January 30: Difficult Definitions
Genesis 47–48; Hebrews 11; Ecclesiastes 12:1–8
As an editor, I love definitions. The field of lexicography can be complex, but when a definition is finally solidified, there’s comfort to be found. It becomes something stable. This is also the reason I love the book of Hebrews: the author is keen on definitions, clarifying terminology, and using analogies to prove his points.
“Now faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the proof of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
In this succinct definition, I have perspective on the essence of faith. There is no room for doubt or error. The hope referred to is Jesus. And the proof is in an assurance that even though we cannot see Him, we have confidence in His work both presently and in the future.
The author goes on to say, “For by this [faith] the people of old were approved [by God]. By faith we understand the worlds were created by the word of God, in order that what is seen did not come into existence from what is visible.… By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to a place that he was going to receive for an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:2–3, 8).
Abraham, whose story is an exemplar of actions reflecting faith, shows us that belief is about hoping in God’s work in Christ. And in acting on that which He has promised but we are yet to see. That’s lexicography we can all depend upon.
How does this definition of faith (or belief) change your perspective on living a life that is faithful to Christ?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then came Joseph and told Pharaoh, and said, My father, and my brethren, and their sheep, and their cattle, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan, and behold, they are in the land of Goshen. And Joseph took part of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. When Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your trade? And they answered Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers. They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come: for thy servants have no pasture for their sheep, so sore is the famine in the land of Canaan, Now therefore, we pray thee: let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. Then spake Pharaoh to Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee. The land of Egypt is before thee: in the best place of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell: let them dwell in the land of Goshen: and if thou knowest that there be men of activity among them, make them rulers over my cattle. Joseph also brought Jacob his father and set him before Pharaoh. And Jacob saluted Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old at thou? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The whole time of my pilgrimage is an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of my life been, and I have not attained unto the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimages. And Jacob took leave of Pharaoh, and departed from the presence of Pharaoh. And Joseph placed his father, and his brethren, and gave them possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, even in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household with bread even to the young children. Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was exceeding sore: so that the land of Egypt, and the land of Canaan were famished by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered all the money, that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought, and Joseph laid up the money in Pharaoh’s house. So when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, then all the Egyptians came unto Joseph and said, Give us bread: for why should we die before thee? for our money is spent. Then said Joseph, Bring your cattle, and I will give you for your cattle, if your money be spent. So they brought their cattle unto Joseph, and Joseph gave them bread for the horses, and for the flocks of sheep, and for the herds of cattle, and for the asses: so he fed them with bread for all their cattle that year. But when the year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide from my lord, that since our money is spent, and my lord hath the herds of the cattle, there is nothing left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies and our ground. Why shall we perish in thy sight, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, adn we and our land will be bound to Pharaoh: therefore give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land go not to waste. So Joseph bought al the land of Egypt for Pharaoh: for the Egyptians sold every man his ground, becase the famine was sore upon them, so the land became Pharaoh’s. And he removed the people unto the cities, from one side of Egypt even to the other. Only the land of the Priests bought he not: for the Priests had an ordinary of Pharaoah, and they did eat their ordinary, which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their ground. Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day, and your land for Pharaoh, lo, here is the seed for you: sow therefore the ground. And of the increase ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be yours for seed of the field, and for your meat, and for them of your households, and for your children to eat. Then they answered, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. Then Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, except the land of the Priests only, which was not Pharaoh’s. And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, inthe country of Goshen: and they had their possessions therein, and grew and multiplied exceedingly. Moreover, Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years, so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years. Now when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If I have no found grace in thy sight, put thine hand now under my thigh, and deal mercifully and truly with me: bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. But when I shall sleep with my fathers, thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burial. And he answered, I will do as thou hast said. Then he said, swear unto me. and he sware unto him. And Israel worshipped towards the bed’s head. Again after this, one said to Joseph, Lo, thy father is sick: then he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Also one told Jacob, and said, Behold thy son Joseph is come to thee, and Israel took his strength unto him and sat unto the bed. Then Jacob said unto Joseph, God almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and will multiply thee, and will make agreat number of people of thee, and will give this land unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, which are born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came to thee in Egypt, shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are mine. But thy lineage, which thou hast begotten after them, shall be thine: they shall be called after the names of their brethren in their inheritance. Now when I came from Padan, Rachel died upon mine hand in the land of Canaan, by the way when there was but half a day’s journey of ground to come to Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way to Ephrath: the same is Bethlehem. Then Israel beheld Joseph’s sons and said, Whose are these? And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, which God hath given me here. Then he said, i pray thee, bring them to me, that I may bless them: (For the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not well see) Then he caused them to come to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to have seen thy face: yet lo, God hath showed me also thy seed. And Joseph took them away from hs knees, and did reverence down to the ground. Then took Joseph them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, so he brought them unto him. But Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it on Ephraim’s head which was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head (directing his hands of purpose) for Manasseh was the elder. Also he blesseth Joseph, and said, The God, before whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which hath fed me all my life long, unto this day, bless thee. The Angel, which hath delivered me from all evil, bless the children, and let my name be named upon them, and the name of thy fathers Abraham and Isaac, that they may grow as fish into a multitude in the midst of the earth. But when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he stayed his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the eldest: put thy right hand upon his head. But hsi father refused, and said, I know well my son, I know well: he shall be also a people, and he shall be great likewise: but his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall be full of nations. So he blessed them that day, and said, in thee Israel shall bless, and say, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh, and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die, and God shalll be with ou, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. Moreover, I have given unto thee one portion above thy brethren, which I got out of the hand of the Amorite by my sword and by my bow. Genesis 47–48
- Now faith is the grounds of things which are hoped for, and the evidence of things which are not seen. For by it our elders were well reported of. Through faith we understand that the world was ordained by the word of God, so that the things which we see, are not made of things which did appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a greater sacrifice than Cain, by the which he obtained witness that he ws righteous, God testifying of his gifts: by the which faith also he being dead, yet speaketh. By faith was Enoch translated, that he should not see death: neither was he found: for God had translated him: for before he was translated, he was reported of, that he had pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him:for he that cometh to God, must believe that god is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him. By faith Noah being warned of God of the things which were as yet not seen, moved with reerence, prepared the Ark to the saving of his household, through the which Ark he condemned the world, and was made heir of the righteousness, which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he wsa called, obeyed God, to go out into a place, which he should afterward receive for inheritance, and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he abode in the land of promise, as in a strange country, as one that dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city having a foundation, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith Sarah also received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she ws past age, because she judged him faithful which had promised. And therefore sprang thereof one, even of one which was dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand of the sea shore which is innumerable. All these died in faith, and received not the promises, but saw them afar off, and believed them, and received them thankfully: an confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly, that they seek a country. And if they had been mindful of that country, from whcne they came out, they had leisure to have returned. But now they desire a better, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city By faith Abraham offered up Isaac, when he was tried, and he that had received the promises, offered his only begotten son. (To whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.) For he considered that God was able to raise him up even from the dead: from whence he received him also after a sort. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, concerning things to come. By faith Jacob when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and leaning on the end of his staff, whorishpped God. By faith Joseph when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel, and gave commandment of his bones. By faith Moses when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, becasue they saw he was a proper child, neither feared they the king’s commandment. By faith Moses when he was come to age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, And chose rather to suffer adversity with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, Esteeming the rebuke of Christ greater riches, than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, and feared not the fierceness of the king: for he endured, as he that saw him which is invisible. Through faith he ordained the Passover and the effusion of blood, lest he that destroed the first born, should touch them. By faith they passed through the red sea as by dry land, which when teh Egyptians had assayed to do, they were swallowed up. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them which obeyed not, when she had received the spies peaceably. And what shall I more say? for the time would be too short for me to tell of Gideon, of Barak, and of Simeon, and of Jephthah, also of David, and Samuel, and of the Prophets: Which through faith subdued kingdoms, wrougth righteousness, obtained the promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, of weak were made strong, waxed valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. The women received their dead raised to life: others also were racked, and would not be delivered, that the might receive a better resurrection. And others have been tried by mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover by bonds, and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were hewn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword, they wandered up and down in sheep’s skins, and in goats’ skins, being destitute, afflicted, and tormented: Whom the world was not worthy of: they wandered in wildernesses and mountains, and dens, and caves of the earth. And these all through faith obtained good report, and received not the promise, God providing a better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11
- Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years approach, wherein thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them: While th esun isnot dark, nor the light, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the clouds return after the rain. When the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders shall cease, because they are few, and tehy was dark that look out by the windows: And the doors shall be shut without by the base sound of the grinding, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird: and all the daughters of singing shall be abased: Also they shall be afraid of the high thing, and fear shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and concupiscence shall be driven away: for man goeth to the house of his age, and the mourners go about in the street. While the silver cord is not lengthened, nor the golden ewer broken, nor the pitcher broken at the well, nor the wheel broken at the cistern, And dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return to God that gave it. Vanity of vanitities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 12:1–8