31 January 2011

"And what more should I Say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - ... of whom the world was not worthy." (vv. 32,38a)


Do you remember the 1979 hit song by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, "Reasons to be cheerful"? The letter to the Hebrews could be subtitled 'reasons to be faithful' as it encourages Christians in hard times not to give up but to remain faithful disciples. 

The epistle presents something of a mystery; no-one is certain who wrote it (although most scholars now agree it is unlikely to be by Paul) and the title "To the Hebrews" doesn't give much away either. However, its content suggests it was aimed at early Christians in danger of giving up as they lived through difficult and challenging times - maybe that description fits you today? 

In these few verses, the writer takes us on a tour of the Jewish 'Hall of Fame' reminding readers of some of the great heroes and heroines of Jewish history; characters who were renowned for their faith and perseverance in the face of great opposition - from mockery to being sawn in two (which was the fate of the prophet Isaiah, according to one early source)! Each of the six named men has a colourful history; they were vastly different in their personalities, circumstances and opportunities and none of them was without faults: Gideon was timid (Judges 6:15); Barak lacked confidence (Judges 4:8); Samson tended to wildness (Judges 15:4-5); Jephthah was rash (Judges 11:30-31); David committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11); even Samuel made some poor decisions (1 Samuel 8:1-3). Yet all were used by God in their own generation and can be an inspiration for generations to come. 

As well as the famous names, there are many unnamed heroes referred to; that vast company of men, women, boys and girls who, through their faith, achieved extraordinary feats, grappling with anything from lions to foreign armies, and suffering enormous personal privations, such that the writer sums them up as people "of whom the world was not worthy". And somehow, the writer tells us, these stories are bound up with our own stories, for "they would not, without us, be made perfect" (verse 40). Only through the sacrifice of Christ could they, or we, reach the completion of our faith. 

Reflecting on great characters of the past is reason number one to be faithful. 

To Ponder

Think about the people you have known "of whom the world is not worthy".

Who are the figures from Christian history who inspire you today?

For us, living after Christ's sacrifice, in the new covenant (ie a restored relationship with God), is perfection a possibility? How?

Bible notes author: Jill Baker

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