Hebrews 11 is often called the "Hall of Faith" or the "Faith Hall of Fame." In this noted Bible chapter, the writer of the book of Hebrews introduces an impressive list of heroic figures from the Old Testament--remarkable men and women whose stories stand out to encourage and challenge our faith. Some of these heroes of faith are well-known Bible personalities, while others remain anonymous.
Take a tour through the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith:
The first person listed in the Hall of Faith is Abel:
It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel's offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. (NLT)
Abel was the second son of Adam and Eve. He was the first martyr in the Bible and also the first shepherd. Very little else is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God's eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice. As a result, Abel was murdered by his older brother Cain, whose sacrifice did not please God.
The next member of the Hall of Faith is Enoch, the man who walked with God. Enoch so pleased the Lord God that he was spared the experience of death:
It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—"he disappeared, because God took him." For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (NLT)
Noah is the third hero named in the Hall of Faith.
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. (NLT)
Noah was known to be a righteous man. He was blameless among the people of his time. This does not mean Noah was perfect or sinless, but that he loved God with his whole heart and was fully committed to obedience. Noah's life--his singular, unshakable faith in the midst of a faithless society--has much to teach us today.
Abraham receives much more than a brief mention among the heroes of faith. A good deal of emphasis (from Hebrews 11:8-19) is given to this biblical giant and father of the Jewish nation.
One of Abraham's most notable feats of faith occurred when he willingly obeyed God's command in Genesis 22:2: "Take your son, your only son--yes, Isaac, whom you love so much--and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you." (NLT)
Abraham was fully prepared to slay his son, while fully trusting God to either resurrect Isaac from the dead, or provide a substitutionary sacrifice. At the last minute, God intervened and supplied the necessary ram. The death of Isaac would have contradicted every promise God had made to Abraham, so his willingness to perform the ultimate sacrifice of killing his son is probably the most dramatic example of faith and trust in God found in the entire Bible.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, is one of only two women specifically named among the heroes of faith (Some translations, however, render the verse so that only Abraham receives credit.):
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. (NLT)
Sarah waited long past child-bearing age to have a baby. At times she doubted, struggling to believe God would fulfill his promise. Losing hope, she took matters into her own hands. Like most of us, Sarah was looking at God's promise from her limited, human perspective. But the Lord used her life to unfold an extraordinary plan, proving that God is never restricted by what usually happens. Sarah's faith is an inspiration to every person who has ever waited on God to act.
Isaac, the miracle child of Abraham and Sarah, is the next hero distinguished in the Hall of Faith:
It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau. (NLT)
The Jewish patriarch, Isaac, fathered twin boys, Jacob and Esau. His own father, Abraham, was one of the greatest examples of faithfulness the Bible has to offer. It's doubtless Isaac would ever forget how God had delivered him from death by supplying the necessary lamb to be sacrificed in his place. This legacy of faithful living carried into his marriage with Rebekah, Jacob's one and only wife and lifelong love.
Jacob, another of Israel's great patriarchs, fathered 12 sons who became heads of the 12 tribes. One of his sons was Joseph, a key figure in the Old Testament. But Jacob started out as liar, cheater, and manipulator. He struggled with God his entire life.
The turning point for Jacob came after a dramatic, all-night wrestling match with God. In the end the Lord touched Jacob's hip and he was a broken man, but also a new man. God renamed him Israel, which means "he struggles with God."
It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff. (NLT)
The words "as he leaned on his staff" are of no small significance. After Jacob wrestled with God, for the rest of his days he walked with a limp, and he gave over control of his life to God. As an old man and now a great hero of faith, Jacob "leaned on his staff," demonstrating his hard learned trust and dependence on the Lord.
Joseph is one of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament and an extraordinary example of what can happen when a person surrenders his life in complete obedience to God.
It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left. (NLT)
After the terrible wrongs done to him by his brothers, Joseph offered forgiveness and made this incredible statement in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (NLT)
Like Abraham, Moses takes a place of prominence in the Hall of Faith. A towering figure in the Old Testament, Moses is honored in Hebrews 11:23-29. (It should be noted that Moses' parents, Amram and Jocabed, are also commended for their faith in these verses, as well as the people of Israel for launching across the Red Sea during their escape from Egypt.)
Although Moses is one of the most striking examples of heroic faith in the Bible, he was human like you and me, plagued by mistakes and frailties. It was his willingness to obey God despite his many flaws that made Moses someone God could use--and use mightily indeed!
Against overwhelming odds, Joshua led the people of Israel in their conquest of the Promised Land, beginning with the strange and miraculous battle of Jericho. His strong faith caused him to obey, no matter how illogical God's commands might seem. Obedience, faith, and dependence on the Lord made him one of Israel's finest leaders. He set a brave example for us to follow.
While Joshua's name is not specified in this verse, as the leader of Israel's march on Jericho, his faith hero status is certainly implied:
It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. (NLT)