So, we need to please God with our heart.
And there’s a list of people who did that. I call them the ‘heroes of the faith’ and there’s a long list of them.
Abraham takes centre stage. Abraham, I guess, had a lot of things happen to him related to faith. What would we do without Abraham?
We now know that God could miraculously provide children, we know that God can even raise the dead, right? Because he was confident that when asked to kill Isaac his son, he was confident that God would raise the dead.
It’s an interesting scripture, Genesis 22, which, by the way, is called the Akedah (הָדֵקֲע) / The Binding of Isaac in Hebrew. We read the Akedah on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year.
We just read it and we tell that story for two reasons:
One, it helps make sense of the shofar (musical horn typically made of a ram’s horn) because Abram found a ram and replaced it, and we blow the ram’s horn, and it reminds us of the sacrifice of Isaac. So, it reminds us of the story.
Two, it reminds us of Abraham’s obedience. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham’s obedience is so extreme, so full, that if we don’t have enough righteousness of our own, we can pray a prayer and borrow some righteousness from him (and we don’t have to pay it back to Abraham).
Therefore, there is a concept of Abraham (I need the accountants in the room to think with me on this one, okay?): it’s a debit and credit. Abraham has a lot of credits left, we have a lot of debits, and we can transfer accounts from Abraham.
Anyway, you’ll figure that out later, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?
If you can’t understand that you can’t understand what Jesus did: we have one big debit of righteousness, and He has one huge, eternal credit. And He transfers that to us.
So, here’s the principle: everything that we deserve He received, and everything that He deserved we received.
That’s the transfer, and there’s a little bit of that in the relationship with Abraham.
Abraham was a person of faith. Sarah was a person of faith, although she laughed at the wrong moment.
So, we learn about a lot of great people of faith verse 13 in Hebrews 11 says,
Our lives are built on the substance of faith. We look forward to a greater day, don’t we? We look forward to a greater Kingdom, don’t we? We look forward to heaven, we look forward to God being with us through our entire lives.
When we go through hard times, we know that God is with us because the Word of God promises that. And the word of God is the substance of our faith as we move on through the Christian life.
Of course, you gain experiences knowing that God actually is faithful, that God answers prayer.
Every time you go through a hard experience – just think of it as sort of eternal tuition – and every time you go through a hard experience, you’re going to learn that God is faithful.
Now, the interesting part about this whole passage is that they all died. What we have to understand here is that death is not the end of the life.
Even though they all died, and some of them died a martyr’s death, do you remember the, I’m not sure of the verse? I don’t want to start looking but, do you remember the one in the list at the end who was sawn in half? Remember that one? Yeah, that was Isaiah. The great prophet Isaiah had a very strong view of the coming Messianic King, The Suffering Servant.
Isaiah 60-65. If anybody had a clear vision of the future, it was Isaiah.
He had a clear vision of the future, and what happened to him? He became a very unpopular prophet, and he was sawn in half, he died a martyr, he was a martyr.
It was true of Abraham, it was true of Moses. It was true of everybody, they all died. But they all felt that being faithful to God throughout their lives, even though their lives would end, was worthwhile.
Therefore, no matter what your fate might be, some of you will live forever because you’ll be alive at the rapture (maybe… I must ask Tony when it’s coming…). However, most of us will die and we will pass from this life.
The question is: will what we have done been worth it?
And the truth is, if we live by faith, it will be worth it.
You can have joy every day knowing that your life always counts for something, knowing that you have a great hope, knowing that you’ll be with the One you served on Earth in heaven, forever. That’s good, isn’t it?
That can motivate you to do strange things. So, that’s what we’re going to look at for just a moment.
Hebrews chapter 12. This whole group of people from Abraham to Isaiah all ended up in heaven and they ended up being called ‘a cloud of witnesses’ and so, verse 1 chapter 12.
So great a cloud of witnesses. Just a moment, the word is in the plural, so, actually, it’s clouds. I don’t know if that means a lot to you, but it implies that there are multitudes who are part of this cloud of witnesses, and probably not merely the people that were listed.
Therefore, you must believe that all faithful believers who are in heaven are part of the clouds of witnesses.
People take this one of two ways:
One is that their legacy is their example and they’re a cloud of witnesses.
The Greek word for witness is (μάρτυς) martus from which we get the word ‘martyr’.
Some of them who died for the faith are great examples of faithfulness and so it’s a passive view. They’ve gone before us, we know their stories, some of them we see, some of the biblical stories are great examples for us.
Then, there’s the more active view. I always love it when great Bible scholars disagree because it’s more entertaining! You read the different views, for example, this other group, which is definitely the group I like, is not justified in the Greek at all, but I like it better. That’s the group that say that this cloud of witnesses are believers from throughout the ages who are in the stands at ‘a football game’, rooting for you.
I told you I like that image better. I can hear they’re cheering and yelling at me when I make a mistake.
So, either of these views, you could almost justify either one, but they are both examples and they are people that we will be meeting one day. Isn’t that great?
I hope Isaiah is put back together again because that would just be frightening!
But we will be meeting all these great heroes. Can you imagine just sitting down for a chat with Abraham? I mean, for me that’s cool! I like that idea! And Moses, I don’t know, he’s scary you know.
But one day, this these great clouds of witnesses will become our friends in our community.
I know I should say all I need is Jesus, but I really want to meet some of these other people. I’ve been reading about them for a long time, and I want to see what they’re like.
Quite a few of them did die for their faith.