The Book of Hebrews #59 chapter 11:32-40 pt. 2
The Book of Hebrews
A Conquering, Courageous Faith, Part 3
Hebrews 11:32-40
 
Last week we began looking at some of the heroes of the faith that came out of the time of the judges and prophets of the nation of Israel.  We saw, beginning in verse 32 of chapter 11, three men in particular:  Gideon, Barak and Samson.
 
The next name we see is
 
- Jephthah
 
He is not nearly as famous as some of the others who are mentioned, but he is also in the book of Judges.  His story is rather brief.  He is a true rags to riches individual.
 
We find out in the opening verses of Judges 11 that he is the son of a prostitute and a man named Gilead.  When the sons of Gilead and his wife grow up, they find out about their half-brother and run him out of town. He winds up being a part of a gang with “worthless men”.
 
Apparently he gains some notoriety for his bravery because when the Ammonites make war against Israel, his brothers come looking for him and ask him to be their leader.  He makes a deal with them so that if he is victorious, they will recognize him as their head.
 
Thus begins this conflict with the Ammonites.  Jephthah sends messengers to the king of Ammon asking why he wants to fight.
He responds by saying it’s because the Israelites came in and took their land.  Now even though he is a ruffian, Jephthah knows his history. He reminds the king how it happened and that it was in  fact, God who gave that land to the Israelites in a far and square battle.
 
And if he is so inclined, they could just settle it by seeing which God, Chemosh, the god of the Ammonites or Jehovah, is able to give the land to his people.
 
Now verse 29 is a critical verse.  After this confrontation, Jephthah begins to make his more and notice what happens.
 
Verse 29 – the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.  I would submit that is all that he needed to get the job done.  That is the same phrase that we see, for instance, in reference to Samson.  Every time there was a need, the Spirit of the Lord shows up.
 
That’s what makes verses 30-31 so surprising.  Jephthah makes this foolish deal with God.  There is no indication that he needed to do that.  The Spirit of the Lord is already upon him.  Maybe he gets nervous; maybe he doesn’t fully believe God can do it.  But for whatever reason, he pledges a life in violation of God’s command, to gain the victory. 
 
Judges 11:32-33
 
Jephthah defeats 20 cities of the Ammonites with a great slaughter and subdues them.  After the victory, he heads home and guess who the first one out the door to greet him is?
Verses 34-40
 
Now here is another example of some of the strange things that happen with God’s leaders in the Old Testament.  A whole lot of it makes no sense whatsoever to us.  But what we do see is that even those that serve God can make foolish choices.
 
Here is Jephthah, out on the battlefield, far away from the tabernacle, influenced by pagan ways and he winds up making a choice that winds up with his daughter begin offered as a human sacrifice at his own hand.  It would have been much better to just trust God for the victory.
 
In chapter 12, we are told of another of his victories, this time with the Ephraimites, and that he was a judge for only six years and he died and with that his story ends.
 
And yet, there is an encouragement in this account because in spite of all that, he is recorded as an example of faith for his people in centuries to come.
 
After Jephthah, we leave the book of Judges and enter the books of 1 and 2 Samuel.  The next name is
 
- David
 
Now on the opposite end of Jephthah is David as far as available material.  We have very little about Jephthath; we have volumes regarding David.  David was a triumphant, courageous general who fought the fight for the people of God.
 
The classic, go-to example of his faith is his battle with Goliath.
 
It’s found in 1 Samuel 17
 
You will remember David goes out to the battlefield to take lunch to his brothers and winds up in a one-on-one with the hero of the Philistines, a 9½ foot giant by the name of Goliath.
 
And when David shows up, Goliath is just shocked that they would send this little shepherd boy out against him. He thinks the Israelites are mocking him and the Philistines begin to curse God and ridicule David.
 
Then David said to the Philistine, probably in a voice breaking like he’s going through puberty, “‘You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up in to my hands and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I’ll give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
 
Wow! You would say that is a lot of backbone for a little shepherd boy. But we know the end of the story, don’t we? That’s exactly what happened.
 
 
By the way, we sometimes forget that after killing Goliath, David grabbed the sword of Goliath and used it to cut his head off and while he stood there over his body, when the Philistine saw that their champion was dead, they ran like scared rabbits.
 
After all, if a teenage boy can kill the best among us, what’s going to happen to us when the men show up?  Maybe we’re picking on the wrong army.  The Israelites took off chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps and David carried the head of Goliath back home and put it on display.
 
What in the world would give this man the courage to do what he did? It is faith in the calling of God. These are men of faith.
 
The next name is Samuel and his story is found in the first 24 chapters of 1 Samuel.  He dies in verse 1 of chapter 25.
 
Samuel was a great man of faith. He dealt with and ministered to a rebellious, idolatrous people. He faced them with the courage of great conviction. He spoke God’s Word. He thought nothing of personal protection and personal safety. Samuel always said what he believed to be right against all threats. He was fearless when he warned people and he warned people, including even the great High Priest Eli.
 
And then it mentions in verse 32 the prophets. And with that, we cover the rest of the Old Testament.
Then the stops providing individual names and instead describes the experiences of these men and women.
 
First we are told they subdued kingdoms.  It literally means to bring to submission.  This would describe Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah.  They worked righteousness.  That means they upheld justice. They were men who did what was right no matter what the cost. We are told in 2 Samuel 8:15 that, “David reigned over all Israel and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.”
 
Then it says they obtained promises. There are many illustrations of that. Joshua was given a promise of victory. Gideon was given a promise of victory. Barak was given a promise of victory, David was given promises by God that were fulfilled and some that were to be fulfilled later.
 
And then we we come to the next phrase.  They “stopped the mouths of lions.” Obviously that describes Daniel. Daniel obeyed God when it meant he had to go to the lion’s den, believing God would take care of that and God shut the mouths of the lions.
 
They “quenched the violence of fire”. That’s Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as we know them, by their Babylonian names who standing in the fire were not burned.
 
They didn’t quench the fire, but they quenched the violence of fire.  They said, “We’re not going to bow down to you and if we go in the fire, we’ll burn, or maybe we won’t burn, but in any case we will not bow down to you.” They conquered by faith.
 
 
It can also be said of these heroes they escaped the edge of the sword. That reminds me of David and Saul.  No matter how often Saul tried to get David’s head within the reach of his sword, he never could.
 
It further says about these heroes who lived by faith that were valiant in battle, putting to flight the armies of the aliens.  We just read about some of them.
 
And then I love verse 35
 
That’s Elijah in 1 Kings 17 restoring the dead son of the widow of Zarephath. And then in 2 Kings 4 it’s Elisha raising the child of the Shunammite woman from the dead. The faith of these prophets in death brought great victory.
 
So this is a faith that conquers even in life-threatening circumstances. But that’s not the whole picture. First we see the achievements of faith in the midst of the threat. Sometimes God chooses not to let His people conquer in struggle, but rather refines them through a struggle.  And in those we see the endurance of faith in the midst of the trial.
 
Verse 35 again, “Others were tortured, not accepting their release.” That’s not a victory or a release from torture but an endurance so that they might obtain a better resurrection.
 
That word “tortured” is a very interesting word.  IT is literally to torture with the tumpanium. What is a tumpanium? It’s a torture instrument of ancient times.
 
It’s a wheel-shaped contraption over which criminals were stretched as though they were skins and they would have all their extremities stretched to the circumference of the wheel and they would rotate on the wheel while people pummeled them with clubs. This is the basis of the word “tortured.”
 
There have been those people of faith who have been tortured. They rejected denial of the faith. They rejected release. They would not banish from their lips the name of the true and living God because they looked for a better resurrection. They looked to the future.
 
Others experienced mockings and scourgings and chains and imprisonments. There was one who went through just about all of this and that was Jeremiah.  He was tortured, chained, imprisoned, thrown into a pit.  He had scourgings, beatings and imprisonments. And he wasn’t the only one.
 
Verse 37, they were stoned.
 
That also happened to Jeremiah according to tradition. And the Old Testament record of Zechariah as well indicates a stoning.
 
Sawn asunder, tradition says, Isaiah the prophet’s life ended when he was sawn in half. They were tested, that’s probably a better translation than tempted. They were tested, the torture of being tested, pressured to deny their God which they would not do.
 
These aren’t the triumphant ones on a human level.  These are the ones who suffered even death. They were put to death with the sword.
And some of them became exiles. Some of them went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented.
 
And then down in verse 38, some of them wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
 
Now all of that was familiar to these New Testament Jews.  They knew the stories of these people much more intimately than do we.  We have only the Scriptural account.  And the Scriptural account is accurate but it is incomplete.  It doesn’t give every detail.
 
There is lots of detail regarding these men and women that we don’t know and they do simply because of their oral traditions and history.  I mean this is family stuff to them.
 
They knew all about those who were wanderers, vagabonds, just existing because they had been put out ofsociety. That was the price they paid for their faithfulness to God.
 
And then the most commendatory statement that is made in this entire chapter is in parenthesis in verse 38 and it really ought to be in italics. “These are people of whom the world was not worthy.” Isn’t that a great statement? The world was not worthy. The world thought them unworthy. The world deemed them unworthy to live, unworthy to be comfortable, unworthy to be affirmed or approved, or left alone. The world felt itself somehow diminished by their presence. The truth is, the world was not worthy of them.
 
Why did they do this? Why did they do this against all this kind of terrible treatment? They did it because of what they believed was in the future waiting for them, a better resurrection.
 
verse 39
 
They didn’t have anything in their hand, it was all faith. They didn’t even know about Christ. They knew the prophecies about Him, but they didn’t know who He was. He had not come. He had not died. He had not risen from the dead. There was no confirmation that this would ever happen. They had to believe God’s promise. And they did. They gained approval through their faith, though they didn’t receive what was promised because God had provided something better for us that apart from us they wouldn’t be made perfect. None of them would ever be in heaven if it weren’t for what happened that we know about in the cross and the resurrection. The better thing is the New Covenant.
 
Perfect means saved in the book of Hebrews. Perfect means access, open and granted to God, full access to what the Old Covenant couldn’t give, access into the presence of God both in time and eternity. They lived by faith in something they couldn’t see. Remember,  that’s how the chapter’s beginning launches it, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That’s how these great heroes lived. Their faith was courageous faith. They conquered in struggle. They continued in suffering. And they counted on a salvation that would be provided in a way they could not see.
 
 
Now I’m going to read verse 1 of chapter 12. “Therefore,” this is not the end of the story and shouldn’t be the beginning of a new chapter. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us...”
 
We know who they are, right? We just met them all and to what do they witness? To what do they witness? They witness to the validity of a life of faith. “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the faith race set before us.”
 
These are given to us as models and examples to stimulate our commitment to run an enduring race of faith. Now, as I said, the chapter shouldn’t end at the end of the chapter, it should go in to chapter 12, so it will next week when we look at the twelfth chapter.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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