Tuesday, November 29th
Psalm 124; Genesis 9:1-7; Hebrews 11:32-40
By Jesse Coyne
This passage forms the conclusion of the lengthy recitation of Israel’s venerable ‘hall of faith,’ which makes up the whole of Hebrews 11. Many of our favorite Old Testament characters, such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses are commended by the author for the things they accomplished “by faith.” The entire chapter actually stands in the middle of two other encouraging examples of faith.
The first example is drawn from the audience’s own past when they were publicly humiliated and mistreated for their confession and yet remained faithful (10:32-34). After recounting the faith of Israel’s heroes, the author concludes by directing the audience’s attention to the cross. The pioneer and perfector of faith was the one who disregarded the shame of the cross and the hostility of sinners to reach the goal and sit at the right hand of God (12:1-3). As so often in the letter, the author encourages his audience to look to Jesus, to consider the example of faithfulness by the one who bore their reproach. The whole sequence from the audience’s past, to Israel’s heroes, and ultimately to Jesus, encourages the hearers to persevere, to finish the race.
The question remains, how do we remain faithful when faced with adversity? How do we emulate their faithful examples when confronted with
|the scorn and mockery of the world?—By remembering as they did that God has provided something better for us (11:40).
The audience of the letter had their property confiscated and were made a public spectacle, but they did not shrink back, so that they might receive what was promised (10:36-39). Israel’s heroes were tortured, stoned, scourged, and forced to hide in caves and holes and did not receive what was promised (11:35-39), and yet they continued to look forward in faith to a better place (11:13-16). Finally, Jesus endured the shame of the cross for the sake of the joy which was before him (12:2).
We are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses who encourage us to walk the narrow path by focusing on the goal and not the hindrances that surround us. This same Jesus, Emmanuel, is the one who was made lower than the angels, shared flesh and blood with his brothers and sisters, yet remained sinless. Through the power of his death and indestructible life, he sets us free from the fear of death.
The great affirmation of Hebrews is that Jesus is the great high priest who was tempted and who suffered just like us, and who now continuously intercedes on our behalf. (2:5-18).