Big names, little names. Names that are famous in the books of ancient history and names that could almost pass unnoticed by us - yet they are known, seen and fully acknowledged by God. Hebrews 11 contains them all.
This historical tour of the faithful begins with Abel. "One who lived by faith, and died for it, and therefore a fit pattern for us to imitate." (Matthew Henry). Abel is the first Christian martyr.
The text tells us that he "offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain." Since the fall had occured, God had instituted sacrifice as a means of worshipping Him - those sacrifices pointing to the One great and perfectly sufficient Sacrifice that would one day come through Christ. Abel's sacrifice is preferred to Cain's. Why? "Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement - brought of the firstlings of the flock. Cain brought only a sacrifice of acknowledgement, a mere thank-offering, the fruit of the ground." (Henry). While thanksgiving is a good thing, it is not the best thing. In order to offer praise to Him we need to receive propitiation from Him. Abel's atoning sacrifice was a testimony of his realization that he was a needy sinner.
We must worship God as He tells us to, not as we wish to. That's what Abel did. He offered his sacrifice with an eye to God's will as his rule and God's glory as his end. And he is recorded forever in the pages of Scripture as an example of a faithful man. Abel, through his sacrifice "obtained the testimony that he was righteous" and "though he is dead, he still speaks." May the faithful outworking of the grace of God in our lives cause us to speak long from the grave of the tender redeeming mercies of our God!!
Enoch was a man who "walked with God" (Gen 5:24). Not much more is said of him. What more needs to be said of any of us?! Actually more is said of him in Hebrews than is said in the Old Testament narrative about him. "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God."
It is said that Enoch walked with God and was no more. What is said of Enoch's faith is instructive to us. We need to be among the walkers with God in all the affairs of our mortal life until we are transported to the land of immortal life. May God, the giver of faith make us people of faith, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."
Mr. Henry writes: "We cannot please God without such a faith as helps us to walk with God, an active faith. God is again to be found of us through Christ. God has prescribed the means and ways wherein He may be found. Those who would find God must seek Him diligently; and when once they have found Him, they will never repent of the pains they have spent in seeking after Him."
Abel, though He lost His life for the faith, wouldn't trade the reward for anything. Enoch, walked with God on this earth and now walks eternally with Him in heaven. May we, with our fathers, be willing to walk in faith and, if necessary, die for faith.