Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 29. Faith worked through
Heb 11:32,33 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised;
So we have briefly examined each of those named in our two verses above and the temptation to be casual would say it is time to move on to the next verses but I find myself caught by the closing words of these two verses. The words “and the prophets” seem almost too vague initially to make much comment upon but the words that follow say that faith is not just about words but it is about achieving things.
We have noted in two previous studies how two people exercised faith by adhering to God’s plan for His people and we need to think more about that concept. From God’s earliest dealings with mankind we see warnings and instructions and indicators that God has standards. When He made the world He saw all that He had done and it was “very good” (Gen 1:31), but then came the Fall (Gen 3) and Sin entered the world which is soon expressed as Cain kills Abel (Gen 4). Not too long later we find, Sin having developed across the earth, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain,” (Gen 6:5,6) and then seeing Him taking steps against its spread.
When we come to Abram the Lord declares His plans in the words about blessing: “I will make you into a great nation ….. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:2,3) The implication is clear: through this plan to create a great nation out of Abram, the Lord will bring blessing to the whole world. In the long term that nation was first to display the Lord to the world (the Old Testament period) and then be the environment into which His Son would come to become the world’s Saviour. From Abram through to the time of Jesus, this people were to be a people of faith, interacting with God throughout. The tragedy is that for much of that time they failed as again and again they drifted away from the Lord but, nevertheless, there were numerous people and numerous times through whom God’s glory was revealed as they responded in faith to Him.
The first thing to note about this people was their very existence. They became a people in Egypt, went through the ten plagues before God was able to deliver them from Egypt, take them through the desert and, after a forty year gap, take them up into the Promised Land, overcoming opposing kings on the way and ousting the kings in Canaan. Their ongoing history involved fending off opposing neighbours again and again, Indeed one of the main ways the Lord disciplined them when they went off the rails, was to lift off His hand of protection from them and immediately, the Sin in their neighbours, no doubt prompted by Satan, stirred their neighbours against them.
The amazing thing about Judges is that whenever they cried out to the Lord, He raised up deliverers who, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit fought off the invaders and defeated those neighbours. When the Lord allowed them to have a king, Saul’s first job was to beat off the invading Philistines and when David became king, and later Solomon, they continued to stand against those opposing kingdoms. Time and time again these men, raised up by God, “through faith conquered kingdoms.” Their very existence depended on men of faith who could stand in the war against the enemy who was out to destroy them. Read Ephesians 6 and we find that we too are in a war. For us the battle is to hold the ground that Jesus has won for us – right standing before God, to be a holy people, a people still reliant upon the Lord, still a people of faith, but it still is a battle.
The second thing to note about this people was their standing in the world. From Sinai on they were God’s special people and with the Law of Moses given to them at Sinai, they had a blueprint of how to live out practically as that special people. That required them to live according to specific standards and when those standards were broken to bring justice to bear, punish or correct offenders, bring restitution where applicable and generally ensure they “administered justice,” so that they stood out as (and enjoyed being) this special people. Likewise, as the apostle Peter said, we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” (1 Pet 2:9). Similarly we are to stand out in this world, displaying the Lord and His love and goodness to the world around us.
The third thing to note about them was their end goal. Put most simply, it was to be blessed by God and thus reveal Him to the rest of the world or as our writer says, “gained what was promised.” Remember God’s initial promise to Abram: “I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:2) The first obvious outworking of that was in the reigns of David and Solomon. These were the peak years of their existence and even though subsequent years rarely matched those, those particular years stood out for them as a nation blessed of God – and they were!!!! For us this does not happen as a nation, as a people, but it can happen as individuals and as groups (maybe local churches). Our inheritance is to live as children of God with all His resources available to us, and then into eternity to be with Him for ever. While here on this planet, the goal is to reveal Him by entering into all He has for us – and I believe we have got a long way to go before we realise that. It means, I suggest entering in with humility and grace into a much greater fullness of sonship than we normally see, where we lean on His wisdom, His guidance and His power, to reveal His love and goodness in ways that the church rarely does. I leave you to think that one through.
But that was the outworking of faith for God’s people both in the nation in the Old Testament and in the Church in the New Testament – to conquer the enemy, to live righteously and justly, and to reveal Him to the rest of the world until He comes. May it be for us.