April 16, the Thirty-Fourth Day of Lent

April 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

…Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions…

-Hebrews 11.33-

Continuing his thought from the previous verse, the author of Hebrews begins to use more general terms to describe events that demonstrate faith-behavior from God’s people. After having spent so much time on specific people, the author now changes gears and, feeling pressed for time, begins to speak of events in a more general way.

One advantage of this devotional format of doing a single verse every day is that we have the opportunity to isolate these verses and focus upon them closely; we can identify each particular individual and event and look for significance in them. However, a disadvantage with this approach is that it becomes possible to lose the overall “feel” of the passage as a whole. If we read the whole chapter of Hebrews 11 in one sitting, we would feel the pace quicken here.

The picture of a preacher comes to mind. The preacher has a good deal left to say, but time limits the opportunity. Feeling the pressure, the preacher speaks faster, condenses points, and becomes more animated as the message approaches both its high point and the time when the service should end.

Such is the case here in this passage. The author is stepping up his pace and beginning to gather speed as he comes to his final conclusion. He refers to events both general and specific here: Joshua and David, the conquerors; the judges who governed the people; Gideon, Barak, and Samson who received fulfillment of God’s personal promises to them; and Daniel, who spent the night in a den of lions.

For us, who may be somewhat less familiar with Israel’s history than the original audience, this is still a compelling list of events. For those who were brought up in this environment, these simple allusions would have called to mind the events listed above and many others like them in Israel’s history.

The author of Hebrews continues to be making his point: Israel’s history, this story, is one that not only contains acts of faith – it is a characteristic of the story itself that the events in it demonstrate faith. He will continue in this vein for the next couple of verses by alluding to events, both general and specific.

As we read these verses, we may think of these events and the ways that God proved faithful through them. Today, let us pray and consciously receive encouragement from them.

As we journey through Lent together, may we grow in faith because of those who have gone before.

“Dear Lord, today I want to take a moment to consciously think of this verse and rest in it. By faith, your people gained victories, engaged in proper relationships with others, received your promises, and escaped mortal danger. Even though these specific events occurred thousands of years ago, they don’t sound so different from what I face in my life. Please help me to live in the same faith that they did. Amen.”

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