In Hebrews 11, we are met with a list of Biblical figures who exemplify what it means to walk by faith and not by sight (11:1). Ultimately, we see in these people believers willing to pay the price of following the Lord, and who did so in order to receive a better resurrection and reward (11:6, 26, 35). Often, we only consider the individual benefits of obedience to the Lord. What is perhaps less obvious is the impact that these OT saints had on those around them. In verse 7 we are told,
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household” (emphasis added).
Due to Noah’s obedience to the Lord, his family was delivered from the flood.
In verse 9, Abraham is obedient when he leaves the land of the Chaldeans to dwell in tents. This has a generational impact on his family. Isaac and Jacob would also live in tents, as they followed Abraham’s example. So did their wives, children, and livestock. Abraham’s sacrificial obedience permeated into the lives of those who came after him. Going further into the passage, we are reminded of Abraham’s obedience in offering Isaac as a sacrifice (v 17). Again, the decision to obey had a direct impact on Abraham’s family.
The author of Hebrews then makes an interesting shift. In contrast to Abraham, the parents of Moses are given as an example because they refused to kill their son. They ignored Pharaoh’s command and decided to protect their son’s life. Their faithfulness directly impacted their family. If they had been found out, the punishment would have been severe for all of them. Later, Moses also decided to follow the Lord, which had significant ramifications. In this case, he left Egypt and the riches it offered. The author of Hebrews adds that he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Moses turned his back on the woman who raised him, and sided with the Lord, and the promise of rewards that He alone could offer (vv 25-26).
Rahab’s story likewise reflects this theme. While the author of Hebrews does not record this aspect of the story, Joshua repeatedly states that Rahab and her whole household were saved from the destruction that fell upon Jericho (Josh 2:12-13, 18; 6:17, 22-23, 25). This also echoes the words of verse 7 and the deliverance of the household of Noah during the flood. Finally, in verse 35, we are told of women who received back their dead. This could refer to certain women in the NT, like the widow of Nain whose son was resurrected by the Lord (Luke 7:11-17). Certainly, the phrase “their dead” refers to children or family members that had been lost.
Family members are affected by the faithfulness of God’s people. It can mean the physical salvation of the whole family. In the case of Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter, it can cause division.
Faithfulness to the Lord doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s not done in isolation and will have a direct impact on those close to you. In short, the author of Hebrews appears to be making an underlining point: It’s not just the individual who benefits from faithfulness, but also those within their circle of influence.
This begs the question: Why is this important for the author of Hebrews?
The book of Hebrews is dealing with apostasy. The Jewish readers, who had come to faith in Jesus, were under persecution (Heb 10:32-36). Many were considering going back to Judaism because it was legal under Roman law, while Christianity was not. Some had already left the church (10:25). It’s not hard to imagine some of their reasons for doing so. They were losing their businesses and homes. They were being imprisoned. There was even the possibility that some would lose their lives.
Once a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they can never lose that life (John 10:28; 11:25-26). However, believers can either choose to follow the Lord or not. If you follow the world, you will lose the rewards and blessings that come from faithfulness. While you are still His child, if you fall away, you will experience the discipline of the Lord and lose the right to reign in Christ’s kingdom.
Following the Lord is not a requirement for eternal salvation. However, the Lord has promised to lavishly compensate for any suffering the faithful Christian experiences due to their obedience to the Lord. This is the overarching theme of the book of Hebrews.
Suffering, however, is not done in isolation. It’s one thing to suffer for the Lord when you bear the brunt of that suffering as an individual. It’s a different thing all together when it means your family will suffer as well. Like Moses, the readers were having to put faithfulness to the Lord over their own families (Luke 14:26-27). Like Abraham, some would have been in danger of losing their children. Others might cause suffering for their children if they were imprisoned. Like the parents of Moses, they would have to ignore the civil laws, placing all of their family in danger.
Another aspect is the perspective of the world toward faithfulness. Rahab would be labeled a traitor by her countrymen. Many might look at Moses and think he was ungrateful to those who raised him, rejecting the treasures they offered. Even Abraham could be described by some as an unloving father, who was willing to murder his only son. To the world, following the Lord can be viewed as foolishness, or even evil.
Yet, the author of Hebrews gives the readers an eternal perspective. Following the Lord is always the wise decision, for you and your family. Noah’s and Rahab’s families were saved from death. Others had their children resurrected. How many of Moses’ relatives were delivered from slavery when he led them out of Egypt?
The suffering these families experienced was utterly eclipsed by the Lord’s ability to use their faithfulness to impact whole generations. This is an encouraging principle that should bring suffering believers, especially parents, peace of mind. When the suffering you face due to following the Lord impacts your family or close friends, consider Hebrews 11. Your faithfulness can have a wonderful impact on those around you.