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Sep 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 27, 2020

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 . . . . Hebrews 11:32


Intro: How would you respond if I said, “Show me your faith”?

Actually, I’m not the one who said it and that’s not whole sentence
Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (Jas. 2:18)
– you cannot do it – you cannot give evidence of faith apart from action
– this entire chapter has explored faith’s law of cause and effect
• we’ve heard one story after another of people whose actions were motivated by faith
◦ now he says, “There’s no time for all the other stories I could tell”
• so he summarizes all the volumes he could have written
◦ enclosing them in bookends on either side–i.e., through faith (vv. 33 & 39)

What more shall I say?

We could ask, What more needs to be said?
– is there enough here to convince us of importance of faith?
• are we ready to continue on this journey of faith?
– he could go on, but he hasn’t enough time to narrate all the stories
• so he abbreviates 1,000 years of biblical history

The people whose names he flashes past us are interesting choices
Gideon inadvertently created a cult
Barak was too timid to lead the army to battle without Deborah
(a woman instigated his military campaign and a woman won it, Jdg. 4:21)
Samson’s weakness was his attraction to Philistine women
(that included a night spent with a prostitute, Jdg. 16:1-3)
Jephthah committed an unthinkable crime against his daughter
– these men are not presented for his moral virtue
• they’re here because they believed God IS, and he rewards (v. 6)
• they were each called to a challenge
◦ and they looked to God to be with them to meet the challenge
– after these men, the writer stops listing people by name,
• and lumps together the prophets,
• even though their stories are as interesting as anyone else’s

Anonymous spectacular feats of faith
. . . who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made in strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Hebrews 11:33-35a

Most of these examples are familiar to us from the Old Testament
– especially from the Judges and the books of Samuel and the Kings
• others are found in historical records not included in scripture
– we cannot be sure how the writer meant to organize this list
• but at the least we can see:

  1. There were those who did something through faith
    conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises,
    stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire,
    escaped the edge of the sword
  2. There were those who became something
    were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war
  3. There were those who received something
    women received back their dead by resurrection

(Vv. 35b-38) Mid-verse, the history of faith takes a sharp turn
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Hebrews 11:35b-38

Loveday Alexander, “The results of faith get more and more impressive: conquering kingdoms, victory against impossible odds, receiving the dead back to life. But meanwhile its costs are spiraling out of control: persecution, alienation, exile, the most gruesome of tortures—and finally martyrdom.”
– the writer exposes us to a different kind of victory
• not the kind that comes through remarkable success
• a more personal sort of victory
◦ these are people who accepted what happened to them,
◦ and refused to dodge the consequences of loyalty to God

Rather than comment on everything in these verses,
– I am going to cherry-pick three statements from these verses:

Verse 35: rise again to a better life
• this statement contains two important themes the writer has emphasized:
eschatology: the future that is at present unseen and specifically
(here there is a hint at the future resurrection to new life)
better: “things” (6:9) “hope” (7:19), “covenant” (7:22) “promises” (8:6), etc.
(and the source of all that is better is person of Jesus,
who is, himself, better than the angels)

Verse 36: chains and imprisonment
• some of the readers of Hebrews had experienced this
. . . after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property . . . (Heb. 10:32-34)
• we need to remember this is still happening
◦ China’s fresh wave of persecution (suppressing Christianity’s growth)
◦ N. Korea sends Christians to labor camps or executing them immediately
◦ Sudan, Somalia, Lybia, Pakistan, Iran, and others

Verse 38: of whom the world was not worthy
• the world proved it’s unworthiness by way it treated them
• some of the world’s rejects have done the most good for it

It is not easy to develop a balanced view of martyrs and martyrdom
– immediately it works on our emotions
• especially if we have details of what people are suffering
• we may be inspired by them, but we don’t want to be them
◦ and we may even have deep-seated fears regarding being persecuted
– at certain times in church history martyrdom was glorified
• it was considered a noble death, fit for saints
◦ some Christians were almost suicidal in the way they courted martyrdom
◦ Origen discouraged seeking to be martyred, and recommended instead the practice of strict asceticism
• after Christianity became a state religion and persecution was lifted,
◦ monks and nuns headed to the deserts to practice the disciplined purity that they imagined to be typical of martyrs

Another complication has to do with the gory details
– a morbid fascination with the tortures endured by martyrs is not healthy
• that we have a record of such things may be of historical importance
• but over-exposure to it can become a distraction from things that edify

A balanced view of persecution and martyrdom might include:
1. Being aware of persecution
• organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs do a good job of keeping us informed
• we want to do what we can to offer support to persecuted people
◦ perhaps writing to people in government, making donations
◦ especially remembering to pray for our brothers and sisters
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated . . . (Heb. 13:3)
2. Understanding the mind and heart of a martyr
• Christian martyrs do not die for a “cause,” “a principle,” or “an ideology”
• but for their relational bond with God that can’t be broken
3. Don’t let the fact of persecution overwhelm you
Loveday Alexander, “Wherever Christians are persecuted for their faith, Heb. 11 will be a source of support and inspiration; wherever they are not, it will be a challenge.”
4. Don’t allow persecution or martyrdom to become an obsession (Php. 4:8)
5. Don’t trivialize martyrdom by being melodramatic over our tough times
Abbot Chapman, “I think it is an excellent thing to laugh at one’s self a little whenever one feels like a martyr.”

A basic condition in which faith reveals itself
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40

This may sound wrong or cynical, but faith operates in a void
– we have a promise, but not its fulfillment; a reward, but not now
• faith is spiritually rich, but materially poor
• it moves through incompleteness and emptiness
◦ the chapter began with faith as the conviction of things not seen
Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Ro. 8:24-25)
– faith finds God and his word to be its solid reality
• so rather than look for meaning in the world
◦ faith looks for something “better” – here’s that word again
• the words, apart from us ties you and I to the whole chapter
◦ it ties us to the hope that runs through biblical history
◦ these people who lived by faith are our people
their hope is our hope, their faith is our faith
they are not complete without us and we’re not complete apart from them

Conclusion: As I meditate on these verses, here’s what I see

Christian faith expresses itself in love
– first, in the characters who were named in this passage
• through faith they loved others enough to fight for their welfare
– second, in the stories where they characters who suffered are not named,
• through faith they loved God enough to live for him and to suffer and die for him

I’m urge you to let love and compassion be your priority
It is as if we have been given key that unlocks our prison cell,
and now we start unlocking the cell doors of all the other prisoners
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
(Lk. 4:18)

Suppose you’re convinced you know what needs to happen in this coming election
Does that make you more kind, less selfish, more loving?
This week I realized, people I love have chosen to look at only one side of our nation’s current political situation
They plug their ears and close their eyes to any information the other party brings forward
I also realized, I’ll never be able to get them to even consider other opinions

So instead of wasting my breath, I began asking,
“What is she afraid of hearing or seeing?
How does she imagine it will affect her?”
“What has he experienced to make him this adamant?
This hostile?”
In other words,
I am choosing to try to understand these people better
rather than trying to change them
And to understand them so I can better love them

To show your faith through action,
you do not have to be a saint
or have your doctrine all figured out
You just have to let God’s love into your heart
so that it becomes your motivation,
and then do something
Faith is not often glamorous,
but it never gives up
So get up and go win your victory,
or endure your suffering
by faith

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