In one of his sermons W. A. Criswell told a story about the president of a great railway system who died.
“The funeral service was held at two o’clock on a weekday afternoon. At that exact moment, every train came to a dead stop. Every wheel ceased to turn. Every workman dropped his tools. Every clerk turned from his files. For three minutes, the entire vast railway system came to a complete stop.”
Everything “came to a complete stop,” Criswell emphasized “all except the influence of the man in the casket. For the influence of the man never stopped, not even for the three minutes of silent pause observed by the great railway system.”
Similarly, the Hebrew makes that point even more forcefully in his great treatise on the heroes of faith when he offered this observation about Abel.
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4)
“Though he died, he still speaks.” What an incredible statement. What a profoundly, powerful thought.
Abel’s epitaph begins an impressive list of God’s greats. Men and women who through the ages served God by faith. They are held up by the writer as an example to the Hebews Christians, and by implication and application to all of us in the 21st century to listen to them. Though dead, from the grave, they each offer a testimony that is compelling and convincing. They are witnesses of the rewards of faithful service to God.
Specifically, what does Abel say?
#1 “Walk by faith, not feelings.”
Abel is the first person according to the sacred record to offer a blood sacrifice in worship to God. Regarding this Arthur Pink wrote, “He had no established precedent to follow, no example to emulate, no outward encouragement to stimulate. Thus, his conduct was not suggested by popular custom, nor was his action regulated by common sense.”
So why did Abel offer a lamb? The text tells us. By Faith.
Since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” Abel listened to God and responded by faith. Cain, on the other hand, did what he felt was right, instead of walking by faith.
#2 “Faith works.”
Faith is active. Not passive. Faith is not mere mental ascent. Or intellectual agreement. Faith prompts one to do something, Genesis 4:4 says, “he brought.” Hebrews 11:4 says, “he offered.”
From the grave, Abel says, “faith without works is dead.”
#3 “Worship God.”
Abel’s offering was directed to God. The sacrifice of the lamb was an expression of homage, respect and veneration paid to Jehovah. His worship was God-ward.
Likewise our worship today is not directed to angels, departed saints, or other humans. Abel speaks clearly. “Worship God.”
#4 “God rewards the righteous and punishes the disobedient.”
The text says God regarded Abel as “righteous,” but He rejected Cain’s offering. Righteousness is witnessed by obedience and unrighteousness by disobedience.
It’s worth noting, that sometimes the righteous suffer. In anger, Cain killed Abel. Yet, Abel’s voice from the grave says, “It pays to serve God, regardless of the carnal consequences.”
This text reminds us that our influence lives on long after we die. Though dead, we can speak from the grave.
I hear the voices of those from whom I learned God’s Word. Aude McKee. Robert Jackson. James P. Miller. Roy Codgill. Clinton Hamilton. James R. Cope. Homer Hailey. Harry Pickup. Jr. John Clark. Paul Andrews. And Rufus Clifford, Sr. They mentored, counseled and encouraged me in my preaching and teaching. They’ve all passed from this life, but their voices continue to speak to my heart.
I hear the last words my father said to me before he died who encouraged me to steadfast faithfulness with the simple words, “Hang in there.”
I hear the words my mom uttered when she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, “Well, we’re not put on this earth to live for ever.” They remind me of life’s brevity. It’s purpose. And the acceptance of our mortality.
And I hear the words of Dee Bowman who continues to speak from the grave and reminds us all, “If you miss heaven, you just missed all there is.”
What words do you hear from the grave?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
6 responses to “Hebrews 11:4”
Ken, this is so good and speaks well of all those that have had such a big influence on our lives. Yes, those that have gone on before still speak to us today!
Certainly appreciate your thoughts each day, but especially these on Heb 11:4. Thank you, Ken.
Thanks Russ. Glad the Hebrews 11 post resonated with you.
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This is such a powerful story that highlights the lasting impact of our lives and actions, even after we are gone. It’s a reminder that we should strive to leave a positive impact on the world, no matter how big or small. I think it’s also important to note that this impact doesn’t have to be grand or extravagant. Abel’s simple act of offering a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain was enough to leave a lasting impression.
With that being said, I’m curious to hear from others – what are some ways that you try to leave a positive impact on the world? Do you think it’s important to focus on leaving a legacy, or is it better to live in the moment and not worry about what comes after?
Thanks Kathy. I appreciate you reading my blog and taking the time to comment