Advent Devotion for January 5
Candle Lighter says: “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith…”
Response: “…yet none of them received all that God had promised.”
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 11:32-40; 12:12
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
SOME THOUGHTS: As we have entered a new year while still celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, the last couple of days our Scripture passages have directed our attention to living out our faith. The first part of the chapter looked closely at Moses’ exercise of faith, and then touched on Rahab, a less noble person. Today we got a short and interesting list of people who were also commended for their faith. If you know their stories, you are surprised to see some of their names. Samson was pretty much an impatient playboy. Gideon was a chicken. Jephthah made a rash, foolish promise, which resulted in his daughter’s death. Barak was a wimp. What a class of champions of faith! Then is the description of courageous saints who died horrible deaths for their faith. Their love for God and hope for heaven was greater than longing for this world. It seems anyone, regardless of status or circumstance, can exercise faith in God. Each of those named earned a good reputation for exhibiting faith. What is abundantly clear is that having faith does not guarantee earthly blessing. Things may not turn out well in this life. Faith does not come in “amounts”; it is not the determiner of the outcome. Faith cannot be in “faith.” If it were, then the amount of faith shown would be the determining factor. In other words, the person exhibiting faith would be in a controlling position to affect the result. The controller and mover in “faith,” however, is not a human being. It is God. And we want it that way. Our faith is in the One who knows the beginning from the end, and a most important thing to always keep in mind, as the writer reminds us, “God had something better in mind for us.” On another note, “perfection,” as it is used in Hebrews, does not mean flawless but rather maturity, completion, or reaching a desired goal. Based on all he has written in the previous chapter (the Bible was not broken into chapters!), the author says THEREFORE, since all these people are great witnesses to faith, hang in there and keep going with your eyes fixed on Jesus who is the ultimate demonstration of faith. This translation uses the word “champion” in referring to Christ’s mission. Another translation uses a better word, pioneer. Jesus was the pioneer and perfector of our faith. The image is that of a ship in trouble and the “pioneer” is the one who takes a rope and jumps overboard and swims to shore to establish a way for those on the ship to follow to make shore safely. The truth that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God guarantees our inheritance in heaven. That is why our faith is in Christ alone. Sola fide, solus Christus.
MUSIC: Silent Night by Sam Robson (A beautiful arrangement with additional lyrics. Sam sings all nine parts. You may remember him from Lenten Devotionals last year. Astounding a cappella singer.) (YouTube)
PRAYER: O Lord, Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory. Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought, speak every word, direct every step, prosper every work, build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire to show forth thy praise, testify thy love, advance thy kingdom. May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
—from The Valley of Vision, p.112
PS. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” end today!