We will get to you in a moment, but think first about Noah, Abraham, and Moses. They are all great heroes of faith, of course – all three are highlighted in the “Faith Hall of Fame” of Hebrews 11 – but why do we single them out, what do they have in common, and what do they have in common with you?
These great men of God may have shared many qualities, and they certainly did all accomplish great deeds of faith. Hebrews 11:7 tells us of Noah: “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family….” Verse 8 tells us of Abraham: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” And verse 27 tells us of Moses: “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.”
Clearly, these three individuals shared great faith. Through faith they all “saw” certain things regarding what God promised, and they all acted on that faith. But what makes them different from Joseph, Gideon, David, or others mentioned by name in Hebrews 11 – why is the faith of Noah, Abraham and Moses so notable? The answer is not necessarily the degree of their faith, but the fact of the circumstances in which their faith was applied.
Noah, Abraham and Moses each demonstrated his faith in God after God had not clearly interacted with humankind for an extended period of time. God had apparently not spoken openly to humans for many generations when the biblical story tells us Noah was called to build a large, strange boat in preparation for a monumental flood. Centuries later, Abraham was called to reject his own homeland in favor of the promise that his distant descendants would inherit a great land. Centuries later still, Moses was called to guide the people of Israel through the amazing circumstances under which they left Egypt and traveled to the Promised Land.
These were all great events, and they may have required even more faith than we might guess. We tend to think of Noah, Abraham, and Moses – and other servants of God – as having lived in a “biblical age” – an age when God’s existence and actions were evident in miracles, signs, and communications; but the biblical stories show that each one of these three great men of faith lived in an age without God’s obvious presence. Noah, Abraham, and Moses all began their work in an age of “faith disconnect,” an age when God had not intervened in obvious ways in human history for centuries.
And that’s how we get to you. We too live in an age of faith disconnect, an age when it may well be harder in many physical ways to have the kind of faith needed to do great works. When we feel we don’t live in an age of great works of faith, we don’t expect them, and when we don’t expect them, they don’t happen. Yet we can take encouragement from the lives of those great servants of God who lived in ages similar to our own. Noah, Abraham, and Moses remind us that the age we live in is not as important as simply accepting and wholeheartedly doing the job we are given to do. The results are in God’s hands.