Wednesday, October 5

By Faith the Rest, Part 1

This is the sixteenth post in a series from Hebrews 11. You'll find all the posts done so far in this series listed here.

Our author can't go on forever. There are too many faithful people of old to examine all of them, so the writer tells us just that and begins to sum things up for us.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight, and women received back their dead raised to life.(Hebrews 11:32-35a NET)
First we have a list of a few more faithful people given to us without mentioning specifics details of their lives. There are some odd things about the list: The order is a little puzzling, and not all of these guys are people who would be first on my list of the faithful people whose examples we ought to follow. David and Samuel and the prophets I might expect, but not necessarily the others. Both Gideon and Barak seemed hesitant to act. And Samson? When it came to Delilah, Samson was more than a little soft in the head, wasn't he? Jepthah, if you remember, made a really foolish vow and then sacrificed his own daughter to keep it.

However, they all did things at God's command that would seem to the worldly observer to be doomed from the start. They were faithful in those things, even though they had some great weaknesses, so they are among the list here in Hebrews of those commended by God for their faith.

Next the writer lists the sort of things that happened over and over to people who trusted God.
  • They conquered kingdoms. Joshua, as a case in point, or Gideon and others from our list. There are those whose names are not given to us here who could be included as kingdom conquerors, as well.
  • They administered justice. This could also mean "they did what was righteous", but it probably refers more specifically to those who ruled justly, like David, for example, and the judges given on the list.
  • They gained what was promised. People saw some of God's promises fulfilled, even though the biggy remained unfulfilled until Christ. For instance, the promises to Abraham were partly fulfilled because his descendents grew in number and lived in the Promised Land as promised by God.
  • They shut the mouths of lions. Right away we think of Daniel, but there were others, too: David, Samson, Benaiah.
  • They quenched raging fire. Daniel's buds, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace, are the ones I think of here.
  • They escaped the edge of the sword. There's Elijah, who Jezebel was going to kill, and the spies that Rahab hid. Do you know others?
  • They gained strength in weakness. I've mentioned some of the particularly obvious weaknesses above, but it'd be hard to find anyone on this list who didn't have their foibles. God is always working within weak people to strengthen them for the tasks he asks them to perform.
  • They became mighty in battle and put foreign armies to flight. There's Gideon with his puny band. Got more?
  • Women received back their dead raised to life. I can think of the two widows who sons were raised by Elijah and Elisha.

Thus ends the more pleasant part of these summary statements. These people trusted God and they had what we can easily see as successes as a result. However, things did not go so swimmingly for everyone who was faithful, as we'll learn in the next installment of this series.

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