Hebrews 11:30-31… By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
Forty years after Moses led Israel out of Egyptian captivity he died and passed the torch to Joshua who then led Israel into the Promised Land – Canaan in modern Palestine. The first city to engage in battle was Jericho which, like most cities, was heavily fortified and protected by a large wall (Josh 6:1-21). These walls were massive, designed to protect against the strongest of enemy attacks. Some walls were wide enough for two chariots to ride side-by-side on top of it, so it would take years for an invading army to penetrate these kinds of walls. God’s plan for Israel, however, was not to build siege ramps and wait years to take the city. His plan was for them to simply march around the city for seven days, then on the last day to blow trumpets.
Sometimes God’s instructions are not logical to the human mind, but they are always perfect. Joshua was a mighty warrior and a man full of faith, so he did not question God’s plan; he obeyed it. There’s also no indication that any of the Israelites complained about what God told them to do, but no doubt marching around the city must have sounded absurd to them. They had learned from the previous generation the consequences of grumbling against God, so they were trained to obey Him and wait for His miraculous glory to be revealed. Now what happened in seven days of marching around the city would have taken years to achieve by human means. The walls, on the seventh day, simply collapsed, and Israel took the city killing its inhabitants as God had commanded. Once again, God’s power was displayed to Israel for their faith.
Only one person and her family are mentioned as having survived the Jericho massacre, and her name was Rahab. She was a product of the horribly corrupt Canaanite society, for she worked as a prostitute. But she and her people had heard of God’s deliverance of Israel 40 years prior when they walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. As a result, she feared Israel’s God without actually knowing Him. So she helped Israel by hiding the spies when they came into the city to stake it out just before Israel crossed the Jordan. Her faith was revealed in her willingness to put her own life at risk by her countrymen so as to help the nation whose God she feared. She is mentioned favorably in James 2:25 as one whose faith was alive through her actions. She later married Salmon (Matt. 1:5), had a son named Boaz, who was the great-grandfather of David, who 28 generations later begat the Son of God in the flesh – Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:17).
Rahab was a Canaanite, an Amorite – a race God informed Abraham was marked for ruin due to sin (Gen. 15:16). She lived in a society where perversion ran wild. The Canaanites were known to take live babies, put them in jars, and build them into the foundation of their cities and their walls as sacrifices to their pagan gods. So Rahab’s conversion is most unlikely, but she demonstrates how people living in the most corrupt of societies can be saved by faith. And the fact that she is in the line of the Messiah proves that God calls people from all walks of life. She expressed her faith by welcoming the spies, by giving them friendly hospitality.
Food for Thought
It’s been said that God delights in slaying the pride of men. Imagine how foolish those Hebrew warriors felt walking around Jericho for seven days. So too does God sometimes humble us through our trials in order to break our pride and make us do nothing except trust Him. It’s a risk to have faith, but true faith takes risks because it believes God even when doing so makes us look silly. We all have a Jericho in our lives in order to develop our faith. Identify it, and believe.
Hebrews 11:32-34… 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, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
The history of Israel is rich with faithful and fallible people. The conduct of their lives reveals their faith. The first four men in v. 32 were Judges, and all of them had their faults in addition to their faith. They ruled over Israel during a time when “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). They stood apart from the backsliding and apostasy of their people – a fitting example for the Hebrews audience.
In Judges 6-8 Gideon’s timid faith was molded when God reduced his army from 32,000 men to 300! He did this so that Gideon would not take the glory of victory to himself. So when Gideon’s army emerged victorious against the vast Midianite army, his faith was solidified.
In Judges 4 Barak was a military leader under the judgeship of Deborah. He recognized that God was with her and would not go into battle without her to fight the Canaanite King Jabin with his mighty commander Sisera who had 900 iron chariots. Barak believed God’s promise of victory, and he didn’t care when told that a woman would receive the glory for the victory (4:9). He went out with a small army believing that God would gain the victory. And God did.
In Judges 13-16 Samson conquered and was conquered. Even so, he was filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and he knew it. He confidently and faithfully went into battle against enormous odds and claimed victory each time, that is until he got proud. But even after his pride brought him down, he faithfully called upon God to deliver him and his people. And God did.
In Judges 11-12 Jephthah fought faithfully for Israel in the fear of God. He made a rash vow, but he was indeed a man of great faith who believed God and put his faith into action.
David seems to have never failed to trust in the Lord throughout his life, although he too was not without fault. From the time he was a shepherd boy fending off bears and lions (1 Sam. 17:34-36) to his bold confrontation with Goliath, he knew no fear in light of his faith in God.
Samuel was a prophet and a judge in the midst of a crooked generation, and he, like David, was faithful from a very young age. His nemesis, however, was idolatry and immorality among his people Israel, not invading armies per se. His faith was tested in that he was forced to confront his sinful people and his friends – even King Saul who acted unfaithfully.
Finally, the prophets faithfully received God’s word and courageously preached it. Daniel actually shut the mouths of lions (Dan. 6) with his faith, and his three friends were the ones who “quenched the power of fire” (Dan. 3). All of these men “from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (v. 34). They all did this through faith.
Food for Thought
John Calvin said of these men: “There was none of them whose faith did not falter… in every saint there is always to be found something reprehensible. Yet although faith may be imperfect and incomplete it does not cease to be approved by God. There is no reason therefore why the fault from which we labor should break us or discourage us provided we go on by faith in the race of our calling.” All of those who have gone before us with great faith shared two common traits: they believed God and they had their faults. At times they even went on the offensive, for sometimes spiritual and moral victories are won when we act against this world.
Hebrews 11:35-38… Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mocking and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
When pondering the heroes of the faith one is amazed as to how they turned agonizing distress into triumphant success through faith. Verse 35 speaks of women whose children were dead but who through faith received them back. The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24) and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-36) are probably in view, but there was also the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-14) whom Jesus restored to life – miracles achieved through faith.
Now in contrast to these success stories, there were those who suffered death and torture. The word for “torture” comes from the same Greek word rendered tympani, a kettledrum. The kinship is in the way a drum is stretched, for the torture involved a human being stretched out to be beaten painfully, often until death ensued. Other faithful saints merely endured verbal mocking and while others were scourged with whips and/or chains. Some were just imprisoned and left to die. These God chose not to deliver from pain and death like the women who received their children back (v. 35) simply because it did not suit His will to deliver them. But more importantly, it did not suit the will of these tortured people to accept release by failing in their faith! They endured what they did “so that they might obtain a better resurrection” – one better than the ones in v. 35 which gave merely an extension of life on earth.
Those “tortured” may be a reference to the mighty Maccabeans, the Jewish nationalists in the second century BC who took back and cleansed the Jewish temple from the Greeks (2 Macc. 7). But it could refer to any number of others, known and unknown, whose faith in God was exhibited through perseverance in the face of the cruelest trials and hardships.
Some faithful saints were stoned to death, which was the Jewish method of capital punishment, but others were actually “sawn in two.” Tradition has it that the prophet Isaiah was sliced in half by the wicked Jewish King Manasseh. Some were “tempted” in that they were forced to decide to believe in God or renounce Him. Those stoned to death include a prophet named Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-22; Mt 23:35) and possibly Jeremiah. Those forced out of society clothed themselves with coarse animal skins while wandering in the wilderness. These were clearly people “whom the world was not worthy.” Their faithfulness was not of this world, and the fact that they graced this earth, living among sinners, is a blessing in and of itself.
Clearly not all those of faith were delivered miraculously. The word translated “others” in v. 36 means “others of a different kind.” They had strong faith, but it wasn’t part of God’s plan to deal with them as He had dealt with Noah, Joseph, Gideon, or David. God has that right.
Food for Thought
God can heal us or deliver us, but He’s not obligated to do so. Actually, it takes more faith to endure our trials than it does to escape them. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, we must trust God even if He won’t deliver us (Dan. 3:16-18). We should grace this world with our faith like Paul whom Festus said was out of his mind (Acts 26:24), whom the Jews said was not fit to live (Acts 22:22), and whom his enemies said was “the scum of the world... the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). Yet Paul was an elect child of God and the greatest missionary ever.
Hebrews 11:39-40… And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
From Abel to Abraham to John the Baptist, “all of these” gained approval by God through their faith. The “all” omits none of them, for God would never forget a single one of His faithful children. Faith is what pleases Him (Heb. 11:6), for it believes God’s word – hoping for and being assured of the things not seen that God has promised and accomplished. These all “gained approval” in that they received God’s salvation by His grace, through faith. Those who died before Jesus Christ actually attained salvation based on what Christ would do. And those who have gained salvation in Jesus Christ following the cross attain it by what Christ has done.
The Apostle Paul said, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18), and each saint mentioned in Hebrews 11 looked toward not only that glory yet to be revealed but also what Peter said was “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4). So because God’s promise is ultimately fulfilled in eternity, it can never be ultimately fulfilled this side of heaven. No wonder v. 39 says that all those faithful saints “did not receive what was promised.” They gained the promise but not the promises fulfilled before they died. The ultimate blessing was inaugurated when the promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But even now all of the promises are not entirely fulfilled so that Christians too can look forward in faith to their ultimate completion following Christ’s second coming and proceeding into the eternal state of heaven.
There were times in the lives of these saints that their faith saved them from death, but sometimes that same faith brought them death. They were believers of the highest order for they believed God with so little, although what they had (God’s word) was plenty. Though their faith was strong, it was limited to the inferiority of the old covenant which looked forward to something better – the New Covenant under Jesus Christ. Old Testament saints expected the fulfillment of God’s promise with the coming Messiah, but they never saw it come to pass. No matter! They still believed it would, and they were willing to suffer for their faith until it did.
Only up to the past 2,000 years when Christ appeared, died, and rose again did those OT saints gain complete salvation. They believed God and were counted as righteous (Gen. 15:6), but they died. The same is true with Christians today. They believe and are counted as righteous, but ultimate salvation – full glorification – comes after death to those who truly believe. All of God’s promises are ultimately fulfilled in what will transpire after the believer’s death. For faith is the “assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The final fulfillment of God’s promises is not for anyone to see in the flesh but to believe by faith.
Food for Thought
We Christians today are far more privileged than the saints of the past, for we have all of God’s Word, all of His promises, and we’ve seen so much more come to pass in relation to God’s promises (e.g., restoration of Israel). Christians today should be writing a new chapter on faith which surpasses yesterday’s saints because we have so much more to strengthen our faith – including their testimonies. In the same way that technology and information has increased exponentially in the past 25 years, so too has the ability to understand God’s word increased. What that should translate to is a “new Hebrews 11” about faithful saints who read God’s word, believe His word, and act on His word. Would your faith qualify you to be added to such a book?
Ø No matter how badly you hurt there have always been others who have hurt worse (usually the one counseling you!). Hebrews 11 addresses this for those who are down spiritually.
Ø “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Ø In keeping with all of Hebrews, the author uses an exposition of the OT to make his point.
Overview of Hebrews 11
· Pre-diluvium… Abel (11:4a), Enoch (11:5a), Noah (11:7a)
· Patriarchs… Abraham (11:8a, 9, 12, 17–18), Isaac (11:20a), Jacob (11:21a), Joseph (11:22a)
· Exodus… Amram/Jochebed (11:23a), Moses (11:24, 27a, 28a), Israelites (11:29a, 30a)
· Conquest… Rahab (11:31a)
· Judges… Gideon (11:32a), Barak (11:32b), Samson (11:32c), Jephthah (11:32d), Samuel (11:32f)
· Kings… David (11:32e)
· Prophets… All the prophets (11:32g)
What They Did:
1. Abel gave the Lord an acceptable offering (11:4b).
2. Enoch walked with God (11:5b).
3. Noah built an ark (11:7b).
4. Abraham left everything; traveled to Canaan; believed in resurrection (11:8b; 19).
5. Isaac and Jacob both looked to the future (11:20b, 21b).
6. Joseph anticipated the Exodus long before it happened (11:22b).
7. Moses’ parents defied the king of Egypt (11:23b).
8. Moses forsook the pleasures of sin (11:25); fearlessly left Egypt (11:27b).
9. Israel kept the Passover (11:28b); crossed the Sea (11:29); shouted down a city (11:30).
10. Rahab protected some Hebrew spies (11:31b).
11. The prophets and judges subdued kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames, escaped the sword, exchanged weakness for strength, put enemy armies to flight, and a few even raised the dead (11:33–35a).
What they endured (11:35b–38)
1. Terrible torture (11:35b)
2. Ridicule (11:36a)
3. Cruel flogging (11:36b)
4. Imprisonment (11:36c)
5. Stoning (11:37a)
6. Being sawn in two (11:37b)
7. Death by the sword (11:37c)
8. Extreme poverty (11:37d–38)
Why they endured (11:10, 13–15, 16b, 26, 35c)
1. They saw the invisible City of God (11:10, 13–15, 16b).
2. They believed that suffering for Christ was better than having worldly riches (11:26).
3. They looked forward to their own resurrection (11:35c).
What they received (11:16a, 39–40)
1. In the past (11:16a, 39): The earthly and temporary approval of God.
2. In the future (11:40): The heavenly and eternal approval of God.
1. Walls… they suffered embarrassment, but these serve as an example of people who saw the consequences of disobedience first hand. They were going to obey, and they did.
· We must learn our lessons from the mistakes of others in our past;
i. Nothing but the Bible will do in worship
ii. No one who sows wild oats in the past lives to speak kindly of them.
2. Rahab… She had heard about the Red Sea, and she was the only one who believed.
· Sometimes faith stands alone with no one to come alongside us.
· Like Noah, Rahab’s entire family was saved by her faith, at least temporarily.
1. Faith does exactly what every human being desires! It conquers, performs, obtains, shuts, quenches, escapes, gives strength, makes mighty, puts enemies to flight.
2. Faith comes to strong and weak, rich and poor. It comes when we believe!
3. If you’re weak and tired today, then you do not believe! It’s that simple.
4. Sometimes our faith fluctuates between weak and strong. What ways can you determine are going to keep yours strong?
1. Some don’t have “good” stories to tell about their faith.
2. Note that the author commends those who’s faith did NOT bring them instant success? That’s why the faith movement today is so evil.
· “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)
· Each saint mentioned in Hebrews 11 looked toward not only that glory yet to be revealed but also what Peter said was “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).
· The promise was made by God, Abraham obtained it in the sense that he had it confirmed and assured to him and his seed (6:15), but its ultimate realization (10:36) is yet future for all who do the will of God when Christ comes again.
· Christ has already perfected us: Heb. 6:15; 10:14; 12:23. But he has not come back yet as the “perfect” and fully “glorifying” us.
· The saints at rest also continue to await the fulfillment of the promise in its entirety.
· The ancient heroes of faith could not have gained their new position except in relation with our attainment of privilege.
· All of us form one undivided humanity along with all nations who continue to live on earth as Christians. We are in real union with this united society of glorified saints.
· Even the saints under the heavenly altar still cry, “Lord, how long?” and the Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
· We continue to look for all of God’s elect to come to salvation to fulfill the promises.
There is no contradiction between the assertion here made, that none of the saints of old “received the promise (ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν)” and its being said of Abraham (ch. 6:15) that he did “obtain the promise (ἐπέτυχε τῆς επαγγελίας).”
· For though in both passages “the promise,” i.e. the great Messianic promise (not “promises,” as in ver. 33, supra), is spoken of—or at any rate, in the case of Abraham, ultimately referred to—yet the verbs used are different and have different meanings.
· He “obtained” or attained to it, in the sense of having it confirmed and assured to him and his seed; but he did not actually get it so as to reduce it to possession and enter into the enjoyment of it. The realization of all that is meant by the word here used is, indeed, even to Christian believers, still future (for cf. ch. 10:36, ἵνα κομίσησθε τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν).
· Nay, it is future also in its fullness, even to the saints at rest; for in the passage just quoted it is plainly intimated that the entire fulfillment will not be till “he that shall come” comes; i.e. till the second advent.
· The redeemed whose probation on earth is over are indeed, in one sense, said to be already “perfected” (cf. ch. 10:14; 12:23); but still the “perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul” is nowhere in the NT contemplated till “the end.” In the mean time, even the saints under the heavenly altar still cry, “Lord, how long?” and the Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The full idea, then, of ver. 40 may be that, according to the eternal Divine purpose, the promise of redemption should not be fully realized till the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all the redeemed of all ages since the world began shall be gathered together through Christ in one, and God shall be all in all.
2 Maccabees 7 (KJV Apoc)… It came to pass also, that seven brethren with their mother were taken, and compelled by the king against the law to taste swine’s flesh, and were tormented with scourges and whips. 2 But one of them that spake first said thus, What wouldest thou ask or learn of us? we are ready to die, rather than to transgress the laws of our fathers. 3 Then the king, being in a rage, commanded pans and caldrons to be made hot: 4 Which forthwith being heated, he commanded to cut out the tongue of him that spake first, and to cut off the utmost parts of his body, the rest of his brethren and his mother looking on. 5 Now when he was thus maimed in all his members, he commanded him being yet alive to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the pan: and as the vapour of the pan was for a good space dispersed, they exhorted one another with the mother to die manfully, saying thus, 6 The Lord God looketh upon us, and in truth hath comfort in us, as Moses in his song, which witnessed to their faces, declared, saying, And he shall be comforted in his servants. 7 So when the first was dead after this number, they brought the second to make him a mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him, Wilt thou eat, before thou be punished throughout every member of thy body? 8 But he answered in his own language, and said, No. Wherefore he also received the next torment in order, as the former did. 9 And when he was at the last gasp, he said, Thou like a fury takest us out of this present life, but the King of the world shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life. 10 After him was the third made a mocking stock: and when he was required, he put out his tongue, and that right soon, holding forth his hands manfully. 11 And said courageously, These I had from heaven; and for his laws I despise them; and from him I hope to receive them again. 12 Insomuch that the king, and they that were with him, marvelled at the young man’s courage, for that he nothing regarded the pains. 13 Now when this man was dead also, they tormented and mangled the fourth in like manner. 14 So when he was ready to die he said thus, It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God to be raised up again by him: as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life. 15 Afterward they brought the fifth also, and mangled him. 16 Then looked he unto the king, and said, Thou hast power over men, thou art corruptible, thou doest what thou wilt; yet think not that our nation is forsaken of God; 17 But abide a while, and behold his great power, how he will torment thee and thy seed. 18 After him also they brought the sixth, who being ready to die said, Be not deceived without cause: for we suffer these things for ourselves, having sinned against our God: therefore marvellous things are done unto us. 19 But think not thou, that takest in hand to strive against God, that thou shalt escape unpunished. 20 But the mother was marvellous above all, and worthy of honourable memory: for when she saw her seven sons slain within the space of one day, she bare it with a good courage, because of the hope that she had in the Lord. 21 Yea, she exhorted every one of them in her own language, filled with courageous spirits; and stirring up her womanish thoughts with a manly stomach, she said unto them, 22 I cannot tell how ye came into my womb: for I neither gave you breath nor life, neither was it I that formed the members of every one of you; 23 But doubtless the Creator of the world, who formed the generation of man, and found out the beginning of all things, will also of his own mercy give you breath and life again, as ye now regard not your own selves for his laws’ sake. 24 Now Antiochus, thinking himself despised, and suspecting it to be a reproachful speech, whilst the youngest was yet alive, did not only exhort him by words, but also assured him with oaths, that he would make him both a rich and a happy man, if he would turn from the laws of his fathers; and that also he would take him for his friend, and trust him with affairs. 25 But when the young man would in no case hearken unto him, the king called his mother, and exhorted her that she would counsel the young man to save his life. 26 And when he had exhorted her with many words, she promised him that she would counsel her son. 27 But she bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spake in her country language on this manner; O my son, have pity upon me that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee such three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age, and endured the troubles of education. 28 I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise. 29 Fear not this tormentor, but, being worthy of thy brethren, take thy death that I may receive thee again in mercy with thy brethren. 30 Whiles she was yet speaking these words, the young man said, Whom wait ye for? I will not obey the king’s commandment: but I will obey the commandment of the law that was given unto our fathers by Moses. 31 And thou, that hast been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews, shalt not escape the hands of God. 32 For we suffer because of our sins. 33 And though the living Lord be angry with us a little while for our chastening and correction, yet shall he be at one again with his servants. 34 But thou, O godless man, and of all other most wicked, be not lifted up without a cause, nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, lifting up thy hand against the servants of God: 35 For thou hast not yet escaped the judgment of Almighty God, who seeth all things. 36 For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. 37 But I, as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation; and that thou by torments and plagues mayest confess, that he alone is God; 38 And that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon our nation, may cease. 39 Than the king’ being in a rage, handed him worse than all the rest, and took it grievously that he was mocked. 40 So this man died undefiled, and put his whole trust in the Lord. 41 Last of all after the sons the mother died. 42 Let this be enough now to have spoken concerning the idolatrous feasts, and the extreme tortures.
Vers. 39, 40.—Successive stages in the dispensation of God’s blessings to man. “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,” etc. Let us consider—
I. The good realized by the Old Testament believers. The better thing provided for Christians implies that some good thing was bestowed upon the godly under the former covenant. They had: 1. Divine promises. Many were the promises made to the ancient saints; e.g. promises of temporal good, of providential guidance and oversight, of spiritual forgiveness and help, etc. These promises encouraged their hopes, and raised the tone and character of their lives. 2. Fulfilments of Divine promises. Many of the blessings promised to the saints of the earlier dispensation were received and enjoyed by them. They “obtained promises” (ver. 33); i.e. they obtained certain promised blessings. A glance at the names mentioned in this chapter will at once show that this was the case. Abraham received the promised son; Jacob was blessed in his worldly circumstances, purified and ennobled in his character, and brought to the goal of his pilgrimage in a good old age, in peace and in honour. Joseph was wonderfully preserved, guided, exalted, etc. 3. Divine commendations. They “obtained a good report through faith.” They “had witness borne to them through their faith.” Each one mentioned or referred to in this chapter was commended for some distinguishing excellence, and every one for faith. Abel “had witness borne to him that he was righteous,” etc. (ver. 4). Enoch “had witness borne to him that he had been well-pleasing unto God” (ver. 5). They had within themselves the witness of a good conscience; they enjoyed the smile of the Most High; and in his holy Word God has expressed his approbation of their character and conduct.
II. The better portion realized by New Testament believers. The heroes and heroines of faith who are mentioned or referred to in this chapter “received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us.” The promise which they received not, and the better thing provided for us, we take to be the actual fulfilment of the promise of the Messiah, and the blessedness of the gospel age. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.” Our portion is a better thing: 1. Because the realization of any genuine good is better than the anticipation of it. 2. Because of the clearer revelation of redemptive truth. “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son.” (ch. 1:1–4). “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” He embodied the will of the Father in his character and words and works. He revealed the heart of the Father toward us his sinful and suffering children. 3. Because of the greater fulness and power of redemptive influence. Atonement for sin is now accomplished. The mighty influences of the love of God in the sacrifice of Christ are now brought to bear upon us. Our restraints from sin are more pathetic and powerful than were theirs of the earlier dispensation; our incentives to righteousness and reverence and love are more exalted and constraining than theirs.
III. The best blessings in which both the Old Testament and the New Testament believers are sharers. “That apart from us they should not be made perfect.” This perfection is the holiness and blessedness of the saints in light. “The writer implies,” says Alford, “as indeed ch. 10:14 seems to testify, that the advent and work of Christ has changed the estate of the Old Testament fathers and saints into greater and perfect bliss; an inference which is forced on us by many other places in Scripture. So that their perfection was dependent on our perfection: their and our perfection was all brought in at the same time when Christ ‘by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ So that the result with regard to them is, that their spirits from the time when Christ descended into Hades and ascended up into heaven, enjoy heavenly blessedness, and are waiting, with all who have followed their glorified High Priest within the veil, for the resurrection of their bodies, the regeneration, the renovation of all things.” Then all God’s people of all ages and of all lands shall enter into the joy of their one Lord, and participate in the blessedness and glory unspeakable and eternal.—W. J.
· Christians will suffer: Jesus told his followers to take up their crosses and follow him daily (Mark 8:34) and that because he was persecuted they too would be persecuted (John 15:20); Paul and Peter both taught Christians to rejoice in their sufferings for the sake of Christ (Phil. 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13).
· “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
· Faith takes risks because it is not always easy to understand God’s plan. Every Christian has a Jericho.
· The previous generation of Hebrews, the ones that came out of Egypt, had all died in the wilderness because their faith faltered. They would never have marched around a city for seven days expecting a miracle. God weeded them out by allowing them to be persuaded by the unfaithful spies at Kadesh Barnea.
· Note the believing persistence of the Hebrew people. It was after the walls had been encircled for seven days that they fell.
· Rahab had no more light to the faith of Israel than any other Canaanite. But she believed while others disbelieved. She was saved; they were not.
· Rahab lacked the religious identity and moral integrity of so many of the heroes of this chapter, but her faith in their God delivered her. It began only after she heard (Josh. 2:9ff.).
· Rahab expressed her faith by offering the hospitality.
· At times faith goes on the offensive sometimes finding moral and spiritual battles to fight.
· All six of the men listed were vastly different in their personalities but had faith in common.
· If God is glorified by delivering His people, He will do it. If not, He won’t. The absence of deliverance does not mean that God is not acting.
· Faith looks to the future, for that is where the greatest rewards are found.
· The world has always rejected men and women of faith. The world cannot handle such people, for they stand alone and judge sinners at the behest of God – through words of rebuke but also by not saying anything at all. They bring God’s blessing to the world, but the world shuns them and kills them because it cannot bear them or their message of truth.
· Tortured in various ways: scalded to death, having skin flayed off, stretching on a wheel to break the person’s joints, then beating the victim to death (sometimes pounding the stomach as if it were a drum) in that helpless position.
· it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world.