Agonizomai: Heb 11 - 32-35 - Christ - Sustainer of His People

Monday, April 26, 2010

Heb 11 - 32-35 - Christ - Sustainer of His People

Heb 11 - 32-35 - Christ - Sustainer of His People

Heb 11:32-35 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—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 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. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

Having made the point about some of the historic figures by supplying at least some detail of their exploits, in the interests of space and time (one assumes) the writer now resorts to simply listing many of the others, or of giving general descriptions of their plights.

Amongst these are what seems at first sight to be some surprising examples. Barak was hardly a bulwark of intrepidity, needing Deborah to hold his hand. Samson was not anything like the paragon of virtue and devotion that we would like all Biblical heroes to be. Jephthah made a hasty and foolish vow to God which cost him his own daughter.

But then, David was a lying, murderous adulterer. And Gideon had 70 sons by many wives and named one of his sons "My son a king" or "Son of a king" (Abimelech), contrary to all the tenor of God’s dealings with Israel. He also made an ephod from the spoils of his warring and set it up as an idolatrous memorial.

So, these great men of faith suffered from the same corruptions as the pagan people all around them. They were undoubtedly worse than some of the people they vanquished. There were braver people than Barak among the pagans. There were less licentious men than Samson among the Philistines; wiser men than Jephthah among the Ammonites; men in the nations who had not murdered, as David did.

We must see both sides of these men to properly understand righteousness and the grace of God. The whole point is that God saves sinners, not righteous people. There is none good but God alone. {Mr 10:18} The perfect righteousness of Christ, the Messiah, is the only righteousness that gives a right standing before the burning purity of God’s holiness. God doesn’t save people because they are good - but when people are saved they bear the fruit of the righteousness of Christ.

All Christians and especially all the Biblical examples from Jewish history were people with feet of clay. All were flawed. All sinned both before and after they were justified through faith. This does not give us license to emulate their shortcomings. We do not take the sins of others and use them as an excuse for our own. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and each shall answer for the deeds done in his own body. We shall live because of the righteousness of Another, but we shall answer for our own iniquities. Christians will not be condemned, but they will have exposed before them, and in the presence of God, the far worse evils of having sinned in the light, thus necessitating abounding grace.

And through all of this is seen more and more clearly that salvation is of the LORD. {Jon 2:9} Grace abounds to those whom God effectually calls. And he leaves us with thorns in the flesh that cause us pains and stumblings for a purpose that we may not always know, but which surely recall to mind our helplessness to do good, apart from him.

With these things in mind, we look at the writer’s intent, which is not to glorify the people of faith, but to glorify God in the faithfulness He both shows to, and produces in, his chosen instruments. Faith is the gift of God, and it is His chosen means by which His people bring glory to His name. Yes - again, faith is not passive; the children of God must walk in it. But the children of God understand, as they walk, that their walking is due to the working of God in them.

And so we see these children of God who bore up through their circumstances under the irresistible call of God, trusting in him - desiring him to be their deliverance and to supply their needs. And we see past the faith they exhibited to the grace and favour and faithfulness of the God who, at times, delivered them from - and at other times delivered them through, what they were called to face.

We can plainly see that some received great deliverance and timely supply while others demonstrated faith unto death. They resisted unto the shedding of their blood. The determining factor was not the people, but the God Whose plan was being worked out by, through and in the people. How can this be understood? How can these saints in glory be honored and credited with having run and completed a race in which God moved and upheld them? In a few verses we shall examine this question (See note on "Heb 12:1")

Finally, note that the knowledge of and hope in the afterlife with the God of deliverance was not alien to these people. They looked forward to ultimate deliverance from even the presence of sin, by coming, fully justified, into the presence of God their Savior.


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