Series on Hebrews, V Superior Privileges, C Superior Participation, Conclusion, Text: 11:32-40. Title: The Triple Reward of Faith

Introduction:

An active faith is the instrument of God’s grace to save us and preserve us. We have seen this illustrated in the definition of faith in verses 1-3, in the faith of the Old World in verses 4-7, In the Faith of the Originators, the Patriarchs, in verses 8-22, In the faith of the overthrow and occupation as exemplified in Moses and Joshua, and now the author concludes the whole matter with the words WHAT MORE SHALL I SAY? This is a summary but at the same time it introduces a lot of new information drawn from Israel’s history. As we look at this we need to see the triple reward of faith. Why should I commit my life to Jesus Christ. Of course, the reason is that there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. But if I commit my life to the Savior I should understand what to expect in the life of faith. Through faith, which is the gift of God, He not only saves us, but preserves us. He brings blessings in life, physical as well as spiritual deliverance and ultimately fulfillment of our lives. Thus we see here the triple reward of faith. Triumphant Experience, Triumphant Expectation, Triumphant Eternity.

I Triumphant Experience

The triumphant experience is in verses 32-35a, And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Although the emphasis in this chapter is on what was future to these Old Testament saints, that is, what they did not receive, these three verses emphasize what they did receive. According to verse 33 they gained what was promised. They experienced the Lord’s deliverance in this life, also in verse 34 we learn that their weakness was turned to strength. Paul says when I am weak, then I am strong. Just as certainly they depended on the Lord and he delivered them. Time prevents a close examination of all the examples, but listen to the list. Gideon had only three hundred men out of 32, 000 armed only with horns and pitchers with torches in them and they put the  Midianite armies to flight. Barak routed the overwhelming forces of the Canaanites with the men from only two tribes, and Deborah the judge, prophetess, and spiritual leader of Israel at his side. Samson a blinded prisoner humiliated through his own folly slew more Philistines in his death than he had in his life. Jepthah’s senseless vow condemned his own daughter nevertheless the spirit of the Lord came upon him and he destroyed 20 Ammonite towns. David in spite of his transgressions conquered all the enemies of Israel. Samuel and the prophets opposed idolatry. When over 95% of Israel had bowed the knee to Baal,  Elijah stood alone on Mt. Carmel against the prophets of Baal and, calling down the fire of the Lord from heaven, turned the hearts of Israel back to the Lord as they fell down and cried “ Yahweh, He is God.”  Through Daniel’s faith in the lions’ den the ferocious beasts were subdued. Through the faith of his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the flames of Nebudchadnezzar’s furnace heated seven times hot did not even singe their hair, scorch their robes, or leave the smell of fire upon them. Through the faith of Elisha the Shunammite’s son was brought back from the dead. As the author says, we could go on. What more shall I say. The point is  plain through faith they actually overcame in this life. We may not experience great military victories or receive our loved ones back from the dead but, like Paul we can say when I am weak then I am strong, and like John we can say this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Our triumphs are over sin and unbelief but they are no less real.

II Triumphant Expectation

In verses 35b-38 the author is quick to point out that not everybody met with success, Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Many died in the struggle. Before they read the catalog of their sufferings everyone should pause a moment. The things described here are the kind of things that only people with strong stomachs should contemplate. These are the kinds of pictures that make my wife close her eyes or turn away when I watch a TV show or movie with blood and gore. Tortured, stoned, cut in half by a saw, stabbed with a sword, and imprisoned in a hole in the ground with vermin. Yes Jeremiah was thrown in a pit, Isaiah cut in half by a saw. In Matthew 23 Jesus says in v.37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. The word “Tortured” is from the Greek, word “etumpanisthesan” from the same root as the English tympani, a kettledrum. The particular torture referred to involved stretching the victim over a large drum-like instrument and beating him with clubs, often until dead.  All who endured such misery did so in order to gain a better resurrection. A superior deliverance. In II Corinthians 11 Paul gives a catalog of his sufferings in contrast to the easy life of the false apostles, Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? But listen to his final word concerning these sufferings II Corinthians 12:9,10. He says that God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul responds,Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This, too, is the reward of faith, that is, not just deliverance but grace to help in time of need.

III Triumphant Eternity

The final conclusion is found in verses 39 and 40, These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. The ultimate reward of faith is neither present deliverance nor courage in the face of death. The ultimate reward is a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. There is something deep within us at the very center of our being that cries out for meaning. We need a rationale for our existence, a reason for being who we are. This is found in the plan of God for our perfection and our place in a new world. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Neither these Old Testament saints, nor we, could find satisfaction except in God’s purpose to gather up everything in Christ. This what Paul means in Ephesians 1:9,10, And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. This is what is meant by Abraham’s looking for a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God as we read in Hebrews 11:10. We know that this present world with all of its pain and suffering, sin and misery, privation and injustice is not our final destination. John Baillie wrote “I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever satisfy me wholly.” Sometimes we say:  It's the thought that counts.  The Cross Company has turned that into their slogan:  "It's Still The Thought That Counts.  It's Just That Some Count More Than Others."  Nothing counts more than the plan and purpose of God. In eternity past God thought of us.  Indeed, He prepared for the temptation and fall of man.  His only Son was marked out to be the Lamb of God. In Him we find the  fulfillment and perfection for which we were created. Someone has said “A Man's life is made up of 20 years of his mother asking him where he is going, 40 years of his wife asking him where he has been and one hour at his funeral when everyone wonders where he is going.” I can’t do much about the first 60 years but I would like to believe that the ultimate question is answered for you in Christ, and that at your funeral no one will wonder where you are going. More especially that you will not wonder where you are going because you have found the reward of faith, not only overcoming your circumstances, but finding fulfillment in your heart in the plan of God.