Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Hebrews 11:35-40
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Hebrews 11:35
Verse 35 (continued): Though faith is the key to great miracles, it just as surely brings opposition, and a description of those with faith would not be complete unless we recognized the sufferings they endured. In spite of tortures and execution they refused to deny the Lord or alter the truth He had revealed. Had they done so their captors might have released them, but they remained steadfast preferring to be included among those who will be resurrected to eternal life rather than gain their freedom and a few more years on this planet. In this way they provide us with another example of what it means to endure in one’s faith. If we recall that the author is writing to people who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ we’ll recognize why it was so important for him to describe these sufferings. His message is: “Don’t think that what you are going through is unusual or that God has failed to protect you. People of faith have always been assaulted in Israel by those who called themselves believers but were in fact unbelievers” (Mt 23:31-39; Ac 7:51-53). This same sad phenomenon has as we know carried right though much of church history.

Monday: Hebrews 11:35, 36
Verse 35 (continued): We can’t be certain who the author has in mind when he lists these various types of abuses, but without much difficulty we can find an example of someone who suffered in that particular way. The first category he mentions is those who were “tortured” (lit: beaten). Jeremiah was beaten (Jer 2:2; 37:15) and tortured by being placed in stocks (Jer 20:2) and a dungeon (Jer 37:16) and left to starve apparently sunk up to his armpits in mud at the bottom of a water cistern (Jer 38:6-13). Verse 36: There are several instances of mocking: Elisha was mocked by youths (2Ki 2:23), Hezekiah’s couriers were severely mocked throughout Israel as they invited the nation to come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (2Ch 30:1-10), and God’s prophets were mocked during Zedekiah’s reign (2Ch 36:11-16). Scourging is beating someone with whips. There are numerous references to beatings, any one of which may have used whips. Both Micaiah (1Ki 22:24-27) and Jeremiah (Jer 20:2; 37:15, 16) were imprisoned which undoubtedly included chains.

Tuesday: Hebrews 11:37, 38
Verses 37, 38: Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned in the Temple courtyard for calling Judah to repent of idolatry (2Ch 24:20-22; Mt 23:34, 35). Sawing people in two was an ancient form of torturous execution (2Sa 12:31; 1Ch 20:3) and tradition reports that Isaiah was executed by Hezekiah’s son Manasseh (2Ki 21:1-18) by being sawn in two inside a hollow log. The temptation to which he refers is most likely the pressure to forsake God in order to escape from suffering. Elijah laments to God that Ahab and Jezebel had killed with the sword all the true prophets except him (1Ki 19:10). King Jehoiakim slew Uriah the son of Shemiah with a sword (Jer 26:20-23). The Septuagint text of 1 Kings 19:13, 19 specifically uses the word sheepskin for Elijah’s “mantle,” and in 2 Kings 2:8, 13, 14 it is this same mantle that Elisha picks up for himself. Apparently, goatskins with hair left on were also worn (2Ki 1:8). Elijah and others wandered in deserts (1Ki 17:3-7; 19:4, 15) and mountains and caves and holes in the ground (1Ki 17:3-5; 19:8-11, 13). Obadiah (King Ahab’s servant) hid a hundred prophets in two caves and provided them bread and water (1Ki 18:3, 4). This persecution toward people of faith served as proof of the hardness of people’s hearts toward God. And the “world” in this case which was not worthy of God’s servants were the nominal believers in Israel, those who should have welcomed God’s messengers and repented quickly.

Wednesday: Hebrews 11:39
Verse 39: The author has powerfully presented to us this “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) from the Old Testament who model the kind of faith that pleases God (Heb 11:6) and therefore receives “the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb 11:7) And he then concludes this section with a startling statement. He tells us that though these saints were saved by faith they did not obtain “what was promised.” Earlier in this chapter he spoke of “promises” in the plural. These were various promises made by God to individuals. But here he speaks of a “promise” in the singular. This means there is a particular promise that those in the Old Testament did not receive.

Thursday: Hebrews 11:40
Verse 40: Thankfully the author gives us a clue as to which one he’s thinking of when he tells us it provides us with “something better.” Those words take us back to Hebrews 8:6 where he says the New Covenant (Heb 8:8-13) which is described by Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a “better covenant” which has been enacted on “better promises” (Heb 8:6). The “something better” is the New Covenant in which the Holy Spirit changes people by coming to dwell inside them. Before Christ came people were saved the same way we are today: that is by repentance and faith. Though they had much less revelation than we, God still granted them righteousness because they believed wholeheartedly in the particular promises He gave to them. But when Christ came He brought a new era of the Spirit. Now believers could be indwelt, transformed in mind and heart, empowered and cleansed in conscience by the Holy Spirit living inside them.

Friday: Hebrews 11:40
Verse 40 (continued): This verse literally reads, “God, having foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be perfected.” By “us” the author clearly means the Church—the community of those who believe in Jesus Christ—both Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:11-22). This community includes the great number of people for whom God is delaying the return of Christ­—people who have yet to be born or who have yet to receive Christ, but He knows they will. He sees the future and knows every person who must still be added to His kingdom (2Pe 3:9; Ro 8:29). By the words “be made perfect” the author is referring to the final, glorified state for which all creation is waiting. It includes the resurrection of the body (Ro 8:18-23, 2Co 5:1-4) and the “city” for which Abraham longed (Heb 11:10, 16) which is the “New Jerusalem” set in the midst of the new heaven and earth that John saw at the end of his revelation (Rev 21:1-22:5).

Saturday: Hebrews 11:40
Verse 40 (continued): All believers, whether dead or alive, are still waiting to be “made perfect.” This does not in any way imply that those who’ve died are unconscious or asleep, waiting to be awakened. Nor are Old Testament saints in some lesser place away from the presence of God. They are awake and enjoying fellowship with the Lord just as those who’ve died since Christ came (Mt 17:1-4; Lk 16:22-26; 2Co 5:6; Php 1:21-23). Verse 40 (continued): In summary, the author tells us that though Old Testament saints were saved by their faith they were not given the blessing of the New Covenant because God in His wisdom planned this gift for the disciples of His Son. In fact, He has delayed the arrival of the new heaven and earth until a great harvest of Jews and Gentiles has been completed—a harvest which is largely to be carried out by people transformed by the Holy Spirit. And then someday when this harvest is finished, both Old and New Testament saints will dwell together as one great redeemed family in the glorious presence of God.

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