Heroes of Faith

A Great Cloud of Witnesses - Listen online.

Read Hebrews chapters 11-12

As a young boy, our middle child loved anything to do with sports, particularly baseball. Beginning with t-ball, he rose through the ranks of little league becoming a talented catcher. As he grew older he honed his skill by playing on summer travel teams, and finally his baseball journey led him to play catcher as a senior for his high school baseball team. With each passing year his passion for the sport increased and his skill level improved. I have fond memories of our family cheering him on from the stands, celebrating his victories, feeling the agony of each defeat, but always cheering him on for success! 

Today’s passage from Hebrew 12 brings to mind an athletic contest taking place in a great amphitheater, with a great cloud of witnesses cheering on the participants. But who are these witnesses and who are the participants? 

Chapter twelve begins with the word, therefore, which means, we must find out what it is there for and to do that we must turn back to chapter eleven, sometimes called the Heroes of Faith chapter. Verse one begins by defining faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” 

The chapter proceeds to give a short summary of these great heroes of faith: By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice. By faith Enoch didn’t experience death because he pleased God. By faith Abraham obeyed and went. By faith Moses’ parents hid him. On and on the chapter continues, by faith, by faith, by faith, the faith of all these great heroes are recounted showing us how they trusted God and overcame their adversaries, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging fire, and escaped the edge of the sword; who gained strength from weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead, raised to life again (vs. 33-35a).

And then, there’s an unexpected plot twist, not everything was good for these great heroes of faith! Others were tortured and refused their release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Still others endured mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and hid in caves and holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. God had planned something better for us, so that together with us they would be made perfect
(vs. 35-40).

These great heroes of faith in chapter eleven are the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in chapter twelve. They are the ones, “cheering us on.” But do these great heroes actually see us, the participants, in God’s great story? Are they actually watching our successes and defeats from a heavenly position? Probably not; however, their lives inspire us to press on by faith, to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Are you in the midst of success or are you feeling defeated by the enemy? The stories of these great heroes echo to us don’t give up; persevere, because together with them we will receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken! (vs. 28) So, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith race, and then together with these great heroes of faith, we will receive what God has promised for us who trust in Him. 

Keep looking to Jesus! Amen?

Copyright 2024 S.A. Keith

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