Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the Bad Company of Faithful Men - Hebrews 11 part 13

"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,
(vs 32)

Many faithful saints have gone before us. This last section of Hebrews 11 is a reminder of that. "For time will fail me if I tell of...." The starting words of Hebrews 12 are appropriate: "we have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us." We should be encouraged that we have not been alone in history - nor are we alone now - a remnant remains that has not bowed the knee to Baal - and it is a mighty remnant. Time would not allow us to write or speak of all the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the final moments of our tour through the Hall of Faith, the apostle seeks to grant us a sweeping summary of a few who remain. There's Gideon who God used to set the Midanite army to flight in the midst of their confusion. Gideon is listed as a man of faith - yet Gideon's faith was feeble - he was a man of many "if's" - and he tossed out a fleece as a tangible way to have it increased. Gideon was a doubting sinner. Gideon was real! Amazingly, it is not his fearful need of a fleece that is recorded here, but his faith!

Next we see Barak, another man from the time of the judges. Barak led the Israelite army under the command of Deborah. There's nothing about Barak that would have caused me to include him in this museum of the faithful - but God did. In the biblical account, Deborah commands him to send the army to attack Sisera's men. His response - "I'll go if you go!" Come on, this is the leader of the military - and he comes across as a childish coward. Deborah goes and thus Barak and his 10,000 men come too.

Josephus gives an account of Barak in his history and writes that when "Barak saw Sisera's army drawn up, and attempting to surround the mountain on the top of which he and his forces lay encamped, his heart quite failed him, but Deborah animated him to make a descent upon Sisera." It's a good thing she was there, for his faith faltered. Truthfully, its hard to find anything spectacular about Barak. He's an average guy, full of flaws, deep in doubts, nominally normal. Yet, he is listed here. Along with Gideon, that gives me reason for hope!

Yet, the hope doesn't end there. Samson is the third in this final short list of faithful followers of our God. Samson!! Strong but stupid Samon! ! Mighty but repeatedly immoral Samson!! Big, blind Samson!! If Samson's inclusion doesn't give you hope - who's will?

Amidst all of his shortcomings he is here in the hall. Matthew Henry remarks - "If Samson had not had a strong faith as well as a strong arm, he had never performed such exploits. True faith is acknowledged and accepted, even when mingled with many failings." Is not Samson an illustration to us of the amazing grace and marvelous mercy that accompany true faith. Oh, we are sinners! Oh, there is nothing good that dwells in us! Oh, praise God for Christ!!

From Samson to Jepthah - the rash vow maker. Here is one with faith and unbridled zeal. He believes, but he is foolish in his faith. Jephthah, the son of a harlot, is used mightily by God to defeat the Ammonites. Yet he tragically makes a "deal" with God - as though we need to make deals or barter or bargain with the Almighty. We need to walk in faithful obedience - not work out an offer with God that He might work one out with us.

Upon his victorious return Jephthah announces that he will sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that comes from his tent. When he arrives from defeating the enemies of Jehovah his own dear daughter runs to meet him and he is undone by the weight of his promise. It was a needless vow. It wasn't a vow of faith but one of foolishness. He followed through with his word rather than repenting for his error. Jehpthah was a flawed man - faithful but flawed. As Gideon was a man of doubt who wanted a sign, as Samson was a man of moral ineptitude who wanted his lusts, so was Jephthah a man of zeal who spoke before he thought. Do you have anything in common with these sinful, fallen men? Oh, there is such hope for us found in the Lord Jesus. These sinners are numbered among the faithful!!

After he records several men from the time of the judges, the apostle turns to David. You'd think King David would get his own chapter on faithfulness, but his mentioning is reserved to the short list. David, a man after God's own heart. David, a man like us - full of sin.

Mr. Henry writes: "Few ever met with greater trials, and few ever discovered a more lively faith. The same faith made him a very successful and victorious prince, and, after a long life of virtue and honor (though not without some foul stains of sin), he died in faith, and he has left behind him such excellent memoirs of the trials and acts of faith in the book of Psalms as will ever be of great esteem and use."

David experienced it all - victory and loss, sin and salvation, fear and forgiveness, acclaim and disdain, triumph and tragedy. David, great as he can seem, was a mortal - a sinful, human, fallen mortal in constant need of the grace of God. By that glorious grace, he was a man of faith.

Finally, Samuel is listed. The great prophet of the first kings. Called by God as a child to lead His people in the proper path. A man of faith, yet a man who's own children wandered from it. This hall is full of humans, all in need of the exact same thing - the redeeming, atoning, certain blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Are you weak? Are you foolish? Are you full of doubt? Do your morals lapse at times? Are there days when your zeal for Christ is as much of a hindrance as your shame of Him is? Friends, look around this hall of Hebrews 11. We're in "bad" company - and that is good news. For Christ came to save sinners - among whom I am the chief! Even our faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9) and this side of heaven we will never attain to any semblance of perfection with it. May the tour of the hall of faith cause us all the more to sing loudly the songs of the faithful. The songs of those who are kept by the grace, mercy, and power of God Almighty! It is HE alone who keeps us from falling therefore, may our only boast be in Him and His abundant care for us. To Him alone be the glory, honor, power, and dominion now and forevermore. AMEN!

By grace, numbered in the hall,

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