Lectionary Commentaries for August 11, 2013
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Luke 12:32-40

Karoline Lewis

We are well into the section of Luke known as the “travel narrative” where Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem and spends about ten chapters getting there. 

Jesus has a lot to say in these chapters, much of it unique to Luke’s Gospel. Some of Jesus’ best-known phrases, those pithy sayings that would certainly make it into a Jesus bestseller, Helpful Advice for Busy Christians, are found in the gospel reading for the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost. The challenge, of course, is how to preach these verses as more than memorable words worthy of plaques to hang in our kitchens or offices. What might be the key to finding meaning in Jesus’ quotable quotes seemingly only applicable to church marquee signs?

Meaning in Context
We all know that a critical move for faithful biblical interpretation is to locate a passage into its multiple contexts. The context that is perhaps the most helpful for making sense of these verses is the literary context. While the pericope begins with “Do not fear, little flock,” these words of encouragement might be better heard as the conclusion to Jesus’ previous sayings. Jesus has just pointed out the lilies of the field that grow because of God’s care, the ravens for which God provides. In other words, “do not fear” is not an out-of-the-blue optimistic statement, pie-in-the-sky platitude, but one grounded in the claim that God’s faithfulness extends to the entirety of God’s creation.

As our regular Sermon Brainwave listeners know, back in January I led 31 students on a trip to the Holy Land. One of the most memorable experiences was at the Church of the Beatitudes, the place where “possibly” Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. During the reading of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” this gorgeous green, tropical-looking bird emerged from a hole in one of the trees.

Suddenly, this verse made sense. Jesus’ sermon was not hypothetical. He stood in a place such as where we were, thinking about what his disciples needed to hear. Not advice, not memory verses to be tested on later, not WWJD proverbs, but words that when heard again, when the disciples are sitting around wondering what to do, they might look up, see a bird such as the one we saw that day, and say to each other, “Remember when Jesus said…?” And the words they remember Jesus saying will not just be words from way back when Jesus was around, but words that continue to impress, inspire, uphold, and matter.

This passage from Luke falls into the same kind of category, but the theological ante has been raised a few notches. Luke’s portrait of Jesus and his presentation of the kingdom of God is rooted in the attention to and care of the entirety of what God has created and continues to create. The preacher might bring to bear the fact that Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, the first man. Luke’s birth narratives (John and Jesus) uphold the creative gift of giving birth, through unexpected means as Elizabeth and Mary. There is a remarkable thread that runs through this Gospel and its second volume, Acts: the ongoing creation and creative activity of God, for unexpected individuals, for communities, for a world beyond our imagining.

More Tips for Living
It would be easier to preach this passage if we just had one short and sweet mantra from Jesus. So, what does the preacher do with several such tips for Christian living? You could pick one and that would be a very good option. There are too many preachers and too many sermons that try to preach the entirety of a text, only to leave the listeners in a state of perpetual befuddlement as to what is important, what’s worth remembering beyond Sunday, what’s the one thing I can imagine for my life this week. So, choose one of Jesus’ phrases in this passage that could just be perceived as helpful advice and work it in its entirety: what Luke understands it to mean, what difference it makes for who Jesus is, how it has an impact on our lives as faithful disciples, what God is up to, and so on.

Another route is to consider the passage’s form or design: fear, treasure, and being prepared. How do you pull all of those seemingly disparate ideas together? Perhaps there is certain rationality in Jesus’ words, even in the lectionary’s chosen versification. Could there be a logic in Jesus’ ordering that indicates what a life of faith might actually look like? We are only three chapters into the travel narrative. It makes sense that Jesus consoles his followers not to fear and follows with the promise of God’s kingdom.

That is where it starts, right? The certainty of God’s favor, revealed, lived, died, raised, and ascended in Jesus. It is only after this promise that we can imagine any kind of concept of what our treasure might be. Given the choice of treasure first, we are likely to put our hope in achievements, acquisitions, and assets. Yet, when the lack of fear precedes our fear-driven desires for possessions, purchases, and procurements we might actually be able to imagine treasures beyond self-driven determination, self-assessed success, and self-obsessed security.

Being ready for Jesus’ second coming is less about any actual time and place and more about imagining Jesus’ activity in the world, when and where you least expect it or imagine seeing it. In other words, waiting around, waiting for instructions, is not going to cut it. Fear, treasure, and being prepared is the pattern for discipleship. Being without fear, knowing the source of your treasure — that is, your identity, your worth — makes it possible to be prepared for and an actual participant in God’s kingdom.


First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 15:1-6

Sara Koenig

The brevity of this text belies its theological weight: in just six verses, we have messages about the reliability and timing of God’s promises, lessons about prayer, and a verse so packed with import that it is quoted in two New Testament passages as a lynchpin for understanding the relationship between faith and works.

Even though the entire chapter is worth considering for the way it illustrates the way that God makes (literally, “cuts”) a covenant, this pericope will offer plenty of material for a preacher to utilize.

Verse 1 begins with a reference to some previous things, most likely the immediately preceding chapter. God’s word appears to Abram in a vision, reminiscent of the way that the prophets both hear and see God’s message (cf. Amos 1:1). The first thing Abram is told is not to fear, and continues by telling Abram that God will be his shield, words that must have been more reassuring after Abram had just been involved in battle to rescue Lot (Genesis 14: 14-15).

God also tells Abram that Abram’s reward (literally, his “wages” or “pay”) will be exceedingly great. This, too, connects with what has come before; when the king of Sodom told Abram to keep some of the goods from battle, Abram refused any of his commodities. The KJV translates the “reward” as God, such that God tells Abram, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

Abram’s response to this revelation, however, is not one of gratitude. Rather, he asks a question that essentially amounts to, “What is my reward?” If the reward has been unspecified, this is a good question; if the reward is God, as KJV suggests, this is an even better, albeit bolder, question. Within these verses, Abram wants to know who God is, and how God can be trusted, particularly when there has been a delay between God’s promise and its fulfillment. Another paraphrase for Abram’s question in verse 2 is, “Really?” That question could be expressed in a tone of disbelief, or genuine curiosity, or some mixture of the two. God had promised descendants, but they have yet to be made real, so perhaps Abram is asking, “What will you give me? Is my reward to be something other than children?”

Verse 3 begins exactly the same way as verse 2, with the phrase “and Abram said.” It is as if after Abram first posed his question to God in verse 2, he does not leave any time for God to respond before Abram says something else. The urgency in Abram’s discourse points to the importance of Abram’s questions and concerns, as if he can’t wait to express them to God. Abram’s statement in verse 3 is less ambiguous than his question in the preceding verse. The only one poised to be his heir is this Eliezer of Damascus, who is only a servant.

Additionally, it is clear that Abram holds God responsible for his lack of an heir: “Look, you have not given children to me” (literally, “seed”). God’s promise to Abram has yet to come true. And yet, Abram must have a level of faith to even register disappointment that God has not yet done what God said God would do. That is, Abram expects — and believes — God will keep God’s word, which is why Abram speaks in the way he does.

God’s response is direct and reassuring: “This man will not be your heir, but rather one who will come from your body (Hebrew: ‘loins’) will be your heir.” Thus, God reiterates that Abram will have descendants and specifies that those descendents will be biological. But the reiteration and specification still requires trust, as God does not give Abram a date or time for this happening. It will not be until Genesis 17:21 when God tells Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son in a year. Though that is only two chapters later, it is at least thirteen years after God told Abram he would have a biological son, making it at least fourteen years before God delivers on this promise.[1]

In verse 5, God adds a visual to the promise. Abram is told to look to the night stars and count them if he is able, that his descendants will be that numerous. In the ancient desert, the number of stars must have been staggering; he must have been able to see the swath of the Milky Way. In the years left to wait between this word and the fulfillment in Isaac’s birth, Abraham must have been bolstered when he saw the night sky and remembered this word.

The final verse of this selection contains Abram’s response: he believed in the Lord. The second clause, however, is ambiguous as to the subject and object. Most English translations preserve the ambiguity, “he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Is God the one reckoning, or is Abram? Those translations that capitalize the pronouns for God write, “and He reckoned it to him as righteousness,” and the NRSV clarifies, “and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

The Hebrew, however, could just as well mean that Abram’s belief led to Abram reckoning it to God as righteousness. The verb “reckon” can also be translated as “think, account, impute.” If Abram is the object, and God is the subject, this would mean that Abram thought of God as righteous, imputed righteousness to God. Now, that may sound audacious: how can a human impute or reckon righteousness to God? Or, it may seem patently obvious; of course God is all righteousness, why does it matter if Abram thinks so or not?

However, the heart of this interaction is faith and trust. If Abram understands God to be righteous, to be one whose word is firm and secure, to be one who will make good on God’s promises, then Abram can believe. The same is true for us. Belief is hard enough when there is a delay between God’s promises and their fulfillment. It would be nigh impossible if the God in whom we believe is not trustworthy, is not righteous.


[1] Genesis 16:16 tells us that Abram was eighty-six when Ishmael was born, and Genesis 17:1 tells us that God (re)appeared to Abram when he was ninety-nine. If chapter 16 immediately follows chapter 15, it was still thirteen years before Abram got the message (in chapter 17) that he was to have a son with Sarah within a year.


Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

David G. Garber, Jr.

Everyone loves a courtroom drama, but what happens when God prosecutes God’s own people?

Isaiah 1 stands squarely within the prophetic tradition of the covenant lawsuit. As in Micah 6, also written during Isaiah’s era, YHWH calls heaven and earth to stand as the witnesses to a case against the leaders of Israel and Judah. Once again, YHWH charges the children of Israel with rebelling against the Divine Parent’s loving care and instruction (Isaiah 1:2, see last week’s entry on Hosea 11:1-11).

While many of the oracles against Israel and Judah begin with allusions to God’s liberation in the Exodus, Isaiah’s use of the trope harkens more to the creation narratives in Genesis. Several traces of Genesis appear in Isaiah 1:4 with the charge against the leaders of Judah as “offspring who do evil” and “children who deal corruptly.” The Hebrew term for “offspring” (zera‘) recalls the seed-bearing plants from the creation narrative (Genesis 1:11, 29) or the abundant offspring of Abraham (Genesis 3:15). Instead of the “good” seed meant to be a blessing to the nations, however, this seed acts evilly.

Likewise, the phrase “to deal corruptly” literally means “to wreak destruction.” It recalls the lawless violence of humanity that inspired God to destroy the earth with a great flood (Genesis 6:11-12). In a word-play, the same verb describes God’s destruction of all flesh on the planet (6:17). The allusion in Isaiah suggests that as a result of the charges against Judah, YHWH will also lay waste to Zion, with only a few survivors who remain (verses 5-9).

The oracle beginning in verse 10 should not be read apart from the context and themes of the prior verses. Isaiah’s primary audience in this oracle consists of the rulers in Judah, who wield the authority to make political, military, and economic decisions. Like other prophets, Isaiah compares these leaders to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities known for violent crimes against humanity throughout the biblical record.

The comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah is a trope for destruction as well as the sinfulness of the people of Judah. Genesis first introduces us to the citizens of Sodom as “wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13). For this reason, God decides to destroy the city despite Abraham’s protests (Genesis 18). While in our culture, many define the sin of Sodom as sexual, the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 highlights the violence of the people and their utter disregard for the visitors to their town. Later in Isaiah, the prophet condemns the leaders for the pride of their sin, declaring their offenses aloud and without shame like the people of Sodom (Isaiah 3:9). In this instance, the sin in question seems to be the economic oppression of the poor (Isaiah 3:15). Isaiah’s comparison of Judah’s leaders to the people of Sodom, then, seems to be a precursor to the tradition in Ezekiel: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

Like the other eighth century BCE prophets, Isaiah condemns the theater of worship without the presence of true care for the weakest in society. The prophet does not condemn ritual sacrifice in Isaiah 1:11. Rather, he uses the blood imagery of the sacrificial system to reflect the blood shed by Judah’s leaders (1:14). For this reason, YHWH says, “I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.” God takes no joy in the pomp and circumstance of God’s people when accompanied by unjust behavior. Verse 14 highlights the sins of the leaders by returning to the image of blood. The hands of the leaders are full, not with the blood of ritual sacrifice, but with the blood of the oppressed. The blood that the leaders shed in sacrificial worship does not atone for the blood they shed in the community. Rather, empty sacrificial ritual reminds the Divine Judge of the leaders’ crimes.

Isaiah, however, does not leave the audience hopeless. The people can once again make themselves ritually pure by upholding justice and the rights of the weakest in society. By defending the widow and the orphan, the leaders have the hope of cleansing their blood-stained hands. The leaders have a choice to either face the coming destruction for their sins or submit to God’s desire for a just and equitable society (verse 20).

The contemporary impact of this passage should not center on the strangeness of ancient Israelite sacrificial ritual or on an equally strange blood atonement theology. Rather, this prophet calls those of us in Church leadership positions to ask ourselves whether our congregations, our denominational bodies, or we are participating in practices that we would otherwise deem good, without also establishing justice in the public square.

Are we in the church more concerned with who comes to worship, our declining numbers, and/or the upkeep of our facilities than we are with making sure the weakest of society are secure? Are we more concerned with doctrinal assent and sexual purity than we are with those whom our culture has widowed and orphaned? If this is true, then our cities and churches are as much like Sodom and Gomorrah as Jerusalem and Samaria were. Yet, Isaiah also offers us a choice. May we choose to cleanse the hands of our Church from its past and present violence–the murderous crusades, the support of slavery, waves of anti-Semitism, language of hate and bullying against those who do not fit our definition of normalcy, and contempt for the poor. May we claim the hope of our sins forgiven by promoting the just cause of the oppressed.


Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 33:12-22

James K. Mead

God Watches. We Wait.

I’m showing my age by saying that I grew up listening to Paul’s Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” short radio talks wherein he informed hearers of what happened, sometimes long after more well-known events transpired. With this Sunday’s psalm reading we only get “the rest of the psalm” and worshipers may find themselves wondering about the first part of the story. I probably shouldn’t have complained about last Sunday’s lectionary decision to provide only the first half of Psalm 49! Here, again, it is incumbent upon the preacher who wishes to stick with the limits of the lectionary to provide enough sense of the whole poem without having to expound all of it.

Since the first eleven verses were not read the Sunday before, one should provide the gist of the psalm’s first half. The poet calls upon Israel to praise (verses 1-3) “the word of God” (verse 4), particularly in the way that word functions in creation (verses 6-9) and history (verses 10-11). The thematic coherence of these first eleven verses is striking insofar as verses 12-22 seem to go in a different direction, perhaps several of them!

Commentaries and other psalm studies offer helpful ways to outline the material in verses 12-22, and these can aid the preacher in bringing some order to exposition. Richard Clifford’s remark captures the overarching theme of the psalm’s second half, as it “concentrates on one tier of the three-tiered universe – earth — in order to explore how its inhabitants respond to the God who brought it into existence.”[1] That being said, there are several concepts and concerns that preachers and worship leaders can address as they focus on the human response to God’s all-seeing eye that incessantly gazes upon his creation.[2]

First, we should be struck by Psalm 33’s location as one of the few classic praise psalms in Book I of the Psalter (Psalms 1-41), which is dominated by lament forms. While many of us have been taught to think about the Psalter’s movement as being from lament to praise, that road is by no means perfectly demarcated. As one of Walter Brueggemann’s “psalms of orientation,” Psalm 33 reminds us that lament, confession, and declarations of innocence can and should be punctuated by praise.[3]

In the midst of losses and sorrows, biblical hymns of praise remind believers of divine reality around and beyond our circumstances. Communities of faith need to integrate praise and lament with sensitivity, never wishing to trample on people’s grief or rain on their parade. But the fact is that Paul’s adage to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) makes so much sense because at any given time it reflects the circumstances of the body of Christ as a whole.[4]

Second, focusing on the actual shaping of Psalm 33 enables us to bring our “big picture” theology home and enliven our faith. The high theology of the Word in creation and human history found in verses 1-11 is linked to our perception of life by verse 12: “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.” In their worship, ancient Israelites were forced to connect what they had been taught about God’s creative and redemptive work in the world with their life as a nation and people, to reflect on what difference all of that made to them.[5]

In this regard, we should not overlook the psalm’s organization into 22 verses, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. To be sure, this is not a classic alphabetic acrostic (each verse beginning with a successive Hebrew letter) but a case can be made that the versification is deliberately intended to show the coherence of the psalm’s message.[6] Its very existence is meant to guide the worshiper toward an integrated view of faith and practice.

Third, the poet used repetition to impress upon the faithful both the exhaustive reach of God’s involvement among humankind but also the utter futility of human effort to provide ultimate deliverance from trouble. The three-fold “all” in verses 13-15 — “all humankind,” “all the inhabitants of the earth,” and “all their deeds” — leaves no location where the “eye of the Lord” does not perceive. The three-fold “great” in verses 16-17 — “great army,” “great strength,” and “great might” — rejects an exclusively human solution to the world’s ills.

In addition to these explicit repetitions, the cluster of certain semantic fields (e.g., God “looks,” “sees,” “watches,” and “observes”) seeks to motivate believers to trust that God’s knowledge of them is complete. That the God to whom we belong watches us so completely that we can therefore confidently “wait” for the Lord (verse 20). The other lectionary passages for this Sunday provide vivid illustrations of patient faith in action: Abraham’s faith in God’s promise (Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16) and Jesus’ description of the watchfulness of those disciples who wait for God (Luke 12:32–40). Plenty of spiritual food for thought from just half a psalm!



[1] Richard J. Clifford, Psalms 1-72 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 169.

[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary (London: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 137.

[3] Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 33-36.

[4]The intrepid pastor-scholar can wrestle with this psalm’s lack of title or superscription, a rare occurrence in Books I-III (Psalms 1-89). It’s possible that some Hebrew manuscript traditions considered these 22 verses as a continuation of Psalm 32. SeeGerald H Wilson, “The Use of ‘Untitled’ Psalms in the Hebrew Bible,” ZAW 97 (1985): 404-413.

[5] I appreciate Patrick Miller’s discussion that draws a parallel to the high Christological thought of Colossians 1:15-20, wherein the person and work of Jesus Christ is linked immediately to “you who were once estranged . . .” (verse 21). See his Interpreting the Psalms (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 76.

[6] For more on this matter, see David Noel Freedman, “Acrostic Poems in the Hebrew Bible: Alphabetic and Otherwise,” CBQ 48 (1986): 408-431.

 


Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Erik Heen

Today’s second lesson begins the first of four weeks that are devoted to a sequential reading of the last three chapters of the Epistle to Hebrews.

Only in the RCL Year B (Propers 23-28) is there a comparable dedication to Hebrew’s distinctive theological world. This “Year C” series from Hebrews provides an opportunity not only for the preacher to delve into the epistle with some intentionality over the course of a month, but also opens the door to the possibility for a sustained parish Bible study on this rich text.  

The narrative arch of the four weeks’ readings from Hebrews is stunning in its reach. It begins with the famous definition of faith in 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The text then quickly moves back to creation (11:3) to note that God’s Word is a power that creates “what is seen … from things that are not visible.” This statement (verse 3) can actually function as a rubric for Hebrews’ extensive reflections concerning faith through these four weeks.

Faith, rather than being something ultimately dependent upon us, comes to us at God’s own initiative which, mediated by God’s Word (cf. 1:2), engenders a hope-filled response to the promises of God. This response of trust in God makes “visible” — through the lives of the assembly of believers — what otherwise would remain “invisible.” In other words, one who trusts God’s promises is God’s own witness to the new creation that is breaking into our “everyday” visible world through the gospel of Christ Jesus. Here “resurrection,” a sub-theme in this section (11:12, 19, 35), is not only a source of such faith, but provides its patterning.

In faith (as in resurrection) God calls new life out of that which is “as good as dead” (verse 12; cf. Rom 4:17b). The gift of faith is God’s work that witnesses to that very God who “is able even to raise someone from the dead” (11:19). In short, God’s invisible work of new creation becomes visible (incarnate) in the life of the one who trusts God. As Hebrews itself puts it (and here I revert to a more “literal” understanding of the underlying Greek), “Faith is the ‘substance’ (hypostasis; in Latin, substantia) of things hoped for, the ‘proof’ (elenchus/argumentum) of things not seen.”     

The readings from Hebrews for today and next Sunday will sweep through an “honors list” of those that make up the “great cloud of witnesses” (12:1). This list stretches from Abel (11:4) to the Maccabean martyrs (11:36ff). The list is tightly packed with succinct but fascinating descriptions of these pilgrims of old who — as do all of us — seek a homeland (11:14), a city prepared for them by God (11:16). They are commended for their faith in the promises of God, yet as the two final RCL Hebrews’ texts (Propers 16 and 17) also note, it is only by means of the work of Christ crucified and risen that these saints of old too can enter the City of God along with those who profess faith in Christ.

This confession of faith includes faithful service to God and neighbor (13:1-3), as well as a participation in the ongoing “festal gathering” of “the city of the living God” — the heavenly Jerusalem — in the presence of the “righteous made perfect” as well as God (“the judge of all”) and Jesus (12:22-24). One might think that this is enough! And yet Hebrews notes that there will be one more “shaking” of heaven and earth, where all that is created is finally folded into the very purpose of God (12:26-28). The visionary sweep of Hebrews’ narrative in this four-week “mini series” of texts carries us, literally, from the beginning (creation) through the middle of the story (Christ) to the end (the “unshakable” kingdom of God).

In this week’s text selection we get only the first half of the speech in praise of the OT “heroes and heroines of faith” (11:1-3, 8-16), which will completed next week (11:29-12:2). Since today’s first lesson deals with the promise given by God to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-6), the second lesson “edits” Hebrews so that Abraham is showcased in it as well. Hebrews nicely supplements the Genesis text in that Sarah is given equal billing in it with Abraham, even pointing out that Sarah “received power to conceive,” an unusual expression for the ancients since the dominant notion of the woman’s role in the production of offspring was completely passive (Note: the NRSV alternative reading for verse 11 is the better one).

Yet, because the Abraham and Sarah stories are emphasized in today’s text, missing are the wonderful expositions on Abel, Enoch, and Noah as well as one of Luther’s favorite verses, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (verse 6). Though understandable, one should be mindful of these “dropped texts” (verse 4-7). Since Hebrews is a carefully crafted rhetorical work, all the details are important, many of which are taken up latter (e.g., the “blood of Abel” in 12:24).

The community to whom Hebrews was written had undergone great hardship, including public ridicule, confiscation of property, and imprisonment (10:32-34). Because of the pressures put upon the community, some had apostatized (6:4-6), others avoided worship (10:25). Still others were weary of the suffering and disheartened by the delay in the coming of the Lord that would confirm their belief (3:14), a belief that came at great cost. Into this situation Hebrews comes as a “word of exhortation” (13:22). As exhortation, Hebrews contains both words of (a) admonishment against “thinking of the land that they had left behind” to become followers of Christ (verse 15), as well as (b) encouragement, often in that order.

The text for today is preceded by such a flow (10:37-38) that is grounded in an exposition of Habakkuk 2:3-4, the center of which also surfaces in Paul’s exploration of God’s revelation that “my righteousness one will live by faith” (e.g., Romans 1:17). In Hebrews this claim is illustrated in Chapter 11 by the recounting of OT narratives of faith. In these narratives “faith” can be seen to incorporate both (a) “trust” in the promises of God, as well as (b) “faithfulness” to God when tested by difficult situations (or even by God).

Both aspects of “faith” are well illustrated by Abraham’s complex relationship to God (verses 8-12; 17-19). “Endurance,” then, is also an attribute of faith lived in the real world. In fact, from Hebrews’ perspective, the world of faith is the “real world.” The “real world,” then, is a world made visible by those who are drawn into the very heart of God by the divine work of faith in them. And what is the foundation of that faith? It is one’s belief that God is the source of life (and mercy and loving kindness), all appearances to the contrary.