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God’s Word for You

Hebrews 10:36-39 through Hebrews 11:1

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, December 3, 2014

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” ª

ª 38 Habakkuk 2:3,4

In Habakkuk, these words are about the coming of the Babylonians, which would completely surprise the Jews—but those with faith would have nothing to fear. Even death at the hands of a pagan still means eternal life for the faithful. I think our author makes an excellent application of the Habakkuk passage, although some commentators are troubled by it. His point is that our most important focus must be on our Savior, because it is not the quality of our faith or the history of our faith that matters, but who our faith is in that matters. Faith is all about Christ, and not about you or me. So we give our attention to Jesus, and know that by trusting in him, we have a place with God forever.

“And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

This quotation, “I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back,” is from the Greek translation of Habakkuk 2:4 (the Septuagint) and not from the original Hebrew text. Nevertheless, it reflects things said elsewhere in the Bible such as Hosea 8:13, Malachi 1:8 and Malachi 1:10, and we know that God is not pleased with anyone who once had faith but then abandoned it. The point here is to encourage Christians and remind us that we who have faith are saved. So this leads right into a question: What is faith? And that’s what our author brings up next.

Faith in Action
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Faith is the hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) of our hope. Hypostasis is literally “substance,” someone “standing under” something firm and solid, like a large pillar, a roof, or the authority of a superior. This “substance” is in opposition to “hope” in the passage. What we hope for is something we don’t have yet, and some might argue that (like Schrodinger’s cat) something that is only hoped for might never be ours. But that’s not the case with our faith. Our faith is truly the substance—NIV says “confidence”—of what we don’t have yet, but we know we will have it in the future. How can we know that? Because God has promised it.

God once promised his people that he would give them the Promised Land. Because of their doubts and their sins, they had to wait forty years to see it, and most of them died, but God did give it to the nation, and their children crossed over into Canaan as God parted the waters of the Jordan for them just as he had parted the Red Sea (Joshua 3:15-16). So they set up a cairn of twelve stones as a memorial. To what? To God’s kept promise. Ours is the God who keeps his promises, and since he has promised us eternal life, we trust him. Trust is the essence of faith. And our faith—strong or weak, brand new or as old as the hills—depends only on God, and not on anything in us.

God is trustworthy. So trust him. And here comes a whole cloud of witnesses who trusted him, too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.