Commonly called the impala, the reddish-brown African antelope is renowned for its speed and jumping ability. They can jump over obstacles as high as 3 meters high (9′ 8″) and can make leaps of 10 meters (33′) at a time.
They are not a very large animal. The horned male impala only reaches a maximum height of 36 inches at its shoulder.
Even with this amazing ability, the impalas’ preferred method of avoiding predators is hiding in the tall Savannah grass.
Despite this incredible leaping and jumping ability, zoos are able to pen Impalas with a relatively small fence, some as low as four or five feet. As long as its solid and the Impalas are unable to see where their feet will land on the other side, they will not risk the jump.
So they remain captive.
If impalas are mixed with other animals that are not affected in the same way by a solid fence, then zoos need to build an extremely tall wire fence to keep the impalas captive — because they can easily jump anything less than 10 feet high.
In some ways, this helps us understand a verse in Hebrews 11:1 where we are told:
Now faith is the substance [Greek hupostasis] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
Hupostasis is a combination of two Greek words “hupo” which means under and “histemi” which refers to where we stand. In other words, faith is the structure on which we stand.
The Greek word means ‘assurance, reality, guarantee.” In ancient Greek, it was used to describe a “title-deed” that shows a person is the legitimate owner of a piece of property because it was “under a legal-standing.”
This substance or guarantee allowed a person to possess or own the property. That is why this word is often translated assurance or confidence. But these words seem to fall short of the certainty being expressed here.
For the believer faith is our guarantee and ensures our legal standing before God.
Because an impala has no guarantee of what is on the other side of the fence, it won’t risk the jump and remains captive by its own uncertainty.
This is not the life of a Christian because we can break free from what captivates us through faith.
Our faith in Jesus is the guarantee we will land safely no matter what is on the other side.
And it is Jesus Who we must believe in, as the writer of Hebrews uses the same Greek word to describe Jesus who is the exact representation of God’s substance (hupostasis):
“And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature [hupostasis substance] (Hebrews 1:3 NASV)