Epistle to the Hebrews (11:33-37)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Epistle to the Hebrews

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.” Hebrews 11:33-37

These are the characteristics of those people who had faith. Living by faith does not exclude pain, sword, flames of fire, death, prisons, mockeries, whips, stoning, torture or ill-treatment.  Of course, this does not mean that these things should happen to those who live by faith. The primary reason in having faith in God is not about receiving from Him but depending on Him. It’s absolute surrender and obedience to Him no matter the outcome. Living by faith has often been twisted by ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers. Paul was not a rich man but was a tent maker. Paul did not fly by plane in first class but spent long journeys traveling. He did not look for lawyers to defend him when thrown in prisons, he was tortured and suffered much. He did not have an orthopedic bed, woolen clothes and a 5 star hotel to rest. He did not have food cooked by a cordon bleue but was starving. Did God abandon him? Was he a faithless man?

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” 2 Cor 11:23-27

Understand well that living by faith does not imply a rosy life. On the contrary, we can expect trials to come to strengthen our faith in God. It’s opposition and difficulties which allow us to know what is really in our heart. A couple which faces adversity is the one who will know each other better. When everything is calm, the hidden part of us remains concealed. This is why God tested the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. He did it to know to expose what there was in their hearts and whether they would remain faithful.

On the other hand, we have Jesus’ promise which said:

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Mat 6:31-33

God will provide what we need but most often we have wants that are not according to His plan. The author of our epistle tells us about people who continued to have faith and received what was promised to them. It also tells us about those people who had faith in their sufferings and refused to ask God to deliver them. They wanted to meet God the soonest and not delay it.

Why would God allow His faithful servants go through such pains, sufferings and dangers? I guess, it was the servant’s maturity in their faith which led them on this path. Their lives were already an offering to God. Dying was not a lost but a gain. As Paul said:

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” 2 Tim 4:6

Paul’s hope was not in this life. There was nothing he clung to on this earth.

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21

We have seen that many got great victories through their faith and great miracles happened when put their trust in God. But there’s also the other side of the coin – faith in God amidst calamity. Remaining faithful to God in the midst of calamity is stronger than remaining faithful before the calamity. Moses had faith before the Egyptians arrived to destroy them. When facing armies, Israel saw God fight for them even though they were inferior in numbers. But what about those who lost their loved ones? What about those who are dying of cancer but still remain faithful? Job is one of the greatest example of a man who remained faithful even though he lost all his children, possessions and health. Even his wife was no longer supportive and told him to curse God. God was not quick to reply him but heaven was silent. We saw his faithfulness to God in the calamities.

He pleaded his case before God wondering what he did wrong, but still no answer. He said “God has given, God has taken”. He worshiped God, praised Him and did not blame Him for all the calamities.

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,“I came naked from my mother’s womb,and I will be naked when I leave.The Lord gave me what I had,and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.” Job 1:20-22

Job did not receive any relief in all these pains but suffered even more when God allowed Satan to strike him with terrible boils from head to foot. It’s in calamity that we see the real heart of a faithful servant. They can lose everything, even see their life departing them slowly and still remain faithful to their God. When God replied Job, he was speechless. Job said:

I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?I put my hand over my mouth.I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” Job 40:5

Let us not lose faith in God even if our world is a chaos, when we have no answers and pain is surrounding us. Is not it amazing that faith in God allows us to endure sufferings with serenity? We know our lives is not our own and that whatever happens to us, God knows. God never loses control of what happens to his faithful servants. He knows what there is in our heart.

What if on judgement day God tells us the same thing He said to Job? There’s not anyone of us who will be able to justify our complaints in the midst of adversity and sufferings.

Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?… Brace yourself like a man;I will question you,and you shall answer me.“Would you discredit my justice?Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Job 40:2,7,8

When I think about God’s holiness, perfection and righteousness I can just surrender my will, trust and obey Him.It’s only by faith that a servant of God can go through the furnace with serenity.

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Posted June 25, 2013 by Cedric in Theology

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