God Pleasing Faith, The Extraordinary Deeds of Faith, Lesson 20, Hebrews 11:32-34
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
We can read Hebrews 11 as we would listen to a great orchestra and the orchestra, until this passage, has performed in a manner whereby each orchestral section has been emphasized from the violins to the trumpets, to the flutes but in our passage today the immense orchestra in total begins to build toward what we know in music as the crescendo. krəˈSHenˌdō/ :
Crescendo, an Italian word, means a gradual increase in the loudness of a sound or section of music.
When a crescendo is coming you will see all of the instrumentalists with eyes fixed on the conductor poised to have their instruments join together in such power that the music will move the listener to great heights of emotion and excitement.
For the crescendo beginning in this passage is the apex, the climax, the crown, the pinnacle of the writerís discussion of faith.
For the crescendo builds to describe the monumental results of deeds of what faith in our Almighty God will bring.
In previous verses the Apostle Paul has written in detail of the lives and deeds of the patriarchs and of Moses the law receiver and giver.
He has said much and it seems the time is closing in on Paul for he says that if I continue in this manner there will not be enough time for me to expound on the numerous examples that remain in the Old Testament.
So instead of expounding, a sampling list of heroes of faith is given, with implications that further study of these heroes and the many others is to be done by us.
God does not continuously spoon feed us as though we are babies but expects us to work to know Him.
Milk is a must for the little ones but God expects the little ones to someday be grown to the big ones who desire to dine on the meat of the word.
So we, as Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, are to:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Now our Hebrews writer seems rushed as the crescendo builds and he gives this list in no chronological order in the arrangement of the names.
How could I tell of Gideon he says, who with a small band of men, small for God made it small, routed so many thousands of Midianites,
and Barak, who through faith in the prophecy of Deborah, freed Israel from the oppression of Jabin and overcame his general, Sisera
and what about Samson, who by faith in the power of Jehovah, slew so many thousands of the Philistines with only the jaw bone of an ass and performed many other astonishing achievements
and donít forget Jephthae who did not forget Godís promises to Abraham to possess the land and was moved by faith to fight against the Ammonites bringing great victory to the people of God.
And oh how can Paul leave out a mention of King David whose life was filled with heroic acts of faith.
The David who as a young man, asked, Is there not a cause, before he picked up five stones, with the first stone, hurled in faith, and guided by God thus slaying the giant.
David, himself a giant of faith, full of testings and trials but also full of courage and one to provide testimony as to the trials and acts of faith in the marvelous book of the Psalms.
This wonderful book of God which so provides for our faith strengthening and encouragement.
And then not to leave out of this crescendo of faith, the great prophet and Judge, Samuel, who confronted King Saul, a man not of faith for he believed not God.
For Samuel mightily and boldly said to King Saul, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
And because of Saulís unbelief God had his man David ready by faith to rule the throne of Israel but Davidís route to the throne was no easy task, but was one of great trial which required one of great faith.
And then in one last breath the prophets are mentioned, not by name but by group.
Yes Samuel and David were prophets but here in this general group Paul wants us to bring to mind Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Malachi and many, many others of whom we are to study and know.
One lesson we are to learn from this listing of those whose faith in God moved them is that they were moved to do extraordinary deeds.
But we are to remember that these heroes of faith all were flawed creatures, yes, made in Godís image but still sons of Adam, sharing the same deficiencies as their fathers.
God, in choosing to be co-laborers with men has not much to choose from for all are sinners so God chooses to commend and reward by one thing and that is faith.
So in our remembrance we must remember that all of these have one common connection and that is their connection with God.
The one thing that brings these men and woman into this chapter of Godís word is their relationship with God and that relationship can only happen by faith for God has so decreed.
God looked not for the perfect sinless man for there were none to be found but God looked and looked and looked and finally found one who believed Him, one who knew that with God all things are possible.
He looked not as those who chose Saul, those who only looked on the outward appearance, for the Lord was looking on the heart.
And when He did that He found Gideon, a simple farm boy threshing wheat by the winepress so as to not reveal his activity to the Midianites.
How did the angel of the Lord address Gideon?
Did He say, Hey Boy, listen up! No these were not his words.
Gideon heard words which he certainly must of thought were meant for someone else for the angel said: The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
I imagine Gideon looked around the threshing floor expecting to see a warrior all bedecked in uniform with weapons ready to do battle.
But no one but Gideon was found for he was alone with the angel.
Certain that these words were poorly selected for he, just a farm boy threshing wheat, responded to the angelís command to go and save Israel from the hand of the Midianites with this:
Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
So what is displayed here?
What is displayed here is Gideon seeing himself in his own power while God sees Gideon endued with His power.
God saw Gideon in battle uniform, a mighty man of valour, ready to bring victory to Israel with only 300 men to overcome a Midianite army of 135,000.
God saw a Gideon with little faith at the beginning but God can take that faith and move mountains.
Isnít it like our God to see us as he intends to make us, even before we can see or understand the possibilities?
God gives us this list to encourage us that all he has to use from the multitudes is imperfect people, but within that category is a small group that he can use, a small group of imperfect people who have decided to trust in him.
I remember way back-when, I wrestled with the decision to trust Christ for salvation.
For in this decision Satan always slips in the false doctrine that I was not good enough to be saved nor could I practice what a Christian should practice.
Of course this is a denial of salvation by grace for no one is good enough to be saved, so instead Satan promotes salvation by works.
I remember telling my wife that I would put off trusting Christ until I got my way of life in a better order so any transition of life would not be so drastic.
She wisely said to me, God will save you as you are.
You canít fix yourself to His liking for he tells us that all sinners are the same.
We are what God chooses to work with and he chooses to work with men, women, boys and girls by faith and faith alone.
And you can be sure that God sees you as you will be after he completes his work in you.
He saw the young farm boy, Gideon, who was threshing wheat, as what he by faith would bring him to be, a mighty man of valor.
Paul said it this way to the Philippians in:
Phil. 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Put your life in Christ, by faith and this will be your assurance!
So Paul lists these heroes and he not only lists them but in the listing he brings to mind that faith will empower the faithful to achieve wonderful victories that come only by tapping into the power of God.
For through faith these subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, and escaped the edge of the sword.
And in their weakness they were made strong, became mighty in war, and caused the armies of the aliens to flee.
God gives us arms to work.
God gives us arms to fight.
He gives us arms to lift.
But our arms apart from God are made to reach only so far.
But by faith God adds to our arms whatever length and power is needed to carry out his will.
Faith opens our eyes to Godís power and Godís authority.
Faith does not rest on our own weakness for faith brings Godís word into play that all things are within our reach for Godís arms are without length and will always extend our reach to meet the need.
Faith discloses there is no such thing as a self-made man for faith reveals what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:5:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Faith brings us into a co-laborship with God.
Only those without faith work alone but those of faith work together with God as a branch works with the vine and cannot function without the vine.
Paul the Apostle appointed by God to reach the Gentiles knew from the start what he wrote to the Corinthians in II Cor. 3:5, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
And in II Cor. 4:7, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
And oh how he sought God for relief of his physical infirmity as he expressed in:
II Cor. 12:7-10, And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
And when you are weak your armís reach is short but as Paul realized by faith this opportunity opened the door to Godís arm and then God and God alone would receive the glory.
Again remember Gideon who was used by God to overthrow the Midianites.
God took Gideon through baby steps of faith by leading him in little victories to prepare him for the battle to come.
God helped Gideon to learn to trust Him and eventually brought him to live the first description of him by the angel of the Lord who called him, the mighty man of valor.
The mission was set and Gideon gathered his forces determining that he needed 3000 men.
Gideon left no room for Godís arm to bring the victory in the battle so God pared the force down to 10% of Gideonís requirement.
Gideon left to himself and perhaps winning the battle with his forces would have garnered to himself all the glory.
But God weakened Gideon that Godís strength would be totally evident in the victory.
When we walk by faith we yield to God all the glory.
We live not unto ourselves but live unto God.
Godís intention was that when the battle was over the people of Israel would acknowledge that it was the Lord who delivered them, not the strength of men, not the strength of Gideon.
Again, with the account of Gideon we see a repeat of the story of faith lived by Abraham, the father of faith who believed God even though his body now dead regarding procreation and him one hundred years old staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
We and all those of faith never are to stagger at what God calls us to do for when we extend our arm we can always be sure that Godís arm will extend the rest of the way and in so doing God will be sure to receive the glory.