The word of the day is “tested.” In today’s reading of Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-31, the apostle recalls the faith of those who endured numerous and unspeakable trials “by faith.” The apostle begins, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son…” (vs. 17).
How Faith Empowered and Inspired
Consider what faith empowered and inspired the people of God to do: offered up his only son, blessed Esau and Jacob, blessed the sons of Joseph, gave instructions for his burial in the holy land, hid the baby Moses from being slain, left the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace and Egypt and chose to suffer with the people, sprinkled blood on the doorway so that the Angel of Death would Passover their houses, passed through the Red Sea as on dry land processed around the walls of Jericho so that they fell, and received the Israelite spies into the city.
In all these and the examples to follow, faith is more than a mere belief that something is true. Faith is the profound trust that is proven by action. And action makes a bold choice.
The example of Abraham presents the paradigm, the model for the rest. The Greek word translated tested also means “put on trial” and “tempted.” That does not mean that the Lord enticed Abraham to sin. Rather, the word means to “search into.” It refers to the test of a person’s character, his inner disposition, and the distinctive qualities that he is “made of” (Strong’s #3985, 196). Because Abraham did not hesitate to obey the Lord’s terrible command, he became the model of faith for all time. His “temptation” revealed that at the core of his being was his firm conviction of the faithfulness of God and the undaunted trust in the promise of the Almighty.
Faith In Action Makes Choices
From the point of view of this paradigm, all the faithful’s actions in our reading involved a heroic choice. That choice proved what was in the heart of hearts of those who made it. For example, the apostle explicitly says, “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God” (vs. 24-25).
About the outcome of these faithful choices, the apostle summarizes, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise” (vs. 11). The Greek for “testimony” comes from the word “martyr” and has the basic sense of bearing witness (Strong’s #3140, 156-57). The heroes of the Old Testament gave a good witness “through” that is, “by means of” their faith. Faith was proven to be the innermost and foremost character that describes all the men and women of our reading.
The references to the Old Testament faithful of today’s passage are on the overarching scale of sacred history. But our thoughts may be applied to the trials and tribulations of our lives. Times of duress like these prove our character just as surely as the tests of the faithful heroes that we read about today. May the challenges that we face in our times also prove that our innermost character is unwavering faith, faith that actively chooses the ways of the God of promise.