On Seeing the Unseen

Hebrews 11 is often called "the hall of fame of faith."  The writer points to the example of the Old Testament faithful to encourage his readers (and us) to live lives of faith.  The theme that appears again and again in this chapter is that these heroes of faith were heroes because they were able to see that which could not be seen.  Faith is being “certain of what we do not see” (11:1). That is the characteristic the writer highlights in these heroes of the faith--
  • Noah saw things “not yet seen” (11:7). When God confronted Noah with the message of the coming flood, he had nothing to go on except faith. He had never seen a flood before, and he had certainly never seen an ark! But faith allowed Noah to be able to see the unseen. For him, the real world was that which could not be seen except through faith. And thus, “By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7).

  • Abraham saw by faith a city that could not be seen (11:8-10). Abraham was certainly not looking for an earthly city. If that is what he was after, he would have never left his birthplace in Ur, the greatest city on earth at the time. No, Abraham was looking for a city that could not be seen, the city of God. And because he kept looking for that city, he never really quite fit in to the world around him. He was a pilgrim and wanderer in this world. Faith led him to see the unseen as the real world.

  • Moses was also able to see Him who is unseen (11:24-27). Moses made the choice to throw his lot in with the people of God. He chose to be a Hebrew slave rather than the prince of Egypt. Why? Faith gave him a clear view of the reality could not be seen. Because he gave up such power and influence, he never really fit in with the world. And yet, his influence is still felt today in the real world of faith.

The writer wants us to understand two things about the heroes of faith.  First, they saw the unseen world of faith as the true "real world."  Second, in doing so, they never quite fit into the seen world of the here and now.  This is important for people who struggle to live lives of faith. It teaches us to expect hardships and difficulties. When we live in the real world, we should expect to not fully fit into the world of the here and now. That was true of Noah and Abraham and Moses.  Should we expect it to be any different for us?