Too many of us have grabbed hold of the notion that people of faith are perfect, unwavering examples to be lifted up because of their endless strengths. Actually, reading the Bible is a dangerous activity if you want to hold that kind of view. The characters you’ll find there are, well, characters. Not only do they have checkered pasts; their presents aren’t too spotless either. Instead of fearless pillars of faith, we often find reluctant followers whose successes come only by sticking close to a faithful God.
We often refer to Hebrews 11 as the Faith Hall of Fame. The names and stories lifted up in brief review here are meant to inspire us and drive us to desire and pursue a closer walk with God. But these stories encourage us not because their stars are in some way superhuman. Surely the Israelites’ knees knock in fear as they pass through the Red Sea; surely some whisper disbelief as they march around the walls of Jericho for the sixth time with no result. This list includes martyrs and prophets who help turn generations back to God. But then there’s Gideon, who never quite gets over his self doubt, and Barak, who cannot believe God will use a woman to accomplish God’s will. David’s story is marred by adultery and murder, Rahab’s by prostitution, and Jephthah makes the worst oath in the Bible with the worst results.
These are our Hebrews 11 heroes. In all their human frailty, how do they shut the mouths of lions and quench the fury of the flames? These ordinary human beings rely on an extraordinary God. These stories make the hall of fame not because their actors are famous but because their actors lift up our faithful God. That’s a kind of hero I can aspire to follow.
God, make your name famous through our imperfect stories of faith in you. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
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