The Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 11:32-40

And There Are So Many Others

The Preacher didn’t even make it into the first millennium B.C. with his Roll Call.  He had left off with Joshua having taken Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.  This sermon was getting long.  What more was he to discuss?  Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.  Goodness!  And that last word included so many: Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Micaiah, and then Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos—where shall we end?  And what did these and so many others do?  Conquered kingdoms (David), enforced justice (Solomon), obtained promises (all the above), stopped the mouths of lions (Daniel), quenched flames (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego), and escaped the sword (Elijah, Elisha).  I love “made strong out of weakness” as it reminds me of Paul’s words, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

But the lives of those who live by faith can also come at great cost: Torture, mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, death by the sword, and even sawing in two as tradition declared happened to Isaiah.  Going about in skins, living in caves and deserts, destitute, abused, afflicted—and then come those thunderous words: OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY!

“Behold,” roars the Preacher, “the reward of living by faith!”  “What reward?” you cry, “Living in caves?  No thank you!”  “Ah!” says the Preacher, “You still do not understand.”  In the fourth century, a man named Eusebius wrote a history of the Church over those first three hundred years.  He includes in it several episodes of martyrdom so intense, so horrendous, so bloody that the accounts put chills down the spine.  He records that the pagan onlookers asked themselves about the Christians who refused to say the simple words, “Caesar is Lord” or offer incense to a pagan god, or renounce their faith: “What did they get out of their religion, which they preferred to their own lives?” (5:1).

It is a disturbing and penetrating question, is it not?  Do I prefer Christ and his teachings over my life—even to the point of torture and death?  Or in America—over simply denying myself daily pleasures and gratifications which I take for granted?  And yet, they endured so much to gain the promises. We too are those upon whom the end of the ages has dawned (1 Corinthians 10:11).  Shall we be less faithful when we have so much more, namely the Holy Spirit and our Lord’s exaltation to the right hand and inauguration of his High Priesthood?  Surely!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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