INTRODUCTION: WHAT DOES “FAITH” LOOK LIKE
Having told us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1), the writer goes on to a “practical outworking” of what “faith” looks like, through the lives of “heroes of the faith”. In looking at the witness of Abel and Enoch we will see that faith is manifested in walking with God in all that we do and trusting in His saving Grace…
ABEL: FAITH AND NOT WORKS
Have you ever read this?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
Well, it’s trust in this truth that led Abel to be included in God’s “Heroes of the Faith”.
Let’s read together what is written in Hebrews 11: 4 –
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
In order to understand what this is all about, and how we can develop our faith by being more like Abel, we have to go right back to the dawn of time…Now Adam and Eve had rebelled against God and the consequences (there are ALWAYS consequences!) was that they were banished from the Garden of Eden and no longer were able to physically walk with God in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve came together as man and wife and had two children: the first was called Cain and the second, his brother, was named Abel. Genesis 4: 2-8 carries on the story:
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Abel kept flocks…flocks = sheep (OK goats as well, but I am sticking to sheep).
Cain was a farmer = hard work, tilling the soil, watering, weeding, harvesting, threshing.
Then, as now, there is a “time” for honouring God, giving Him his due, thanking Him for all He has given us, worshipping Him for who he is, getting ourselves right with Him, putting our trust in Him.
This “course of time” has the sense of being a designated time and place for meeting with God. Abel brought a sacrificed lamb (or sheep), Cain brought some of what he had grown. God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but not with Cain’s. Now, we have no sense of God being angry with Cain – in fact God encourages him to get it right and then all would be OK. But Cain was angry and jealous and killed his brother – the first murder.
What’s this all about? What has it got to do with faith? And what has it got to do with us?
- BY FAITH ABEL BROUGHT GOD A BETTER OFFERING THAN CAIN DID
- The sacrificed lamb was a better offering than the crops of the field. Why? Because our sin demands the shedding of blood – a life in place of our life. Throughout the Old Testament the Jews sacrificed lambs in order to receive forgiveness of sins. From the time of the New Testament, Jesus has become our “sacrificial Lamb” – “the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29).
- Abel showed faith by bringing a sacrificed lamb – it was truly the substance of things hoped for, in that he knew with a sure and certain faith that this would make him right with God; and it was the evidence of things not seen – with his spiritual eyes he could see that forgiveness of God!
- It was an offering of faith – through the sacrifice and through Jesus we see it as his saying “look what you have done”. Cain’s was an offering of work – hard work, but his own work – we see Cain saying “look what I have done”.
- BY FAITH HE WAS COMMENDED AS RIGHTEOUS
- Nothing that Abel could do was good enough to make him right with God. His faith was in seeing what could not be seen – that the sacrificial lamb would make him right with God. He was righteous because God accepted his sacrifice and made him right with Him.
- Cain, through his work, believed he could make himself right with God. He couldn’t and he reacted badly to God’s direction
- BY FAITH ABEL STILL SPEAKS, EVEN THOUGH HE IS DEAD
- Now we clearly see: that right from the beginning of time, we cannot come to God and receive eternal life because of our own efforts, our own hard work. It is only by faith in the sacrifice of the Lamb that we can be made right with God. There is no other way. And Jesus is the Lamb who was sacrificed for us on the Cross.
- Truly, we are saved by His Grace through our faith – and not by our hard work. By faith we understand that we cannot get to Heaven by being good, we can only get to Heaven by trusting in what He has done for us. And so, we are called to walk by faith alone…which leads us nicely on to our next hero of the faith…
ENOCH: BY FAITH WE WALK WITH GOD
The writer of Hebrews tells us in verses 5-6 of chapter 11:
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
Enoch’s faith pleased God. Living by faith pleases God – it’s as fundamentally simple as that! It is pure trust in God, sincere and certain hope in God, total belief that God leads and that His will shall be done and that it is the best thing that can be done.
But, in what way did Enoch’s faith manifest itself?
Genesis chapter 5 tells us that after Abel was murdered and Cain banished, Adam and Eve had another son – Seth. Several generations later, Enoch was born – and this is what we are told about this hero of the faith:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5: 21-24)
Now it is understood by all that the phrase “then he was no more” means that Enoch never died, but that because of his faithful following of God, his daily relationship with Him, that God took him to Heaven to be with Him for eternity without having to go through the door of death to do so.
And now we SEE how Enoch’s faith manifested itself: he “walked faithfully with God” (declared twice in this short passage – in verse 22 and verse 24).
He walked by faith.
We have seen in weeks past that our life is like a train journey on the two tracks of blessings and battles. Well, this is a time WAY before the railway, and here we have the clear analogy of life being a “walk”, where the start is birth and the end is death and eternity.
So, when we read that Enoch “walked faithfully with God”, we have a clear picture of his living his life – every day – trusting in God, following God’s leading, spending all his time with God, listening to God talking, watching God’s working. He walked with God – he did not try to deal with life on his own – he kept God right with him all the way. He wasn’t distracted by anything outside of God – by money or power or influence or intelligence or selfishness or sex or drugs or “rock-n-roll”. He fixed his eyes on God, he walked with God.
And so we have it. The example of this hero of the faith is that it is always best to “walk with God” – to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12: 2). This is faith – not to be distracted by anything else, not to allow anything else to phase us or frighten us. Whether we are walking in the land that is plentiful or in the desert place (“Blessed be Your Name” – Matt Redman), whether we are walking in the joy of life or walking in the “valley of the shadow of death” we “will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23: 4). Enoch’s faith was a walk of total trust – and we will not be happier and more at peace if we do the same.
THE CHALLENGE OF ABEL AND ENOCH
We want to risk all, resist all, and rebuild all. We know that we need to have the same faith that these heroes of old had. And Abel showed that we have to let go and let God be our hope and our salvation – it is only by the blood of the Lamb, freely shed, that we have the hope of salvation – it’s not by our hard work, our right living, our legalistic viewpoints. And then, like Enoch, we are challenged to totally trust in Him and walk with Him every moment of every day. It’ll be worth it. It’ll revolutionise our lives and our ministries. We need this faith!