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In Remembrance: Old Testament Saints – In the Hall of Faith

by Larry Miles

LarryMiles2015This lesson was  given at  Woodland Bible Camp (Senior Citizen’s Week) on September 16, 2015

Text: Hebrews 11

One of the  great themes  in the  whole  Bible, especially in the  Old Testament, is God reminding  His  people  what  He did  for them, what He was  doing, and what  He will do.  God, many times over reminded them  how  He  had  delivered them from Egyptian bondage and  sustained them in their  wilderness wanderings. Although the wanderings were extended for about 38 years because of the unbelief of the people at Kadesh Barnea, God brought the rest to the east side of the Jordan River.  There, after the death of Moses, He commissioned Joshua to lead the people over the Jordan and to conquer the land.

In Hebrews 11 God, through the Hebrew writer, perhaps Paul or some other faithful inspired writer recounts the history of His people and how certain men and women were faithful to their God.  This is, as we mentioned in our title, a portrayal of the faith of these individuals.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 10:11, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon which the ends of the ages have come.” Paul had been referring in the earlier part of the 10th chapter about events that took place in the wilderness wanderings.

The  key thing to me  in  this  verse is, that we  don’t go to the  Old Testament for our example on   how to be saved and  to find our doctrine; we  can  look  at how these  OT  individuals lived out their faith. This is what I want to center on in this lesson from Hebrews 11, on the theme of remembrance, dealing with the Old Testament saints.

The Hebrew writer’s approach is similar to that of Luke in his genealogy. By this I mean that while Matthew starts with Abraham, Luke goes back to the beginning.  Here   the writer goes back to the earliest recorded narratives in the book of Genesis to start telling his writers and us about how these individuals built upon their faith in Jehovah God. From verse 4 through 32, he gives us the names of these people. In verses 33-39, the people are unnamed and unknown to us but not to God.

We latter day saints, in a biblical use of the   term, have something   to cherish and live in that these folks did not; we have Jesus as our Savior.  These   could only look for and   believe God’s promise for a Redeemer.

We  won’t have  time in this lesson to  deal with   everyone mentioned in this passage but  will try to  deal with the  principles  of faith they  exhibited and  try to  bring  application  to us today.  It  is  important in  a  study or reading of any  portion of  Scripture that we  understand what the  passage says and  means, what it  meant to the readers of  the  time it was  written, and what the  application to us is today.

The writer starts off in Heb. 11:1 giving us a definition of the word “faith.” “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   This really epitomizes the individuals mentioned in this chapter.  They had been promised by God that He would send a Redeemer.  They believed the redeemer would possibly come in their lifetime, but it did not happen.

In each of the sections through verse 31, we are introduced by the phrase “By faith.”  These are those we call the heroes of the faith; also some we call the patriarch’s.  The common denominator is strong faith and commitment to a promise keeping God. Some people get more said about them than others, but this does not mean that they were more important.  An important thing to remember and factor in is that as in the OT, as well as the NT, there is room for all of us to be used   by God.  God is willing to equip us for service if we are willing to avail ourselves.

I  believe that in each of the sections we  can  find  ways that we  can make application of  how they served  God and why and  how we can  emulate them in the Lord.  We remember where Paul said to imitate him, but only as he imitated God.   We are told over and over in the Word of God about the attributes and characteristics of Almighty God.   If we say we are His, then folks ought to see God in us. In the Church age, they ought to see Jesus in us. The hymn writer wrote, ‘More about Jesus would I know.’ We must desire and want to be like Jesus.

Although faith is the main themes of the text, we are impressed with how these folks lived out their faith. We see them building on their faith to help them grow in the Lord. For us today, the words in 2 Peter 1:5-7. “But for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”   I think these   qualities permeated the Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11.

More is said in this section of “The Hall of Faith” about Noah, Abraham and Moses than the others.   As I said earlier, just because there is not as much said about another one, that individual had a place in God’s plan.

In the case of Abel in Heb. 11:5, I think what we can learn from him is to believe God and to obey His commandments.  It is apparent that God had told each brother what He expected in the sacrifice and Abel gave God the best.  We can learn from him in that whatever we do for the Lord, let’s seek to follow His Word and give Him our best.

In the account  of Enoch, one of  2  men in  scripture  who were taken up into heaven without having  to  experience physical  death (Elijah, being the  other, we can  learn of a  man who strove to be a  close to God as  he could be and one whose  aim in life was  to  please God.  Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:4 that we should seek to “please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  So, we must seek to draw closer and near to God all the days of our lives.

There is a lot written in this chapter about Abraham and Sarah.  We learn of a faith that believed God would keep His Word when it was impossible humanly speaking for Him to do so.   We see in Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, men who knew the promises of God and lived their lives accordingly.  By examining these men, we see dedication to God, although in Jacob’s case, his early life left some things to be desired.  But we know they all grew in their faith, some faster than others.  They showed the frailties and shortcomings of man.  But they all were willing to be used of God.  And that should be our theme in life also.

Moses is given a large portion of this narrative and rightly so.  He was held in high regard in the eyes of the people.  I think  we learn from Moses  that God can  use those whose  lives were  not all on the  up and  up and who committed  grievous sins, can  still be useful to God.

By verse 30, we have made it out of the Exodus and into the Promised Land.  God has kept His Word by delivering the people from the   Egyptian bondage. We see the faith of Joshua throughout the book that bears his name.

In   mentioning Rahab, we see the grace of God shown.  Of all the women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, none of them would have been chosen by many of us, because of their past and present and how others looked at them.  But   it shows that people can repent of their sins and come to God.

The writer of Hebrews tells in verse 32 of many folks from many different backgrounds and eras of Jewish history.  The common denominator is their willingness to be used of God. Each of them had talents to use for the Lord and was in the right place at the right time to utilize the talents for God’s glory.  We need to use our talents and avail ourselves of the equipping   that God has for us.

The people mentioned in the rest of the chapter are nameless to us, but not to God.  In their lives we see dedication, willingness to serve; also an enduring faith that led them to continue in the fight of faith.  When we read these accounts, many lost their lives or were imprisoned for their faith but still stayed the course.

I think verse 39 and 40 are very   important and precious to us today.  “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith did not receive the promise, God having provided  something  better for us, that they should  not  be made  perfect part from us.”  All of the  folks  mentioned  up to now died without having seen the  redeemer mentioned, but  God said that one day they, along  with us in the  Church  age who have  experienced believing in and  coming to Jesus in  obedient  faith and living for Him can share in like precious faith.

In conclusion, I think the first   2 verses of chapter 12 are fitting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus at all times.  Paul, writing in Romans 12:1-2 seems fitting to use at this time. “I beseech  you therefore, by the  mercies of God, that you  present your  bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service, And  do not be  conformed to this world, but  be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may  prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

-Larry Miles si a  Co-editor of Word & Work




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