Abel pleased God by his faith and through his death he speaks to us of Jesus. But Jesus’ message in the blood is far superior. It is one of forgiveness while Abel’s is a cry for vengeance. Enoch pleased God by his faith and he speaks to us in the fact he didn’t die! He was “taken” into the heavens just as Jesus was at his ascension. The only commendation God gave to Abel and Enoch was on the basis of their faith.  Abel is the hero of his story because he was the righteous one unjustly slain by his brother. Enoch is the hero of his story because he pleased God and God “took him” into heaven. Abel speaks of Jesus in his death. Enoch speaks of Jesus in his being taken into heaven beyond death. Then the writer of Hebrews moves on to share the important principal that will prevail in the lives of all the Old Testament people he mentions in chapter 11. Faith is the essential ingredient for pleasing God.

The writer of Hebrews takes some liberties when he writes about Abel and Enoch. There is no mention in the Old Testament concerning their faith, trust or belief in God. But they both pleased God according to their Old Testament accounts. Our author wants us to understand that there is only one way to please God. Abel offered a sacrifice that God accepted but not on the basis of the sacrifice itself but on the basis of Abel’s heart. Enoch didn’t offer anything to God or do any deed that we can see. Yet both pleased God on the basis of one thing only. Therefore Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Cain offered a sacrifice as well but God did not accept it because Cain did not have “faith” in God. You can do good deeds, offer sacrifices, and not please God. You can also offer no sacrifice and do no good deed and still be pleasing to God. It’s only faith that pleases God.

Faith is trusting that God has good intentions towards you regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself. This is going to be the case for all the people mentioned in the rest of the chapter. Only faith pleases God. God spoke in the days of old through various ways. Abel and Enoch believed, had faith, in God’s Word and pleased God. But in our day, as we read in the 1st chapter of Hebrews, God speaks to us in His Son. He is the far superior message than the blood of Abel. We are called to believe in Him. This means we must trust God and rest in his sovereignty over the details of our lives.  Faith involves believing in His existence but also in the fact that he “rewards” those who look for him in the circumstances of their lives. I like the way Long explains these two dimensions of faith. He says, “To believe that God exists is to have a profound ‘conviction of things not seen.’ To believe that God rewards those who seek him is not to look for crowns or Cadillacs—such baubles and trinkets demean the idea of holy reward—but for a Sabbath rest (see comment on 4:1–11). The reward of faith is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises for mercy, peace, and salvation, ‘the assurance of things hoped for’ (see 11:1).”[1]

[1] Thomas G. Long, Hebrews, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997), 117.