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Faith in times past

1FAITH gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

2It was for their faith that the people of old won God's approval.

3By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God's command, so that the visible came forth from the invisible.

4By faith Abel offered a greater sacrifice than Cain's; because of his faith God approved his offerings and attested his goodness; and through his faith, though he is dead, he continues to speak.

5By faith Enoch was taken up to another life without passing through death; he was not to be found, because God had taken him, and it is the testimony of scripture that before he was taken he had pleased God.

6But without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.

7By faith Noah took good heed of the divine warning about the unseen future, and built an ark to save his household. Through his faith he put the whole world in the wrong, and made good his own claim to the righteousness which comes of faith.

8By faith Abraham obeyed the call to leave his home for a land which he was to receive as a possession; he went away without knowing where he was to go.

9By faith he settled as an alien in the land which had been promised him, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him to the same promise.

10For he was looking forward to a city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11By faith even Sarah herself was enabled to conceive, though she was past the age, because she judged that God who had promised would keep faith.

12Therefore from one man, a man as good as dead, there sprang descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens or the countless grains of sand on the seashore.

13All these died in faith. Although they had not received the things promised, yet they had seen them far ahead and welcomed them, and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens without fixed abode on earth.

14Those who speak in that way show plainly that they are looking for a country of their own.

15If their thoughts had been with the country they had left, they could have found opportunity to return.

16Instead, we find them longing for a better country, a heavenly one. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has a city ready for them.

17By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac: he had received the promises, and yet he was ready to offer his only son,

18of whom he had been told, “Through the line of Isaac your descendants shall be traced.”

19For he reckoned that God had power even to raise from the dead -- and it was from the dead, in a sense, that he received him back.

20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau and spoke of things to come.

21By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and bowed in worship over the top of his staff.

22By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, spoke of the departure of Israel from Egypt, and gave instructions about his burial.

23By faith, when Moses was born, his parents hid him for three months, because they saw what a fine child he was; they were not intimidated by the king's edict.

24By faith Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh's daughter,

25preferring to share hardship with God's people rather than enjoy the transient pleasures of sin.

26He considered the stigma that rests on God's Anointed greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the coming reward.

27By faith he left Egypt, with no fear of the king's anger; for he was resolute, as one who saw the invisible God.

28By faith he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroying angel might not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though it were dry land, whereas the Egyptians, when they attempted the crossing, were engulfed.

30By faith the walls of Jericho were made to fall after they had been encircled on seven successive days.

31By faith the prostitute Rahab escaped the fate of the unbelievers, because she had given the spies a kindly welcome.

32Need I say more? Time is too short for me to tell the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.

33Through faith they overthrew kingdoms, established justice, saw God's promises fulfilled. They shut the mouths of lions,

34quenched the fury of fire, escaped death by the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength, they grew powerful in war, they put foreign armies to rout.

35Women received back their dead raised to life. Others were tortured to death, refusing release, to win resurrection to a better life.

36Others, again, had to face jeers and flogging, even fetters and prison bars.

37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were put to the sword, they went about clothed in skins of sheep or goats, deprived, oppressed, ill-treated.

38The world was not worthy of them. They were refugees in deserts and on the mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39All these won God's approval because of their faith; and yet they did not receive what was promised,

40because, with us in mind, God had made a better plan, that only with us should they reach perfection.

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