the oldests sons of the first parents, Adam and Eve. Genesis tells us that Abel's sacrifice was very pleasing to God (Genesis 4:4).  From the very beginning of creation God put in the heart of every man and woman the longing to be united with God.  The offering of a sacrifice as a gift to God, whether it be a prized possession such as an unblemished animal or the first-fruits of the harvest, was meant to express gratitude and reverence for the Creator and Author of life.  Abel's gift pleased God because it was given in "faith" -- in total trust and reverence for his Maker. Abel gave his gift with the certainty that God would accept it as a pleasing offering of thanksgiving and worship. Faith is the condition of being acceptable to God.  To approach God is only possible for those who believe that he exists and has good things in store for them.  To please God is to believe in what is unseen and to hope for the good things to come.  Abel lived in and for the future.  That is why he is called "just" or "righteous".  He trusted in the promises of God and made his life an offering of praise to God.  We do not know why Cain's sacrifice did not please God.  Perhaps he gave his gift grudgingly or insincerely with little thought that it would move God in the least.  True faith in God moves us to give God our best -- the best of our time, talents, gifts, and resources.  Do you make your life an offering to God as Abel did with faith and confidence in his providential care and love?

The scriptures tell us very little about Enoch.  Genesis gives us one sentence: "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24).  What does it mean to "walk with God"?  Psalm 1 tells us that those blessed by the Lord "walk not in the counsel of the wicked .. but delight in the law of the Lord."  Enoch loved God and followed his ways.  He was a man of great faith because he lived a life of repentance, turning away from evil practices and renouncing sinful desires, and earnestly sought to understand how he could please God in the way he lived. God rewarded him for his godly faith by "taking him to himself".  Through the gift of faith, God enables us to walk with him each day, and he gives us the help and grace we need to turn away from sin and to choose the way of love and righteousness.

Noah is a man of great faith because he believed in God's message.  With reverence and obedience he took God at his word and built an ark to preserve his household in safety.  He and his family were saved from destruction and judgment because he believed and obeyed the word of God. God's judgments are just and good.  If we trust him, as Noah did, and heed his warnings, then, we too will know and experience the joy, freedom, and safety the Lord desires for those who take him at his word.  Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith in his word and to increase your longing to be united with him forever.

"Lord Jesus, your word is utterly true and reliable. Give me understanding that I may grow in the certainty of the hope you have placed in my heart and serve you faithfully all the days of my life."

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(c) 2001 Don Schwager