And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,Hebrews 11:39(NASB)
In Hebrews 11, we gain a tiny glimpse into the life, expectations, and endurance of men and women of faith in Old Testament times. The various trials and tribulations they faced are catalogued in breath-taking detail, but most of these heroes of the faith remain an unidentified 'cloud of faithful witnesses'.
Problems and persecution, destitution and defeat, became the food of faith on which these unnamed champions fed. They understood man does not live on bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. They walked by faith, believed God's Word, gained His approval, and trusted Him to fulfil all He promised.
Each one is identified as a person of faith who endured the problems they faced by means of their faith. They conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were tortured, mocked, scourged, chained, and imprisoned.
They were stoned and sawn in two, put to death with the sword, went about in sheepskins, were tempted, destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated. The world was not worthy to have these godly men and women in their midst, but each one held fast to their faith.
Each one believed God rewarded those that diligently seek Him, and God bore witness of their faith in this beautiful chapter of Hebrews. But having gained approval through their faith, none of them received what was promised! Despite their great faith we read that this cloud of worthy witnesses "did not receive the things God had promised them."
Why did these worthy men and women who found favour with God, not enjoy the blessings He had promised them? At first glace one might consider their faith was in vain and God failed them - but that is not the case. The promise was to come at God's appointed time and His appointed way.
The promise to which they looked, was the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah of God. He is the One Who was to come to save His people from their sin, and bring in a glorious kingdom of everlasting righteousness.
The blessings these faithful folk in Hebrews 11 are to enjoy, are still future, for their blessings are to flow to them through the Person of JESUS, His Office and His Ministry, His death on the Cross, His resurrected life, and His victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell.
God cannot lie. His Word will never fail. His faithfulness lasts from one generation to another and His promises are all 'yes' and 'amen' in Christ Jesus our Lord - both for this cloud of faithful witnesses and for every member of the Body of Christ, the Church.
God works all things together for good, and fulfilment of His plan for His people, Israel, depends on the consummation of His plan for the Church - just as His plans for the Gentile Church depended on the coming of a Messiah through His people Israel! Just as we were dependent on them to bring forth the Saviour so they are dependent on the Church for the fulfilment of their promises. The wonderful thing is that God had provided something better for the Body of Christ so that apart from us, Israel would not be 'made perfect'.
May we be prepared to hold fast to our faith, no matter what difficulties and dangers we face so that together with that glorious cloud of worthy witnesses, we may testify of His goodness and grace to us, and to all men.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the great cloud of worthy men and women who gained Your approval through their faith. It is lovely to realise that they continued to trust in the truth of Your Word when faced with unspeakable difficulties and dangers. Their faith did not waver, even though they died before receiving what was promised. I pray that I too may have the sort of faith that does not waver when problems arise and that I will be faithful to the point of death. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.