As we wrap up Christmas (pun intended) and look now towards New Years, I couldn’t help but be encouraged when reading Hebrews today. Many people are familiar with Hebrews 12:1-2, pictured below.
I’ve always thought that the “great cloud of witnesses” was other people and believers in our lives, but this year I read Hebrews 11 and the entire meaning of this verse changed for me. In my Bible, Hebrews 11 is titled “Faith in Action”. The chapter starts with explaining what faith is: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Verse 1).” It goes on to list example after example of people from the Old Testament who had true faith, even when it made no sense, or even when they couldn’t actually see God or what He was doing in their lives immediately. Here are just a few of the people whose stories of faith are shared…
These are just a few of the examples listed of the people and their circumstances in which they had faith from Hebrews 11. All of their stories can be found in the Bible and truly are great examples of people who had faith.
The author of Hebrews goes on in Chapter 11 Verse 32 to say after listing these examples, “What more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning, they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated-the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised, since God had planned something better for us…” (Verses 32-39).
And THOSE people, are the great cloud of witnesses that Hebrews 12:1-2 is talking about. How empowering is that, to know that we have the Bible, that is literally FILLED with all of these amazing examples of people who had great faith! These people are the models of faith that we can follow and look to for encouragement when our own circumstances don’t seem to make sense. And what a timely message of encouragement and hope with everything that has happened in 2020. So as we look to 2021, let’s not forget about this great cloud of witnesses, and this amazing gift we have from God in the Bible, that we can be encouraged in knowing that throughout all of time, God has never abandoned or left His people, and He will no abandon us either. We have these early heroes of faith to look to as they cheer us on and teach us to have perseverance and to keep the faith, no matter what!