How should we read Hebrews 11? What is the writer doing in that chapter? In the previous context, the writer recalls the community’s beautiful display of courage in response to persecution in its earlier days (10:32-34).
The readers’ situation and their existential need are important to understanding the meaning of Hebrews 11. Overcome by fear at the prospects of an oncoming persecution, the Hebrews had succumbed to doubt and disillusionment. In effect, the readers were in a crisis of faith.
The writer retells the history of God’s people in light of Hab. 2:4. Habakkuk’s faith had been tested to the core when he learned of God’s plan to use the wicked Assyrians to judge Israel’s unfaithfulness. In his perplexity, he discovered that “the just shall live by faith.” So, he voiced his doubts honestly to God, and actively waited for God to provide further clarity.