The Famous and the Infamous
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
This journey of faith is one that changes us. As we get older and older, we understand our frailty more and more each day. We see our friends become ill, suffer from pain and die. We see how death differs from believers to non-believers. We get older, we get families, and we have to live by faith more and more. We see God’s hand in every aspect of life. We see Him working, and our faith becomes more grounded.
We see these stories, and it is easy to forget that they often cover many years in a few short verses or chapters. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac. Isaac was 40 when he got a wife, Jacob was working for his father-in-law for 20 years, and when Joseph ‘died,’ it was 17 years before Jacob saw him again alive in Egypt. We meet Moses, and he is a newborn; 40 years pass when he runs from Pharaoh, and another 40 until God visits him in the burning bush.
These men and women held onto God’s promises through some hard times, through their own human failures, and in times of great pain and suffering. The passage we will explore today highlights that some of the folks who lived by faith had horrible lives. Some, like Rahab, saw great miracles; others suffered great losses and saw great pain. We should be prepared for both.
- By Faith, we see great miracles, verses 30-31
I have seen great miracles in my short 56 years. No, I have not seen walls fall, but I have seen God do the impossible in my life and the life of many persons in my family and church family. I have seen him take what I figured were impossible situations and provide solutions that we know we could not have come up with on our own.
Rahab understood from the stories she had heard that God was great, God was real, and that He protected Israel. She put her faith in that God at great risk of peril to herself and her family. If she was wrong, there was certain death coming. But her faith delivered her, her family, and all who were in her house. God further honored her by putting her in the lineage of Jesus. The lesson here is that our faith can, at times, be a hedge of protection around our loved ones as well. God is good.
- By Faith, Samson is mentioned in the same breath as David, verses 32-34
David, we know, was a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ Samson was a womanizer with anger issues, yet here he is in the ‘Hall of Faith.’ He is mentioned in the same breath as Samuel, the last judge of Israel and one of the greatest spiritual leaders. The issue is not the men; it is the God they served. Even with all his failures, Samson trusted God. He had faith that God would grant him just one more moment of strength to destroy the enemy. God granted, and the Philistines died.
Samuel trusted God as a small child and served God for a lifetime. He was the judge who led Israel into the era of the kings. Gideon was a called warrior, one who was hesitant to put his faith in God, but once he did, God used him to change the world of the Israelites. David trusted God in the most impossible times while facing a giant, and even in every battle, he trusted God and had faith in Him. He was such an amazing king that Jesus is known as David’s son. David had faith to trust God when he was just a shepherd, and he had faith in Him as a king. None of these were perfect; God was perfect for them and in them.
- By Faith, many Endured Suffering, verses 35-40
One of the most amazing tributes to these people is given by God in verse 38 – ‘of whom the world is not worthy.’ Sometimes when we have faith in God, life will get hard. Death, pain, suffering, and cruel punishments by the enemies of God. Take the time to read Foxes Book of Martyrs and see for yourself the pain that God’s people can be called to endure by faith.
We live in a time when hatred toward Christians is growing and openly spoken without shame. Just recently, here, we had a school board trustee in the Waterloo Catholic School Board say something to the effect that ‘white Christian men’ are some of the most dangerous creatures. This person is on a Catholic school board. Think about that. How many Christian parents send their kids to these schools – to be taught by people who hate their parents? Now I know not all Catholics are Christians, as well as some Baptists are not saved either. The idea is the open and wanton hatred for the people of God.
We, by faith and because of our faith, may be called to endure sufferings before Jesus returns and gets us. We may see some of the things that we are told about in verses 35-40 happen to our loved ones, our children, and maybe even have it happen to us. But know this: we are surrounded by these very people we admire and revere, watching how we stand for the truth in the midst of great adversity. So let us stand, in faith, in His power, and with His help.
I leave you with this Old Testament blessing as we prepare to face uncertain times, Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV).
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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