Hebrews 11:4-7 Faith of Our Fathers
Hebrews 11:4-7 Faith of Our Fathers is a sermon for Father’s Day about the importance of faith passed on by fathers.
Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for the 3M company!”
A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work for the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall. “What’s wrong?” the others ask.
There is an old song entitled “Faith of Fathers.” This song reflects on the faith of the first people of America. People who had faith and gave us an example to follow. Likewise, the Old Testament gives us a set of examples of fathers whose faith we should also follow. What I want you to see from these examples is that God used these fathers to teach their children about how to trust Him.
The writer of Hebrews lists a group of people who trusted God, who had faith. Like today’s Hall of Fame which highlights people who excelled in sports, Hebrews 11 is known as the Hall of Faith. The people listed in this chapter excelled in trusting God. The list of names who are etched in this Hall of Faith start with three fathers.
The first father listed in Abel. Usually as a pastor, I get the question about Cain and his family. People ask: “Where did Cain get his wife?”
“Then Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain was intimate with his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. Then Cain became the builder of a city, and he named the city Enoch after his son.” (Genesis 4:16–17, HCSB)
One answer I heard was: “I would tell you if I was Abel.” People have all kinds of answers for that question. I have a better question: “Was Abel a father?”
I think the answer to that question is yes. In the same way that Cain would have found wife, Abel was also able to have a family. The Bible is silent on this issue, but it could have happened. Adam and Eve had many children before they eventually had Seth. These children populated the Earth. Any number of their immediate relatives would have been available for Abel, just as one was there for Cain. Even if Abel did not have any children, he clearly was an example to Adam and Eve’s other children as a father figure. What did Abel teach as a father figure? Abel taught other the value of faith in worship.
So we come to the passage in Hebrews and we see that Abel offered a better sacrifice.
Abel gives us the example of faith worshiping. He offered a better sacrifice.
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.” (Hebrews 11:4, HCSB)
Because sin caused Adam and Eve to leave paradise, there had to be a sacrifice for sin. This is why Adam and Eve made clothes from skins of animals. So sacrifices were a necessary practice of worship. The form of these sacrifices said something about the person’s attitude in worship. Cain gave grains and fruit. Abel gave a meat sacrifice.
“In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,” (Genesis 4:3–4, HCSB)
What made Abel’s sacrifice better? Some have said that it was because Cain had a sacrifice from the land while Abel had a sacrifice from an animal. That is theologically true. However, I think Abel’s sacrifice was also better because of his attitude. Abel had the right attitude when it came to his sacrifice. He trusted God in his worship. Maybe Abel realized that his brother Cain was jealous.
“And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent?” (Genesis 4:4–6, HCSB)
I think Abel could tell that his brother Cain was angry. You know grumpy people when you see them coming. I think Abel saw that in his brother. But instead of engaging in a fight, Abel continued to worship God.
Abel is still a witness of the life of faith seen by a three-stage progression. First, because Abel believed, he offered a better sacrifice. Second, because Abel offered a better sacrifice, it shows that he was righteous. Third, because he was righteous, he is a true witness of the life of faith. Abel is a good example of worshiping in faith.2
Fathers, God wants us to be faith worshipers. Instead of sacrificing our families on the altars of careers and materialism, we need to sacrifice ourselves for our families.
The second father listed is Enoch.
Enoch gives us the example of faith walking. He pleased God by the way he drew near to God.
“By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God. Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:5–6, HCSB)
“Enoch was 65 years old when he fathered Methuselah.” (Genesis 5:21, HCSB)
Who was Methuselah? He was the oldest man ever to live on this Earth.
“So Methuselah’s life lasted 969 years; then he died.” (Genesis 5:27, HCSB)
Enoch had other children.
“And after the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and fathered other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:22, HCSB)
Notice that it says that Enoch walked with God and at the same time fathered sons and daughters. Enoch clearly modeled this faith walking for his children. Can you imagine how it felt for his children to see that God took Enoch after those 300 years? Can you imagine what kind of example he was for his children?
After spending time on Earth being a model of a father who walks in faith, God took Enoch home.
“Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him.” (Genesis 5:24, HCSB)
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Messianic Jewish scholar notes that Enoch was translated, or raptured, into Heaven. He says:
The act of translation has the concept of being “raptured” from earth to Heaven. It does not simply mean transferring geographically to Heaven, but it means a transformation of the body. It is a transformation whereby corruption puts on incorruption and mortality puts on immortality. Since Enoch was translated, it means that he will never return to die. That is why some believe that he cannot be one of the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11.3
Can you imagine being one of Enoch’s children? Your dad has walked with God. He showed you how to draw near to God. After spending 300 years showing you how to live by faith, the children witness Enoch’s translation or rapture into heaven. Can you imagine the conversation at the family dinner table that evening?
Fathers, how is your faith walk? Are your children and grandchildren seeing you walk in faith? Are you able to share to them how God is drawing near to you? Are you able to tell stories about how you are drawing close to God?
The third and final fatherly example is Noah.
Noah gives us the example of faith working. He was motivated by Godly fear.
“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7, HCSB)
Noah’s faith involved the whole person: his mind was warned of God; his heart was moved with fear; and his will acted on what God told him. Since nobody at that time had ever seen a flood (or perhaps even a rainstorm), Noah’s actions must have generated a great deal of interest and probably ridicule as well. Noah’s faith influenced his whole family and they were saved.4
Noah’s wife and children saw Noah faith work. They saw Noah respect God, listen to God, and obey Him. Noah did not obey God because he was scared. Noah obeyed God because he respected Him.
Can you imagine how his children thought about Noah after the flood? Wow, Dad. It worked. The boat did not sink. You trusted God and He brought us to safety. Children watch carefully their fathers when faith works in their lives.
Each father here in this passage showed us a perfect example. Noah had the right motivation, Abel had the right attitude, and Enoch had the right relationship.
We all can learn the same things from our fathers: motivation, attitude, and relationship. God wants us to live for Him and there are men who have helped us see how that happens.
On May 20, 1981, in a Proclamation of Father’s Day, President Ronald Reagan stated:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Solomon tells us. Clearly, the future is in the care of our parents. Such is the responsibility, promise, and hope of fatherhood. Such is the gift that our fathers give us.5 6
1 Daniel C. Urbana III. Boy’s Life. http://boyslife.org/features/20917/20-funny-jokes-for-fathers-day/ Accessed on 19 June 2015.
2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 152.
3 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 153.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 318.
5 Reagan, Ronald Wilson. May 20, 1981, in a Proclamation of Father’s Day. David R. Shepherd, ed., Ronald Reagan: In God I Trust (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984), p. 94.
6 William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).