“And what more shall I 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” (Heb. 11:32). This short verse in Hebrews 11 provides us with a glaring nugget of reality when it comes to God’s view of mankind.
Hebrews chapter 11 is often called “the Hall of Faith.” It is called such because of the numerous men and women of faith mentioned in this chapter and the wonderful depictions of their faith offered by the Hebrews writer. However, such a title has also often served as a source of misunderstanding and apprehension in the minds of many people as they look back on the lives of these faithful men and women. There tends to be an awe and admiration for these faithful individuals that engenders a perceived pedestal to which “normal men” cannot reach. This was never the intention or insinuation of the chapter.
These individuals are being offered as examples to those in the first century, as well as us today, of what it means to be faithful to God. They are well known for their faith, having had it recorded in the Scriptures previously. Nonetheless, the humanity of these individuals is also shown. They were not perfect, nor did they claim to be. They fell short, faltered, and even brought about the wrath of the Lord on occasion. Yet they did not turn from God, but continued with all of their might to serve Him to the best of their ability.
That being said, God is not offering them as evidence that we can never be as good as they were, or that we will never attain the level of faithfulness they attained. In fact it is quite the opposite. The Hebrews writer would encourage his readers by stating, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2a). That great cloud of witnesses referenced is the individuals mentioned in chapter 11, who serve to show us how we can be faithful as they were faithful. They are not present to intimidate us, but rather to encourage us toward greater faithfulness in service to God.
The most important point for each of us to understand is that there are only two groups of people in the sight of God: the faithful, and the unfaithful. Jesus would compare these two groups to sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. Yet there is never described a dividing of the sheep into strongest and weakest, most accumulated sins and least accumulated sins, or any such thing.
When we stand before God, we will be judged based upon one criterion, how we lived in comparison to His word. We will not be compared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. Instead we will be compared to the book, and whether we have lived our lives in service to Him, and reverence to His will.
When it came to giving examples of the faithful, time would not allow a full listing of the wonderful examples found in the Old Testament. Instead, the writer lays before us a few examples to whet our appetite to want to have the faith of these men.
Because time would fail us to list and examine the lives of all that have lived faithfully, both during and since Bible times, may we always remember the lesson those lives of faith deliver to us every day of our lives; so that, when that day of judgment arrives, our names may be listed with theirs.