In this chapter 11 of Hebrews we see the necessity of faith to please God and to receive His blessings. The whole chapter is a catalogue of people who had faith and through whose faith God did great things.
A]. THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO BROUGHT ISRAEL FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM. 11:29-31
The people of Israel under the leadership of Moses
- 29, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” At a time when it seemed they were at the mercy of the pursuing Egyptian army, the Israelites stepped out in faith to cross the Red Sea which miraculously opened up before them. Their faith was rewarded and they were saved by the hand of Almighty God who had done this for them.
The People of Israel under the leadership of Joshua
- 30 “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” Joshua the successor to Moses had led the people to the outskirts of Jericho. He was instructed by God to command the people to march around the city 7 times on the seventh day and then to blow the trumpets. It did not sound like a strong military strategy but the people obeyed and blew the trumpets. As they did so, the walls collapsed, the Israelites took the city, and the victory was won.
An Unlikely Ally in God’s Purposes
- 31 “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Rahab had shown her faith in the God of Israel by welcoming and protecting the Israelite spies. Somehow she believed that the God of Israel was powerful and wanted to destroy Jericho. Her faith allowed the spies to do their spying safely and God Himself secured the victory for the Israelites. She allowed herself to become an instrument in God’s purposes and she was saved from death.
B]. THE FAITH OF OTHER FAITHFUL ISRAELITE LEADERS. 11:32-34
- 32 “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.“
Not only were Moses and Joshua raised up by the Lord, but He also raised up many more people to lead His people during their history. Some of these people mentioned here were mighty men of God but the emphasis in this passage was on the faith they had, that enabled them to do what they did.
C]. THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO REMAINED FAITHFUL IN SPITE OF HORRIFIC SUFFERING. 11:35-40
In the above we have read of many of Israel’s heroes, but the writer is at pains to include a list of those who were faithful to God but who underwent much suffering for their faith. Many of them are unknown to us but the encouraging thing is that God wanted the writer of this letter to the Hebrews to show that their sufferings were not ignored or neglected by God. He includes them in the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 to show that the world was not worthy of such people. No cry for help was ever ignored by God, no tear was ever shed that escaped the Lord’s notice. No work of faith they had ever completed or attempted to do in faith, would miss out on His reward.
- “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
- They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.
- They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
- 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Faith is always rewarded by God but timing is according to His timetable, not ours!
As verses 39 and 40 indicate, the reward for such people was delayed until it could be shared with His people of a later time. As one commentary has remarked, “Although they saw the fulfilment of specific promises in this life (e.g. 6:15; 11:11, 33), none of them experienced the blessings of the Messianic era and of the new covenant. In his gracious providence, God had planned something better for us in the sense that their enjoyment of perfection through Jesus Christ would only be together with us. The writer’s point is to stress the enormous privilege of living ‘in these last days’ (1:2). [New Bible Commentary.]
D]. THE NEED FOR THE EXERCISE OF FAITH FOR BELIEVERS IN ALL AGES
The encouragement of the faith shown in former believers
12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
The witness of all these heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 envelops us as we seek to live for the Lord. It’s as though we are in a large library and the pictures and deeds of those who have preceded us in life are hanging like portraits on the walls surrounding us. By their silent witness they are encouraging us in our own faith.
Our response to this truth
As we are encouraged by their witness there are two things we need to do.
The first is to get rid of unnecessary baggage, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Anything in our lives that slows us down in our Christian walk has to be got rid of, especially sin.
The second thing we are to do, is to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” All of us as believers have a race to run in life. And we need endurance to run it. We have the witness of the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith to inspire us but the writer tells us to look at a greater example of endurance, “looking to Jesus.” Hebrews 12:2. He then goes on to explain what he means.
E]. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS TO INSPIRE US. 12:2
“[Jesus] the founder and perfecter of our faith.” The word “our” is not in the original text for Jesus is the founder and perfecter of the faith. It is He who is responsible for faith in any person and He helps sustain it and bring it to completion in every believer’s life. He is the example par excellence of faith for His whole life was lived with faith in His heavenly Father and in obedience to His Father’s will.
The writer says that Jesus’ whole ministry was motivated by joy, “who for the joy that was set before him.” Dying on the cross for sinners and offering Himself as the sacrifice to take away the sin of the world, was not going to be a pleasant experience. But doing the will of God and fulfilling God’s plan for the world, was going to bring a joyful result. What was involved in doing the will of God for Jesus to enable Him to experience that joy?
What He Did To Experience His Joy
“[Jesus] endured the cross.” It is impossible for sinful humans ever to understand the degree of physical and mental endurance Jesus needed as He hung on the cross for sinners”. But it was the spiritual suffering He endured that made Him cry out on the cross, ““Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His Father had to turn His back on His Son as Jesus was made sin for us. But later his cry of faith was changed to “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit!” as in faith He committed Himself to His Heavenly Father who had accepted His Son’s sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
His Attitude In What He Did To Experience His Joy
“despising the shame.” It was a shameful thing to be nailed to the cross. The words “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Gal 3:13 is indicative of what people of that time thought of crucifixion. But Jesus “despised“ that thought [where the word for “despised” is [kataphroneō; καταφρονέω] meaning to think against, or to think little of]. The thought did not deter Him from being willing to suffer and endure on the cross if that was the will of God for Him.
The End Result Of What He Did In Experiencing His Joy
”and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” There can be no higher place than to be seated at the right hand of God. Jesus had fulfilled the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world and was raised by the Father to His place in glory.
An Amazing Truth We Need To Know
There is a little understood corollary to this truth of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God, which is found in Ephesians 2:4-9 where Paul reminds us that we too have been raised with Christ. God sees us now as being seated with Christ at His right hand in glory. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
It is absolutely amazing to read of all Christ has done for sinners. But it is also amazing that our faith in Jesus has enabled God to bless us with a seat at His right hand, in Christ, in the place of acceptance, honour and authority.
Our response surely to the love and mercy of God and to the faith Jesus showed in dying for us, must be to live for Him for the rest of our lives, as Paul wrote, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:15.
Blog No.409 posted on Tuesday 26 July 2022