Of whom the world was not worthy

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

Of whom the world was not worthy. Heb. 11:38

We all intuitively understand to some extent that it is a great honor to make a great sacrifice for a great cause. I think you see this illustrated especially in times of war. Those who sacrifice their lives for their country are universally honored. We recognize the value of valor; there is a certain charisma to courage. On the other hand, we despise the cowardly and the soft. The ancients in fact thought that courage was the noblest and highest of all the virtues because courage secured the rest of the virtues. But the thing is that you cannot have courage where there is not at least the possibility of suffering and loss and difficulty. Courage cannot be put on display on soft couches. Courage is on display on battlefields and hospital rooms and in a thousand other hard places.

We don’t sing songs about people who live in castles as much as we sing about those who storm castles. We don’t erect monuments to people who go through life on beds of ease; we do so for those who overcame tremendous difficulty to do something great.

But why can’t we see that this is the case for the Christian faith? Why can’t we see that it is the greatest honor to make the greatest sacrifices for the greatest cause in the universe, namely, the cause of God and truth? Or to put it in the language of Scripture, why are we not willing to rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41)? Why should we think that God is being unjust or unkind by giving us the opportunity to be courageous for him in difficult and hard times? Why should we think that the call to sacrifice and endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3) is a bad thing? Why do we recoil at the notion that God is calling us to suffer for the sake of his kingdom, or to do without for him, or even perhaps to die for him? Why do we equate God’s blessing with success and ease and comfort and earthly peace and pleasure? Why do we not want to take our cross to follow the Lord?

The folks in Hebrews 11 clearly thought the prize was worth the price they had to pay. And here’s where verses 39-40 come in. They read, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” I think sometimes people read this and think that the author of Hebrews is telling his audience that the OT believer didn’t receive the promise at all, and, in particular, wasn’t saved. That’s of course not what he was saying: I can think of nothing more depressing and defeating than that! Rather, what he is saying is that the promises of God were not fulfilled during their lifetime, and they would not be fulfilled until Christ came. That is one of the major points of this epistle. But Christ having come, he will give salvation to all who trust in him no matter when they lived – before or after his earthly ministry. Another way to put verse 40 is that the OT saints will be made perfect with us in the age to come as a direct result of what Christ has done for us in his redemptive work.

But here’s the point of these two verses. It is this: the fact that the OT saints were able to achieve all that they achieved and to endure all that they endured without having seen the fulfillment of God’s promises in the person and work of Jesus Christ is a great rebuke to us if we are unwilling to do and to die for God’s kingdom, we who live on the other side of the cross and resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Son of God. We have so much more reason to endure and to be faithful. The OT saints are there to remind us that they did it without the fulness of the revelation that we have in Christ. So what excuse do we have for faithlessness? None!

By: Jeremiah Bass