April 11 I Thursday
1 Samuel 17-18
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” —Hebrews 12:1
When the writer of Hebrews talks about “a great cloud of witnesses,” he is referring to all those who lived by faith and died in their faith, many of whom he has named. It is unlikely he means a crowd of spectators who have passed on and are looking down upon us from heaven. We do not know how much those who are in heaven know about what goes on on earth. Having “a great cloud of witnesses” more likely means that we have many examples of people who lived by faith who we are to observe so that we may be inspired by their faith.
Noah believed God and everyone mocked him for it. He built the ark exactly as God instructed and saved a remnant of humanity as well as two of every kind of animal. Abraham is considered the father of our faith. He believed God and left safe, familiar ground, embarking on a pilgrimage to an unknown land. Though he battled fear, doubt and obstacles, he never gave up on his faith, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Moses trusted God for what was a humanly impossible feat. He obeyed God, and in excess of 2 million people walked away from shackles that had bound them in Egypt for 400 years.
The list of people who lived by faith and died in their faith goes on, both men and women who had good reasons for drifting away and giving up, but they persevered. Their lives serve as witnesses of the faithfulness and sufficiency of God when we cannot see Him and are afraid of what lies ahead. That is why all these people were commended for their faith.
To the church in Ephesus, Jesus had John write, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3). “Persevere” is a good operative word in the New Testament. We get discouraged and wonder what God is doing or if He is doing anything at all. We may even wonder why God does not make Himself so obvious that all people would know Him, but then where would the need for faith be, which is what God requires of us?
If the lights go out and we do not know what is going on, we follow the example of these great witnesses. Be sure to observe what God has done in the past, says the writer of Hebrews, because faith in God needs to be paramount in our lives. And because we believe God is good and that He loves us, we trust His purpose and His working in our lives.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the incredible accounts of courage and faith You give us in Scripture. Keep me mindful of them, especially in times of trial and hardship. Thank You, God.