Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews, today we’ll zero in on Hebrews 11:32-40 and close this chapter. Our main focus will be the triumph of faith whether in life or in death.
The Triumph Of Faith
32 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— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Hebrews 11:32-40 (Verse By Verse Explanation)
- Verses 32-34
Faith not only contends for that which is right but it is guaranteed to triumph over evil and the forces of darkness. In verses 32 to 34, the writer is going to mention several other familiar heroes of faith, and it’s important that we look at some these characters very carefully. We’ll start with Gideon. His call and victorious defeat of the Midianites is recorded in Judges 6:11-7:25. The people of God were living in very precarious times when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon. Let’s zero in on a key portion of chapter 6 of the book of Judges
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man. Gideon didn’t have an exalted view of himself, he knew that there was no way he could defeat the Midianites. But the Lord told him: ” But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man”. Even after those reassuring words, Gideon didn’t respond positively right away. He still tested what he was hearing to make sure the individual he had encountered wasn’t a counterfeit. The Angel of the Lord was patient with him and granted his requests, and Gideon grew to trust in the Lord. He eventually defeated the Midianites with his army of only 300 men thus giving glory to the Lord. What do we learn from Gideon? There is difference with testing in unbelief and testing for confirmation. When Gideon tested the Angel of the Lord, it wasn’t in unbelief. We are called not to test the Lord but we’re also called to test the spirits to make sure they are from God and that’s what Gideon was doing. Though Gideon was weak on his own, he triumphed with God working through Him. For the initial hearers, I wonder how they responded to Gideon’s account. They were persecuted just like the people in Gideon’s time were, but eventually God rescued them. I want to hold my final thoughts until we look at the rest of the passage.
The next individual mentioned is Barak. His account is recorded for us in Judges 4:1-5:31. He won a resounding victory over Sisera, but he needed Deborah the prophetess as his helper to reassure him. The account of Samson is familiar and is recorded in Judges 13-16. He was given supernatural abilities and misused them on several occasions. Most of us wouldn’t call Samson a godly man because he yielded to his fleshly appetites too often. He was a Nazarite, which meant he was dedicated to God and was never to cut his hair or drink fermented drinks. While he failed to restrain his flesh and gave in to lust , God humbled him toward the end of his life and he eventually repented of his sinful lifestyle , and gave his life to defeat the enemies of God, the Philistines. However, we mustn’t conclude that believers today can expect to lead a double life and still enjoy God’s blessing. Chapter 12 will deal with the discipline of the Lord. Jephthah’s story is fascinating. Judges 11 begins with the following verse Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.
He was a reject of the society he lived in and was banned by his half- brothers because they didn’t see him as being born from a legitimate relationship. So he had everything going against him, yet this is the person God would use to deliver his people from the Ammonites.
It isn’t possible for us to examine each example of faith, and even the writer of Hebrews stopped citing names after David and Samuel. But we’re familiar with the other examples he mentions. Daniel’s faith stopped the mouth of lions, his three close friends overcame the fiery furnace, two women in the book of kings received back their children after they died, see 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:18-37.
From all these examples, we see miraculous triumphs of faith and this can be very attractive to people who are caught up in miracles, signs and wonders. Everyone wants to be a hero like David and defeat a giant like Goliath. I’m sure the initial hearers of the author were also looking to triumph over the persecutors in a similar manner. And I believe the writer anticipated that, and there is sudden shift in verse 35, which we’ll look at.
- Verses 35-38
Not all men and women of faith experience miraculous deliverance. While some experience signs and wonders and supernatural rescue from God, others experienced suffering, mocking, flogging, chains and imprisonment. This is a pattern that the writer already established in earlier verses. We mentioned the account of Abel who was killed for his faith and Enoch who never experienced death. The writer of Hebrews records the fact that many unknown men and women of faith were not delivered from difficult circumstances, yet God was pleased to be called their God. We can think of Stephen who was stoned the death, James, the brother of John had his throat slit, John the Baptist was decapitated. And our Lord Jesus ( the only begotten Son of God) in his humanity suffered death but eventually triumphed over death. In Daniel 3:16-18 we read the following from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
They knew that God was able to deliver them, but God prompted them to add another powerful word to their testimony. In verse 18 , we read “ But if not” in other words even if God permits that we perish in this fiery furnace, understand that we will not relinquish and abandon our worship of Him.
Before you go on and think that you can do this on your own, please let me stop you. The only way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to make such a bold statement was by faith. God enabled them to not be afraid, Scripture tells us that is is God who works in us both to WILL and ACT according to His purpose. What was the writer trying to teach the initial readers and us?
Everything has to do with the glory of the Lord. If God is glorified by delivering His people, then He will. And if HE sees it fit to be glorified by not delivering His people, then HE will do that. It isn’t up to us, but the good news is in either cases, God doesn’t abandon us, HE is with His saints whether in life or death. And as mentioned in verse 38 (of whom the world was not worthy), we must live just like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob who were looking forward to the city of God. While we’re on earth , our chief purpose is to glorify God in our lives. And God will be glorified how HE sees fit in our lives, sometimes it is through our suffering and other times, through our deliverance from suffering.
- Verses 39-40
We have to remember who the writer is primarily addressing in this letter. In their weariness, they were tempted to shrink back. One fundamental truth the writer has presented in this chapter is the Sovereignty of God. He is able to deliver us from any circumstances for He is all powerful, there is none like Him. In the case of his readers, they were still being persecuted and could’ve doubted the power of God and the promises of God. But faith looks to the future, for that is where the greatest rewards are found. Our ultimate destination is the city of God, and as mentioned in our previous presentations, the antidote to seeking comfort on this side of eternity is looking forward to the city of God like the saints of old. Once again I’ll invite you to end this lesson by reading Colossians 3:1-4:
3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
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