“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 HCSB)
These are very familiar words to most Christians. We learn them in Sunday School, they become the meat of Bible studies, and numerous sermons are based on them. But have you ever taken the time to ask yourself just what they REALLY mean?
Since the Holy Spirit is the One who can truly enlighten us, let’s take a moment to pray: “Dear Father, open our hearts to understand Your words. Amen.”
This first verse of Hebrews 11 gives us a rather complex definition of faith, beginning by saying it is “the reality of what is hoped for.”
Hum . . . Have you ever gone to the dictionary to look up the meaning of a word, only to find you don’t know the meaning of the definition? Well, that’s how I felt when I read this definition of faith. I felt like I was NO closer to having a clear picture of faith than I had been before I read it! So I decided to take it apart even further: If faith is the reality of what I HOPE for, then just what is “hope”?
In our society today, we use the word hope rather flippantly. “I hope I’ll get the promotion, but I don’t know! John’s been there longer than I have!” “I HOPE I can go to Mexico next March, but it’s SO expensive.” “I HOPE I’ll pass my exam, though I didn’t have much time to study.” In fact, in our society, we often use the word hope to indicate something that we “wish” for, and the word usually leaves a taste of uncertainty. But do we really use the word correctly? If we do, then faith becomes the reality of things WISHED for. This would mean that if I have FAITH, I’ll be able to go to Mexico even if I don’t have the money, I’ll pass my exam, even if I don’t study, or I’ll get the promotion without the seniority!
The book of Hebrews gives us insight into what the word “hope” really meant in Biblical times: “We have this hope-like a sure and firm anchor of the soul-that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a ‘high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.'” (Hebrews 6:19-20 HCSB)
Just what is this saying? That hope is a “sure and firm anchor of the soul”? That doesn’t sound much like “wish”, does it? A wish is NEVER a “sure and firm anchor for the soul”, therefore hope must reach BEYOND “wish”.
But there’s more. Hope also “enters the INNER SANCTUARY BEHIND THE CURTAIN”! This verse is referring to the MOST HOLY PLACE, friends, the place where only the high priest could enter once a year. And even then, he had to tie bells to his garment and a rope to his foot, in case his heart wasn’t right and the presence of the Lord struck him dead
Under the new covenant, Jesus is our High Priest: “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Heb 8:1-2 NIV); and “Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Heb 7:26-27 NIV).
We are told that BECAUSE of the blood of Jesus, we, too can enter the Most Holy Place: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, by a NEW and LIVING WAY opened for us through the CURTAIN, that is, his BODY . . .” (Heb. 10:19, 20 NIV).
So instead of “hope” being something we wish for, the Bible describes the word “hope” as an anchor that extends from our soul directly into the Most Holy Place; an anchor that is “firm” and “secure”!
Even though we usually use the word “hope” as a synonym for “wish”, there are many less commonly used synonyms for hope. These include “expect”, “anticipate”, or “look forward to”. Let’s substitute one of these words in our definition of faith: Faith is the reality of things “expected”; Faith is the reality of things “anticipated”; or Faith is the reality of things “looked forward too”.
That changes things a bit, doesn’t it? Faith then, becomes the WAY we access the things that we expect, anticipate, and look forward to. When we expect to receive something from God, our faith is how we access it, and we have the right to expect and anticipate and look forward to these things, because Jesus resides in the Most Holy Place!
Enough to ponder, friends. But do ponder this: Faith is the WAY we access the things we expect!
Please join us next Saturday for Faith, Lesson 2 – The Proof of What is NOT Seen!
God bless you!
(To access tne entire “Faith” mini-series, please click here.)