Hebrews 11. Part 33. Pandemic.
We’ve explored the lives of people we call “giants of the faith” and have determined that they had just as many struggles and failures as we do. Yet, they remained faithful to God, returning to him again and again. We can learn from this. This is the model of faith.
When we face temptation and doubt, the Word tells us to recall God’s previous work in our lives, all the ways he has held us up, all the trials he has brought us through, all the prayers he has answered, all the promises he has fulfilled, and all of his future promises.When we face temptation and doubt, the Word tells us to recall God’s previous work in our lives, all the ways he has held us up, all the trials he has brought us through, all the prayers he has answered, all of his future promises. Click To Tweet
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 11:32-36 ESV)
Terrible things had occurred to these mostly Hebrew believers in Messiah Jesus. And so, the author urges them not to throw away their confidence in Christ, but to endure. Why? Because they have a blessed reward awaiting them. Any day, at any time, at any moment, this event could occur:
“For, ‘Yet a little while,
and the Coming One will come and will not delay;
BUT my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.’ BUT we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:37-39 ESV).
We anticipate Christ’s return. We don’t know when it will be. He’s not delayed. He’s right on time. When he comes, will he show pleasure in us for not shrinking back, for not pulling away from him during hard times?
As Christ holds fast to us, he enables us to hold fast to him. The people listed near the end of Hebrews 11 — mostly people like us, everyday people — strengthen our hope in the Lord. If they remained faithful, so too can we be.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11:30-31 ESV).
Rahab did whatever was necessary to support her entire family. For years, she had noted terrifying news whispered by local people coming and going through her inn. These Hebrews had a God who far exceeded every idol she and her people had ever worshiped.
This God split the Red Sea and destroyed the entire Egyptian army. This God brought his people out of slavery with plague and a pillar of fire.
And then, millions of Hebrews showed up outside Rahab’s backdoor.
Rahab told the two spies, “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt. . . As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:10a,11 ESV).
Rahab was drawn to this Omnipotent God who is God. She gladly welcomed the Hebrew spies as friends and accepted their God. When the walls of Jericho fell, she joined the Israelites, married Salmon, birthed Boaz (Matthew 1:5; Ruth 4:32), and eventually became the great-great-grandmother of David, a matriarch in the Messiah’s lineage.
This is the kind of family God loves to make. He weaves families together with people just like us. Rahab is us. We leave our captivity, turn to God, accept his Son as Lord of our lives, become a member of God’s family, and enjoy him forever.
“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” (Hebrews 11:32-34).
Every single one of these came from ordinary places, lived ordinary lives, and then, because of their faith, they were singled out by God in amazing ways. They are remembered for their faith. Because of their confidence in God, these believers were made strong. Their failures aren’t mentioned here, for they repented. Their failures are remembered no more.
Samson had been blinded by the Philistines. And yet, by faith, he cried out. God empowered to destroy a temple filled with Philistines who sacrificed their children to idols, giving his own life in the process.
David repeatedly turned back to God, and the Lord rewarded David for his faith, his ongoing repentance, and his growth, reaffirming that he would bless the world with Messiah through David’s family tree.
Samuel and the other prophets stood before doubting kings and stated what God had inspired them to say. As a result, they were ignored, mocked, spat upon, beaten, and killed. No one seemed to change. No one seemed to hear. Yet God saw. He was pleased with their faith, and they entered his reward.
“Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 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” (Hebrews 11:35-38 ESV).
The widow of Zarephath and her son were saved from famine, and then, when her son died, Elijah prayed, and God restored the boy to life (1 Kings 17:8-34). The Shunammite woman’s son was resurrected when Elisha prayed (2 Kings 4:18-37), both sons foreshadowing the risen Messiah.
Some were sawn in two, ancient literature tells us — perhaps Jeremiah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, prophets during the reign of Manasseh and his particularly wicked offspring. Believers lived destitute lives, because of persecution, so impoverished they scratched out their living in holes and caves. This still happens today.
“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40 ESV).
For God’s family to be made complete, we, the Gentiles, had to come in. God had stated his mission to the nations. Messiah Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and rose. He spent time with his disciples for almost six weeks, was witnessed by hundreds, and then he ascended.
Soon afterward, the Holy Spirit led the apostles, who were Jewish, to take the message of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus to those who weren’t Jewish. That’s us. We heard the message and came to faith. God had promised that Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. His family was incomplete without us, all of us.
The Gospel went out into the entire world. People like us believed the message and “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11 ESV).
Every tribe and people are wrapped up in God’s heart. He loves us all. He wants us all.Every tribe and people are wrapped up in God's heart. He loves us all. He wants us all. "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom FOR ALL" (1Tim. 2:5-6). Believe in him. Click To Tweet
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom FOR ALL, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV).
Messiah has come. Jesus lived, died, rose, and ascended, and now we await his future return. Like the people of old, we welcome the promise of an eternity with our Savior, for we are foreigners and strangers on the earth.
“People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:14-16 NIV).
Like the people of old, we seek a better country, a heavenly one where we will dwell, perfected by our Savior. God is not ashamed to be called our God. He longs to welcome us into the eternal city he has prepared for those who believe and entrust themselves to him.
How do these precious promises of a new life and an eternity with the Savior impact your day to day life, right now?