Why we do what we do is often more important than what we do. That is the heart of the Christian faith. It is not about doing the right things so much as doing the right things with the proper motivation. For the writer of Hebrews, true spirituality is motivated by faith, a life that is moved by trusting in God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6
How does the writer of Hebrews define faith? (See Hebrews 1:1-2 and 1:6) What do we learn about faith through the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham? Who would faith look like right now in your life?
From yesterday’s reading we learned that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) What did the Old Testament saints (Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham from yesterdays reading) share in common in their faith experiences? What did they NOT receive during their lifetimes? How did they view this world in comparison to the next one? What were they all looking and longing for? How does God look upon this kind of faith (see verse 16)?
How is this kind of God-pleasing faith expressed in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph? For background on Abraham’s and Joseph’s story see Genesis 22:1-19 and Genesis 50:24-26. Reading these passages will help you make sense of this section of Hebrews.
The writer continues to take us through the heroes of the Old Testament to show us the faith that they all possessed. How did faith and trust in God motivate Moses’ parents, Moses, the Israelites at Jericho and the prostitute Rahab to live courageous lives that were pleasing to God? Again, you might find some reading in the Old Testament will be helpful here:
- Moses’ parents – Exodus 2:1-11.
- The Israelites crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 13:17-14:31.
- The fall of Jericho and the story of Rahab – Joshua 5:13-6:27.
Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2
While all the Old Testament heroes had faith in common, but their lives took very different paths. Compare the descriptions of the lives of the faithful in verses 32-35a to the descriptions in verses 35b-38. What does this tell us about what can we expect in our own faith journeys? What “disappointment” did all these faithful men and women experience (see verse 39)? How did God feel about them? Why?
The writer of Hebrews now turns his attention to us as he begins chapter 12. Why did the writer spend an entire chapter (chapter 11) relating to us the stories of the Old Testament saints? How are these stories designed to move us?
What metaphor does the writer use to describe our lives? Where are we headed? Why are we called to fix our eyes on Jesus? What do we see in Him?
Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the book of Hebrews as a whole. The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish group of followers of Jesus who were undergoing a difficult time of persecution. Life was so hard for them, they were considering abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to the safety of the Judaism they had been born into. This book was written to encourage them to cling to Jesus and to persevere in their new faith.
In chapter 11, the writer provided examples of persevering faith from their Jewish history and now in chapter 12 the writer starts to point us to Jesus. How can the example of Jesus encourage us to hold on to our faith even when life gets difficult?
How are we called to see the hardships that God allows in our lives? For the writer of Hebrews hardship = _____________? How does hardship mean that God still loves us? What is the purpose of struggle in our lives? What good can come of it?
What pitfalls does the writer of Hebrews warn us against? What kinds of things can cause us to give up?
What can we learn from Esau’s failure? For more information you can read his story in Genesis 25:19-34. You might remember from our readings in chapter 11 that the Old Testament faith heroes willingly suffered in this world because they valued the next world more than the present one. In what way did Esau have the opposite values? What did he lose? Why?
“The mountain that cannot be touched.” (12:18) The writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of the scene when God gave Israel the 10 Commandments (the Law) at Mount Sinai. In the Old Testament, the people were told to stay away because they could not approach a holy God in their sinful state. Why would you want to go back to that, when Jesus has made us holy and now God tells all people to come and be reconciled to Him?
2 Timothy 2:14-21
The book of Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to his “dear son” (spiritual son) Timothy. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys learning to become a missionary in his own right. At some point, Timothy reached a level of maturity and was sent out on his own. Paul continued his relationship with Timothy through letters such as this one, passing on to him encouragement and wisdom.
What is Timothy called to warn his congregation against? What is Timothy to encourage his people to become? (vs. 15) What “infection” has infiltrated the church? Why is Paul confident that this church will survive? (vs. 19)