THE PEOPLE WHO RECEIVED
Hebrews 11:32-35a (CSB)
“And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead, raised to life again.”
We have been taking a good look at the heroes of faith that the author of Hebrews mentions in chapter 11 of his epistle. We have discovered that there are lots of people who have lived by faith. We have also discovered that there have been lots of ways of showing that faith.
As he concludes his chapter on faith heroes, the author of Hebrews talks about two different categories of people of faith. Today we are going to look at the first category. These are the people who received. In other words, they found some measure of victory by trusting God. He came through for them.
The people who have experienced victory by faith are diverse (32).
He says that “time is too short” for him to list all the winners he wants to list.
• He had listed Abel, who had only one shot at a life of faith, so he took it.
• He had listed Enoch, who walked with God when everyone else was walking away from him.
• He had listed Noah, who built a boat at God’s command and that boat saved him and his family.
• He had listed Abraham, who learned to trust and obey even the commands that didn’t make sense.
• He had listed Sarah, who learned that her limits are not God’s limits.
• He had listed Isaac, Jacob and Joseph whose faith in God went further than the limits of their own lives. They trusted God to be at work in their future.
• He had listed Moses, who saw the invisible God at work, and that enabled him to receive miracles at his hand, and to lead the Israelites in following his will.
• He had listed Rahab, who risked everything for her new-found faith in the God of the Jews.
• Now he lists Gideon, a coward who at first did not even trust God – he put him to the test. But God proved himself to Gideon, and he became a mighty warrior, and led Israel for 40 years.
• He lists Barak, a commander of armies, who had to put aside his own pride and seek the help of Deborah the prophet. He was both courageous and wise.
• He lists Samson, who failed God many times in his life, but knew that God would not fail him.
• He lists Jephthah, who was chased away from his family and lost his inheritance. But when war came, the elders came for him and he became a deliverer of his people.
• He lists David, of course, the shepherd boy who became the mightiest king of Israel, turning the nation into a superpower.
• He lists Samuel, a mother’s answer to prayer, and just the kind of man the nation needed to transition from the period of judges to that of the kings.
• Finally, he lists the prophets, who spoke the word of God to the people of God, even when they would not listen.
Now, if you are looking for a common denominator in this list, you will find very few. That is the point. Faith manifests itself in a million different ways in a million different people. Faith is a gift of God and he tailor makes each gift for each recipient. We don’t get our faith off the rack.
This tells me that we should not expect one another to be too similar. We have problems with this in today’s church. That is sometimes the cause of great divisiveness. When we want other believers to look like us, talk like us, pray like us, and worship like us.
History tells us that often the most effective and productive in the kingdom of God have been people who did not conform to everybody’s expectations.
Jesus’ disciples had that problem as well. John admitted this to Jesus. He told him that that they had seen someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and they tried to stop him. But Jesus told them not to stop these people because the ones who are not against us are for us (Luke 9:49-50).
Nature shows us that our God has created a world of amazing diversity. He has built diversity in the kingdom of God as well.
The ways of experiencing victory by faith are also diverse (32).
• Patriarchs experienced victory by faith and thus “obtained promises” even when it seemed impossible in the flesh.
• Warriors experienced victory by faith and thus “conquered kingdoms”, “became mighty in battle” and “put foreign armies to flight. This should be no surprise to us. After all, one of God’s titles is Yahveh Tsva’ot – the LORD of Armies.
• God’s people under the oppression of foreign rulers experienced victory by faith and thus “administered justice” and “gained strength in weakness.”
• God’s people being persecuted for their faith experienced victory and so “shut the mouths of lions” and “quenched the raging of fire” and “escaped the edge of the sword.”
• There are even a few examples of those who experienced victory by faith when they “received their dead, raised to life again.”
Yet all of these victories were temporary. Even those who were resurrected eventually died again. Why? The author of Hebrews tells us that even these heroes of faith “all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth” (11:13).
So, even this amazing number of heroes of faith only received a temporary deposit, guaranteeing a greater victory yet to come. The author of Hebrews calls that greater victory “a better resurrection” (11:35b).
The apostle Paul was looking forward to that ultimate victory.
“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11 CSB).
Today’s text is an encouragement for all of us. We live in defeat so much that we need reminders from God’s word that victory is possible. We need to stay strong in faith and pray strong in faith. Our God is able. He was faithful to many in the past. He is just as faithful today.