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God’s Word for You

Hebrews 11:2-3

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, December 4, 2014

2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

At the end of the chapter, our author will round out his point. Notice the way he repeats the term “commended for” in verse 39: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” They were commended because they had faith, even though the final fulfillment had not yet come. Why did God make them wait? So that we would join them in this faith! God delayed their fulfillment while he waited for us and while he waited for the moment to be just right for Christ to enter the world and take up his cross for our sakes.

Ours is the only religion in the world that is based on historical events and not on myths or uncertainties. We have no ridiculous nonsense like “What is the sound of one hand clapping” or silliness like that. We don’t chant a monosyllable to help us concentrate on our belly buttons or to meditate on nothing at all. There are whole religions in the world that do just those things.

We praise Christ for what he did. Period. And this is what the “ancients” were commended for: They put their faith in Christ even before he came into the world. He was the one they looked forward to from the very first promise that God would take on human flesh and destroy the work and power of Satan (Genesis 3:15).

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

We’re about to begin looking at a list of people who had faith, confidence in what they hoped for and assurance of what they did not see. But first, our author (thinking, no doubt, about the early chapters of Genesis to which he will turn for his first examples of faith) realizes that the creation account itself is an example of the hypostasis, the substance standing under something firm and known, even though unseen. The creation account is similar to faith because here is an unseen reality—just like the reality that faith looks to. We know the fact of creation because the Bible tells us about it, but we don’t know the manner of how it happened except that God spoke his word, and the word was the power that made everything come into being. The unseen reality became a concrete, tangible reality, through the word of God. What was seen was not made out of what was visible, but by that which cannot be seen. God spoke, and it was.

Sometimes children play with such sincerity that their logic can almost stand up—except that any adult knows that their conclusions are based on a false premise, or not enough information. For example, a child might hide a piece of sausage under the couch. When the child looks for it later, they will find that the sausage has gone. Therefore, what is the only conclusion the child can imagine? Sausage will vanish—spurlos versenkt—if left under the couch for an hour. You and I know that the cat found it, but the child doesn’t think that way. So an unbeliever will wonder about the creation of the universe, and ignore what the Word of God says, and come to all kinds of conclusions based on false assumptions, faulty logic, or by ignoring the information God has given to us in his word.

When my brother and I were boys, sometimes he would learn a trick with a coin or a deck of cards. He would show me how it was done, and then he would take me with him to show mom or dad or our sister Nola. They might not get how it was done, but Dan always let me in on the truth. Our brother Jesus has let you and me in on the truth of how everything was done. You’re in the know, even though millions of people have all kinds of wild theories of their own that are just wrong.

God commends you for your faith, just as he commended the ancients for theirs. Don’t give up what you know in your heart. Treasure it. Be delighted by it. Your brother Jesus has let you know the truth. Embrace that truth, and know that with him you have eternal life.

(Forgive my schoolroom German. Spurlos Versenkt means “sunk without a trace.”)

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.