THESE FINAL HEROES OF FAITH HIGHLIGHT GRAND ACHIEVEMENTS, ENDURANCE THROUGH SEVERE SUFFERING AND THE HOPE OF ETERNAL REWARDS
The author is now forced to blitz through the remainder of Israel’s history to highlight the types of experiences that characterize a life of faith. The predominant tone is one of courage and perseverance. Whether it is achieving impressive victories or enduring severe suffering the same elements of faith are present – with the emphasis on future reward. There should be no thought of falling away from the faith or shrinking back to the types and shadows of the old testament economy.
Phillip Hughes: All of the preceding examples and those in these closing verses are consistent with Hebrews 11:1 — faith is a dynamic certainty made up of two certitudes: a future certitude that makes one sure of the future as if it were present, and a visual certitude that brings the invisible within view. One hears God’s Word and so believes it that its future fulfillment becomes subjectively present and visible to the spiritual eye.
Robert Ross: The writer now resorts to piling up examples, because of the impossibility of taking each case separately. The list is impressive . . . The list of deeds is equally impressive. In some cases the incidents referred to are well known; in others they are more obscure. In each instance, however, something typical of those who live by faith is brought out. The faith life makes such deeds possible, deeds of valor, might, courage, or perseverance. And these are the kinds of experience that those who live by faith are called upon to endure. All of the history of Israel is encompassed in these few brief sentences.
I. (:32) THEIR FAMOUS IDENTITY – LARGER THAN LIFE EXAMPLES
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of”
Not listed in chronological order; no time to cover all examples; has to content himself with some major representative names
F. F. Bruce: The comparative detail in which examples of faith have been adduced form the earlier period of Old Testament history now gives place to a more summary account covering the later period.
Richard Phillips: His point is that the Old Testament is filled with accounts of faith, each of which is enough to inspire us to imitation.
Constable: This is the only New Testament reference to Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah. The writer employed the rhetorical device of paraleipsis here. In paraleipsis the speaker or writer suggests that he is not going to mention something but then does so. This technique stresses the suggestiveness of what he has omitted. In this case the writer suggested that he could have cited many more examples of persevering faith.
F. F. Bruce: Barak’s insistence on having Deborah with him was perhaps an expression of his faith in the God whose servant and spokeswoman Deborah was. And when he was told by her that the expedition which he was undertaking would not be for his own honor, he led it none the less; it was not his own honor, but the triumph of Yahweh and His people, that he sought.
Spurgeon: Look at Barak; after he has once believed in the power of God, he marches to the fight and wins the victory, and is commemorated in soul-stirring words by the poetess, “Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, sing a song! Get up, Barak! Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam” (Jdg 5:12). Mighty to conquer was the man who was timid to fight. When faith gave him courage, it made him triumph. Carry a vial of strong faith along with you, and a good dose of it will drive off fainting fits.
F. F. Bruce: the narrative of Judges portrays him as one who was deeply conscious of the invisible God, and of his own call to be an instrument in God’s hand against the enemy.
Each brought about substantial and significant deliverance and victory for God’s people in troubled times
– Gideon – used of God to free Israel from the Midianites. . . It was obvious that military prowess was not the explanation, but commitment without reserve to the word which God had revealed.
– Barak – used of God in connection with Deborah, the prophetess and judge, to deliver Israel form the oppression of the northern Canaanites under Jabin of Hazor and his general, Sisera.
– Samson – God’s instrument to defeat Israel’s enemies the Philistines on numerous occasions. . . closing episode of his life especially noteworthy
– Jephthah – delivered his people form the threat of Ammonite domination. . . believed in God’s power and was willing to face the enemy in the faith that God was leading and would give victory.
The most prominent king and the closest link to Messianic typology
“and Samuel and the prophets,”
The first prominent prophet followed by a succession of prophets
II. (:33-38) THEIR ADMIRABLE HEROISM – EXTREME ACHIEVEMENTS / EXTREME GRACE TO ENDURE SUFFERING
“who by faith”
Hewitt: The deeds enumerated in verses 33 and 34 need not be assigned exclusively to particular heroes, but may rather be taken as denoting generally the kind of exploits by which faith was evidenced throughout the history.
A. (:33-34) Extreme Achievements
1. Powerful Triumphs of Faith
a. Military Triumphs
b. Governing Triumphs
“performed acts of righteousness,”
A. W. Pink: right actions must spring from right principles and must be performed with right ends, if they are to be acceptable to God. In other words, they must issue from a living faith and have in view the glory of God.
c. Spiritual Triumphs
Spurgeon: The promises of God are to the believer an inexhaustible mine of wealth. Happy is it for him if he knows how to search out their secret veins and enrich himself with their hidden treasures. They are to him an armory containing all manner of offensive and defensive weapons. Blessed is he who has learned to enter into the sacred arsenal, to put on the breastplate and the helmet, and to lay his hand to the spear and to the sword.
2. Unnatural Testimonies of Deliverance
a. From Animal Predators
“shut the mouths of lions,”
Kent: Most probably it was the experience of Daniel that was in the author’s mind (Dan. 6:16-23).
b. From Natural Powers
“quenched the power of fire,”
Three companions of Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel 3)
F. F. Bruce: The people to whom this epistle was sent might well have a fiery ordeal to face in the near future, but whether life or death was their portion they could be sure of divine companionship in the midst of it such as the three Hebrews enjoyed.
c. From Deadly Persecution
“escaped the edge of the sword,”
3. Divine Enablements to Further God’s Agenda of Victory
a. Granted Strength
“from weakness were made strong,”
b. Granted Victory
“became mighty in war,”
c. Granted Dominion
“put foreign armies to flight.”
Westcott: Vs. 33 — three groups of three . . . indicating, first, the broad results of the believers’ faith: material victory, moral success in government, spiritual reward; second, forms of personal deliverance: from wild beasts, from physical forces, from human tyranny; third, the attainment of personal gifts: strength, the exercise of strength, and the triumph of strength. In each case it is possible to see OT examples, perhaps the very ones the writer has in mind
B. (:35-38) Extreme Suffering
1. Dealing with Death – Looking Forward to Resurrection
a. Temporary Resurrection as Foretaste of Ultimate Resurrection
“Women received back their dead by resurrection;”
Kent: The Old Testament women referred to are the widow of Zarephath, whose son was raised by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24), and the Shunammite woman, whose son was raised by Elisha (II Kings 4:18-37).
b. Ultimate Resurrection
“and others were tortured, not accepting their release,
in order that they might obtain a better resurrection;”
Leon Morris: A “better” resurrection perhaps implies that all will be raised but that the prospects for apostates are grim. It is better to endure suffering and even torture now in order that the resurrection may be joyous.
MacArthur: The particular torture referred to involved stretching the victim over a large drum-like instrument and beating him with clubs, often until dead. God’s faithful are willing to be beaten to death rather than compromise their faith in Him. They would not sacrifice the future on the altar of the immediate. They preferred being put to death, because by faith they knew that one day they would be resurrected.
2. Dealing with Persecution, Imprisonment and Martyrdom
a. “and others experienced mockings and scourgings,
yes, also chains and imprisonment.”.
b. “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted,
they were put to death with the sword;”
c. “they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins,
being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated”
3. Despised by the World but Valued by God
“(men of whom the world was not worthy),”
Leon Morris: To all outward appearance, these people of faith were insignificant and unimportant. But the true situation was very different. They were worth more than the whole world, though they lacked everything. The author appeals to deep realities, not apparent on the surface of things. The despised and ill-treated group of servants of God was of greater real worth than all the rest of humanity put together.
Constable: Sometimes the faithful person’s reward comes on the other side of the grave. Some of the readers, and we, might have to endure death. Those who accept death without apostatizing are those the world is not worthy of because they do not turn from following the Lord even under the most severe pressure.
4. Destitute of Earthly Homes but Destined for Heavenly Rest
“wandering in deserts and mountains and caves
and holes in the ground.”
III. (:39-40) THEIR ETERNAL REWARD – BENEFITS EXTEND TO US
A. (:39a) Faith Gains God’s Approval
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith,”
B. (:39b) Faith Requires Patience to Realize God’s Promises
“did not receive what was promised,”
Kent: The strength of their faith is seen in the fact that during their lifetime they still received not the promise. Hence their need to persist in faith even to death was amply demonstrated.
Constable: Those faithful believers who died in Old Testament times have not yet entered into their inheritances. This awaits the future, probably the Second Coming when Christ will judge Old Testament saints (Daniel 12:1-2; cf. Isaiah 26:19). We will have some part in their reward. We will do so at least as Christ’s companions who will witness their award ceremony. Their perfection refers to their entering into their final rest (inheritance) and rests, as ours does, on the sacrificial death of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9:15).
C. (:40a) Faith Looks to the Salvation Accomplished by Christ on the Cross
“because God had provided something better for us,”
Mohler: This again highlights the supreme significance of the new covenant. It was only in the establishment of the new covenant by the blood of Jesus that the old covenant promises could be fulfilled. . . Apart from the new covenant, there is no hope of perfect, unmitigated fellowship with God on the last day.
D. (:40b) Faith Unifies All Believes
“so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Kent: Christian believers are the recipients of certain blessings unavailable in the Old Testament period. The sacrifice of Christ is an accomplished fact for them, not a future hope. Many of the blessings of the new covenant are already being enjoyed (see 8:6-13). Thus by delaying the fulfilment beyond the Old Testament saints’ lifetime, God has brought in the better revelation in Christ, and has secured salvation for New Testament believers also. Both groups will find their salvation fully consummated when Christ returns and physical resurrection as well as the other provisions of the Abrahamic promise and of the new covenant will be brought to pass.
Hewitt: God’s purpose in history was wider than the Jewish nation, and His decree has gone forth that believers from that nation can never attain to the consummation until the number of the elect be accomplished, and all the redeemed of all ages shall be gathered together in one through Christ, and God shall be all in all.
A. M. Stibbs: For God in His providence had reserved for us (i.e. Christian believers) the crowning blessing and had ordained that they should not enjoy the consummation until we had been brought in to share it. Note the implication that the men of faith of OT and NT times alike are all called to belong to the one company of God’s purpose who are to be made perfect together (cf. 12:22-24).