Hebrews 11:4-7 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 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 commended 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, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
The author reviews the faith seen in those who lived before the flood. Each of these illustrates the key idea that faith is trusting in the unseen promises of God. The story of Abel and Cain is difficult because there are things in the story that are not stated on the surface. The author fills in some of the gap of what we read in Genesis 4. Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable because it was given in faith. The heart of jealousy in Cain that we discern as the story goes on was not something that popped up all of a sudden but was there in his sacrifices. He did not come to God with a pure and righteous heart. His jealousy of Abel may have had a long history and revealed his lack of faith in God. Cain is the first illustration of the effects of sin upon someone’s heart. Abel, however, had faith and this faith still speaks even though he died countless years ago. The message is clear: follow Abel’s example of trusting in God.
The second example is Enoch whom God took before death because Enoch was a righteous person who trusted in God. Enoch pleased God because he trusted in God’s promises. Verse 6 gives a summarizing timeless truth. Faith is the key requirement to pleasing God. Faith is confirmed in action, but the action is not done to please God but as the response to God’s promises. It is faith in action. The key idea is seeking God, moving in the direction of God, looking for God, following God’s promises so that we can find God.
The Third example is Noah who trusted in God’s promises even though there was no evidence of a flood. He trusted in God’s word with fear and action. The inclusion of these two last elements is noteworthy because they are the types of responses we should have also to God’s promises. We must come with deep worship and awe, and then we must act on what God has told us. In the case of Noah, his acting took up to a century to build. That is a long time to wait for God’s word to be fulfilled.
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